Friday, February 08, 2008
Open letter to Dax Dellenbach he probably will not read
"Probably," because unlike the two previous entries in this genre, I figure that Mr. Dellenbach's presence on the Internets isn't yet such that a self-Google indulged to page 25 or so when class is slow might not bring him here. Image to be explained momentarily.
Hi, my name's Jerry Hinnen. I'm a lifelong Auburn football fan and I write an Auburn football blog* called the Joe Cribbs Car Wash.
I'm writing because, of course, Wednesday was W00T-everybody-blow-your-kazoos-W00T-W00T National Signing Day, and you were one of the Good Guys who faxed over your LOI the way you said you would. So I'd like to tell you I'm glad you're going to be an Auburn Tiger.
Glad, I should specify, for several reasons. For starters, your presence should help Auburn minimize mistakes in the punting game, and an Auburn fan would have to have a very, very poor memory indeed to not understand the earth-shattering ramifications of those potential mistakes. Your pop had a long and successful NFL career, during which I think it's fair to assume he learned a few things about how to contribute to a winning football team which I think it's also fair to assume he's done his best to pass on to you. Plus, jumpin' jehosophat, there's only one other guy listed "OL" in your recruiting class and I like the idea that there'll at least be one person around in four years who can safely get the ball into our quarterback's hands, lest we turn into this past season's Notre Dame.
But mostly, Dax, I like the idea of you in Auburn colors because I think the name Dax Dellenbach sounds remarkably like that of an average long snapper who finds his true destiny as a swashbuckling starfighter pilot when the evil Cylargs invade our solar system. I mean, I'm not even entirely convinced your listed hometown of "Coconut Creek" is
an actual place or a name yanked at random out of the script for Flight of the Navigator. Seriously, Dax--should mankind's extinction be at hand unless a lone, humble-yet-undaunted hero rises like a phoenix from the massed ranks of the world's special teamers, I for one am counting on you.
For all that, though, Dax, I gotta be honest with you: I wasn't tooting all that hard on my kazoo when I read you'd been offered. It wasn't anything against you or your position, trust me; again, I'm of the position that if you find can't-miss guys for special teams, it's fine-and-dandy to offer, and I'm sure that's how Tubby and Co. see you. The problem, and I hate to even type it, is with your class as a whole.
I'm not a big recruiting guy. Don't subscribe to Scout or Rivals. Couldn't tell you anything more about any particular recruit than what I pick up via Phillip Marshall or the other Auburn bloggers or an occasional e-mail from a buddy back home. I've always felt that Tubby had proven he knew what he was doing and that there wasn't much point in getting worked into too much of a lather either way. The kazoo's mostly ceremonial, really.
But even I feel a bit uneasy when guys start decommitting, we're offering a third or fourth quarterback whose alleged next-best school of interest is Troy, and of course the archenemy is doing what the archenemy was long rumored to be capable of doing. It's not that I've given any particular Auburn signing a thumbs-down; every single guy on the signees list has a great chance at contributing. Or doing a lot more than "contributing." We're all aware of the long, blissful lists of no-star, unranked guys who wind up All-Americans, particularly at Auburn. Every single guy Tubby's picked out is well worth a flyer, I'm sure.
But you can understand, can't you Dax, that we as fans can't be completely happy with an entire class of flyers? That's a rank exaggeration, of course--there's a few Sure Things enrolling alongside you, no doubt, and there's almost 100 other DI schools out there who would like to say their class averaged a guru ranking of 18.75--but the evidence suggests pretty strongly to me and a lot of other smart people out there that the recruitniks aren't completely full of it when they say Team A likely got stronger than Team B did in a given class. When you committed, even halfway-interested Auburn fans like me were hoping for someone to move our needle closer to Team A, a recruit to quicken the pulse and make us feel like our team still had some of that supa-dupa-jojo-mojo recruitin' voodoo working as we approached Signing Day. Long snappers should move that needle, should quicken that pulse. But Dax, I think you know they don't. So, yeah, I didn't do any celebratory jigs or anything over your commitment. Sorry. I mean that.
I say all of that as both apology and explanation for what I'm speculating are heaps of nasty, nasty things being said about your recruiting class--and, I don't know, maybe even you if the paysite guys are being harsh--out there by Auburn fans on the Internets. Many Auburn fans are trying, Dax, me included, but I for one can't find a prism I can look through to make Wednesday's events look, um, rainbowy, so to speak. Your new coaching staff started the day hoping to nab five or six future teammates for you and finished the day without any of them. And in the meantime the archenemy celebrates with a vehemence I'm guessing they haven't felt in a long, long time.
Finally, I guess, Dax, that's what I'm writing you about: the archenemy. I don't have a clue if you're a reader or not, but you're probably at least a little familiar with Harry Potter, right? (Yeah, this is going to be get a little nerdy ... OK, more than a little nerdy. It's going to get crazy nerdy. Probably not a surprise after the starfighter business. But bear with me.) For Auburn fans, the year-plus since Saban's arrival in T-Town have been a lot like living in Rowling's "wizarding community" after Harry came back from the graveyard at the end of Book/Movie 4 telling everyone Voldemort (the long-thought-dead villain) had returned. Like the wizards, many Auburn fans scoffed outright at the idea of the archenemy reborn and ridiculed those who said it was happening. I would say the majority of us weren't so dismissive but adopted a easier-on-the-nerves position of remaining unconvinced until seeing the evidence of return first-hand. A very, very small handful believed the archenemy's full-bodied return was imminent, only a matter of time, which of course is what those on the Other Side have been saying for a while. 25 years, in fact.
As for me, Dax, well, I've hung out mostly amongst the more fidgety members of the wait-and-see camp. But Wednesday, I think, was all the evidence we need. Alabama's back. I'm not saying they're going to turn into national champions overnight, not saying the rest of the SEC is going to suddenly crumble to dust in their five-star fingers. You can pull in a consensus No. 1 recruiting class and never get fitted for rings.
But it's my opinion you cannot pull in a consensus No. 1 recruiting class and outright suck. Too much talent, too many freaks. The days of Alabama going 6-6 and 4-7 are done. There will be no more shutouts in Tuscaloosa for the forseeable future, no more games where the Tide QB be better off taunting black rhinos. Alabama is going to be very good, very soon.
Like the skittish Harry Potter wizards and Voldemort, there are Auburn fans who are so afraid of Alabama's return that they will go to great lengths to deny that it's happening. They are calling the recruiting rankings completely and totally meaningless. They are saying that Saban and Co. will not coach them well. Or that the Tide may have had a better class this go-round, but that it's a one-year aberration due to Alabama having plenty of playing time to offer and Auburn returning so many of the players who beat them last year--a viewpoint so popular even your new head coach slyly played along with it.
Don't buy it, Dax. If anyone has to be clear-headed about what you and your teammates are going to face over the next few years, it's, well, you and your teammates. Yes, Alabama is back. Yes, they are going to be SEC contenders again. Yes, eventually, they may even be the favorites entering the Iron Bowl.
I say: So?
Why should Auburn be afraid of a rebuilt Alabama? Is there some as-yet-undiscovered law of physics, some secret NCAA legislation that forbids both teams from being capital-G Good at the same time? Even if Alabama is back, haven't the last six years shown that where they're headed is where our side already is? Hasn't your new head coach stared into the great maw of the beast Saban built on the Bayou and battled it to at least a draw the last several years?
I'll be honest, here, Dax: a large part of me wants Alabama back. I want the Iron Bowl to mean something again, not just to us orange-and-blue diehards and the Bryant-worshipers on the other side, but to the whole sport of college football. I'm tired of announcers calling Michigan-Ohio St. this country's greatest rivalry without a second thought, tired of CBS passing over the biggest game on our schedule for other assorted lesser fare, tired of the rest of the nation looking at the Iron Bowl--the Iron Bowl--as just another "ranked team tries to avoid upset at the hands of its in-state rival" game, a Southern version of freaking Oregon-Oregon St. It has been a long, long time since both teams have held up their end of this bargain, and while I'm not really going to complain if the Tide somehow manages to continue its wallow in mediocrity and the streak stretches into the teens one 20-13 victory at a time, I'm not complaining about this, either.
I'm a dreamer, Dax: I want an Iron Bowl between undefeated teams, with an SEC West title at stake, with the greatest rivalry game in our sport and yes, maybe in all of American sports, finally given the attention and respect it deserves. Now--these next few seasons--seem like the best chance we've had for that in 20 years.
The other reason I'm not quaking in my proverbial boots over Alabama's return is because you can beat them. You and your teammates, Dax, your recruiting class, the classes ahead of you and the ones to come behind you--whatever the rating, you can beat them.
Yes, I wish Tubby had landed more of the guys he had on the line. Yes, I wish there had been a Carnell Williams or Tray Blackmon or Lee Ziemba in your class, someone we knew essentially beyond a doubt would leave their footprints on the game the moment they stepped into it. So there's disappointment, and when held up next to the Tide's resurgence, disappointment turns into the "uproar" (the opposite of the denial I mentioned above) Marshall described.
But uproar is one thing. Dejection is another. Only the most cynical, black-hearted Auburn fan would dare believe actual victory was decided on Wednesday. Victory, we will always believe, will be won by sure tackles, accurate passes, hard running, sound blocks, of course a fundamentally sound, secure, easily-caught snap to the punter.
I believe you and your class and your Auburn teams can do these things whatever you've been "rated," Dax. We're behind you. You're the space heroes hidden in Auburn uniforms.
Win, Dax Dellenbach. Snap us to the stars.
*Not that you care, Dax, but I also follow mid-major college basketball pretty closely and will write about it sometime in the near future, I think, even if you can't really tell by looking at the blog at the moment.