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Former players have their say

Terry Beasley still bears the scars of a Hall of Fame Auburn football career. More than 40 years after he caught his last pass from Pat Sullivan, he still stands unchallenged as the greatest receiver in Auburn history.

Terry Beasley set records in a three-year career that still stand today.

Beasley was faster than almost anyone. Dropped passes were for somebody else. But as much as anything, Beasley was a tough guy. In a different day, he was knocked cold, awakened with smelling salts and returned to the field to lead Auburn to a 33-28 victory over Alabama in 1970.

Beasley has watched the collapse of Auburn football with increasing dismay. Going into another Iron Bowl, Auburn is 3-8 with nine consecutive Southeastern Conference losses. And Beasley is troubled by what he has seen.

"Parts of me are all over that field," Beasley said in an interview with AuburnUndercover. "I sucked it up and kept going when I should have sat out and not played. Now it's like they don't want to play."

It's the blowout losses - seven in the last nine SEC games - that hurt the most for Beasley, a member of the National Football Hall of Fame. No Auburn player has worn Jersey No. 88 since he wore it in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1972.

Beasley said he watched a 38-0 loss to Georgia and a 63-21 loss to Texas A&M - both at Jordan-Hare Stadium - in disbelief.

"I know some guys are playing hard, but it's pathetic," Beasley said. "They - a lot of them anyway - look like they've given up, totally. They have no drive in them. Nothing. They are just empty. They are going through the motions."

For former Auburn players who went through good times and bad during their Auburn careers, who won and lost and sweated and bled on the turf at Jordan-Hare Stadium, the nosedive since the 2010 national championship has been both disturbing and puzzling.

Bart Eddins, an offensive lineman from 2008-2011, is distressed by what he sees. But he also says he knows what it was like just a year ago.

Ron Stallworth was part of the nation's top defense in 1988

"Of course, it's obviously very disheartening," Eddins said. "Any true Auburn man or woman who is legitimately family, nobody is going to give up on them. I still watch them until the last second on the clock. I still pull for them when they are down four touchdowns.

"Even though their body language says something else, I'm saying 'Let's stop them! Let's get this touchdown! I'm still behind them. I'm still going to support them."

Eddins' career was plagued by knee injuries and other physical problems, but he knows something about winning. His brother Bret was a defensive end on Auburn's unbeaten 2004 team. His father, Liston, was an All-SEC Auburn defensive end in the mid-1970s. His oldest brother Blake was an immensely popular basketball player at Arkansas.

Bart Eddins said he looks back on his time as a Tiger and his time in Gene Chizik's program with only fondness.

"It was fantastic," Eddins said. "We won a national championship. You can't get any better than that."

Eddins said he never saw the collapse coming and doesn't believe Auburn players saw it coming either.

"A bunch of people say they are mentally weak and physically weak," Eddins said. "I don't know about that. I really think some players kind of got caught off guard to a certain extent, not really knowing how to respond to something. After a while, if you get in a deep enough hole where you can't see the surface, you start to panic."

AuburnUndercover contacted six former Auburn players from different eras. At least two others have gone public with their feelings previously. Here is what the others had to say:

Steve Wilson was an Auburn linebacker from 1970-72

RON STALLWORTH, DT, 1985-88

"The program took a big step back. You have to ask yourself what happened, how it happened and how you can prevent it from happening again. Evidently, the folks over there can't figure out how to make it better. I know when I was playing for Coach (Wayne) Hall, if we gave up a certain amount of points, we knew the next week was going to be a long week. It seems like somehow this staff hasn't been able to get through to them.

"... It's a combination of things from a distance - missed tackles, not developing the running game, changing quarterbacks. To me, whenever we played bad, it wasn't everybody. It was one or two people every snap. It doesn't take but two or three guys not giving their all for it look like nobody is."

LISTON EDDINS, DE, 1973-1975

"You just scratch your head. When one thing gets fixed for a little while, something else breaks down. It's hard to say it's just this coach or this position. I've never watched a team where everybody is scratching their head so much when they appear to be oozing with talent. You want them to do better so bad because it is so agonizing for them. For all the pain and suffering the fans think they are going through, it's 10 times more with these players. They hear what everybody is saying. People are saying stuff in class and when you walk by. It's tough on their parents. Bless their parents' hearts. It's just a real ugly scene you hate to see them go through.

"You just wonder where the effort is sometimes. You really do. You see highlights of the last year or two and you say "Where's the effort?" You see guys that look so good in a uniform. It hasn't always been that way at Auburn. These guys running out look pretty good in an Auburn uniform. It's just so many things."

Liston Eddins played on a great team in 1974 when the Tigers were 10-2. and he experienced a major disappointment when they were 3-6-2 in Shug Jordan's final season as head coach in 1975..

"I'm not bragging, but I never played in one single game I didn't expect to win. I didn't care what the odds were. You look at who you are lining up against and get so focused and so involved that all the bad things have a way of going away. You are strictly in the mode of taking care of your job or your business and trying to help the people around you."

Heath Evans was alarmed after working out with Auburn players

BEN LEARD, QB, 1997-2000

"You are torn as someone that has worn the jersey and taken a lot of snaps. They could be 0-10 and get beat 60-0 every game and I'm still going to support them. It pains me to say it, but you are almost looking for the other shoe to drop. The first bit of adversity they go through, they get that body language of 'Here we go again.' You would hope to see the reverse of that. There's something lost in translation. There is a developmental glitch somewhere from when they leave their high school football team and get to Auburn. There is something not quite clicking."

Before he made All-SEC and led the Tigers to the 2000 SEC Championship Game, Leard dealt with the difficulty of 1998, when Terry Bowden left at midseason and the Tigers beat only Ole Miss, Louisiana Tech and Central Florida.

"It really is tough. It's extremely tough to go out there and spend two or three hours practicing and beating your head against the wall, but you are still a competitor and you still hate to lose. When I went on my recruiting visit to Tennessee, Peyton Manning said he hated losing more than he loved winning. That's the way you have to be. These kids are having a big-time gut check. The coaches are, too. Everybody has kind of been tiptoeing through the tulips. All of a sudden Auburn hits rock bottom."

STEVE WILSON, LB, 1970-72

"One thing I've always believed is Auburn should have the expectation of a well-coached team with people who are going to play hard as hell. I don't see that. I don't see preparation or discipline. I don't see much enthusiasm.

"I remember the first time I came out of where we used to enter the field with the blue jersey on with all those people screaming. It's unlike anything you've ever experienced. Even when you are playing hard and you are tired, you feed off of it. I don't understand. They just don't seem real excited about why they are there.

"When the other team is trying basically not to do anything and get it over with and get you out of your misery, surely there is somebody that wants to play. I see some really good individual effort. But I haven't seen a team."

Ben eard was an All-SEC qarterback in 2000

HEATH EVANS, FB, 1998-2000

Evans, who played in the NFL for 11 seasons and works out at the Auburn football complex in the summers, expressed his feelings in an interview with Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News.

“I saw this coming and nobody wanted to believe me. It was a scary offseason for me, that offseason of 2011, because I do, I bleed orange and blue. I love that school. I love those kids, and I love what an Auburn man is supposed to stand for. It’s hard to watch (Auburn) football now on a Saturday afternoon."

Evans says it was during his workouts and interaction with Auburn players that he became convinced trouble was ahead.

“Discipline, structure, accountability, and most importantly, mental and physical toughness. It’s non-existent. It’s absolutely pathetic, and I know those are harsh words, but see, the thing about mental and physical toughness is, they’re created. They really are. I can show you the man that looks the biggest and the toughest, and most likely, I can put him in some circumstances where he’d crumble. Great coaches know how to make great men, and they’re built. You don’t come out of the womb with great character, great discipline, great emotional and physical fortitude. Those things are created in you by great men."

ROB PATE, S, 1997-2000

Pate expressed his feeling in his Eyes on Auburn blog.

"This team has become heartbreaking. There's nothing left to say. Attempting to summarize all of our inadequacies has become a chore I'm no longer willing to dedicate the required effort to get done ... because frankly I could go on for days. If the writing is not on the wall to the Auburn power brokers that matter then I am left with serious questions regarding the leadership structure at Auburn University.

"Do us all a favor and act swiftly and boldly. Don't dangle your toes in the water and gauge public sentiment. Go make a splash and give us hope again. Because entering rivalry football games with zero hope has us all doubled over in agony. There's no excuse for it, it's an embarrassment, the alumni and fan base deserve better as do the young men stepping into battle each week seemingly ill-prepared, over-matched, fundamentally flawed, and passionless. Get them the help they need to save us all from the product we continue to field. It's a train wreck and we've seen enough. Surely you have as well."

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