Monday, June 23, 2008

The Works, Up With People-style

Everything's swell!

That's not supposed to be irony, actually. I have to admit I was a bit stung when a commenter accused me of Negative Nellie-ism in my recent "Two Recruiting Q's" post, given that a) the conclusion to question No. 1 was that Tubby's track record is more than enough to give his staff the benefit of the doubt on any "sleepers" and b) that I answered question 2 with an unequivocal thumbs-up in the direction of the Undersized-But-Quick-As-All-Get-Out brigade.

Besides, it's not like these are questions that any thinking Auburn fan hasn't already asked themselves. You know after Saban's haul last February Auburn offering this many players this soon is going to be seen as the inevitable counterthrust from Tubby. You know the other side is going to have a larf. You know that even the likes of Kevin Scarbinsky are going to wonder if Auburn's verbal list is a clothesless emperor:
How to explain Auburn, which traditionally has subscribed to the recruiting theory that big dogs walk late, piling up commitments the way blue-tick hounds pile up fleas? Is Tommy Tuberville rounding up a massive litter of Taco Bell dogs because he has little shot at the pit bulls once Nick Saban throws them a bone?
Scarbinsky acknowledges that Franklin's presence has been a positive and that the early-commit tactic is "smart, if those players can play," but the overall message seems to be: I wouldn't celebrate if I were you, Auburn fans.

Going back to read the recruiting Q's post in this context, yeah, I can admit: it could do more to put on a happy face.

Why, when I would maintain it already had a reasonably happy face? Because amidst the doubts and questions, it needs to be said, as straightforwardly as possible: This number of commitments is better than last year's at this time. This is an improvement. This is, virtually without question, a good thing.

I stand by my utterly unsupported hypothesis that it might be an even better thing if one or two players who might not have been offered if Tubby wasn't allegedly worried about "momentum" (as Scarbinsky claimed). But unless Auburn's struck out on virtually every guy on the current list (unlikely, given the staff's scouting pedigree) or completely whiffs on every major target between now and Signing Day (also unlikely, given that a half-full class likely means more attention paid to each remaining dude on the checklist), it's hard to see how this particular rush of commitments will ever be twisted into a negative. It's a good thing. I'm happy. (Or, at least, as happy as I can be with news from the fundamentally unsatisfying, abstract, sugar-rush world of recruiting. This is the last bit I'm writing about high-schoolers for a couple of weeks, cross my heart.)

Mmmmm, that's good wonkery. It's fair to say RollBamaRoll's OTS and I aren't ever going to see eye-to-eye on certain topics (sportswriters, for instance), but I think it's also fair to say that with the possible exception of the guys at Saurian Sagacity, there's no better stat wonk in the SEC blogosphere.

His latest gem is this piece on fumble luck. The numbers suggest that after being the SEC's most snakebitten teams in terms of fumbles in '07, the ball should (literally) bounce Auburn's way more often in '08. He concludes thusly:
This team was 9-4 last year with bad fumble luck, and now they will have just about everyone returning in 2008, the schedule gets easier, and they should have a regression to the mean in fumble luck. If I'm [dig redacted] an Auburn Tiger, I would really have love what all of those things collectively portend.
Both the rest of that post and his work on pythagorean wins are highly recommended.

Yes. Do you know what I want Auburn's president to say when asked about his goals for Tiger athletics?
Number one, we ask you graduate your athletes. Number two, you live within the rules of the NCAA. ... Number three, we ask that the program run what I call a professional operation. By that I mean how well do you run large events through ticketing, parking, concessions and so forth? ... Number four, you're able to operate your athletic program within the budget that you have. And the fifth point is just win all your ball games. It's pretty straightforward.
That. Gogue +1.

Credit where it's due. As much stick as I've given Alabama's head coachbot over the past several months, it's only fair to note, behind as I am, that a donation like this one is a humane and affecting gesture. I agree wholeheartedly with this well-done column from the Ledger-Enquirer that fans on both sides of the Iron Bowl should take gestures like this one and Tubby's trip to Iraq at face value rather than digging through them for some sort of hidden football-related agenda.

Of course, no credit where it's not. Because the situation remains more fluid than Balkan cartography, I'm not going to write anything in-depth on the 'Bama scholarship crunch until it reaches its final thrilling conclusion. For now, after Lionel Mitchell and Brandon Lewis were ruled out for the 2008 roster, seems fair to say the Tide are at 64 players on schollie with 23 incoming players already enrolled. That's a total of 87, so there's two more slots to free up assuming that each remaining member of the incoming class either falls short academically or grayshirts.

But I have to make two points: first, I doubt Lionel Mitchell probably thinks very much of the crunch. I have zero clue how severe his back injury might be, but either a) it's hella severe, career-threatening, painful as anything, and still even 'Bama fans are writing things like "If I had to wager, I would bet there's nothing wrong with his back" and believing he was just too crappy to keep his scholarship; b) it's not that severe, but rather than wait and see if he could come back from it and contribute, his coach has told him his career's over anyway. Neither seems like a scenario that would make Lionel Mitchell happy.

Second: I certainly don't blame 'Bama fans for not wanting to put the 2 of Lewis's surprise academic disqualification--which even OTS said was "dumbfound[ing]," "never made sense," and left him with "no clue"--and the 2 of "'Bama needs scholarships" together. I don't have any idea if they actually make 4. It seems unlikely that Saban wouldn't just grayshirt him or, say, shift the Neighbors kid to the Bryant scholarship or something. The most reasonable explanation is that Lewis simply screwed up in some as-yet-unexplained fashion.

But it sure looks like they might make 4, doesn't it?

Lastly, pour one out for the dearly departed Mzone, the surprising home of two classics of the Auburn-Alabama fark genre. Godspeed.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My Name is URL:

Forgive me: if we were actually discussing the hit NBC television program pictured above, safe to say I'd have to add the pun in the subject line to my own list of karmic transgressions.

But what we're actually discussing here is a new URL (one you might have already noticed?) for the JCCW. I've hinted before at some coming improvements around these parts, and one of the first improvements those attempting to earn their capital letters as an Auburn Blogger should have is an address without that annoying ".blogspot," right? But I'd be deluding myself to think would work for anyone who hadn't been a regular reader for a number of months--and even then, judging by the number of hits I get via a Google search for "joe cribs car wash," it wouldn't be a guarantee even then. So instead I give you:

Easy, right? Tell your friends. Well, the friends you haven't told about the JCCW already. The ones you have (which is, like, all of them, right?) are still in good shape, since the old blogspot URL will continue to work just fine.

I admit it may not be the most logical move in the world to have a URL that doesn't correspond directly to the name of the site, but

a) as you can see, the subtitle's there to help

b) c'mon, we're Auburn fans--dealing with multiple seemingly unrelated names for the same thing is kind of our thing, right?

So there you go.

As I said, this is just one of several upgrades for the JCCW planned for the stretch between now and the start of the season; the minor ones will pass without an announcement, so if you look up and things look ever-so-slightly different, that's why. Major changes will be accompanied by posts, though hopefully without quite such cringe-inducing punnery.

So until next time: War Blog Eagle.

Google surveys the recruits: the o-linemen

Because someone needs to do the work of plugging in a given Auburn recruit's name into Google and synthesizing the tidbits of information that trickle out. Previous entries in the series here.

Tony Franklin's Spread Eagle might indeed be sculpting the demographics of Auburn's, uh, burgeoning 2009 recruiting class, but not every current member of it is shorter than Tim Carter and has a "quick change of direction." Some are, in fact, ginormous gentlemen physically incapable of "darting."

Two of them are offensive linemen Andre Harris

and Auburn's most recent verbal, Aaron Moore.

We'll do this one as a two-fer.

Basics: Harris is an out-and-out behemoth from Lovejoy HS in Hampton, Ga. He checks in at 6-4 and probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 310 to 340 pounds--he's listed anywhere from 327 by Rivals to 342 by ESPN, but recent reports have him lighter than that. (I will admit to wondering what on earth it would be like to have 30 pounds be something of an irrelevance when considering my total body weight.) Despite Harris's size, he seems to be considered more of a road-grading, steamroller guard prospect than he is a tackle.

Moore might not be quite in Harris's range as far as bulk goes (probably a good thing) but he's not exactly small: 6-5, 255 pounds, and Scout at least describes him as "athletic." He's a tackle at Centennial High in Frisco, Texas, which is apparently an actual city and not, say, the setting for a syndicated late-night television program named "Texas Heat" in which three busty lady sheriff's deputies fight crime. Moore just so happens to be a teammate of Centennial's Ryan Mossakowski, a four-star QB with offers from Auburn, Alabama, and a half-dozen other BCS schools.

Both players committed after Auburn's senior camp.

Recruitnik hoo-ha: Harris is seen by the gurus as the better prospect of this particular (arbitrary) pairing, but that's hardly surprising given they barely see Moore at all yet. Rivals hasn't rated him, Scout doesn't even have a picture of him on his "main" page, and ESPN gave him their catch-all "Well, someone offered you, have a '40'" treatment. The Scout page does offer a quote from his coach which implies he played more defense as a junior than offense, so the JCCW will give him the benefit of the doubt and say that's why the gurus aren't as informed about as him as they should be. And hell, it's not like Auburn was the only school you'd ever heard of from whom Moore had drawn interest: Texas Tech and TCU had also offered.

Harris is the No. 20 guard and a three-star to Scout, the No. 35 guard and also a three-star to Rivals. ESPN gives him an "eh, whatever" 70 and seems to focus more on his problems with his "flexibility" and weight that his success at "bulldozing downfield." They do say Harris "will crush you if you get in his way," which gives him something in common with pulp-novel mafia bosses--probably a good thing, right? Despite those misgivings, Harris has one of the more impressive offer lists of any of Auburn's recruits-to-date: Rutgers, Tennessee, Virginia, Miss. St., Georgia Tech. Being the size of a cement mixer will do that for you, I guess.

Links of Potential Interest: Aaron Moore's actually on YouTube (for now), which I'm sure was the result of some hard-working fan of the Centennial program and definitely not someone just ripping off one of the recruiting services:

As you can see, he is tall.

Harris also has some combine video available, thanks to Rivals: the video labeled "AMP:Auburn on a roll" (underneath his ranking info at that link) seems like the sort of thing that they'd usually rope off behind the paywall, but for now, like your local state Congressman, it's working for the people. (There's also some nice highlights of LaVoyd James and Travante Stallworth included on the back end.) As you can see, Harris is, in fact, gigantic.

It might be worth noting that Auburn got Harris despite the fact that the Vols had both offered and have enjoyed a mini-pipeline coming out of Lovejoy. FWIW (not much if you ask me, given that every football coach in the history of football coaching has declared the very good player in front of them to be "the best he's ever coached"), Lovejoy's coach said Harris was the program's best product yet back in October. Handful more coach's quotes of debatable value here. Lovejoy himself went on the record early this month here, noting that he was down to 310 at the time, which I suppose would be a good thing if he stayed there. (He also mentions that Georgia Tech was the first team to offer him, which, like, duh--you think Paul Johnson wouldn't mind having an Atlanta-area plowhorse like Harris to run his option behind?)

Free text info on Moore is much tougher to come by. He blocked a punt last October. At some undetermined point he scored a touchdown. That seems to be about it. Sorry.

One last thing that might be worth noting: neither Harris's nor Moore's immediate post-commitment statements to the gurus made them sound like flight risks. Moore said "I'm done ... Auburn is the place for me"; Harris told ESPN his Dad's at Fort Benning and that he's glad to have the "hectic" recruiting process over. Take with as many grains of salt as needed.

What conclusions, if any, we might draw: Pretty much none. Everything I've read suggests that the gurus are at their least reliable when evaluating the offensive line, so if the Auburn coaches are sold on these guys, there's zero reason for the likes of orange-and-blue rabble out here to not buy in as well. And if Moore's commitment gives us the tiniest bit of an in with a legit talent like Mossakowski, so much the better.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Two Recruiting Q's

Before we start once again pestering the Googoracle (the Gooracle? Googlecle? Oragle? Making a portmanteau out of "Google" and "oracle" seemed like such a good idea until I actually put it into execution) about the various recruits Auburn has added to its rapidly-swelling list of verbals, it's probably time to ask some questions about the ... deeply interesting way the Tigers' recruiting season has progressed to this point.

The unfortunate part is that, as I'm the only one here, I'll have to make an attempt to answer said questions as well as ask them despite being a total novice at this whole "following recruiting" thing. I am an Auburn Blogger, though, and this is Important to Auburn, so here's two pressing ones ...

1. Dude ... 16 commitments? In June? Tubby knows Rivals doesn't actually give out a prize for getting to 25 first, right? Obviously, it's hella unlikely that all 16 players on Auburn's current verbal list are going to both live up to their commitment and get all their academics in order and enroll as part of what might ultimately be a 25-person 2009 class. But for the sake of argument, let's assume they did: Auburn would have spent just the first quarter-plus of the recruiting year signing nearly 2/3rds of the class, then taking the other three-quarters of the year just to sign nine guys. I certainly don't blame any Auburn fans who think this feels a little bit too much like plunking down $784 for an eBay Furby and overnight supershipping two days before Christmas. Was it really necessary to lock down the guy whose only other firm D-I offer was Tulsa at the very first opportunity?

This being a recruiting post, I really wish I could Photoshop "" into the corner of this.

Um ... it might have been. Maybe. Jay G. Tate had an interesting look at the current number of commitments at programs across the SEC and the country, and the evidence is that offering early is a matter of personal program taste; it's an excellent bet both Ohio St. and Illinois are going to have rock-solid classes in the Big 10, but as of now one is a verbal ahead of even Auburn's manic pace and the other has fewer commits than Vanderbilt. Somehow I doubt there's any inherent, automatic downside to offering a kid early if that's the approach Jim Tressel is taking.

Of course, Tressel essentially has his pick of any player he likes between Des Moines and New York. He can afford to rely on his "hunches" when the hunches are all chiseled 6-4 manbeasts who were All-State in the 100 dash. As Tate concludes, Auburn has to be careful, and that's where a downside does indeed come in:

If the programs scout juniors closely, it makes sense to use that advance scouting to your advantage by earning summer commitments. Then again, it'll be a mess if some of these kids bust as seniors.
So, finally, whether or not you think it's a good idea for Tubby and Co. to have held "First 50 Players Under 18 Get a Free Scholarship Offer!" promotion at their summer camp depends on how much you trust their scouting ability. Given Tubby's long track record of unearthing Sen'Derrick Marks-es in the great unwashed, guru-unapproved masses, I believe this is generally a good idea--though I can't quiet the little (admittedly uninformed) whisper in my head that says 16 commits at this stage really might be a bridge one or two offers too far.

Caveat: It's probably an outright bait-and-switch to even discuss "25" as a guesstimate at the class size, since recent Auburn recruiting history of course shows that Tubby will sign several more players than that*, and that a handful fewer will actually make it to campus. Combine that with any potential decommits (obviously a huge issue with Signing Day still a galaxy far, far away in football time) and Tubby's still got a goodly number of offers to play around with.

2. What's with all the, you know, short dudes? What inquiring minds want to know this week is the last time Auburn received three commitments in two-day span from guys listed at 5-9, 5-10, and 5-10. Early commit Brandon Heavens also checks in at 5-10. You know all those stories about how football players have to stick extra furniture at the end of their hotel-room bed so their feet don't hang over? Yeah, not a problem here. Anyone who thought Tubby was going to tie Franklin's hands is now more-or-less officially wrong, because this kind of jitterbug philosophy couldn't scream "SPREAD! SPREAD! SPREAD! SPREAD!" any louder if you handed it a bullhorn.

There's some understandable apprehension out there amongst Auburn fans about how wise a strategy this really is--watching four guys spread across the field who are all shorter and smaller than the corners covering them won't exactly give Auburn a look of physical intimidation, it's fair to say--but the JCCW casts its vote in favor. I would much, much rather have coaches who draw up a blueprint for the team and work to build that particular blueprint than ones who collect the best spare parts they can find and weld them together. Even if the directions Mapquest gave you don't take you where you want to go, it's better than just driving around hoping you see something familiar, right? Citing something as motivational poster-esque as "Vision" feels all kinds of wrong, but I don't think you can get around the fact that no coach in the SEC has a clearer vision of what he wants his offense to look like than Urban Meyer. And for all the Gators' struggles against Auburn, the truth is that if all the Spread Eagle becomes is a poor man's version of the machine Meyer's created, that's still going to be pretty damned good.

Every football fan on the planet likes to talk about aggression: aggressive defense, aggressive play-calls, aggressive running. The flood of early commitments and the devotion to what Franklin wants for his offense strikes yours truly, at least, as aggressive coaching.

Not that it's a guarantee or anything.

One last note: Auburn is far from alone these days in chasing what MGo calls the "electron-sized" class of athlete. (You'll note on that link that Auburn wanted that kid, too; you can console yourself that ESPN seems to like LaVoyd James better.) Skepticize all you like, but even three or four years ago there were no Noel Devines starting for the likes of West Virginia, no Percy Harvins terrorizing the SEC, no Trindon Hollidays skipping track world championships to return kicks. Obviously whether any of Auburn's pick-ups are even remotely in that class is very much TBD, but regardless, this is the trend, and it's probably a good thing that Auburn seems to be closer to the forefront of it than most.

The other pressing question is, of course How good are these guys? We'll do some more Googling soon in a pointless effort to "answer" that as well.

*Though Auburn hasn't yet come too close to being the subject of posts like this one, I remain opposed to oversigning and really wish--to invoke Tressel again--the SEC would adopt the Big 10's "no more than three over the limit, and you gotta have a reason" regulation as outlined at the bottom of the potentially familiar post here. Bloodlettings or not, having signed a ton of extra dudes was not what made the difference for Florida/LSU against Ohio St. Michigan has enjoyed all the bowl success against the SEC it could possibly want for years. I certainly don't have a problem with going over by a non-qualifier or two or three every other year, but if the Buckeyes and Wolverines can win without signing annual 30-kid classes, I don't see why SEC teams can't, too.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

OMGCapstoneReportLOLZ (Finebaum, blogs, etc.)

Ed. note: Yes, I'm reposting this, over the well-meaning objections raised in the comments. (Two votes "against" there, but there was a vote "for" via e-mail which combined with my vote in favor tied it 2-2 and sent the motion to the JCCW Board Chairman for a tiebreaking vote. The Chairman is also me, so here's the post. Democracy!) There's a few tweaks, but it's pretty much the version I originally put it up a week ago. My defense for it, if you feel I need one, is in the comments. Suffice it to say that if no one was reading CR, their talk radio-style flimflammery wouldn't be an issue. But people are, so it is.

To paraphrase one well-known quotation, nobody ever went broke underestimating the willingness of Tide and Tiger fans alike to give their undivided attention to any damn fool thing said or written about either their team or the team on the other side of the state.

The best example of this doctrine--its patron saint, its unrivaled champion--is, of course, this gentleman:

who has built a long and lucrative career for himself by ignoring those nettlesome questions of "accuracy" or "insight" that usually apply to legitimate media in favor of whatever tall tale the ratings fairies whispered in his ears the previous night. Why, we had a textbook example just last week, when Finebaum spun a yarn about "conflicts" between Tubby and Franklin--even going so far as to speculate on the potential for Franklin's firing--when the closest thing he comes to actual evidence for said conflict is Franklin saying he'll run "whatever works" as opposed to parroting word-for-word Tubby's (hardly counterintuitive) claim that they won't throw the ball 40 times a game. "Whatever works" ... man, is Tubby going to be furious about that! He hates things that work!

The point: if you've ever wondered what the hell kind of people would look at a manatee and come away telling everyone they'd seen a mermaid, the answer is the ancestors of Paul Finebaum.

None of this is news, of course. Nor is it news that Finebaum is perfectly aware of what he's doing, or that nobody comes close to doing it half as well. (Witness the wonderfully contradictory conclusion to the "Tony the Tiger" piece above; after spending 97% of the column explaining why Tubby and Franklin won't work out together, he suddenly claims they'll succeed, purely to toss Tide fans a bone they can pick with him as well. Genius.) What's new is that despite his long-held "Yes, there is such a thing" distaste for blogs, the Master has seemingly adopted a kind of Internet protege in 'Bama propagandists Capstone Report, who he quotes extensively in his Franklin column.

It's easy to see why the Capstone Report would earn Finebaum's seal of approval: whereas his media duties require him to make googly-eyes at the Lowest Common Denominator but retain some measure of balance the Tide homer in him would rather ignore, the Capstone Report is free to wallow in as much bias, hyperbole, and cutting-edge "Rosie O'Donnell is overweight!" jokes as they like. And boy howdy, wallow they do: the Capstone Report is the blog the Lowest Common Denominator would write itself if it became person--specifically, the sort of person who wears "Got 12?" shirts and chants "Rammer Jammer" at his girlfriend after he beats her in ping-pong.

If you wanted an example of said wallowing, you could pick out any post in which the Capstone Report discusses Tubby, Auburn, or pretty much anything Auburn-related. The problem is that this gives you way too many potential options to actually pick from: 11 CR posts this month alone (of 23, nearly half)* deal directly with Auburn in some fashion, despite the fact I've read in many different places it's Auburn fans and Auburn blogs who are obsessed with the Tide, rather than the other way 'round**.

Despite that hurdle, the prosecution would like to present as Exhibit A this post, your honor, entitled

Tuberville is one desperate cowboy

Which makes sense, when you consider the impact of corporate-owned farms on traditional grazing territory, the rapid increase conservation efforts have had on predator populations, the rising price of even the lower-grade heads of cattle ... any cowboy would be desperate these days.

Except, of course, that Tommy Tuberville is a college football coach, and not a cowboy. And that if we're discussing college football coaches who are "desperate," maybe instead of discussing a coach who's enjoyed more success against his school's archrival than any other coach in his school's history, we should discuss the coach who was paid $6 million last year and still managed to lose his entire conference's only game to a non-BCS program, despite the fact that said conference included Ed Oregeron, Sylvester Croom, and the Vanderbilt Commodores? Eh?

Then again, maybe author "Shane" is using one of those so-called "metaphors" the cool kids are talking about these days, in which one thing is called another for the purposes of comparison. Perhaps the first paragraph will clear up the confusion:

The latest public relations maneuver (his high-profile trip to the Middle East) by Auburn head coach Thomas Hawley Tuberville spotlights his classless style. The trip should have been about honoring our great soldiers across the world in the Middle East. Instead, Tuberville – as he is prone to do – seized the opportunity to pull a sales job on the public.

Hmmm. No mention of spurs or horses or the Wild West or anything. I'm still confused.

We do have this, though:

Thomas Hawley Tuberville

Middle name = I are serious writer making serious point!

as well as

classless style

Which I'll let Ray Melick and Kevin Scarbinsky respond to***, being the lazy type myself:

Moving on, "Shane" writes

I’ve heard nothing from the media about Tommy’s perception of the experience, because his “seven finger flip-off” is the hottest topic on all the airwaves.

What this sentence literally says: "Because the media is so intensely discussing the seven-finger incident, the media has been unable to discuss the seven-finger incident with Tommy." At least, I think that's it: trying to follow this sentence's internal logic is like walking the stairs in that one Escher drawing.

Somebody will have to explain to me what that childish act really has to do with comforting our armed forces - but whatever floats his boat…

Funnily enough, despite the difficulties "Shane" mentioned the sentence before in finding "Tommy's perception of the experience," it was right there in a Scarbinsky column published a week before he posted. That's really weird he totally missed it.

Anyway, Tubby said the troops asked him to, so there's "Shane"'s explanation. I suppose he can be skeptical of the "the Alabama fan said it was OK" disclaimer if he likes, but somehow I don't think we're stretching the bounds of believability too thin to think the soldiers carrying Tubby off the football field might have been excited enough to ask Tubby to do something he's famous for doing when going off a football field.

(As an aside: I wish I could offer a precise measurement of the amount of irony generated by a 'Bama fan accusing an Auburn fan of blind faith in his head coach in the link above, but when I tried to get a reading my Irony-o-meter's needle jumped around all over the place and the screen shattered. Sorry.)

Everybody and anybody who can grab a mike, camera, or a pen seem to be convinced that Tubby’s actions will aid his recruiting efforts. Tuberville was recruiting? Apparently Tommy’s campaign to promote and highlight his trip in order to spread recruiting propaganda using certain media outlets has been somewhat successful.

In the future, when one of "Shane"'s inner voices interrupts his train of thought with a question like that, he probably shouldn't actually type it out.

As for Tubby using the trip for recruiting purposes, you know what I bet would have been an even more efficient way of working on Auburn's recruiting? Actually working on Auburn's recruiting, instead of going to freaking Iraq. (Also, even assuming Tubby agreed to come on this trip solely for illicit reasons (doubtful, given his family history), I find it hard to believe that if you asked the soldiers on that field if they'd rather have A) a popular, gregarious football coach join the tour because he could maybe get some kind of recruiting advantage out of it or B) not have the popular, gregarious football coach come over at all, that too many of them would pick option B. I would much rather have U.S. soldiers made happy for a few hours for the wrong reasons than soldiers not made happy for the alleged right ones.)

(Also also: if there are so many oodles of pieces out there arguing that this trip will help Tubby's recruiting, why are none of them linked?)

Face it – the man is desperate. Earlier this year Tuberville sends Jason Campbell and Brandon Cox (two former starting quarterbacks) to the top sports radio show in the South ...

Why, whatever show could he mean?

... with back-to-back interviews, while pitching the same message. Cox and Campbell were emphatic about their former coach’s ability to control his players and instill discipline. Each left the audience with the impression that coach Tub was “Bear” Bryant reincarnated as far as tough expectations are concerned. Ironically those appearances coincided with the recent arrest of an Alabama player. Who could blame them? There’s nothing like seizing an opportunity.

You have to give "Shane" credit here. In the interest of fairness, he's noted that Tubby smartly seized a public relations opportunity, even though that kind of cool calculation actively works against his portrayal of Tubby as a crazed, out-of-control recruit-at-all-costs gunslinger. That's what you call journalistic integrity. (You could also probably call it a screw-up.)

Finally, ole’ Hawley’s made the single-most radical move of his career. Tommy (or somebody) ...

Oooh! I know who! Red Herring!

... decided that “turn them in” Tony Franklin and his “Spread”, formerly the pride of the Troy Trojans, is going to enhance Auburn’s image enough to attract top offensive talent. It’s hard for those who’ve been familiar with Tuberville’s philosophy to believe he’s made such a strange hire. Even the most ardent believers in Tommy’s leadership capability have to be puzzled by this bizarre maneuver.

"Shane" should probably name or link to these alleged individuals who are "familiar with Tuberville's philosophy" and find the Franklin hire "hard to believe." Same goes for the "puzzled" "ardent believers," because as is, I'm guessing they don't actually exist. I believe this paragraph is an example of an ancient rhetorical device used by Plato, referred to by most language experts as "just making crap up."

Lately, every move that coach Tubs makes seems to be designed to counter the dynamic recruiting machine that Nick Saban is running across the State.

Of course, we should note that Saban built his dynamic recruiting machine to counteract Tubby's dynamic beating-the-tar-out-of-Alabama-every-single-year machine.

Also, the comprehensive list of "every move" Tubby has made in the offseason apparently consists of:

1. Hire Franklin
2. Go to Iraq
3. Send Cox and Campbell to do the top sports radio show in the South

Tommy has definitely modified his style in an attempt to compete with the biggest challenge he’s faced since his arrival on the Plains.

Yeah, Tommy never would have hired a coordinator with an unfamiliar system from outside the SEC or taunted Alabama in a public setting before Saban arrived.

Many Auburn fans claim Tubby isn’t worried and that everything is business as usual. They point to his recent record and the fact that Tommy just reloads athletes on a whim. However, there have been far too many new techniques deployed by Auburn’s head man and his crew since the last signing day for any reasonable person to believe that it could possibly be true.

Franklin hire date: Dec. 12. Signing Day: Feb. 6.

Revised comprehensive list of "new techniques":

1. Go to Iraq
2. Send Cox and Campbell to do the top sports radio show in the South

Yes, Tommy Tuberville is nervous. In the past he’s been called “The Gambler”, because he always knew when to hold them or when to fold them.

I would have said it had something to do with his penchant for calling fake kicks and whatnot early in his career. Is "know[ing] when to hold them or when to fold them" supposed to be an analogy for calling fake kicks? Because otherwise, I'm not sure what "Shane" is talking about here. Unless between this and the "desperate cowboy" title, he's making a convoluted reference to the 1994 Mel Gibson vehicle Maverick.

Holy crap! That's exactly what he's doing!

This time around, the evidence indicates something far different - - - he’s already laying all his cards on the table. His latest “seven-finger-flip-off”- in front of a world audience - is yet another publicity stunt that serves as a clear sign that Turberville [sic] is willing to do anything to regain recruiting momentum in order to chase down the master.

Or, he could have just thought it was something fun to do for the troops. You know, one or the other.

What's ... unfortunate is that this is pretty much the standard level of discourse at CR. Witness the post just a few days prior labeled "Tuberville: misanthrope," based on a couple of mild quotes about the media and recruiting services said during the same tour on which he was, you know, carried off an Iraqi field on the shoulders of a group of gleeful American servicemen ... that misanthrope.

To be fair, I think this particular subject line (and post) was delivered tongue-in-cheek, but just in case, I've come up with a few more topics for CR posts that will be just as accurate and insightful as "Tuberville is a desperate, misanthropic cowboy":

Tuberville: King of Prussia
Is this plague of frogs good for Tuberville?
Tubby is one talkative cosmetologist
Tommy "Can't Tie a Tie" Tuberville
Tuberville: Paper, or Plastic?

You get the point. I don't think much of the Capstone Report.

But there's a larger point here, too. There's a lot of blogs out there I don't think much of. But the JCCW hasn't made--and isn't going to make--a habit out of giving them the same treatment, since in 99 percent of cases, bad blogs simply don't get read and quietly sink into the Internet ether. (Hell, that's happened to any number of good blogs, too.) There's no point.

The CR, on the other hand, isn't sinking. They've succeeded, though not through providing quality writing or honest, insightful analysis, but through one provident connection and the blog equivalent of prolonged talk-radio screaming. And now the state's most followed, most widely read media presence has presented that screaming as the face of the Alabama blogosphere.

To put it as politely as I can: that sucks. The standard of discourse and analysis from any number of blogs on both sides of the Iron Bowl divide is so far beyond CR's brand of tripe, labeling the source of posts like "Tuberville is one desperate cowboy" "highly respected" (as Finebaum does) is nothing short of deliberate misrepresentation.

Because, honestly, what reason do the likes of "Shane" give us to respect them? Finebaum is free to send his many, many readers the the Capstone Report if he likes. But I am likewise free to scrape CR posts like the ones above off my shoes and ask the few readers I have, Tide and Tiger alike: Please, from this point forward, for the good of this medium--go elsewhere. Finebaum has already poisoned the well for Alabama's college football followers at the MSM level; I, for one, would really prefer to see the third-rate Chinese knockoff version of Finebaum stopped from doing the same to the blogosphere.

*At the time of the original posting. To be fair, CR primary author, um, "CR" has shifted focus a bit since then.

**Not that we're not, of course, this post itself being a prime example. I just tire of the idea, so popular amongst Tide supporters, that Tiger fans are irrepressibly 'Bama-fixated while Tide fans keep their minds and attention perfectly Auburn-free until they (oops!) happen to read the wrong Auburn-related website, come across the wrong Auburn-related newspaper article, accidentally listen to the wrong Auburn-related radio program, etc. Both sides are always going to be rabidly, insatiably interested in what the other is up to, particularly during the long and arduous offseason; we should just admit it and enjoy our, uh, rabidity.

***HT: Wire and Shug

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cheese Puff Previews 2008 #1: UL-Monroe

This series of near-substanceless, air-injected preview puffery should in no way be mistaken for actual preseason football nutrition. Nonetheless, the hope is that you will find the series unaccountably tasty and even habit-forming, and as such it is unofficially sponsored by:

Auburn opens their season August 30 at home against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, your basic run-of-the-mill Sun Belt cuppity-cake, casually indistinguishable from their equally nondescript, anonymous conference brethren. Sister Louisiana-[Location goes here] school UL-Lafayette at least has the "Ragin' Cajun" thing going for them, but with ULM forced to bear an Arena League-esque nickname so generic they likely bought it in a black-and-white box reading "Nickname," I don't know how Auburn fans are supposed to keep them straight from the Arkansas St.'s, North Texas's, Tennessee Southwest's, or Northeastern Mississippi St. Tech--Pascagoula's of the world.

If only they'd been able to pull off some memorable upset, some recent surprising victory that humiliated some other SEC team, maybe then they'd would stick out in the mind a bit. Oh well. Hopefully, Auburn will be able to focus on the, the things ... the, um ... Hawks. Warhawks.

Man, I sure wouldn't want the Tigers to lose to a team so unmemorable. Can't imagine how embarrassing that might be.

Last year: ULM continued a prolonged-but-steady ascension from a 1-10 record in 2000 by finishing 6-6 and, yes, recording a rather-memorable upset of a certain SEC West team late in the year. They even posted a winning record in Sun Belt play at 4-3, tying Middle Tennessee for third despite a general uptick in the league's semi-respectability. The downside? Games against certain SEC West teams aside, ULM was thumped by an average of 27 points in their nonconference outings and somehow contrived to lose 31-21 to North Texas in what would be the Mean Green's only DI win.

Meanwhile, behind a frightfully green-but-improving offensive line, Auburn rebounded from early upset losses to South Florida and Mississippi St. to upset top-five Florida on the road, take eventual national champion LSU to the wire, and stretch their school-record Iron Bowl winning streak to six on their way to a satisfying 9-4 final record.

Notable previous meeting: Many longtime college football fans will remember that ULM was formerly known as Northeastern Louisiana University, and that their athletics teams were known as the Indians. NLU came to Jordan-Hare Stadium for Auburn's second game of 1994, and though Terry Bowden's Tigers rolled to a 44-12 victory to give the baby-faced coach his 13th straight win in as many tries at the Auburn helm, the contest is still remembered in Monroe for the antics of the Indians' then-mascot "Chief Goldfeather."

The game was held in boiling afternoon conditions, and as the second half dragged on, the intense sun and heat began to melt Chief Goldfeather's elaborate maroon-and-gold facepaint. Egged on by the NLU cheerleading squad--who'd informed him of his face's disfigured and borderline-frightening appearance caused by the running makeup--Chief Goldfeather decided to "cheer up" a four-year old Auburn fan in the front row who had grown audibly unhappy as the temperature continued to rise. The Chief snuck along the wall surrounding the Jordan-Hare field, waited until a particularly silent moment in the stadium, and then unleashed a blood-curdling war cry as he leapt into the air in front of the boy and his family, rubber tomahawk drawn.

Not only did the boy immediately fall into uncontrollable hysterics, but the boys' parents also confessed to receiving what they called the "shock of their lifetimes." It might still have been no more than a laughing matter had the boy's father not also been recovering from a recent heart procedure, a fact that drove the family to file a lawsuit claiming "mental and physical duress" against both the student playing Chief Goldfeather and NLU itself. Though the case was settled out of court for what is believed to be a minor financial sum and the incident was never officially cited by the then-ULM administration as a reason for the removal of the "Indians" nickname, "Chief Goldfeather" was retired less than a year later and some believe the suit to have sparked the first preliminary discussions amongst the school's trustees about a possible rebranding.

Actual series history: Auburn is 6-0 against NLU/ULM with all six meetings coming since 1994, including a 31-0 drubbing to kick off Auburn's mildly successful 2004 campaign. The only one of the six decided by fewer than 24 points was the 1996 match-up, won by Auburn 28-24 for reasons I confess I have no recollection of whatsoever.

Causes for Alarm

1. As any devoted reader of the Auburn blogosphere could tell you, ULM head man Charlie Weatherbie was Division 1's lowest-paid head coach last season. He got a raise (I think; his salary at time of the big late-season win was listed as $130,000, and is now apparently up to $205,000) and is out of the coaching-salary basement. But still--once you're being paid less than any other coach in D-I to coach at freaking UL-Monroe (where, in a just world, you're being paid more than any other coach in D-I, given the 9.9 level of coaching difficulty) and you've suffered through a season (2003) where your team finished -19 in turnovers and lost six games by a touchdown or less*, do the football gods ever really stop smiling on you? I wouldn't think so. Auburn should make sure to bring their horseshoes, rabbit's feet, and Les Miles's in response.

2. Weatherbie told Athlon that "[t]here's no doubt we have some good swagger heading into this season." Which is important--when a football team has bad swagger, it risks hyperextended elbows, tweaked hamstrings, and other injuries of overexertion that can occur when its swagger gets out of control. What you want is to have a good, confident swagger, but a swagger that's under control. You want to swagger within the system. That's what wins football games, not to mention, dude, totally getting that one girl at the bar to check you out as you walk over to play "Kryptonite" on the jukebox. Yeeeeeeah, swagger. That's what she likes.

Causes for Confidence

1. ULM has a starting linebacker named Cardia Jackson. Cardia is one simple, easy letter away from having his name be "Cardiac Jackson," making him sound like a '70s cartoon superhero or--at the very least--a role player for the old Bad Boys Pistons with a reputation for big fourth quarters. Instead, his name sounds like ... well, like just another football player with an unusual name. What a wasted opportunity. This is the kind of failure that can poison a whole roster.

2. Auburn beat ULM 73-7 in 2003. 73-7. 73-7. A 66-point victory. The widest margin of victory in the Tubby era, and it's not even close. It's my professional opinion that once Team A has beaten Team B by that kind of margin, Team A has effectively claimed permanent ownership of Team B. Auburn has already signed the deed to ULM, filled out all the paperwork, built four houses on the Warhawks already, and it's only a matter of time 'til they add the hotel. (If you doubt me, don't you think Kentucky should have logically gotten their revenge on Florida by now for Spurrier's unholy beatdown of Mumme all those years ago? And yet they haven't. Ownership.)

Actual alleged analysis: The rational side of the JCCW isn't quite as confident as that last item might suggest, but it's awfully, awfully hard regardless to see ULM's best-case scenario as anything more than "close after three quarters." Late-season upset over a certain SEC West team be damned, it's still the same program that lost 54-14 to Texas A&M last September (in a good year) vs. an Auburn program that hasn't lost to a non-BCS school since 1991. If you're looking for any kind of historical precedent for a Warhawk victory, you've pretty much got a statistically fluky upset in T-town last November and precisely nothin' else.

It's even more difficult to think of ULM as a legitimate threat when considering the unspeakable crimes Auburn is going to perpetrate upon their offense. ULM was far from explosive last year even by Sun Belt standards, finishing in the bottom half of the league in both points-per-game and passing offense in conference play. Sure, they ranked second in the league in rushing and averaged 209 yards a game on the ground, but three starting linemen and the only running back of note are gone. Sure, they have a three-year starter at QB in Kinsmon Lancaster and the consensus best group of wideouts in the 'Belt, but how much better is a passing attack that went for 148 yards vs. Clemson and 133 vs. Texas A&M going to get? Unless Auburn gift-wraps a couple of scores, the Warhawks will be fortunate to get any more than, say, 13 points on the board.

It is possible, it has to be said, that Auburn will in fact gift-wrap a couple of scores. In my dream schedule, Kodi Burns' and the Spread Eagle's full debut comes against Hapless I-AA Snacky-Cake of the Year rather than a defense that returns eight starters from the unit that turned a certain SEC West team over four times and held them to 14 points at home. If Franklin and Co. still have any kinks to work out, on paper, at least, ULM might have just enough seasoning to turn those kinks into outright issues.

ULM's problem is that as experienced as it might be, as Acid Reign pointed out it matches up with Auburn's offense about well as Alan Dershowitz matches up with Heidi Klum. They have great safeties; Auburn could probably care less about throwing downfield. They have a great back seven, but are questionable up front; Auburn's offensive line might be its strongest unit on either side of the ball. Auburn won't have it easy early on, particularly if they still have that new offense smell, but by the late stages of the game ULM is going to need a hell of a chin to stand up to the heavyweight blows Ziemba, Green, etc. are going to deliver.

The bottom line: if Auburn takes this game seriously at all, it wins without breaking a sweat. This is why ULM's upset of that certain other SEC West team is the gift that just keeps on giving: that result alone will do more for Auburn's focus on the Warhawks than all the fancy speeches Tubby can give them between now and then. It's one thing to talk about a team being dangerous, it's another to see them prove that danger on the field. Thanks in large part to the Tide, Auburn will now be ready for ULM. Too bad for them I don't think it's possible for ULM to really be ready for Auburn.

*You get one guess where I got this information from.

Sorry, the answer was "Bird Talk."

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Works, lucky numbers-style

You've got to give Tubby some credit. After all, knowing that his Middle East swing was being so closely followed back home and that (with the possible New Jersey wiseguy exception of Weis) none of the other coaches on the tour have anything like his southern Riverboat Gambler charm or penchant for manipulating the spotlight, he could have easily been turning the tour into a Tubby for Awesome campaign. Instead, seems like he's been keeping a fairly low profile, letting the focus stay on the troops, quietly letting his good deed speak for itself, not drawing attention to ...


Kidding aside, the JCCW's take is that Tubby flashing those lucky seven fingers neither deserved to be as overblown a story as some mewling Tide fans (or its national coverage) would have it nor as underblown as, well, Phillip Marshall would like it to be.

Would Tubby have done it if he hadn't been surrounded by the same soldiers whose morale he'd been sent to improve egging him on? Probably not. Did he know the cameras were on him and how it would be received on either side of the state back home? Oh my yes he did. Pretending as some 'Bama fans seem to be that Tubby was just waiting all offseason for the perfect moment to extend those fingers--and by extension, a single, middle finger--in the Tide's direction and saw a flag football game in the desert as his NOW NOW DO IT GO opportunity is silly; pretending Alabama fans should just shrug their shoulders when Auburn's coach essentially predicts a victory over them this fall in a public setting, no matter how unusual, is equally silly. It is a deal, just not a huge one.

Which is why in this case, I'm all for it. I didn't like Tubby's t-shirted approval of "Fear the Thumb" or the Baton Rouge cigar smoking or a handful of other gestures that crossed the line from needling our rivals into outright taunting them, but here Tubby:

a) has the built-in (and legit--even if you're a 'Bama fan, would you have told those soldiers "Sorry, can't help you here, I have to worry about what Paul Finebaum would say," or even want Tubby to?) excuse that he was fulfilling a request

b) was in freaking Iraq, rather than, say, Bryant-Denny

c) was in the middle of a freaking weeklong tour of goodwill for American soldiers

so it's awful hard to see any real criticism from Tide fans and/or the media sticking. He was always going to get a free pass. So as an Auburn fan who couldn't help but say War Eagle, coach when someone forwarded me the video, no, I don't see why he shouldn't have used it.

Anyway, now that that's past, Tubby can get back to his usual off-season routine of prepping for the fall and quietly going about his business without going all Les Miles on us about, say, how good teams from other conferences would fare in the SEC.







Wait, he said what?

Two other links of interest on the topic: as usual, TWER has two sterling responses ("I knew they were ahead of us over there, but I didn’t know it was six months ahead"); Capstone Report has a point when he says Tubby's association with President Bush could hurt recruiting, since he's going to have to work a lot harder now in the fertile recruiting grounds of San Francisco, rural Vermont, and France.

Hey, did you hear Auburn had hired a new offensive coordinator? The general media/fan preference for offensive matters over defensive has been on full display in Auburnworld over the past couple of months, as everybody wants a piece of Tony Franklin and barely a drop of ink has been spilled over Paul Rhoads.

Not that I care; with all due respect to Rhoads, knowing that he's going to have the likes of Sen'Derrick Marks and Antonio Coleman at his disposal, I'm more worried and interested in the OC position (don't call it that) myself. So, hopefully we'll get even more of the kind of quotes we got here and here, my favorite of which is:
I hate having to listen to a coach come in and say 'To get what I want, it's going to take us a couple of years.' Players hear that and go, 'Well, I don't guess I'm a very good player then.' Then they have built-in excuses. And you give your assistant coaches built-in excuses. I don't believe in it. I believe whatever is there is good enough to be successful with.

Great to hear you say that, coach. That's exactly the kind of attitude we Auburn fans like to hear. Do you think you could explain that one more time for us? Because, if you could step over here, we'd like to introduce you to Auburn head men's basektball coach Jeff Lebo ...

What's that? What, this?

That's a wickedly cool chart put together by recently discovered part-time Auburn blog Grotus' Acorn, who uses it here to explain why Tide fans who mow their back lawn into a portrait of the Bear you could only see from space might not be completely insane. It's worth taking a few minutes to read more of Grotus' work even when it's not Auburn related, thanks to prose like this:
I managed to demonstrate exactly NOT what to do, which is:

1. hold the lime in your hand
2. place a gigantic turkey-carving fillet knife against the lime where you wish to make the cut
3. think you're really cool
4. apply downward pressure with your thumb and upward pressure with the machete you've chosen to mutilate produce with
5. half cut your damn thumb off
6. better get sewn up, you chump.

"Better get sewn up, you chump" is now my go-to Mario Kart Wii battle mode smack, and yes, that's supposed to be a compliment. Anyways: read the whole thing.

Credit where it's due. Much as I would like to see the Tide's coachbot caught drinking a quart of oil by Ian Rapoport, subsequently fired, and have the school taken to court for "lifeist" discrimination, I have to admit he and I apparently see the Iron Bowl the same way:
One team doesn't have to be good and the other one be bad ... our game is not rated that highly anymore and it should be rated very highly. It should be the game that everyone wants to watch at the end of the year because it's a great rivalry, there's great tradition and passion and it should be the greatest game in college football. To do that, you have to have two great teams. We have two great schools. We need to have two great teams.

Preach it, brother! I agree. Though I am required by Auburn Blogging law to point out first that one team of the two has been much closer to greatness in recent years than the other (not that Saban would disagree, I'm sure) and that the ellipsis above contains the following piece of wisdom:
This is what I believe for this state. I believe we should be one and they should be one, and another one should be two and us have a great game.

Um ... what? (FWIW there's yet more Franklin in that same article.)

Etc. A Lifetime of Defeats finds an Auburn T that might be worth $42 ... SMQ's patented sidebar reveals how staggeringly long Tennessee's SEC title drought has really been ... 3rd Saturday in Blogtober takes the webcam revelation to its logical endpoint (and writes some quality limericks) ... Jay G. Tate accurately takes Athlon's Auburn preview down a peg ... apparently, the real winner at Victoryland was Auburn basketball ... UAB unveils "something for everyone in the local community to be proud of" ... and if there are any Hawks fans out there, know that Joe Johnson puts just as much effort into destroying the ozone layer as he does opposing defenses.

Lastly: The following video (HT: BS's Jeff Bull) is not recommended for those at work, the elderly, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, or anyone, in fact, who is not an eight-year-old boy or possesses the sense of humor of one: