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Ask The Coach: Jim Donnan

Each week throughout the remainder of the season, will give you a sitdown Q&A session with a former coach. It will feature a nationally known coach or one more closely associated with Auburn.
We will post the featured guest’s name in the forums and you post your questions. We will pick 10 to 15 of the better questions.
This week’s guest is Hall of Fame coach Jim Donnan, now a popular television and radio analyst.

Question from wjeagle23: If Auburn remains undefeated, will this be another 2004 or will the Tigers be a lock for the BCS Championship Game?

Donnan: “If Auburn is undefeated, they’re a lock for sure. Even a one- loss SEC team would be in the national championship game. There’s no 2004 scenario here. Auburn controls its own density. They started so far back in 2004, it was hard to catch up. They started back this year but have been able to catch up quickly.”

Question from OldNewby: Other than recruiting, what are the most important things you must do to build and maintain a championship football program?

Donnan: “I’ve always felt like the number one thing is acquisition of talent. Without talent, you can’t win. You have to have a great staff with great leadership and a commitment from the administration, from the president to the athletic director on down.”

Question from AUDUckhunter: How would your Oklahoma teams of the 80's stack up against some of the great teams you've seen of the 90's, 2000's and today?

Donnan: “The thing that would help us is that we were outstanding on both sides of the ball and had good kicking. Miami gave us the most trouble because they could match our speed. Based on our talent level, we’d be very competitive. We’d need a better passing game, but pass protection rules are easier today than they were 20 years ago. That’s an area where we’d have to improve, but it would be easy to do.”

Question from jadennis: Do you have any interest in getting back in the game as a head coach? They're throwing around $2 million contracts these days.

Donnan: “Not really. I’ve had some opportunities, but I’ve had enough. It’s hard to get back and go back into a program where you have to build it back up when you’ve been where I’ve been - at Oklahoma, Marshall and Georgia. I certainly miss it, though.”

Question from BDWILLIS: How does Gus Malzahn compare to other successful offensive coordinators around the country?

Donnan: “No question he’s stepped up his image this year with the way the offense has played. His reputation has always been that of a guy who’s had a hard time finishing, particularly last year. This year, he’s done a terrific job molding Newton and his skills. But, you have to be consistent over time. At present time, his stock has risen appreciably due to Auburn’s ability to come from behind – even considering how good Newton is. Last year, they didn’t finish games. This year, they have.”

Question from AUEAGLE72: I heard you on an Atlanta radio station this afternoon. You stated that you want to see Oregon and Alabama play in the BCS National Championship game. My question is why those two teams?

Donnan: “I said that’d be a good game because Alabama has a good enough defense to slow down Oregon, but also has a good enough offense to score some points. I think Auburn is very capable, too. Alabama has good balance. Whoever wins the SEC, as long as they have no more than one loss, is going to be in the BCS National Championship Game. The best thing for Auburn would be for LSU to beat Alabama because it would relieve a tremendous amount of pressure going into the Iron Bowl.”

Question from bearisdead: When you were coaching at UGA, were meddling boosters ever an issue? I don't mean normal politics, but real meddling that affected your ability to do your job?

Donnan: “Wherever you’re coaching, you have people who mean a lot to the program. You need those people to help you. I’ve never had a situation where those people affected my coaching. If that ever happens, you just have to tell them you appreciate their support, but that you don’t tell them how to run their business and you don’t need their help on third-and-10.”

Question from JER68: Please explain the difference between a screen pass, a bubble pass, and a wheel route. Also, since Philip Lutzenkirchen has such great hands why doesn’t Auburn throw to him more often?

Donnan: “A quick screen is when you hold the block for two counts. A bubble screen is a pass behind line where the receiver loses yardage before heading back up field. It’s in-between a lateral and forward pass. A wheel route is where the back threatens the flat, but turns up field and down the boundary so it looks like a wheel. It’s a flat and up. If you catch the defense in man, it’s hard to cover.”

Question from Gncnew: Do you feel that Cameron Newton is ready to make the move to the next level or would he be better served to finish his college career as a senior?

Donnan: “Physically, he can play at the next level. Experience is a great value to a quarterback. He’s only eight games into his career as a starter. Peyton Manning came back. Cam can’t play any better for Auburn, but experience will help him in the NFL. Unless he’s a top five pick, he should come back. Another year would help him.”

Question from Gncnew: Why do so few teams seem to "stack the box" against Auburn, despite their phenomenal success rushing the football?

Donnan: “I don’t think it matters how you line up against Auburn. You could line up 14 players against him. This guy defies anything I’ve ever seen. You could put Ronnie Lott out there and he couldn’t tackle him. We had a quarterback at Oklahoma, Jamaal Holloway. You could line him up against 11 people and he could make plays and make people miss. You could line 22 up against Cam Newton and he could make them miss. If you took a poll of all 12 SEC coaches and they had choice between Gus Malzahn or Cam Newton coming back next year, all they'd take Malzahn to come back. No slam on Malzahn. It’s just that players win games.”

Question from auman365: Georgia has been less then spectacular this year. Any perspective on exactly what went wrong to start the season? Is it a lack of control by Mark Richt?

Donnan: “The major thing at Georgia is that A.J. Green didn’t start the season, and their young quarterback didn’t have a great target. The defense can’t get off the field on third down. Richt has had a great career at Georgia, and the next three games are critical. He could have a great turnaround or end up .500.”

Question from MoolyShoo: What would be the list of things a college player would look at to decide whether it is best for him to remain in school for his senior year or jump to the NFL? Conversely what would be the criteria to convince an excellent player to stay?

Donnan: Number one, talk to your coach. See what he says about what general managers and scouts are saying about you. Who else is coming out? How do you rate against them? Are there more or less guys coming out the next year at your position? In college, it’s a team game, but all of these guys have one thing in mind: getting to the next level.”

Question from au_lock: How would you rate the SEC this year compared to other recent years?

Donnan: “Even though Auburn is undefeated, you don’t have two teams who have run roughshod over people like Florida and Alabama did last year. Auburn has had a lot of close wins. There’s a lot of top to bottom closeness. Mississippi State is up and coming. That used to be an easy win. It’s still a great conference, the best conference in the country.”

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