DESTIN, Fla. - This Auburn-Tennessee thing is starting to get a little too weird for me. I realized that while listening to new Auburn coach Gene Chizik discuss his offensive concerns at the SEC spring meetings.
He hasn't decided on a No. 1 quarterback. His offensive line suffers from a lack of depth. And of course, he needs more playmakers.
Chizik talking about Auburn didn't sound any different than Lane Kiffin talking about Tennessee. But that's just the tip of the offensive iceberg.
UT and Auburn football have been marching in step for about a year now. In fact, they might as well have been wearing the same shoes.
Don't take my word for it. Just check out the second-half videotape of last year's UT-Auburn game.
The teams were so similar you could have sworn you were watching a spring game. They could have played right on through until the following Saturday and wouldn't have managed 10 first downs between them. Both punters would have had leg cramps by then.
But they were in sync before they were in competition.
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and UT coach Phillip Fulmer hired new offensive coordinators after the 2007 regular season. Based on how the two teams responded, you might have assumed the coordinators came from the same distant galaxy.
Both offenses couldn't get out of their own way. Both teams went 5-7 and made Alabama very happy. Both coaches got fired.
And then, both programs went their separate ways, right?
Auburn hired a coach who had two losing seasons at Iowa State. UT hired a coach who was fired before he could have two losing seasons with the Oakland Raiders.
Kiffin then assembled one of the best coaching staff in the country. And Chizik's staff might not be far behind.
One of Kiffin's hires was former Auburn running backs coach Eddie Gran. One of Chizik's hires was former UT running backs coach Trooper Taylor.
Both programs made recruiting noise - Auburn with its stretch Hummer cruising across Alabama; UT with the Lane Train swerving through the SEC one potshot at a time.
Kiffin and Chizik are new to the SEC but not to each other. They were as close as Xs and Os in one of the greatest college games ever played (Kiffin as the offensive coordinator for Southern California and Chizik as the defensive coordinator for Texas in the game that decided the 2005 national championship in the Longhorns' favor).
Chizik has another Kiffin connection - with Lane's father and defensive coordinator, Monte. When Chizik was an assistant coach at Central Florida in Orlando, he often visited the Tampa Bay Bucs, where Monte was the defensive coordinator. Chizik later installed a version of Kiffin's defense at Auburn, when he was the defensive coordinator.
In a best-case scenario for the two programs, they will continue to follow a similar path the next few years.
They fell together. Maybe they can rise together as well.
But with Florida well established as the conference power and Alabama on the ascent, how high and how fast can UT and Auburn go?
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.