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.

No comments: