You have nothing to prove, and you have everything to prove. You finished 11-0 in your first season as a Division I-A coach, and you still can't resist scooping up every gauntlet dropped before you. So there you, Terry Bowden, stand, on a cliff on a lazy June afternoon, peering 60 feet down into a lake in Alabama. Your former fullback, Reid McMilion, has dared you to jump, but you have to one-up him. You dive, resurfacing with two broken ribs, a ripped pectoral muscle and a sudden awareness of your own mortality. "I think I was the first one ever to dive from there." says Bowden. "And it was about the dumbest thing I have ever done."
But allow Bowden his occasional moment of hubris. With the Tigers' wild run last autumn, Bowden restored to the Auburn football program the luster it had lost when the NCAA put the school on two years' probation at the start of the 1993 season. He now faces a more formidable challenge: restoring to the Auburn faithful some reasonable expectations. "We will lose a game at Auburn." Bowden says, refusing to divulge when exactly that might be.
The defense has nine starters back, and on offense, junior tailback Stephen Davis (480 yards on 87 carries in '93) and senior wide receiver Frank Sanders (48 receptions for 842 yards) should be even more productive than last year. The return of All-America punter Terry Daniel ensures the Tigers of having one of the best special teams around. "We could be better this season, though our record might not reflect it," says Bowden.
No one will take Auburn lightly. "There's no place to hide." says Sanders. "Not after 11-0." There are holes, notably on offense, where a 6'4", 290-pound gap was left when All-America tackle Wayne Gandy graduated. Another hole is at quarterback. Senior Patrick Nix takes over for four-year starter Stan White, but the locals are already whispering about backup Dameyune Craig, a redshirt freshman being compared, prematurely, to Charlie Ward.
That just may be a result of Bowden's only mistake: He restored Auburn to its past glory too quickly.
Another fine season is within reach for Sanders (81) and Auburn.