Getting ahead really boils down to work. It's not just getting a head start on recruiting, it's doing your due diligence and finding who you want to recruit, establishing relationships and getting them on campus.
Getting ahead is also about building the character and toughness of this season's football team during winter workouts and finding out who the leaders are. It is about figuring out who the guys are going to be that will step up and try to fill the shoes of players like Chris Davis, Dee Ford and Jay Prosch who were instrumental in leading the Tigers to the 2013 Southeastern Conference championship.
It's easier to be a leader when it is game week and everybody is excited about the upcoming contest on Saturday. It's not as easy to do it early in the morning during winter workouts or in the weight room when you are in pain trying to get stronger six months before the season begins. That is not the fun part of playing football.
However, there are often rewards for the players who can push themselves to their limits to become bigger, faster and stronger. Very few football players know what their limits are so that is why it is important to have a coaching staff in place that knows how to push the players without going too far and causing an injury situation.
Physical improvements in the offseason and building mental toughness were a major part of the winning equation Coach Gus Malzahn's staff handled very well last year and it is certainly one of the reasons why the Tigers played so close to their potential in 2013.
It looks like Coach Malzahn is not going to lose any of his on-the-field assistants this year and that is a good thing as the Tigers look to put together back-to-back SEC championship seasons.
While the leadership and organizational planning has to come from the head coach, it is important that the assistant coaches be motivated and hungry for success. It's easier to do when you first go in to a new job. The truly great coaching staffs can put together repeat performances and that is the challenge for Malzahn and his assistants for the 2014 season.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming.