AU needs to secure its own Big Al

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Give Juwan Simpson credit.

Alabama's linebacker knocked Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges out cold for a couple of plays during the Tigers' 28-18 win over the Crimson Tide on Saturday. It was as close as Alabama got to scaring Auburn as the Tigers rolled to their fourth straight win over the Tide in a rivalry that's beginning to feel a bit one-sided.

Seriously, no one wanted to see Borges hurt, but Alabama sure would have had a better chance Saturday had the Tigers' amazing offensive mind not been able to function for a few hours. Instead, Borges bounced back up after missing just one play. Later, he called a reverse that Ben Obomanu took 45 yards for a touchdown to extend the Tigers' lead to 21-0 and later called for a bootleg touchdown pass to Cole Bennett in the second quarter that ended any drama that still existed before halftime.

For his efforts, the affable Borges was awarded a game ball from the Master Coaches Survey on Monday.

"Al Borges is one of the best offensive coordinators I've ever seen," said former Auburn coach Pat Dye, one of the 16 former head coaches who comprise the Master Coaches Survey.

When Borges went down, it looked like every doctor in the packed stadium rushed to his side. Auburn's prayerful players -- and they drop to a knee and pray almost constantly -- immediately formed a circle and prayed at length. It was the closest thing the Tigers had to a crisis.

"I told Al, 'Get up! Get up! Nobody's going to give you mouth-to-mouth here tonight,'" Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville joked later. "I went over there and they're gathered around him -- I thought he was dead. They had 20 doctors around him. I said, 'Y'all let him breathe over here.'

"He got what we call 'slobber-knocked.' I didn't know he'd gotten run over. I went down and Al was flat on his back. I thought he was hurt, but he shook it off. We'll give him a yellow jersey next week when we come back to practice."

What Auburn should give Borges is a fat raise. There should be no higher priority within the Auburn football program than keeping Borges until some program out there wises up and gives the man a chance to be a head coach.

Borges' name popped up in Tennessee last week, though the Volunteers have targeted former UT offensive coordinator and former Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe for months. Cutcliffe could be named the Volunteers' new offensive coordinator as early as this week, though embattled coach Phillip Fulmer might wait and announce Cutcliffe's hiring on Sunday, the day after the Vols' season finale against Kentucky.

That's one bullet dodged, but other programs are going to pursue Borges; that's what happens when someone does his job so expertly. Auburn has shown that it can recover from the loss of three offensive stars to the NFL but Tuberville has had his problems replacing offensive coordinators. He fired Noel Mazzone and hired Bobby Petrino. Hugh Nall was promoted when Petrino left for Louisville. When that didn't work out, he moved Nall back to his offensive line duties and hired Borges. He would be almost impossible to replace.

Tuberville and Auburn should make sure they don't have to worry about it.

Contact Neal McCready at:

nmccready@mobileregister.com

His column appears on Wednesdays in the Register.


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