Tag Archives: head football coach

Johnny Majors speaks at Little Rock Touchdown Club (Part 11)jh79

Interview with Johnny Majors after 1982 Kentucky game

Below is a picture of Lane Kiffin with Johnny Majors.

Image Detail

I enjoyed hearing Johnny Majors speak at the Little Rock Touchdown Club on 11-7-11. He talked a lot about the connection between the Arkansas and Tennessee football programs. It reminded me of what Frank Broyles had said two years earlier when I heard him speak. Broyles told a very interesting story that involved individuals that were involved with the UT football program. John Barnhill was the Athletic Director at Arkansas (former football coach of UT) and he hired a former UT player Bowden Wyatt to be the head football coach at Arkansas (future football coach of great UT team of 1956 with Johnny Majors at QB). John Barnhill noticed that in south Arkansas the radio stations were carrying the LSU football games and in the East part of Arkansas the radio stations were carrying Ole Miss and in the west they were carrying Oklahoma. Therefore, John Barnhill offerred all the radio staions in the whole state free access to the radio broadcast of the Razorbacks and the result was all the stations in the whole state carried the Razorbacks and Bowden Wyatt benefitted from the great increase in school spirit and support and a young Frank Broyles saw this great support in all the store windows of every store and every city in Arkansas had all this great support for the Razorbacks and Frank had never seen that at Baylor or Georgia Tech or any other school he had been around and he decided he would take the job as soon as it came open. Bowden Wyatt coached the first razorback team that got national attention but he left after getting the razorbacks to the cotton bowl and got a cadillac from the grateful fans of Arkansas and drove it straight to Knoxville where my Uncle Blythe told me that he used the talent left there and drank himself out of a job later.

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray warms up with the team before the game against Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Nov. 12, 2011. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess, ©KNS/2011

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray warms up with the team before the game against Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Nov. 12, 2011. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

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 Tennessee football was both defined by and in a sense, spoiled by Robert Neyland, one of the all-time greats of college football coaching. “The Titan of Tennessee”, a College Football Hall Of Fame member, posted a 173-31-12 record in a twenty-one year coaching reign that spanned twenty-seven years as it was twice interrupted for military service. He played at Texas A&M and Army, served in World War I, then at West Point, worked directly for General Douglas MacArthur. Neyland eventually retired from the Army as a Brigadier General but served in Panama and in WW II which interrupted his UT coaching career. His unbelievable success put Tennessee football and his version of the Single Wing on the map, earning respect for southern football. He served to spoil fans and boosters with his .829 winning percentage and National Championships of 1938 and ’51. In one six-year period he went 53-1-5! After his retirement to the full-time athletic director’s position in 1952, every coach at UT was held to his standard. His final stint at UT spanned the years of 1946 through ’52. He inherited successful teams coached by John Barnhill who “kept the throne warm” for The General while he served during WW II. Barnhill was a former player and current assistant to Neyland when military duty called and upon Neyland’s return in ’46, Barnhill’s UT success brought him the head coaching job at Arkansas, one he kept for eight years until giving it over to former Tennessee star, assistant coach, and future head Volunteer mentor, Bowden Wyatt. Neyland of course, took Barnhill’s team to the next level, bringing the 1946 squad to the Orange Bowl.

Tennessee wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers looks for a call after he lost the ball against Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Nov. 12, 2011.  (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess, ©KNS/2011

Tennessee wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers looks for a call after he lost the ball against Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Nov. 12, 2011. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

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After a two-year rebuilding effort, the 1949 team finished with a 7-2-1 mark

Former UT All American end Bowden Wyatt who had turned around the fortunes of Wyoming, at one point winning twenty-seven of thirty games, and then guided a down-trodden Arkansas to the Cotton Bowl in only his second year at the helm there, was rumored to be the incoming new Vols coach which predictably, contributed to the Hogs’ loss to Georgia Tech in their bowl game. On January 8, 1955 Wyatt was officially named and drove into Knoxville in a brand-new Cadillac that had been purchased by appreciative Razorback fans after clinching the Cotton Bowl berth. Using the same fundamental football he learned from General Neyland, Wyatt was tireless and dynamic in teaching the Tennessee Single-Wing which featured “fierce blocking and sound defense.” Wyatt’s first team featured John Gordy at tackle, Charley Coffey at guard, and Johnny Majors at tailback. Majors’ 1133 total yards made him the SEC MVP. Some felt that the 6-3-1 record would have improved if solid FB Tom Tracy had not had a personal falling-out with Wyatt which led him to quit the squad during spring ball. Tracy still went on to a productive nine-year NFL career with Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Washington.
Tennessee defensive back Izauea Lanier is unable to stop Arkansas wide receiver Jarius Wright from scoring at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Nov. 12, 2011.   (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)
Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess, ©KNS/2011Tennessee defensive back Izauea Lanier is unable to stop Arkansas wide receiver Jarius Wright from scoring at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Nov. 12, 2011. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

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A defensive stand-off that featured a lot of punting and strategy was the 1956 season’s highlighted game, a 6-0 win over powerful Georgia Tech in the seventh game of the year that spurred the Vols on to an undefeated season. All SEC T Gordy led the way for Majors and wingback Bill Anderson before the big lineman left to play for the Lions for eleven good years. Majors finished with 1101 yards, consensus All American ranking and finished second in the Heisman voting, an honor many experts believe he should have won. Once again his ability to run, pass, block and perform as one of the best punters in the nation gave him the SEC MVP for the second straight year and he was named as UPI’s National Back Of The Year. E Buddy Cruze was also All American and Wyatt was National Coach Of The Year for guiding his Vols to a number-two national ranking. The season ended on a down note as the mighty Vols lost a mistake-ridden Sugar Bowl game 13-7 to Baylor, the game marred when Vol guard Bruce Burnham was kicked by Baylor’s Larry Hickman after a play with Burnham going into convulsions. What was believed to possibly be a broken neck proved to be but a minor injury but the myth of an “unbeatable Tennessee team” had been exploded.
Tennessee tailback Marlin Lane carries the ball against Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Nov. 12, 2011.  (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)
Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess, ©KNS/2011Tennessee tailback Marlin Lane carries the ball against Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Nov. 12, 2011. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

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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