Auburn’s Pat Dye at Little Rock Touchdown Club on Oct 3, 2011

We have had some great speakers at the Little Rock Touchdown Club and Auburn’s Pat Dye has to be included in that list.

10/3/2011 at 3:22pm

The last time former Auburn head football coach Pat Dye addressed the Little Rock Touchdown Club, he spoke about a wonderful meeting he’d had with Alabama native and author Harper Lee (“To Kill a Mockingbird”). Monday, Miss Lee would have been blushing at some of the saltiness in Dye’s entertaining luncheon speech, marking his third visit to the club in its eight-year history.

You can hear the full-on version at the Touchdown Club’s website. Maybe the comment about Paul Finebaum, when Dye wasn’t miked or at the dais, made the video. We’ll just touch on the key points he made about No. 15 Auburn’s game coming up Saturday with now No. 10 Arkansas.

Dye believes Arkansas has a good team. Or an outstanding one. Take your pick, because he said both, just like a coach would in speaking about an upcoming opponent. He definitely believes Arkansas has a great offense led by the genius of head coach Bobby Petrino, and it’s complemented by a good defense and kicking game.

He warns that Auburn has a great kicking game, which the Tiger program has been noted for at least since the glory days of Shug Jordan. As for Auburn’s offense and defense, well, Dye can’t give either one good marks. But somehow the Tigers are 4-1 and 2-0 in the SEC West in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year under Coach Gene Chizik.

Dye said last year’s Auburn excelled because of two players: quarterback Cam Newton was “Superman” on offense and tackle Nick Fairley was an unblockable force on defense. Fairley and Newton took Auburn from being just an average team to the 14-0 BCS national champion.

Newton and Fairley now are playing in the NFL.

Auburn is getting contributions from a number of players this year, including Arkansans Michael Dyer, a sophomore running back from Little Rock Christian, and Kiehl Frazier, a freshman quarterback from Shiloh Christian, contributing.

“Dyer carried it 41 times against South Carolina, and Auburn doesn’t beat South Carolina without the plays Kiehl Frazier made on third down near midfield,” Dye said.

Senior Barrett Trotter is the regular Auburn quarterback, but Frazier in spare doses is giving offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn (another Arkansas native) more of the type of signal caller he needs to run the Tigers’ offense — a good runner who can pass. Frazier’s runs helped Auburn keep key moving in the Tigers’ 16-13 upset at Columbia on Saturday.

Dye said he hopes Auburn can give Arkansas a competitive game “so you fans won’t leave early and go to your parties.”

Dye looked over the list of this fall’s previous Touchdown Club speakers — specifically noting former Alabama coach Gene Stallings. He said coaches like Stallings like to talk about the time they played and coached as being college football’s grand ol’ days, but disagreed with the assessment.

“Coach Stallings likes to live in the dark ages,” Dye said laughing. “We’re living in the golden age right now … There’s never been as much interest in college football across the United States as there is today.”

Dye says he’s on a panel with Stallings and former coaches who vote in the weekly Legends Poll. Dye said he’s told Stallings he couldn’t coach defense today like he did 15 years ago.

“All you had to defend was the I formation,” Dye said he told Stallings. “Now, there are a jillion formations.”

“He said, ‘They’re not teaching ’em how to tackle.’ I said, ‘Hell, they’re just tyring to teach them where to line up.'”

And that’s what Auburn’s Ghizik and defensive coordinator Ted Roof are dealing with down on The Plains with a young defense loaded with top prep prospects who are learning their way. Soon enough, they’ll be very good. But don’t read much into Saturday’s win at South Carolina. Dye said an Auburn fan was excitedly pointed to the play of the defense against South Carolina, but Dye interjected, “That wasn’t much of an offense they were playing.”

The whole sentence was spicier than that, but we’ll let you hear for yourself on the video.

“We don’t have a junior in our front four,” Dye said. “They’re playing with a lot of energy, but they’re just a bunch of guys who are wet behind the ears.”

Dye, who left coaching after the 1992 season, was pushed away somewhat from his continued involvement with Auburn’s program by former Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville, the Camden native who left the Tigers’ job after a 5-7 season in 2008 and is now at Texas Tech. Since Chizik’s arrival, he’s been a fixture again around Auburn football.

Late in a troubled 2003 season at Auburn, the then-school president and then-athletic director took a clandestine trip to Louisville to entice Bobby Petrino, who had been Auburn’s offensive coordinator in 2002, to replace Tuberville. Had news of that jet trip not leaked, history on The Plains (and Fayetteville too, for that matter) might have changed. Word did lead, though, right before Tuberville’s Tigers beat Alabama, and then Auburn went 13-0 the next year and finished the bowl season No. 2 behind Southern Cal.

Monday, it appeared Dye is a big fan of Petrino’s.

“He came from a great football family. All of his life, since he was wearing diapers, he’s been around football. There is none better than Bobby Petrino as far as an offensive football mind,” Dye said to reporters after the luncheon.

But, with Arkansas surrendering 628 yards last Saturday in Petrino’s fourth year at Fayetteville, can Petrino match the defensive side of the ball with his offensive acumen, I asked Dye.

“If he can recruit the kind of players they are getting at LSU and Alabama, and Florida, yes,” he said.

Remember what Dye said earlier about defending “a jillion” formations and just getting players to line up right.

During his luncheon, he gave a ringing endorsement of football in the South that would have you convinced the recruitable players are available for many teams beyond LSU, Alabama and Florida, and it’s why the SEC has won the last five national championships.

But, if anybody from outside the SEC can win the BCS Championship Game this year, it could be the Big Ten’s Wisconsin, Dye said.

He rattled off the pluses for the Badgers, including a line that averages 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, two outstanding receivers and three good running backs. “And, you know what they have that Alabama and LSU don’t,” he asked the large crowd at the Embassy Suites ball room.

“That have a great quarterback.” His name is Russell Wilson, and he started out at N.C. State before having to quit there because N.C. State wouldn’t let him also play professional baseball.

“And, you know, he almost came to Auburn,” Dye added.

The Tigers’ program got lucky beyond dreams last year, bringing in a rare one-and-done from junior college, Dye admitted. “It will be 20 or 30 years before another comes around like Cam Newton,” the College Football Hall of Famer said.

Then, Dye stood for a picture with Camden Fairview wide receiver Dominique Reed, honored Monday as the club’s high school player of the week for his five-catch, 290-yard effort two weeks ago against Hot Springs Lakeside.

Dye, who had a great playing career at Georgia before going into coaching and becoming the man who signed Bo Jackson — calling him the best athlete ever — looked up at the 6-foot-3 Reed and said, “I always liked to sign players who were a lot taller than me.”

Email: jharris@abpg.com. Follow Jim on Twitter @jimharris360

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