Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Works, media daze-style

It's not that I don't thoroughly appreciate the efforts of the intrepid Orspencerson Shwallindle to provide us with gems like the one above or this pic of Tubby looking every bit as Awesome as we'd want him to, but I'm sorta with Todd on this one: the way to get an interesting quote is generally to get a coach or athlete one-on-one in their comfort zone alongside a field or amongst the welcoming motivational posters of their office, not in the middle of a three-ring extravaganza packed with camera lights and microphone bouquets. What Media Days usually winds up giving us is substanceless tripe like this piece from Ray Melick, which somehow posits boredom as Tubby's motivation for firing Borges as opposed to the fact his "not broken" offense ranked 97th-best in D-I.

Media Days is the college football equivalent of Thanksgiving when you're 9: it's nice to have everyone together in one place and all, but the best part is knowing that as soon as it's over, it's time to start thinking seriously about what kind of goodies we're going to get if we can just hold on for one more month.

Not that Media Days don't have their uses, mind you. Tubby's meeting with the Auburn beat writers produced several intriguing tidbits, five of which I'll rank here in order of most to least important:

1. Tez Doolittle will be good to go. Between Coleman, Carter, Gray, and who knows what other terrors Tubby always seems to be hiding at DE, I'm not worried about Auburn's ends. With Marks at one tackle, I'm not worried about that spot either. The other one? I'm sure Jake Ricks is solid, sure Zach Clayton and Mike Blanc deserve their shot. But I feel a lot better about it knowing a colossal, extra-motivated 10th-year senior like Doolittle will be around to plug that hole if it needs plugging.

2. Tristan Davis is healthy. A massive upgrade at special teams if this holds.

3. Ryan Williams is in the doghouse; freshman CB's should see major time. These two items are probably related. Can't see it as a major, major issue as long as Savage, Powers, and McFadden are all healthy, but if they're not, we know we won't have a lot of experience to call on.

4. Chaz Ramsey may redshirt.
Funny how headed into last year the loss of a returning starter on the o-line would have been cause for all sorts of alarm sirens, but this year ... well, losing Ramsey would be a blow, no question. But Auburn's second unit currently features Byron Isom, Mike Berry, Bart Eddins, and Andrew McCain. Methinks Hugh Nall can get at least one of those guys ready to hold the line if need be.

5. Bo Harris is among the dearly departed. Eh, whatever; I'm sure Harris had potential (though calling him one of AU's "top linebackers" when he finished the spring on the third team is a stretch), but after Chris Evans's emergence I'm more convinced than ever Tubby keeps a linebacker tree in his back yard.

The other "news" to leak out from Tubby's/Bosley's/Marks's appearances I think we either knew already (Fannin will be ready, Burns has the inside track but isn't the starter yet) or is kinda neat but ultimately meaningless (the practice-measured-by-plays-not-time thing, the Saban quote in the Tiger weight room). Some of Marks's comments on Georgia are intriguing, though. Transcripts of Tubby's comments both pre- and in-podium available here and here.

Elsewhere at Media Days ... Cocknfire and his blue-eyed anime Doom Rooster at Garnet and Black Attack were pretty well killing things at the Wynfrey. My favorite post to come out of his stay was this one on Saban and the looming anger in the crimson fanbase should the Tide again fail to rise above mediocrity, cleverly portrayed thusly:

Most interesting, though, was C&F's highlighting of Saban's take on Clemson:
I think what it's going to help us do is enhance our development in terms of our identity as a team because it will certainly show us where we are in terms of how we compete against one of the best teams in the country, even though it's a first game and it's on the road.
C&F's oh-snap response? Translation: Alabama will begin the season 0-1. And I'm not sure you can argue much with that assessment: what are the references to "one of the best teams in the country," "first game," and "on the road" in this context if not preemptive excuses? True, they wouldn't be if Saban was expressing his confidence that his team would overcome those obstacles and prove themselves the equal of Cousin Clem ... but he's portraying Bowden's bunch not as a potential victim but as a measuring stick. I've talked to enough outmanned high school coaches who have said, almost verbatim, things like "where we are in terms of how we compete" to recognize it for what it is: the language of defeat. If you're talking about "development" instead of wins, you're talking about losses.

Now, I have no doubt whatsoever that privately, Saban has all the confidence in the world his team will head to Atlanta and whip Clemson so badly they'll look purple even without the uniforms. The point, as C&F concludes, is to keep those sharp-toothed expectations in check just in case the Tide don't, in fact, pull the W out. It makes sense, sure.

But I have to ask: if I'm a Tide player or Tide fan, wouldn't I rather have my coach offering the press reasons our team will win as opposed to reasons it won't matter if they don't?

Speaking of expectations, color me (like Tubby) a bit surprised that the margin in the preseason SEC West poll between Auburn and LSU was so wide, but I'm not troubled by it. So long as mostly everybody still expects the East winner to take the conference--and they do--Auburn's still in the position we want to see them in.

Also worth noting: WRAS points out that Tubby's in more exclusive company than even the "national championship coach" club; the seemingly endless injury struggles of the Recently-Drafted Auburn Running Back continue apace; Acid Reign argues that a slipshod approach to pre-Amen Corner cupcakery helped lead to the 2006 and 2007 debacles against the Dawgs, and that the Tigers should instead beat the frosting clean off of UT-Martin--an argument I fully cosign; and FWIW Raymond Cotton might not be standing out amongst the country's top-11 prep QB's, but who honestly cares after he got invited as one of the top-11 prep QB's in the first place.


Acid Reign said...

.....There's been many a morning that I've pulled open my newspaper sports section, and wished I lived in a different city. This morning's Melick drivel is a great example. If it's not Melick, it's Scarbinsky, or Jon Solomon. Scab-picker/Finebaum wanna-bees, all!

.....Sadly, the Borges offense had become predictable. There was going to be two or three formations. Someone would go in motion. Brandon would pull up and change the play. The clock would run. And run. And run. Finally, with 0.0000001 seconds on the play clock, the ball would be snapped. After all that hoopla, it would either be a handoff into the line on first down, or a quick hitch pass to Rod Smith on 2nd and long. Smith would be covered, and Cox would stand there three steps behind the line of scrimmage, and eventually get bent up like Gumby. Third and long would be another drop-back, with an all-out blitz coming. I'm sure that by this time, Cox had double vision, and the appearance of 20 or so defenders bearing in on him was pretty rattling!

.....I'm serious about that piddly cupcake effort business. I think they yanked Brandon Cox at the end of the first quarter, last year. I think the team gets into all sorts of bad habits, slopping around against lesser teams.

Jerry Hinnen said...

To be fair to the B'ham News, bad column-writing is a widespread problem, as I've found out after moving to A2. I'll probably post something sometime on the decline of the newspaper, as it's something (obviously) of interest to me.

I liked Borges and would have been curious to see what happened this year with a QB who was completely healthy and less schizophrenic, but there's no way you can blame Tubby for making the change given the results over the past two years. I mean, 97th is 97th is 97th and I agree it seemed like a lot of the innovation of Borges' first two years at the helm, for whatever reason, was gone.

Will Collier said...

If you're actually reading Ray Melick, you've clearly got too much time on your hands.

The Pigskin Pathos said...

Jerry, if you are looking for some ammo on the decline of the newspaper, check out Jeff Jarvis' blog BuzzMachine.

Jerry Hinnen said...

Will: The headline came up in my reader and I'm afraid I don't have the will power yet to not click when it's something that off-base in the MSM. Eventually, maybe.

TPP: Thanks for the tip.