TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Auburn had Alabama on the ropes in last year's Iron Bowl in Bryan Harsin's first year as head coach, until Bryce Young led a miraculous comeback in the final minutes to send the game to overtime.
Less than a year later, Harsin is out, and the Tigers are led by former Auburn running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams as the interim head coach.
Since Williams took over, the Tigers are 2-1, including back-to-back wins over Texas A&M and Western Kentucky, after losing five in a row. Alabama head coach Nick Saban said he wasn't going to make an evaluation of the former coaching staff, but that Auburn's players were playing really hard under Williams.
"I think Cadillac Williams has done a really, really good job," Saban during his Monday press conference. "They've played really well these last three games."
Obviously, this will be the first time Saban matches up with Williams as a coach, but he does have a history with the running back as a player.
When Saban was the head coach at LSU, Williams faced Saban-led teams as the Auburn running back, and then when Saban moved on to the Miami Dolphins he had the opportunity to draft Williams in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft.
"He’s done a great job— the energy, the enthusiasm, the way the guys are competing and playing, the way they play to win," Saban said. "And that was his personality as a player. I remember when I was the coach at the Miami Dolphins, Ronnie Brown and Cadillac were both coming out the same time in the same draft. And we thought they were both great competitors. He certainly was a great competitor. And I think his personality shows in the way his team competes."
After Auburn's win over Western Kentucky Saturday, Williams shared the memories of his history with Saban.
"He did pass on me in the 2005 Draft, and he took Ronnie Brown over me,” Williams said. “That still hurts me a little bit, but I’m over it now.”
The Dolphins did select Brown with the second overall pick, and Williams went fifth overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both running backs went on to have successful NFL careers. Williams began coaching in 2015, landed at Auburn in 2019 as the running backs coach and was elevated to the interim head coach this season.
Saturday will be Saban's 15th Iron Bowl as head coach (he missed the 2020 game with COVID when Steve Sarkisian filled in as interim.) Williams' cemented his name in Auburn lore with his performance in the 2003 Iron bowl, but this will be his first as a head coach in one of the greatest rivalries in college football when the Crimson Tide and Tigers meet in Bryant-Denny Stadium at 2:30 p.m.
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