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August 23, 2006
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Auburn is a loaded football team that's a serious contender for the national championship. Few look forward to facing the Tigers, especially at Jordan Hare Stadium.
Doba has seven offensive and seven defensive starters returning from last season's team, which finished 4-7 but lost five games by four or fewer points. He embraces every minute of the scheming, planning and strategizing that goes into rebuilding a team.
The brain provides great comfort when the heart is hurting.
Last April, Judy Doba, Bill's wife of 44 years, succumbed to ovarian cancer. The usually light-hearted, playful coach endured the worst pain of his life. A new football season won't eliminate that pain, but may help ease it just a bit.
"It's a savior," Doba said of the new season.
Doba doesn't want to talk too much about losing his wife, and initially offers only that she was a "great, great girl."
But then he tells the stories that reveal how great Judy Doba was.
Last year the Dobas asked the Pac-10 media not to report Judy's illness ? a request that was honored ? because she didn't want to be a distraction.
She had taken a trip to Europe and reveled in the fact no one knew she was ill and did not ask how she was feeling.
In lieu of flowers, she requested donations go to a local hospital. Thousands of dollars were contributed.
She wrote her own obituary.
"She wanted to keep it easy on us," Doba said. "She said, 'If funerals are a celebration of life why is everybody crying?' "
And so Doba enters this season perhaps more focused on football than ever before, maybe even more than 2003 - when he guided the Cougars to a 10-3 finish and a Holiday Bowl victory over Texas.
He's just as encouraged as he was then.
He points out that quarterback Alex Brink returns, as well as receivers Jason Hill, Chris Jordan and Michael Bumpus. The three wideouts have combined for 232 catches for 3,605 yards and 32 touchdowns in their careers.
And he's encouraged by last year's close calls.
"The only team that really hurt us and embarrassed us was USC, and they did that to a couple of other folks, too," Doba said. "We were close and we've got some kids back that competed, but didn't finish. That's what we've stressed all year ? finish, finish, finish. We have 'finish" with a Cougar head posted everywhere. It's been a good summer. Our strength coach said the kids worked hard and they said they worked hard.
"But you can get into a mentality when you start losing. You go into the fourth quarter thinking, 'What's going to happen now?' That's what concerns me most about Auburn. But if we can beat Auburn it would be a great springboard for us."
Just a strong showing on the road at Auburn could propel Washington State to a successful season, which would provide Doba great comfort for several reasons.
"Quite honestly, there are 10 families I'm responsible for," Doba said. "If I get fired my assistant coaches probably will, too. They have kids, and I brought them here. So, you have to get over grieving in a hurry and get to work."
Three questions with Gordie Lockbaum
The 60-Minute Man of Holy Cross, Lockbaum played offense, defense and special teams from 1984-87. He earned All-America honors for offense and defense and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting as a junior and third ? behind Notre Dame's Tim Brown and Syracuse's Don McPherson ? after his senior season. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
How often are you recognized? Do people look at your name on a credit card and do a double-take?
"Occasionally it happens that way. It's a little bit more of an inquisitive look on people's faces nowadays. We're coming up on 20 years, but I think it's great. We had a nice run for a few years and the program was really on a high and getting a lot of national attention. I think college football has just grown and grown and the interest has driven I-A schools higher and higher toward the pro level. So, a I-AA program like ours getting national attention was nice. People could relate to an underdog or a regular guy getting success."
What are your fondest memories of your college career?
"They're not as specific as they probably once were with games or plays or touchdowns or interceptions or things of that nature. Now it's just the overall experience. It's a clich?hat those are the best years of your life, but quite honestly I think they were. It was a lot of fun."
Your son, Gordie Jr., played in the 2002 Little League World Series, so he's a good athlete in his own right. Is he impressed by his father's athletic accomplishments?
"He's never seen my highlight films. I'm just his dad. Quite honestly, with the Little League World Series and some of the run his baseball teams had over the past summers he's made his own name. He's made All-New England as a wrestler, he's a good football player, and he ran track last year and did an excellent job running varsity as a freshman. He's well-rounded. He's his own person."
What stadium hosted the only Rose Bowl not played in Pasadena? (Answer at the end of the column.)
A physical fall camp has taken its toll, but Auburn received good news on Tuesday with linebacker Will Herring and receiver Courtney Taylor returning to practice. Herring strained a hamstring last week and Taylor had a sprained knee.
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville praised Herring for his ability to play through pain.
"He looked good, full speed. He's hurting a little bit, but he wants to play," Tuberville told AuburnSports.com. "He knows he has to get back in there on a couple of these days where we're going full speed.
"You have to take your hat off to him. He's a tough kid. He knows his body and we told him if you think you can go, go. He looked good."
Herring's return provides a boost at linebacker, with Kevin Sears and Tray Blackmon suspended for at least the season opener against Washington State because of alcohol-related incidents in the offseason.
Cut to the chase
What is Missouri going to do without star quarterback Brad Smith, who set 69 records in his four years in Columbia?
Apparently, throw the football very efficiently.
Chase Daniel, who follows Smith as the starting quarterback, has himself shown dynamic potential in team scrimmages. In the spring game and two scrimmages this month, Daniel has completed 42 of 52 passes for nearly 500 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.
Daniel, who is a sophomore, played in an offensive system in high school that is similar to Missouri's and that familiarity may pay off.
"Obviously, it helped being in a system close to this in high school," Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen told PowerMizzou.com. "He's familiar with the reads and the stuff that we're doing. He knows what he's doing. When the coverage changes, he knows where to go with the ball. I think it's an extension of what he did in high school with this offense."
Still, Daniel has a lot of production to replace. Last season Smith passed for 2,304 yards and rushed for 1,301.
? Alabama true freshman Andre Smith, the nation's top-rated offensive line prospect, has taken over the starting job at left tackle. On the right side, Kyle Tatum and Chris Capps are vying for the starting job. Both were starters last season.
? Darren McFadden, Arkansas' explosive running back, on Monday had a pin removed from his surgically repaired big toe. He'll be exercising in a swimming pool this week and will hopefully begin jogging next week.
? Now that Georgia's quarterback competition has been settled ? for the moment ? with Joe Tereshinski as the starter, perhaps the Bulldogs' most competitive position is the cornerback opposite Paul Oliver. Ramarcus Brown appears to be the leader over true freshmen Asher Allen and Prince Miller. That position might stay muddled, however, when Thomas Flowers serves a two-game suspension and returns for the game against UAB.
? Tennessee linebacker Jerod Mayo sprained an ankle in last Saturday's scrimmage and isn't going to practice the remainder of this week. However, there is still optimism he will be ready for the season opener against California.
? Kansas State's James Johnson, a four-star junior college running back recruit, has been cleared to play by the NCAA and started practicing with the team last week. Sixth-year senior Carlos Alsup is the probable starter at running back in the season opener against Illinois State. Incumbent starter Thomas Clayton is sitting out a one-game suspension.
? Nebraska's running back situation still is uncertain with Kenny Wilson, Marlon Lucky, Cody Glenn and Brandon Jackson unable to emerge as a starter. However, 6-foot-4, 225-pound Maurice Purify, last year's top-rated junior college wide receiver, has distinguished himself in practice as a touchdown-catching machine. Terrence Nunn and Nate Swift are returning starters, so Purify might not be an immediate starter.
? Miami (Ohio) will pay tribute to the late coach Randy Walker before its game against Northwestern on Aug. 31. Walker, who coached at Miami and was the coach at Northwestern before passing away of a heart attack on June 29, will be honored in a ceremony at Miami's Cradle of Coaches Plaza. Players from both teams will wear a No. 41 decal on their helmets. Walker wore No. 41 as a player at Miami.
? Oklahoma will honor the late Prentice Gautt, the Sooners' first African-American player, by affixing a No. 38 decal ? his jersey number at OU ? on their helmets. No player will wear his number this season. His family and the 1956 national championship team will be honored at the Oct. 21 game versus Colorado.
? No doubt, fans are eagerly awaiting the season's start. TCU has sold out its Sept. 16 game against Texas Tech. LSU broke a school record by selling 67,800 season tickets. It's the third consecutive season the Tigers have sold out season tickets. Iowa State reached its 2006 goal of exceeding 30,000 season ticket sales.
? Wisconsin fears it has lost starting fullback Chris Pressley for the season after he suffered a lower leg injury during a routine running drill on Monday. Bill Rentmeester would likely move in as Pressley's replacement.
? Heralded freshman running back Chris Wells has been impressive, but Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said incumbent Antonio Pittman - who rushed for 1,331 yards last season - remains the Buckeyes' starting tailback. "That's probably as solid as anything," said Tressel, who did acknowledge that Wells would get his share of carries.
Duke's Wallace Wade Stadium in 1942.
The Associated Press and other media contributed to this report.
Olin Buchanan is the senior national college football writer for Rivals.com. To send him a question or comment for his Friday Mailbag, click here.