AUBURN, Ala. — Tracy Rocker knows what it’s like to experience an Auburn home game from a player’s perspective. But the former All-American defensive tackle isn’t going to spoil anything for the team’s newcomers who are about to go through it for the first time.
“I haven’t told anybody anything,” Rocker said. “I’m going to let them figure it out for themselves. I just keep reminding them that you’re going to get in that stadium and you’re going to be in awe about the passion, how loud it is, how unique and all the colors, seeing that eagle fly.”
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik hasn’t said yet whether the assistants will be a part of the Tiger Walk, Auburn’s pre-game march to the stadium through a line of fans. But Rocker is aware that the ritual is not done for the coaches’ benefit.
“I know what Tiger Walk is,” he said. “I know what the spirit and the passion is all about. Tiger Walk has nothing to do with me. It has to do with the spirit of those players and the focus of the game.”
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Nevertheless, Saturday’s game against Louisiana Tech will be a homecoming for Rocker, a College Football Hall of Famer who earned a special place in the hearts of Tigers fans after winning the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award during his senior season in 1988. His coaching career took him to eight different stops in 17 years before he came back to the Plains.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve stood on the home sideline,” Rocker said. “I’ve been away at previous universities standing on the visitor’s side. It’s a great moment. I still pinch myself. I still remember the day I set foot here as a freshman. And now I’m still living the … I don’t know if it’s a dream, but it’s something special.”
Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor might be on the offensive side of the ball, but he could be a helpful source of information for the Tigers’ defense this week.
Taylor was the receivers coach at Tulane from 1999-2003, working under Green Wave offensive coordinator Frank Scelfo, who know runs Louisiana Tech’s offense. Although Scelfo has changed his schemes since his Tulane days, Taylor knows what to expect.
“I told them they will be well coached, they will not beat themselves, you watch and see,” Taylor said. “There won’t be a lot of jumping offsides and holding. He’s really, really disciplined on those type of deals. That is something I learned from him — not putting yourself behind the chains. Frank prides himself on that.”
All in the title
Part of the reason Taylor left Oklahoma State, where he was co-offensive coordinator, was to gain the title of assistant head coach at Auburn, something he thinks is more than just a line on his résumé.
“You look at most staffs, there’s an assistant to this, there’s an assistant to that, an assistant head coach this,” Taylor said. “There’s only one (at Auburn), and that’s me. It helps me define my responsibility, it’s clear-cut. There’s no question, and there’s no gray area with the rest of the guys on the staff. They know when (Chizik’s) not here, those responsibilities fall on me, and that’s big.”
Taylor has a variety of duties as assistant head coach. In addition to his role in organizing the team’s recruiting efforts, Taylor and Chizik talk about everything football related, from game management to the team’s Academic Progress Rates.
Most veterans on the roster have given their younger teammates advice for how to best prepare themselves for what is expected to be a raucous Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd Saturday. Senior cornerback Walt McFadden had some wise words for the night before.
“A lot of guys just can’t wait to get to the hotel because there will be a lot of great food there,” he said. “They’ve been talking about the chicken wings lately, so I’ve been giving them advice how to eat a couple of wings, and take a couple to your room, a couple for snacks after that.”
McFadden also had some more conventional advice for once the game begins.
“I’ve been telling them to be calm, that it will be very fast, and a lot of things that won’t be at practice,” he said. “They’re going to come out with little plays and new formations. We just have to learn how to adjust to them.”