Pate: Tide, Vols tops in ’10

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 2, 2009

SELMA — Alabama and Tennessee football teams will be on top of the Southeastern Conference in 2010, former Auburn standout Rob Pate told Selma Quarterback Club members Monday night.

Pate, who started four years for the Tigers and wrote a book about his experiences, said the loss of quarterback Tim Tebow next year “accounts for two losses” for Florida in the SEC East.

“For Georgia,” he said, “this is the beginning of the end. … Tennessee has the most upside and the potential to dominate.”

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A Hoover optometrist, Pate was a four-year starter in high school on the basketball, football and baseball teams. He earned a football scholarship at Auburn and played four positions under three head coaches in four years.

“A Tiger’s Walk: Memoirs of an Auburn Football Player” is “an accurate, honest account of what college football is like at a Southeastern Conference school,” Pate said about his 2004 book. “It really began as a joke. … I felt like I was telling my teammates’ stories.”

During his senior season, Pate kept a journal of his final year at Auburn. The journal became the centerpiece of the book, which he said he wrote the majority in six months.

“The hardest part was getting it published,” he said.

So he went to Kinko’s, made copies of the book and mailed the books to sports and publishing pundits. Unfortunately, he mailed the copies on Sept. 10, 2001. After the tragedies in New York and Washington, D.C., the manuscript was placed on the backburner.

The book didn’t find a publisher until three years later.

Pate answered questions about his years at Auburn and the outlook for the current team. He played under Terry Bowden and Tommy Tuberville, but Pate said he came to Auburn because of interim coach Bill Oliver, who was promoted from defensive coordinator after Bowden resigned.

He did praise Tuberville’s ability to stabilize the program after Bowden’s resignation.

“Tuberville is the ultimate politician,” Pate said. “But I have given him credit for righting a ship that was terribly off-kilter.”

About the 2009 Tigers, Pate said he was excited by Coach Gene Chizik’s enthusiasm, and he loves offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn’s game tempo “when we are getting the yards.”

About Ted Roof, the defensive coordinator: “The defense played the best game of the year against Ole Miss.”

The Tigers beat the Rebels 33-20 last weekend.

Pate said a lot of the credit or blame has been placed on Auburn’s quarterback, rightly or wrongly.

“This team goes as Chris Todd goes,” he said. “I think it’s unfair. It’s a lot of pressure to put on one person.”

After the Tigers play Furman this weekend, the Nov. 14 contest with Georgia will be crucial, Pate said.

“The trip to Georgia will be huge for a bowl slot,” he said about the bowl-eligible Tigers (6-3, 3-3 SEC). “This is a must-have game.”

Pate also said Alabama still has the edge in recruiting. “But Auburn is closing the gap.”