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  • Writer's pictureKevin Scarbinsky

Talkin' ball with Coach Bill Clark: Could we see him back on the sideline next year?

We do it every week. Two-time national coach of the year Bill Clark shares his insight on what's happening now in college football.

Week 10: Auburn needs a coach, and the two biggest games of the week - LSU beating Alabama in overtime to take control of the SEC West and Georgia throttling Tennessee to reassert its authority as the nation's No. 1 team - need a breakdown

First things first. Auburn has joined the list of programs looking for a new head coach. Your name naturally has been mentioned as an intriguing potential candidate for that job and a number of others. Are you interested in getting back on the sideline next season?

BC: I am committed to continuing my rehab and contributing to the causes that mean so much to me: supporting UAB; sustaining the Children's Harbor game; spreading the word about the CoachSafely Foundation so more youth coaches will get trained and more kids will play sports; and doing what I can to help further the exciting growth that's going on in Birmingham. It would have to be a special opportunity with a serious commitment to excellence for me to consider another coaching job.

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels made one big play after another to beat Alabama, culminating in overtime with a 25-yard touchdown run and the winning two-point conversion pass. How much has he improved this season?

BC: I remember watching him against Mississippi State where he was running every play to where he is now. We had a guy like that at Jacksonville State named Eli Jenkins. He was phenomenal. What you have to do with those guys is say, "Look, you are a throwing quarterback first. After that, your athletic ability can take over." Sometimes, because it is so easy for them to run, that becomes the thing to do. You almost have to deprogram those guys and start with all the throwing game mechanics. You talk to them about staying in the pocket, and then you start letting their athletic ability take over. I think that's what it looks like with him.

What was your reaction to Brian Kelly's decision to go for two and the win at the end of the first overtime? How difficult is that decision? Might it have been in the back of his mind that he lost his first game with LSU when Florida State blocked an extra point with no time remaining?

BC: If you've ever had something like that happen, or if you've ever said to yourself or especially the team, if we get in this situation we're going for the win, then everybody understands it. At the time, I was like, Oh my gosh. I was shocked. He also knows who the quarterback is on the other side and how good he is. That probably all went into the decision.

It's like the three-pointer (in basketball). The guy's shooting it, and you're over there going, No no no no, and it goes in, and you say, Yes. Just what I would've done. He probably already had that decision made based on a lot of factors. It was a shock to us but not to him and maybe not even to his players.

If you're Alabama, and your biggest goal to win a national championship is all but gone, how do you move past that disappointment and move forward?

BC: It'll be interesting. Like we always say, the good news and the bad news is there's another one coming. You don't have time to wallow in your misery or celebrate too long, or it'll cost you. We'll see how they handle it. I'm sure they will handle it. They're playing another team at their place that's got everything to play, also, so we're going to see what they're made of.

One criticism of Alabama, which didn't score a touchdown in the first three quarters, is that they haven't established an offensive identity beyond waiting for Bryce Young to make a play. Is it a natural tendency to lean on someone as talented as him and get away from the balance that you need?

BC: I think that's exactly what it is. He is so good, he makes these crazy plays and you think we should be throwing it every down.But when you do that, you lose the balance. You have to force yourself to stay balanced because the running game makes the passing game better. It keeps the defense from sitting on one thing or the other, but it's hard because he's that good.

You don't want to ever look back and say, I didn't ride my best guy, but I've always said this. I don't care who you have. If we're close, and we know what you're doing, we're going to stop it. I don't care who it is, if all things are fairly even, obviously.

The Georgia defense slowed down the Tennessee offense like no one else had. They didn't give up the deep ball, they kept everything underneath and never let the nation's highest-scoring team get in a groove. Did they do anything different than other teams or was it doing similar things with better athletes?

BC: For me, it starts with their tackling. It was phenomenal. You've got a head coach who says, it's going to be a big deal, we're going to make it a big deal. He was a defensive coordinator, and they tackle phenomenally. Two, they really did a good job on Tennessee's run game. You say, wait a second, they did a good job on Tennessee's pass game. Look at them. They had a five-man box. Now they cheated with a safety a lot, and that safety would come down there and make that tackle after 5 or 6 yards.

It helps when you've got really good D linemen. That allows you to do more, which goes back to recruiting. That's where Alabama was always so phenomenal. They were able to take five guys in there and win. Then you've got the extra guy in pass defense.

They're really good at corner. I thought their corners were phenomenal. They blitzed. Go back and look. They were constantly sending a linebacker in the middle, which kept (UT quarterback Hendon Hooker) from stepping up and taking off in the middle.

There were three or four things, but it started with tackling.

In the bigger games, Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett tends to step up, and he did it again against Tennessee, making big plays downfield, sidestepping a blitz, sprinting and diving for the pylon and a touchdown …

BC: He is a stud. Here's what you've got with him. He's got a big arm, he's accurate and he runs like a running back. When we were having to play him, I was like, Lord, help. He throws the deep ball really well, and that's so important because they're a good run team. You know those guys that throw a beautiful deep ball but they're always 2 or 3 yards out in front of the receiver vs. a guy like him that just puts it on the money, along with the fact that he's got escapability.

Coach (Todd) Monken has done a great job (calling plays). You've got one of the best players in the country in the tight end (Brock) Bowers. Big up front. Good running backs. They're very balanced, and they attack you a bunch of different ways. Obviously, they're very, very hard to defend.

If Stetson was a little bit bigger, everybody in the world would be talking about how great he is. He's a little bit shorter, and they probably don't say as many great things about him as they should. That guy's a winner. It's important to him. You heard one of his defensive teammates say, This is his team. I thought that meant a lot.



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