Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Jerry Hinnen has packed up his Internet bags and moved to War Blog Eagle, Auburn coverage is available there; mid-major basketball coverage will be at a second site yet to be determined.

Thank you for visiting and/or reading the JCCW. Please enjoy the new site.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Yes, I'm alive. And in perfect hibernation as of this afternoon, rocking the DSL from Frontier Communications, "one of the nation's largest rural local exchange carriers."

So, a quick FYI: in anticipation of the coming re-purposing of the URL, this space will be momentarily reverting back to ye olde URL. should begin redirecting to the new site ... oh, sometime tonight or tomorrow morning. Content should begin appearing there tomorrow afternoon or first thing Wednesday morning, when (I am told) Jeremy will be taking the full site live.

It's all very confusing, I know. But I'll make it easy for you: type in You'll find me.

Your patience is very much appreciated in this time of great personal and professional upheaval and anticipation. Or something.

War Eagle.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Time to move on

I don't know if I would say that, as the (full version of the) song above goes, that under my feet, baby, the grass is growing, not when I'm still enjoying living in Ann Arbor and writing under the banner above.

But nonetheless: it's time for your humble Auburn Blogger to move on. As in "this week," and in two separate and distinct fashions:

One. Our time in Michigan is up, the Mrs. JCCW's and mine. We're moving. Over the past two days virtually all of our worldly possessions have been packed away and loaded into a large truck, and are now being driven across the country to meet us in a couple days' time. So I hope you can forgive the absence of regular posts this week, but there's been a lot of vacuuming and tub-scrubbing and such.

The destination is one I'm sure you're all familiar with: Chinle, Arizona, in the northeast corner of the state and the heart of the federal Navajo reservation. There's a few different words to describe Chinle, but "remote" might be the most apt. To answer your question: yes, I realize we're moving even further away from the Plains and my football team than we already are, and yes, this is a drawback that's been a matter of discussion in the JCCW household. (Appointments for Internet and satellite television services have long since been arranged.)

But, to cut to the quick of it: you only get so many adventures. We wanted to take another.

Two. To any of you worried about such a thing by the post title and those opening paragraphs: no, I'm not quitting. You'll be able to read the same the two or three posts a day from me this fall you got last fall, I'll still crank out the usual recaps (or something like them), there'll still be jokes at the expense of Tommy Trott's ability to block.

They just won't be in this space, exactly. Jeremy Henderson, who I hope you know as the driving force of the War Eagle Reader, is currently driving forward a new Auburn website, the kind of project that's going to bring to the Auburn community something new, something important, something fun. And the JCCW is going to be part of it.

Except that it won't be "the JCCW." It's going to be named ... wait for it ... War Blog Eagle. You'll be able to type in and you'll get the exact same things you've been getting for the last year-plus at that URL. It just won't be on Blogger. The only thing that's changing is the host, the look of the thing (no more white-on-black text, good news for those of you who hate it and have told me so in no uncertain terms), and the name. Oh, and that my mid-major ramblings will be moving somewhere else I haven't determined yet. Everything else: the same.

So yes, beginning next week you'll have to say good-bye to the JCCW ... but saying hello to WBE will be like saying hello to an old friend anyway. (I hope.) Tentative launch is set for Monday or Tuesday, and if you think I'm not going to take my few precious remaining days before the La. Tech previewing the hell out of things .. well, you're wrong. I'll leave it at that.

I have one more post left for this space, a kind of eulogy for the Joe Cribbs Car Wash banner I've written under for the past 3 1/2 years. It'll be done sometime early next week. See you then--here, and there.

Camp report, 8/26

Getting right to it:

--The most surprising development from Tuesday's practice:
Auburn's first-team defensive front was Antonio Coleman, Jake Ricks, Mike Blanc and Nick Fairley. Antoine "Hot" Carter also subbed in.
Attention Michael Goggans: if this is an accurate representation of the current starting front four, I'm afraid you've just been officially put on notice. A returning starter getting beaten out for his own job by a JUCO newcomer who's not even playing his natural position? Cut it, spin it, parse it however you want: it's a bad, bad sign. Rocker didn't seem happy with Goggans coming out of spring and it's a good guess he's not particularly enamored with him now.

--The Toro is back! Sort of. Kind of. OK, so not he's not necessarily "back," but I think it's safe to say he would be if the opener was this week instead of next week. As tricky as hamstrings can be and as indispensable as Freeman already is, I don't blame the staff for being 100 percent absolutely sure Freeman's ready to go before they let him loose.

--Why is Freeman indispensable? Wade Christopher, starting redshirt sophomore walk-on linebacker, that's why. Just to recap: Evans is hurt, Pybus still isn't even in pads, Herring apparently practiced for the first time this fall just yesterday, and it looks Gaston is still just banged-up enough to not make up for the whole "I'm a freshman" thing.

However quickly Freeman or anyone happens to return to full-speed, however, it's become clear that the linebacking depth chart is going to continue to be a major, major headache. Welcome to the two-deep, Mr. Christopher. Here's to hoping we enjoy your (extended) stay.

--As with Freeman, I suspect that despite his injury Byron Isom would still be in the starting lineup if the opener happened to be Saturday. But that John Sullen has held on to his spot as "first guy off the bench" over the last few practices suggests that he is, in fact, going to be the first guy off the bench. To which I can only say: Yikes. (I suppose I could also say "good for Sullen," and I should, since he was a late addition to '09 class that the Tubby regime didn't deem good enough to offer. All of that true. Still, I can't help it. Seriously: Yikes.)

--If Sullen's already in line for playing time, that means a few of the down-the-depth-chart vets are probably reading the writing on the wall ... which might be a big reason Rudy Odom has hung his cleats up after an injury-hampered career. Best of luck to him. (With fellow walk-on Jorell Bostrum having seemingly passed Odom onto the two-deep in recent weeks, I doubt Odom's departure will affect Auburn's depth chart in any substantial way, even at offensive line. I hope, anyway.)

--Can't say it's surprising to have Taylor and Chizik say two completely opposite things about the same issue--i.e. Billings's status, and whether it's Chizik or the University that has the final say on his eligibility--given that Taylor's happy to speak whatever happens to be crossing his mind even when reporters are present and that Chizik wants the media as in the dark and/or confused as possible at all times. But it is interesting, and I have to wonder if there's been any behind-the-scenes discussion about it.

--Tommy Trott's description of Dr. Gustav's attention-to-detail was encouraging to read. We've all read "Such-and-such coach is a stickler to detail" a thousand times, but to have a player explain why his coach cares so much was intriguing and helps explain, I think, why Malzahn has had the kind of success he's had.

Trott expressing confidence in Todd's arm is nice, too. Anyone expressing confidence in Todd's arm is nice. I'd like to see all the confidence the team can muster, please. (Will it reassure me until we see him in action? No. But it'll still be nice.)

--Maybe there's a new curfew, maybe there isn't. My question: how do you enforce a curfew for 100 players who live in 100 different places all over the city? Deos Chizik have access to the Chevron surveillance videos to see who's making a midnight Doritos run?

OK, a post on what the hell I've been doing this week (and will be doing the rest of this week) momentarily.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Todd 2: the Toddening

The official poster:

I think the misspelling is particularly apt here. He'll have to earn the "a," right?

If you've got any other "Todd 2: the Toddening" 'shop submissions, send 'em on.

(Thanks to friend-o'-the-blog Rod for this one.)

Camp business, 8/25

Quickly going through the list of developments from the past couple of days ...

--SHOCKER: DeAngelo Benton will start. This update sponsored by the Department of the Obvious.

Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery are the other two confirmed starters, as expected. I'm not going to look up how many catches our three leading receivers have combined for in their careers, because it'll just depress me. (Even if you toss in likely No. 4 wideout Emory Blake, that's not helping.

--Readin' between the lines on Taylor's Billings- and Frenchy-related comments, the guess here is that we see Billings sooner rather than later but that PPL's got a long, long way back. Oh, and that Chizik is taking a harder-line stance than Taylor would, but that's not a surprise.

--Eric Smith: what can you do but shake your head? We'll see him when we see him.

--That's about it, right? Also recommended: Jay G. Tate's guesses at the Auburn depth chart. Though they're not for the faint of heart.

Monday, August 24, 2009



1 Florida
2 Texas
3 Southern Cal
4 Alabama
5 Oklahoma State
6 Illinois
7 Penn State
8 Oklahoma
9 Brigham Young
10 Mississippi
11 Boise State
12 California
13 Virginia Tech
14 Ohio State
15 TCU
16 LSU
17 Iowa
18 Nebraska
19 Georgia Tech
20 Georgia
21 North Carolina State
22 Arkansas
23 Rutgers
24 Notre Dame
25 Southern Miss

Unlike last year, when I ignored strength-of-schedule in my preseason Blogpoll ballot in favor of a pure "power poll" ballot, this year I went the more traditional route and filled out a "hey, so, how do you think they're going to finish the year?" ballot. So: schedule is a major factor. I also tried to put a special emphasis on the offensive and defensive lines. Runnin' it down:

Florida over Texas. Even if there's a possibility the Horns have the better offense, there's no way the gap between the two O's will be nearly as wide as the gap between the two D's, not with the talent Charlie Strong has at his disposal. Besides, shouldn't we keep betting on the SEC team in the national title game until they lose one?

There's a huge gap between Nos 2 and 3. Everybody behind the top two will lose at least two games. I'm not really all that fired up about USC, not with the general "eh" factor of their offense ever since Bush and Leinart left, a schedule that has all four of their hardest games on the road, and a ton of defenders to replace. Wish I liked someone better.

Alabama No. 4? I know, I know. I don't like it any more than you do. But with that defense, no way they lose more than two games ... and though I'll get into my SEC picks another time, I think they emerge from the scrum atop the West.

Okie St. No. 5? Illinois No. 6? That makes even less sense than 'Bama No. 4. I figured Texas Tech was overrated at this time last year; I'm not making that mistake again and figure the Pokes will swipe one from the 'Horns or Sooners.

The Illini are the biggest outlier on the ballot, but look at their schedule: they've got the roadie at Ohio St., but Penn St.'s the only other game in which the Illini won't be favored ... and the guess here is that between Juice, Benn, and their smart new OC from TCU, there's too much firepower for Penn St. to keep up with on the road. And so Illinois finishes the Big 10 slate with one loss, the tiebreaker, and a ticket to the Rose Bowl.

(Wait, they're still coached by Ron Zook. I must be insane.)

Hatin'. I don't like Oklahoma's overhauled offensive line or rugged schedule; don't like Ole Miss's hype; don't like how toothless Ohio St. has looked without Beanie Wells the last couple of years. So they're all a little lower than elsewhere. (Like everyone else I'd like to rank the Rebels even lower, but there's only so far they can drop with that schedule.)

Boise. I think they run the regular season table, rise a bit too high on the back of their win over an overrated Oregon team, and then look a bit inferior in their bowl game. Just like last year. This year's mid-major hotness is BYU: the Cougars have everyone back on D, the best schedule of the MWC contenders, and their usual array of offensive skill talent. Here's to guessing they beat FSU and wrap up the year with one loss.

This year's Tulsa is Southern Miss, who return all nine starters along their two lines and a ton of talent at the skill positions. Larry Fedora should have the most explosive offense in all mid-majordom.

Pac-10. With their entire defensive front returning I like Cal to make a clear-cut case for the second-best team in the league, but who's No. 3? Oregon has to revamp both lines and gets a brutal schedule. Oregon St. lost a ton. Arizona's not there yet. Steele loves UCLA but ... no. One of those teams will probably end up forcing their way into the bottom of the poll, but it's also possible they all end up canceling each other out.

SEC. 2009 LSU seems so volatile I'm sure they'll either end up in the top 6 or 7 or at the very fringes of the poll; I ended up just sort of splitting the difference. Georgia's easily the second-best team in the East, but at Oklahoma St. is a hell of a way to kick off a season. And Arkansas is probably better than 22nd ... but they also share a division with 'Bama, LSU, and Ole Miss.

Big 10. Iowa was secretly the most underrated team in D-I last year and should have the best offensive line in the league (again). But if the top four in the Big 10 are all quality teams, I don't see much of anything behind them. (Trust me: Michigan St.'s not that good.)

Big 12. Pelini's too good not have Nebraska relevant again this year, but the bottom's fallen out at Missouri and I just don't think Kansas has the defensive horses. Leach will probably have Tech back in the top 25, but the schedule's still a little too tough for me to pull the trigger.

ACC. In a league with as much parity as this one, I think you finally have to settle on whichever teams have the best coaching--and Va. Tech and Ga. Tech looks like a pretty solid 1-2 in that regard. N.C. State was on fire down the stretch last year and have a seriously friendly schedule; I don't see why you'd rank them behind a North Carolina team they destroyed at the end of last year. (And though Tech didn't "destroy" Georgia, that result does explain why the Jackets are one notch ahead here.)

Notre Dame. Eh, they'll go 8-4 and hover around the edges of the poll. No big deal.

Big East. Cincy and Brian Kelly will be back to make this league its playtoy next season, but losing 10 starters on defense is a little too much for even Kelly to overcome at a program of this size. West Virginia and Pitt don't have the coaching and USF is the flakiest program in America, leaving Rutgers and their outstanding lines as the de facto winner. It's only enough for 23rd, but it's something.

Real Life duties are calling; afternoon posting will be minimal, if at all. Sorry./ More on this later.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

That's ... that's not good.

No wonder Chizik seemed a little bit more upset than the circumstances seemed to call for on Friday:
Auburn University tailback Eric Smith will surrender to Auburn police Monday in the wake of additional charges filed by the victim of an alleged, third-degree assault early Friday morning, the Opelika-Auburn News has learned.

A warrant for the arrest of Smith was issued Friday, according to the victim’s mother, Sandra Jenkins, and Assistant Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson. Smith’s attorney contacted the court and has made arrangements for Smith to turn himself in Monday, Dawson said ...

According to Alabama code, assault in the third degree is a Class A misdemeanor. The punishment for a Class A misdemeanor is not more than a $6,000 fine and one year in jail.
"Not more than" means neither of those options are realistic on the table (I'm fairly sure), but "third-degree assault" is a hell of a lot more serious charge than "disorderly conduct." I said that if the charges didn't go beyond the original arrest report that Smith wouldn't/shouldn't miss more than the Tech game, but now that they have ... well, we'll see.

I'm guessing, as I said before, that if Chizik had already made his mind up to give Smith the boot we'd know about it. But that's only a guess, and in any case, I don't think we'll be hearing from Smith again until that second-string tailback slot has long since been filled.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Camp report 8/22

It's a Saturday, so this is going to be brief.

-- Eric Smith is apparently hanging by a thread, but the guess here is that if he was gone for good, Chizik would be straightforward enough to at least tell us that. (I think.) Which, you know, fine. Severe punishment (for what looks like a pretty severe lapse in judgment), sure. Make him earn his way back, sure. But a straight boot from the team for a (sober) disorderly conduct arrest ... not my team, I know, but I don't think I'd be alone in saying that would be more than a little on the draconian (and potentially morale-sapping?) side.

-- The eternal clash of swords between reporter and coach, illustrated.

-- The scrimmage today was apparently more about polishing up the rough edges than breaking any new ground. Which isn't surprising when the coaches are unanimous in declaring the depth chart "90 percent" filled out.

-- That Ted Roof was in a better mood is a good sign, I guess. Given that he's having to play a nasty balancing act between hitting enough to have his guys ready for the season and not hitting so much as to shatter Auburn's already egg-fragile depth chart, I wouldn't expect him to be in a good mood under any circumstances.

-- Todd 2 (the Toddening) allegedly led a successful two-minute drive. Signs of life, that's all we're asking for.

-- Luper and Lolley look headed for the coaches' box. Not surprising in the cerebral Luper's case, but I would think an old hands-on high-school grinder like Lolley would want to be within screaming distance of his players.

-- Anthony Gulley's name continues to pop up. He may redshirt, but it won't surprise me at all if he doesn't. When was the last time you heard anything--anything--about, say Derek Winter or Quindarius Carr?

-- Not much at all to report from Friday's practice, apparently. (Other than Smith's absence, of course.) McNeil was back on the bike, at least. But D'Antoine Hood was back on the sidelines.

See you Monday, most likely.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Assorted afternoon newslinks

Let's get this out of the way. Here's to hoping Eric Smith's timing in hitting the hole is better than his timing in getting freaking arrested. Eric, some of us are trying to get our holier-than-thou on out here, all right? This isn't helping.

Punishment depends on whether the details go any further beyond a quick round of wrasslin' or fisticuffs or whatever in the bar. If not, he misses the La. Tech game, and we move on.

Worth noting: I believe this to be Auburn's first player arrest of any kind in two years. All good things, I guess.

Running backs on the loose! OK, wait, I should probably change that after the item above ... but ah, screw it, that's the been the theme of a couple of stories this week as Andy Bitter's looked at the way Malzahn's offense will get its many playmakers on the field and Luper's talked up the backs as "a strong point for our football team." It's not a shock, of course, and it would be tough not to be a strong point on this team the way the LBs, secondary, receivers, etc. are shaping up, but if Luper's happy I'm happy.

Your most intriguing Luper quote comes from Bitter here:
"This offense will enable you to put Ben Tate, Mario Fannin, Kodi Burns, Onterio McCalebb all on the field at the same time."
Bitter's skeptical, but as a commenter points out, it's not hard at all in the Wildcat. And if Burns is at WR and McCalebb in the slot--not unimaginable--you could do it in what should be Auburn's base set. In any case, the point is this: for all the hand-wringing over the receivers, Malzahn does have some shiny toys he can play with.

The Low-down. As you've probably seen by now, Chris Low paid Auburn's camp a visit yesterday and today. There's his talk with Zimeba, his two-parter with Chizik, the "depth is a concern" overview, and the Niffer's corn nuggets shout-out.

The "overview" post mentions that Hawthorne and McNeil both aren't expected back until well into the season--it's the closest we've gotten to confirmation of that, I guess, but I wasn't expecting anything different. Low also dropped in that last post that an Auburn coach told him that Rollison is "exactly what you're looking for in this offense." Again: not news, exactly, but good to hear.

As for the Chizik interview, most of it's the same boilerplate we've been getting from Chizik since Day 1. (Which , you know, fine.) But his argument for closing practice is a bit sharper than we've heard before:
Things over the last few years have gotten so out of control with technology. It's changed the whole world. The world right now is different, so I do what I think is in the best interest of our football team at all times. That's our players. That's injuries. That's rumors. That's whatever gets out there. I want to be able to have control of whatever's out there. I still won't always have control, just like no coach has complete control. But to the best of my ability, I'm here to protect and do what I think is best for our players, and that's the bottom line. I don't close practices because I want to close practices. I close practice for a reason, because the people I need to be at practice are the ones I want to know what is going on in depth with Auburn football, and I don't need it in 200 chat rooms 15 minutes later.
Oh, coach ... trying to control the flow of information these days is like trying to hold back a river with a fishing net. But keep trying.

Look, I don't want to read about this. Andy Bitter's piece on John Sullen and his push for playing time is a good read, and if there's any freshman that would be able to handle the mental aspect of all his recent position-switching, I would hope it would be one who's supposedly got a good head on his shoulders.

But it's not really possible to read about your overweight true freshman project offensive lineman and how he's an injury away from starting and not get the heebie-jeebies. I mean, even his weight loss isn't an unambiguous positive:
It’s a balancing act for Grimes, who wants to get Sullen and Bostrom to a weight where they might be able to help Auburn’s depleted line this season. But he’s been informed by the team nutritionist that losing too much weight too fast could lead to pulled muscles and other injuries that would keep a player off the field.

“In an ideal world, you’re talking about redshirting and you’re taking that weight off in the course of six months,” Grimes said. “You try to get them into spring ball as quick as they can and take some more off, and you’re talking about them competing a year from now. But with the depth where it is, that’s where we are.”
The season seriously cannot get here fast enough.

Etc. Todd 2: The Toddening answers five quote-baiting questions without offering up anything too juicy ... I'm not sure whether anyone who hasn't worked at the sports desk will appreciate precisely how hysterical this is, but trust me: hysterical.

I believe in

Lee Ziemba on Gene Chizik:
Ziemba said there's no mistaking what the identity of this program will be under Chizik.

"He's always preaching to us about continuing what Auburn was built on, and that's down and dirty hard work," Ziemba said. "A man can only count on what he earns. That's basically what coach Chizik is trying to instill in us.
A head coach that preaches the Creed to his players, a head coach that tells his charges not to work hard because they represent Auburn but because hard work is what Auburn represents, that looks to build the foundation of his team not even on the tradition of Auburn's proud football program but on the tradition of our our even prouder, even stronger institution, our community, our family ...

This is a head coach who I will stand behind. War Eagle, Coach Chizik.

( p.s.: Yeah, I know it's just one quote from Ziemba, I know you have to ask if a guy who left Auburn for Texas really loves Auburn as much as I want him to. I don't care. He's "always preaching" the Creed to his players. That's it. I'm in.)

Camp report, 8/21

As we'd expect for this point in the process, not a ton of new info to report.

--If there is any bright side to the continuous onslaught of defections to "Muscle Beach," it's that many of them are probably--well, hopefully--more precautionary than legitimately, uh, playing-time threatening. That's always been the hunch, and when Malzahn says of Terrell Zachery (or maybe Darvin Adams) ...
"We just want to make sure all of our guys are 100 percent when we get to the first game," Malzahn said.
... I'm assuming he's not the only guy that statement would apply to.

--Of course, I don't think that's the case with the linebackers. Your daily dose of panic:
Roof said "the No. 1 thing'' for Auburn is ``to continue to develop depth. That's my concern."

When asked if he's ever had such little depth, he said, "Not that I can recall."

"But that's where we are."
Roof did say Harris Gaston's "light" is "getting brighter every day" ... but Gaston was also apparently working behind Ashton Richardson yesterday, so that light needs to get a whole lot brighter in a hell of a hurry if Freeman and Evans don't return.

--Not really any movement on the QB situation; Malzahn is dodgy about a redshirt for Rollison and isn't yet ready to even declare him the backup. I think we're still at the same status quo we had when Todd was starterized: they'd like Rollison to be the backup, but they'd also like to get away with a redshirt for him if they can.

--Of course, if there really is an injury to Todd, Burns is still getting too much attention at quarterback to not be in the mix. Hopefully we won't have to find out what the actual "no Todd" plan is, but I have to think Burns might be involved somehow.

--"Everybody Loves" Nosa Eguae is currently working with the second string at end according to Tate, and the lovefest isn't going to end any time soon with quotes like these:
"Some people questioned it. Some people were like 'Go to (Texas) Tech, go to (Texas) Tech.' Some people were like, (Texas) A&M came in at the last second. When you come here and you see what's in the SEC, I keep telling the boys back home that are being recruited by Auburn right now, it just doesn't compare. I've been in those Big 12 schools, the SEC is the place to be."
Keep that up, Nosa, and even the Tide fans will be rooting for you.

Compare and contrast


LB Brandon Fanney, LB Prince Hall, DB Alonzo Lawrence and former Davidson RB Jermaine Preyear "violated some type of team rule or policy and were not invited back on our team," Saban said.

and Two

“That’s something that isn’t true, but I’m not going to say anything about that,” Lawrence said.



"At this time, Upshaw grabbed Gryzb by the back of the neck and hair with his right hand, and pushed her downward in what appeared to be an attempt to push her to the ground," Officer Rusty Romine wrote.

and Four

Alabama coach Nick Saban confirmed that sophomore linebacker Courtney Upshaw will not be suspended from the team in the wake of a verbal altercation with a girlfriend that police say became physical.


(As an aside: if you're wondering whether 'Bama fans are paying attention to the message their head coach is sending about the importance of violence against women, judging by the RBR commenters [click for big] ...

... I'd say they're following his lead as closely as always.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cheese Puff Previews: Kentucky

Back by popular demand blogger fiat, it's your No. 1 most favorite tolerated series of near-substanceless, air-injected preview puffery. As always, it should in no way be mistaken for actual preseason football nutrition, but hopefully you find the series unaccountably tasty and even habit-forming. And so it is unofficially sponsored by:

Kentucky, huh? Long-time no-see, Wildcats. By the time this game kicks off, it'll have been four solid years since we've faced off with you guys. And if four years doesn't sound like it was all that long ago consider the breakout star of that particular game for Auburn:
Kenny Irons, Tristan Davis and Tre Smith combined for 365 yards rushing and five touchdowns as No. 17 Auburn posted its best offensive output of the season in a 49-27 win over the Wildcats ... Auburn had 589 yards of offense, wearing down the Wildcats with touchdown drives of 80, 69, 80, 75, 81 and 80 yards. Irons scored on runs of 9, 1 and 2 yards, while Davis - a part-time defensive back who had only two previous carries this season - took over in the second half and sprinted 75 yards for a score the first time he touched the football.

"I'd probably say my future is at running back," Davis said.
That's right, it took place so long ago Tristan Davis wasn't even a running back yet. Also: Auburn's offense gained 365 rushing yards and 589 total yards of offense over an SEC opponent, and demons didn't burst out of the ground at the 50-yard line to start the Apocalypse.

So, like I said: it's been a while.

Last year: In the wake of Andre Woodson's (and a fat wad of other contributors') departure, Kentucky wasn't supposed to a bowl game in 2008, and they very nearly didn't: the 'Cats were outgained by an average of 105 yards in SEC play (only Mississippi St. was worse), finished 2-6 in the league, and won those two games--over Arkansas and Mississippi St.--by a combined two points. (Even that little factoid doesn't tell you that State had an extra point blocked early and missed a 27-yard field goal in the fourth.) Even a nonconference schedule consisting of the ghost of Louisville, Norfolk St., Western Kentucky, and Middle Tennessee St. had its drama:

But when all the dust had settled, and even the 63-5 destruction at the hands of the rampant Gators had gone by the books, Kentucky snuck into the Liberty Bowl at 6-6 and fumble-returned their way past East Carolina for their third straight winning season.

Notable previous meeting: Shug Jordan didn't make too many mistakes during his tenure at Auburn, but one of the few he would admit to occurred in 1961 in the week leading up to the Auburn-Kentucky match-up at Cliff Hare Stadium.

The year before, an Auburn team that would finish the season 8-2 responded to an opening-week loss to Tennessee with what Jordan called a "lackluster" effort against a Wildcats side that the Tigers had pummeled 33-0 in 1959, winning 10-7 on a late touchdown. Jordan blamed the loss on the team "thinking more about the team we played last week than the team we were playing this week," and the following year, as a reminder of both who the Tigers would be facing that Saturday and their poor play in Lexington the year before, Jordan planned to paint his team's practice fields blue. "We wanted to show them that if they weren't going to play on the bluegrass on Saturdays, they'd have to play on it all week long," Jordan said.

Unfortunately, the student managers assigned the task of painting the fields struggled to find a field paint the appropriate shade of blue and failed to finish their painting of the field until just before the Auburn players began practicing. Although Jordan soon realized the problem and began to slow and eventually postpone the practice, the combination of severe paint fumes, an unseasonably hot day for early October, and physical exertion prompted a number of Auburn players to grow sick and experience intense headaches. Four players were eventually taken to the hospital.

The fiasco resulted in a lost day of preparation for the Tigers, the replacement of the managers responsible, and on the following Saturday a surprise 14-12 victory for the visiting Wildcats, Auburn's only home loss in the 1961 season. "If I had it to do over again," Jordan said, "I'd have just yelled at 'em." That seemed to work better: Jordan went 10-2 against the Wildcats for the remainder of his Auburn tenure.

Actual series history: This much I'm not making up: whoever's been Auburn's coach, Kentucky hasn't had much success against the Tigers. Auburn leads the all-time series 24-5-1 and hasn't lost to the Wildcats since 1966, a span of--do-the math--43 years.

Of course, because of the rarity of the series it's also only a span of 15 games, but that's much less impressive-sounding.

Causes for Alarm

1. Like a lot of SEC fans, I kind of wondered what the hell Kentucky was thinking when they hired Rich Brooks. Then I wondered with even more vigor what they were thinking when they kept the old crank around after the 3-8 2005 season that took Brooks' three-year record in Lexington to 9-25.

Now, kids, do you see what happens when you're nice to old people and have patience with a new coaching staff? You get three straight winning seasons and your program's first-ever back-to-back-to-back bowl victories. Faith, kids, gets repaid. And then you get to make this for him:

And if you can't tell, kids, that's pretty awesome.

2. I figure there's two ways that the hiring of this guy will work out for Kentucky football:

One is that the karma that should go towards the hoops team will all be siphoned off towards the football team, which--as opposed to being a cash-flush juggernaut run by the sleaziest character in a business so sleazy it makes college football look like English cricket--is a likable underdog with few natural advantages that deserves a spot outside the hoops team's shadow. And thus the football team will be more fortunate than ever. On the other hand ....

Causes for Confidence

1. ... the second possibility is that the stain of Calipari will taint the entire athletic department. The football gods and the basketball gods are good chums, you know.

2. There's also this: the good times have to come to an end sometime. I mean, come on. It's Kentucky. I know they must have built up a tremendous amount of goodwill when they were on the butt end of this sort of thing ...

but seriously. Three years should be enough, right? Kentucky being good for four doesn't compute. (Especially when--as I mentioned--they were fortunate as hell not to go, say, 4-8 last year.)

Actual alleged analysis: In some ways, Auburn and Kentucky have a lot in common. Both programs have a questionable quarterbacking situation in which the best athlete at the position (Randall Cobb in UK's case) will be lining up at wideout. Both have questions at receiver but boast depth at running back and a veteran offensive line. Both have defenses with some big shoes to fill but a handful of star-caliber players to help hold things together ... if they can stay healthy.

But with all of that said ... our running backs are better. Our "other guys" on defense are better. Our receivers are better--possibly. Our specialists (they lost a top-notch punter and their PK is shaaaaaaaky) are better. Our 15-game winning streak in the series is better. And, of course, our home-field advantage is better than their road-field advantage.

So I think this is a game that Auburn ought to win. Both teams went 2-6 last year; Auburn should be much improved while Kentucky--with their five returning starters on defense and continued lack of skill position talent--projects to be about the same. But the 'Cat D will have something to say about it, and if the injury bug has bitten Auburn by the time week 7 rolls around ... well, I'm not certain Auburn's return home after the two-week trip to Arkansas and Tennessee will be a happy one.

The Works, swine flu-style

Maybe that explains it? Everyone's favorite porcine strain of influenza is back in the news, causing the cancellation of Ole Miss's "Meet the Rebels" Day and prompting the guys at RCR to round up a, uh, call it a bevy of less-than-flattering portrayals of fans of everyone's favorite porcine-nicknamed SEC team. And while I generally don't go in for the whole LOOKIT THIS DUMMY WHAT ROOTS FOR UR TEAM brand of trash talk, I have to admit I found this particular video ... intriguing:

The problem here isn't that these are college kids riding a carousel (I've been a fan of ironic carousel rides for years), or that they're "calling the Hogs" in the process, or that one of their number thought it was a cool enough moment to document and put on YouTube as a gift to the world. The problem is that this is a carousel in a mall. A mall carousel. Ewwww.

I wish I had your confidence. I think we've already found our winner in the 2009 contest for "Most Wildly Optimistic Auburn Football Projection by a Neutral Observer." Please accept your award, Fanhouse's Brian Grummell:
3) Auburn (8-4 overall, 5-3 conference) ... Its not that we necessarily like the Gene Chizik hire but it came with a great offensive coordinator and a schedule in which the Tigers are constantly in a position to ruin others' seasons, something they're adept at. They'll be involved in a pair of SEC shockers this year, losing to woeful Mississippi State in week two but also felling powerful rival Alabama in the final week of the regular season. Oh they'll lose to West Virginia, LSU and Georgia as expected but the rest of the SEC slate is winnable including games against Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and upstart Ole Miss.
That's right--Auburn's projected ahead of both Arkansas and the Rebels despite losing to Mississippi St. Even Phil Steele thinks this is a bold, bold move. How highly does this post think of Auburn? Here's a snippet from the Arkansas blurb:
They'll drop the obvious games to Alabama, Auburn, Florida and LSU, but also pick off mighty Georgia at home in week two
Man, I'm as orange-and-blue as it gets, but if Arkansas losing at home to Auburn in 2009 is "obvious" my name is Jorell Bostrom.

(As an aside, what the hell happened at the Fanhouse? Just last year they were playing host to stuff like this, and now they're pumping out mind-numbing pabulum like this. Actual paragraph:
But the quarterback who has taken the state of Oklahoma and college football by storm just wants to be another guy on campus, even if his face is everywhere in Norman. Obscurity, even in the classroom, is just not an option after became the second sophomore to win college football's most prestigious award last December.
I swear, the first 1,000 words of that piece would work as a satire of brainless jock-fluffery if you took them out of context. Fanhouse: Working Every Day To Become More and More A Crappier USA Today!)

TBD. I hate to file this K-Scar column on how Chizik really isn't going to screw with Malzahn's offense under "believe it when I see it." But ... I'll believe it when I see it, particularly when Auburn's nursing a 7-point lead halfway through the fourth quarter and Malzahn's ordering up the usual no-huddle, hurry-up sets.

No. Charles Goldberg put up some outtakes from a Chizik chat a couple of days ago, and most of it's worth a read, particularly the Chiznick's obvious frustration with his depleted roster. In response to a question about it affects the coaches' planning:
It affects everything from top to bottom. It affects right now what time of day you practice. It affects how much you're going to run after practice. Are you going to condition or are you not going to condition? It affects everything from top to bottom of your practice and it affects everything in recruiting. It affects everything in your special teams. The list goes on and on and on.

``We don't have a break till week 12. We're going 11 straight. Think about that. Put that in the equation.
Wait, what? Think about what? Put what in the equation? I don't know what you're talking about, Coach I can't hear you [*puts fingers in ears*] LALALALALALA DE DA I CAN'T HEAR YOU

Player stuff. Some assorted links worth passing on: Wes Byrum seems to have his head screwed on correctly (thanks in part to some feedback Jay Boulware gave him that I don't understand why he didn't get last year); Antonio Coleman is going to have to change his middle name to "Watch List"; and Travis Williams is back on the Plains as a grad assistant.

2005. Evan Woodbery takes a look back at Auburn's class of 2005, the group that, you know, signed immediately in the wake of the 2004 season. Given that even an undefeated season only gives a staff so much time to put it to use on the recruiting trail, the '05s were about as productive as we could have hopes. It's the 2006/2007 classes that should have seen the biggest benefits of '04--and haven't really quite worked out the way we'd have hoped.

War Eagle, ladies. Auburn's women's soccer team is picked second in the West behind LSU and opens play this Sunday; the 2009-10 Auburn women's hoops schedule is released. At Florida St. should be the biggest date on the nonconference schedule, with Vandy looking like the biggest home game of the year.

Etc. Will is unhappy--to say the least--with the editorial decisions at the Auburn Magazine ... I still believe the Colonial failure is much ado about nothing in Auburn football terms (if not a net plus because of Lowder's decreased influence), but Smart Football has some links you should probably peruse anyway ... somebody out there doesn't like Nick Saban; I can't imagine why, he's so friendly ... and from the "not Auburn-related, but funny" department, that word Cris Carter's using doesn't mean what he thinks it means, and courtesy of The Run of Play here's a very, very NSFW video of an English soccer streaker getting completely and totally pwned by the local mascot (seriously, do NOT watch this video at work unless you have an unusually penis-friendly work environment):

Camp report, 8/20

With two-a-days and the quarterback brouhaha behind us, there's not as many new developments to keep track of on Auburn's practice field. Thank goodness. But with the usual thanks to the beat hacks, here's what we did learn:

--New additions to the walking wounded: Tate, Zachery, Isom (!), Thorpe, Jonathan Evans (!!), newly-minted scholarship wideout John Cubelic, Jake Ricks. Clayton, Hood, Herring and Pybus, Eddins, and Roseman are all still out. The Toro was back in shells but apparently not fully participating just yet.

--If you know your linebacker math, you've already figured out that Evans's ding brings us to three operational 'backers again, with Harris Gaston probably also still nursing whatever it was that kept him out for a while ... which perhaps explains why walk-on Ashton Richardson was seeing time with the first-team yesterday.

--Ted Roof, I've been hailing you as a linebacker guru since the day you was hired. You make chicken salad out of this heapin' helpin' of chicken excrement, and I'll say that's a reputation that is 100-percent fully earned.

--Not surprisingly, Chizik said he and Roof have discussed ways of putting together that salad. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like they've come up with much:
Apparently no one is going to be moving to linebacker.

"Not right now," Chizik said. "Those type of candidates aren't on our team. They're somewhere else right now."

His assessment was not rosy.

"Obviously, we can play some nickel and things to help us. Take a linebacker out and play with two instead of three. Other than that, there's really no other options right now."
Yes, nickel, because we do have a lot of depth in the secondary! Safeties and corners galore! [*sobs quietly*]

--Seriously though, with all due respect to walk-on linebacker Ashton Richardson, sticking Mike Slade or Demond Washington on the field might be preferable to walk-on linebacker Ashton Richardson. And several teams on the schedule--Mississippi St., Ball State, maybe West Virginia, Kentucky at times--will play from a three-wide base offense. So maybe there'll be something to this.


--Zac Etheridge was playing as the nickelback according to Andy Bitter, which I assume would move Bates and Slade to the safety slots.

--There is some good news re: Thorpe: Walt McFadden said (amongst many other things) Thorpe's absence was just an ear infection.

--With Isom missing--the first time one of the starting five on the offensive line has missed time, saints be praised--your first lineman off the bench was ... drum roll please ... John Sullen! Good for him.

--But bad for Auburn? From Bitter again:
(Sullen) told us he weighed in at 357 pounds by the end of his senior year. Naturally, the reactions from the coaches is not printable, even on a blog. He's at 332 now and making progress.
Well ... OK, progress. That's good. (By the way, the other guy mentioned as working at that right guard spot? Walk-on Jorell Bostrum. 1) Eek 2) Why did no one tell me we had a kid on the team with an incredible name like "Jorell Bostrum"? If he ever has a male child, will he be Superman?)

--Jay Tate said The Toro has a new black cast he described as "menacing." I don't know whether to hope the cast comes off by the Tech game or not.

--All right, time for some good news, and there's a good chunk of it in this Goldberg post. Your 8/20 positives include:

1. Ryan Pugh is happy with how the offense is coming together and specifically said the o-line had a solid day in the last scrimmage.

2. Chizik had nice things to say about both Byrum and Durst. After the placekicking uncertainty to close '08 and Durstgate in the offseason, it is nice to have that much clarity at positions that important.

3. Maybe it's just coachspeak, but Chizik doesn't strike me as the kind to say he was happy with a practice if he wasn't honestly happy about it. And he has been happy about the overall "tempo" of practice. I know it's probably a little weird for everyone to have these night practices, but with a team as young as this one is in so many areas, Auburn can't afford to lose any reps to the heat. So: in my extremely unprofessional opinion, it's a good idea.

4. Tracy Rocker spoke to the press for the first time in a while and had some praise for Nick Fairley and (you get one guess on this one) Nosa Eguae. Eguae, like Clayton and Goggans, is getting work at both end and tackle.

--According to Lee Ziemba, the team started watching La. Tech film yesterday. (Also, he likes Toomer's lemonade.)

--I'm not going to steal even more of Bitter's post by quoting Luper on Taylor's 2:30 a.m. whale-watching habits, so I'll just say I LOL'd, encourage you to read it yourself, and leave it at that.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Krootin': woe-line edition

It's a good thing Chad Slade is so freaking big, because he may have a lot of weight to carry on those shoulders.

This is a perfect time to panic. Just so we know where we stand, here is a comprehensive list of scholarship Auburn linemen with eligibility remaining beyond the 2010 season:

1. Jared Cooper
2. A.J. Greene
3. Andre Harris
4. Aubrey Phillips
5. Vance Smith
6. John Sullen

Bear in mind that that list includes two converted tight ends, two true freshmen, and just one player who received a grade better than 5.6 (i.e. "middle-of-the-road three-star") from Rivals. However, that player--Phillips--may of course never play football again.

So unless Auburn signs a player or two in 2011 capable of starting as a true freshman--anyone want to take odds on that?--the entire 2011 starting lineup will be comprised of the players listed above and whoever Auburn will sign this February. With the high school season about to kick off and the bulk of the recruiting for 2010 behind us, here is a comprehensive list of Auburn's current offensive line commitments:

1. Shon Coleman
2. Chad Slade

Bear in mind that Coleman has planned on taking visits to other schools and has been listed as a "soft verbal" since essentially the day he was signed; Auburn will have to work to keep him. Meaning that Slade--currently unranked by any service and with a second-best offer of Miss. St.--is the only lineman our staff can be said to have truly "wrapped up" by this point.

This is why it was a serious blow to read the following news:
Chase Hughes has named a new leader: Ole Miss. He says after a visit they slightly lead.
Under normal circumstances, missing out on a three-star, top-25 in-state, top-20ish center/guard wouldn't be a big deal. But as you can see above: these are not normal circumstances. When you've gotten three new linemen (counting Phillips) on to campus in two years, every body you can add to the mix is crucial, every opportunity to give Grimes another shot at developing a starting-quality player is one that has to be taken advantage of.

So I don't understand why the very next thing Beaver writes in the above post is:
The guys at Rivals seem to think Auburn has a shot at getting one of Kyle Prater's official visits even though he has cut Auburn from his top choices. Trooper Taylor is quietly working hard on Prater.
Yes, I'm sure he's an unbelievable prospect and all, but that's not going to stop me from making the following statement: I don't give the first crap about getting one of Kyle Prater's visits. He's not signing with Auburn. He's just not. Maybe Taylor--who's listed as Hughes's recruiter--is making every possible effort to reel Hughes in and the energy he's spending on Prater isn't detracting from Auburn's chances with Hughes. But if it is ... well, I'll just say that if you ask me whether I want Taylor trying to sew up a solid in-state lineman or chasing after the nation's No. 1 wide receiver from a thousand miles away, I take option A a thousand times over.

If this was the only instance of the current staff seeming questionably ambivalent about our offensive line recruiting, I'd let it pass. But it's not. Last spring, you'll recall, Tampa lineman Hunter Stout (who Grimes knew from Colorado) took a late visit to Auburn. He wasn't a stud by any stretch of the imagination, but he would have been something. The staff passed. He signed with Louisville. 2010 JUCO lineman John Cullen has had Auburn listed as one of his favorites for a while, but after the Phillips transfer, apparently Auburn backed off. Say whaaaa? Back to 2011: would we really rather have, say, redshirt sophomores Harris or Sullen starting with a true freshman backup over a senior Cullen starting with Harris/Sullen as backup? Really?

This is the point where--I can hear the chorus now--I'm reminded that I don't know what's really going on with recruiting, that our coaches have a plan, that they've forgotten more about this business than me, my children, and my grandchildren will ever learn, etc. And all that may be true.

But what's also true is that it's going to be awfully hard to put together a good offensive line from a collection of one or two solid players, five or six run-of-the-mill prospects, and bewildered true freshmen. But that's exactly what Auburn's looking at two years down the road if things don't change on the recruiting front, soon.

(For you rankings skeptics out there: remember 2007? Ziemba, Ramsey, and Pugh were all four-stars. Cooper? A low three-star. It wouldn't surprise me for the likes of Harris or Smith or Sullen to dramatically outperform their guru ranking, but expecting them all to--as Auburn will need them to unless something phenomenal happens--is delusional.)

A few other odds and ends ...

Goodwin. I was on my little sojourn when Antonio Goodwin committed, and so I didn't get to really make as big a deal out of it as it might have been, given that Goodwin is the first consensus four-star in the class and had the folks at ESPN--who invited him to their All-American game and rate him the No. 23 prospect in the country, period--say this about him:
ESPN's Billy Tucker added, "This was huge pickup for Auburn and in our opinion the most significant commitment under Chizik thus far. The Tigers are adding an explosive receiver and excellent overall athlete to their future roster."

"We feel Goodwin will challenge for the top receiver spot out of the state Georgia upon the release of our ESPNU 150 and will give Auburn an immediate vertical threat when he arrives in the Plains. Aside from his great vertical speed and elusiveness after the catch, this is a kid with the body length, leaping ability and strong hands to create matchup problems as a downfield pass catcher. Needs a bit of polish but Auburn is getting a much-needed playmaker in our opinion and a receiver with a very high ceiling for development."
Between Goodwin, Blake, Benton (if he sticks around), Jeremy Richardson, and the various slicky tricksters in the slot--not to mention Lutzenkirchen--it looks from here like Auburn should see its receiving go from being the weakest unit on the team to one of its strongest in the space of a year or two.

Super Senior fluff GO. Jawara White and Kenneth Carter both get the B'ham News Super Senior profile treatment. Interesting stuff on both, although reading that Carter would be willing to look around is a little bit disappointing. (I do think he'll have to have a hell of a year to draw any stronger offers, though.)

Camp report, 8/19

Attention linebackers: you're eating this for breakfast every morning through the end of the season. Also, here's a Black Cat Repellent system to wear on your belt and a Ladder Warning Siren to alert you to any you might walk under. No chances left at this point.

Better and better. The good thing about finding out that Eltoro Freeman was wearing a cast on his hand was that the coaches didn't seem all that worried about that. The bad thing turned up last night as we found out why ...
Chizik clarified LB Eltoro Freeman's injury. Apparently the cast on his right hand is not the reason he is not practicing right now. It's a hamstring injury. There is not set date for the sophomore's return to practice.
A hamstring. Great. An injury that will likely nag at him all season and has to be given extra recuperation time to make sure it doesn't totally blow up on him. Wonderful. So let's see, assuming he'll be healthy again soon, Freeman would probably be replaced in the lineup by Great Story Pybus ...
Spencer Pybus is out with a concussion.
%$&%! Seriously: %$&%! At least they've moved Dee Ford to LB so they've got a body back there to ...
Freshman Dee Ford said he's back at defensive end after spending about a week at linebacker.
So ... we're back to a grand total of four practicing scholarship linebackers, then? And just two that aren't true freshmen? Tate is right: the reason Josh Bynes can't say who's working behind him is because nobody is playing behind him.

This is all going to work out beautifully.

The glass is half-empty. It was pretty sweet when alleged project/stopgap recruit Daren Bates showed up, started knocking heads, and wedged his way into the two-deep discussion at safety. But I don't know if I'm ready for this:
Chizik said true freshman safety Daren Bates is working some with the first team. He could press sophomores Mike Slade and Drew Cole for the starting job until Mike McNeil returns.
Look, I don't care how impressive he's been, there's no way around this: for a true freshman who Auburn stole away from Arkansas St. to show up and threaten to grab a starting safety position is an awful sign. Bates is obviously much, much better than anyone but this random commenter thought he'd be, but his ascension still says just as much--if not more--about the failings of Mike Slade and Drew Cole as it does about what Bates has accomplished.

We do have this particular bright side, though: if he's making this kind of impression now, Bates (like camp surprise Neiko Thorpe before him) should be ready to give us three or four years of solid-to-outstanding contribution. (Before you use this opportunity to rag on the recruiting ratings, by the by, recall that Cole was as anonymous as three-stars get and that Slade wasn't viewed as a prize, either.)

Andy Bitter wrote a feature on Bates, his arrival at Auburn, and his summer preparations you can read here.

At least he's here. Chizik on Frenchy the latecomer:
Asked if Pierre-Louis has some catching up to do after missing 15 spring practices and 11 days in August, head coach Gene Chizik agreed but didn't elaborate: "Yes, that would be very fair to say."
I'm not expecting him to see him before midseason, but that's more than I expected back when we figured we was off the team.

Good news? I'm trying really hard to find some. At least Chizik seemed encouraged by both the practice and the scrimmage film. That the offensive line is still healthy KNOCK ON ALL THE WOOD WITHIN REACH and looking like the line it should have been a year ago--by both Chizik's and Grimes's recent accounts, not to mention the spring game--is the best possible sign for the offense.

Other than that ... uh, Kodi thinks the Wildcat's going to be awesome, and I'm not going to disagree, but I'll also wait for a more unbiased source before getting too excited.

Really? Anthony Gulley is doing work at H-back. Which doesn't make sense at first, since the position (as I understand it) carries blocking assignments much of the time and Gulley is, um, "diminutive." Then again, the position also carries "grab a short pass and do something with it" assignments, and that Gulley should be able to handle with aplomb at some point in the future.

Well, that's reassuring. Chizik on Aubrey Phillips:
"Aubrey is into the swing of everything trying to rehab and just addressing some issues, medically, we’re really going to have to watch," Chizik said. "But he’s doing a great job. He’s in the flow of everything. He’s back in school. We’re very encouraged by where he’s at." Asked if Phillips will play football again, Chizik refused to speculate. "I’m fairly confident but I’m not a doctor so I have no idea," he said. "He’s doing really well."
Sorry, but if we're still not even past the point where we know if Phillips will ever play football again, I can't bring myself to expect anything from Phillips's presence in Auburn. I'm glad he's feeling better and in class, but when he hits the practice field, then I'll start worrying about what he can do for the football team.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Works, Todd for tat-style

He-said-he-said. Given how much help the man has been in helping us understand what we're going to be seeing from Gus Malzahn's offense, it's only fair I point you towards Chris Brown's new Smart Football site. But new site or no, Chris's most cutting comment about Auburn of late came on his Twitter feed, where he summarized:

(Yes, the "slmandel" in question is that Mandel.) The knee-jerk Auburn fan in me wants to say HEY CHRIS TODD'S ARM IS NOW MADE OF TITANIUM AND SPIDER-SILK FISHING LINE, but we can be honest here: it's terrific news that the quarterback battle is already decided, but that doesn't change the fact our starting quarterback was the least threatening QB in the SEC last year, that rarest of college signal-callers who had neither an arm nor legs. (The most threatening quarterback, of course, was Jarrett Lee. He just happened to be threatening his own team.) Yes, that Auburn's best quarterback is Chris Todd is bad news until Todd proves us wrong.

The nice thing is that there's reasons to believe Todd will do just that, and in the first truly worthwhile post from resurrected Auburn blog Tigers Corner, PPL's Kevin Ives offers a goodly number of them. Some of them we've seen before, but this one I thought was particularly incisive:
3. HE HAS A BETTER OFFENSE TO WORK WITH: Better receivers, more experienced lineman, and an offense that can actually rely on Auburn's strengths (Running Backs) instead of it's weaknesses (receivers). King Gus's offense is all about timing (which he's repeated in numerous interviews. The biggest knock on Chris Todd is arm strength. Not a problem in this Offense. From what I've seen from watching film of Malzhan team's in action, the QB just needs good timing and good decision making (both of which Todd has). He doesn't need a cannon. However, Auburn fans will probably get a pleasant surprise now that Todd has had a full year to rehab his shoulder.
I'm not entirely sold on Todd's decision-making just yet--there were some seriously shaky moments last year that had nothing to do with his arm strength--but that can probably (OK, maybe hopefully) be ironed out by Malzahn in time for the opener. At the very least, we can say this: Todd has both way, way more recruiting pedigree and just as much experience as the two QB's Malzahn turned into TD-machines at Tulsa. Doesn't guarantee the same results, of course, but I for one will take my reasons for optimism where I can get.

Quickly ... speaking of Mandel, he's got a new column running down the prospects of all of D-I's new head coaches. Nothing insightful in the least re: Chizik and Auburn, but it's out there if you want a look.

Welcome back. Not a secret by now, but with classes starting yesterday Frenchy Pierre-Louis is back in the fold. Who knows what we'll get out of him, but if he's healthy and focused, he showed enough pre-injury last fall to think he could still be a big help.

Still no help. K-Scar writes a column applauding Chizik for the quick quarterbacking decision, and while I agree that this staff's decisiveness is a good sign for their future prospects, Scarbinsky still can't help out those of us who'd like a little more personal detail on Chizik--even though he's trying:
When you sit down in Gene Chizik's office and look around to get some insight into the new Auburn head coach at the end of two-a-days, there are few clues.

There's not a picture on the walls.

There's not a knick-knack on the shelves.

Which is a clue in itself.

The man who occupies this office doesn't have much use for decoration.

Oh, he'll get around to personalizing the place -- "that'll happen about next March," he said -- but he has more pressing business.

Like proving he belongs here.
I'm going to take this as a metaphor for Chizik himself--just as he's got decorations for his office but just hasn't put them up yet, so I'm assuming he's got a personality and a less-reserved side the public just hasn't seen yet.

Mid-term exams. The switch from two-a-days to one-a-days prompted beat hacks Jay G. Tate and Luke Brietzke to both issue "state of the team" blog posts. And speaking of Chizik's businesslike approach, Tate had this to say:
Chizik doesn't like mess.

That's the primary reason behind three players leaving the program this summer. The coach has instituted a reasonably strict dress code and holds his players to reasonably lofty behavioral standards. He also demands that helmets be lined up almost perfectly during warm-ups.

No detail is too small.

It was reasonable to assume the no-frills aura he created upon arrival would wane as fall arrived. That was an errant assumption. Chizik is as guarded and focused as ever these days.
The same complaint I had in the spring--that this approach won't fly if Auburn starts losing--still basically stands, but at least we haven't heard any complaints from any players yet, and you won't hear any from this end either with what appears to be a stronger core of leadership than we saw last year. Burns and the other quarterbacks would be part of that, of course, but it sounds like Walt McFadden is joining Antonio Coleman in taking the reins of the defense, too. (Which we need like crazy: with Aairon Savage gone, the defense will start a whopping three seniors, one of which is the relatively fresh face of Jake Ricks.)

Getting back to mid-terms, Tate's forecast that the thinness of Auburn's defense will result in more snaps for the starters is bad, bad news--because with the no-huddle on the other side of the ball, that's going to mean a freaking ton of snaps for those guys. In a year when Auburn will play its first 11 games in 11 weeks, color me already worried.

We'll figure this out later. At TWER, Jeremy (or maybe J.M.?) has trouble tracking down the "Authentic Films" company supposedly partnering to create Auburn Football: Every Day ... . At least the two gentlemen do exist and do have TV experience, but I'm pretty sure that "12 Emmys" claim is a wee bit exaggerated. Google does connect them with the Emmys, but, um, it's these Emmys. (Note that I'm sure these guys will do a fine job with the show: it's just interesting, is all.)

This is just sad. CFN's SEC bloggers on the OBC at Media Days:
The most interesting thing I saw during the SEC Media days was how flustered and uncomfortable Steve Spurrier looked at the podium. The once mighty Darth Visor looked awful. A self-admitted 7-6 head coach, it looks like 4 years at South Carolina has taken away his swagger, his attitude and his confidence. It was quite a change from the man that came into Media Days 4 years ago with the opinion that he could win the SEC at South Carolina and it seems evident that even he doesn’t believe that any longer.
I'm not the first person to say it, but against the schedule the 'Cocks are facing, I just don't see any way Spurrier's still in Columbia next year.

Etc. It'd be an even better story if she was American, but if Jamaican Olympic and now World Championship 100-meters silver-medalist Kerron Stewart was going to go to school in the States, I'm glad she went to Auburn ... PPL ties up some Auburn baseball odds and ends ... I don't have anything to add to the Brett Favre story, but the blog-takes here and here simply have to be passed on (language warning on that second, as you could probably guess from the URL alone) ... nd just so you know, Woodstock sucked.

"Hard Knocks: Auburn" coming to a TV near you, and a computer monitor near me

OK, so the real title is "Auburn Football: Every Day ...", and if I have the nagging feeling they could have picked out a catchier title (who uses ellipses in their title? Pretentious socially-conscious hip-hop acts, that's who), this is an outstanding development on a couple of different levels:

1. There is no such thing as not enough Auburn on one's television set, and this promises to be a good deal more interesting than the Auburn Football Review, particularly now that Tubby has given way to the Chiznick.

2. Attention recruits: not only will you be on TV every single week thanks to the new SEC TV deal, but you will also be on TV every single week during practice, on the sidelines, etc. And if your parents or cousins or certain expatriate Auburn bloggers want to watch but don't live in the area, no sweat--it'll all be online.

3. A second recruiting note: ya think Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper might come across as more than a little bit charismatic on camera? I'm not saying the show's going to singlehandedly turn any tides or anything, but it's not gonna hurt, either.

4. Maybe the biggest nagging question I have about our new head coach, and it's one I'm going to delve into a bit as the season approaches, is this one: who the hell is he? His interviews, his press conferences, his newspaper profiles ... none of them have felt satisfying yet. Trooper's the kid-at-heart, Malzahn's the coffee-addicted nerd, Luper's the smooth operator, Roof and Lolley are the grizzled Southern old-school types, you get the picture. We know Chizik is detail-obsessed and something of a disciplinarian ... but there's got to be more to this picture than that, right? Maybe being able to see him in a more natural environment than when the press are around will help.

5. This is more of a personal note, but for those of us who don't live in the CSS/"local listings" footprint, that this will on the Interwebs is very, very good news indeed.

Justin Delaine commits and no, I hadn't heard of him either

Auburn's new commitment ... Mysterio!

So last night Auburn picked up their 15th commitment of the 2010 class in Linden (and/or Sumter County) defensive end Justin Delaine. Beaver's rounded up the pertinent details I suggest you take a look at, but to review ...

--Delaine not only hasn't been ranked by the major services, at the time of his commitment he didn't even have a profile up at Rivals or Scout. I haven't following this recruiting thing very long, but I don't think that happens for SEC commitments very often. This is as deep a sleeper as you're going to get at Auburn.

--He's listed as a defensive end, but Delaine seems like the kind of guy you get on campus first and find a position for later: 6-5, 225, track speed, played just one year of football. I don't have much doubt he's sushi-raw, but for Auburn to go ahead and accept a commitment from him now suggests to me that someone on our staff--Lolley, apparently--saw enough in Delaine not to take any chances on anyone else getting there first.

--Getting him on campus might prove tricky, though, since even he apparently admits he's got academic issues to work on. At the very least, if he's really transferring from one school to another solely in an attempt to drag his GPA up, at least he's taking things seriously.

--No doubt the Tide fans are having a good laugh this morning at Auburn taking a commitment from a kid whose offer list includes two Mississippi schools and Troy and hadn't even drawn enough attention for an evaluation from the gurus ... but as I've mentioned before, I lived and worked for a while out in that part of the state, and it would be unbelievably easy for a legitimate prospect like Delaine to fly under the radar at a place like Sumter County. There's virtually no press coverage, the football team is almost an afterthought compared to hoops, the facilities and equipment are, um, lacking, and while I thought much more highly of Sumter's coaching while I was there than some of the other schools in the area, the infrastructure's just not there that can turn a kid who's never played organized football into a superstar overnight. Beaver hid away some uncorroborated info on Delaine's living situation in his comments thread, but that sounds about par for the course in places like York and Linden.

In short, I'm not worried. This staff's not going to offer a player with one year of football experience unless he's got some serious athletic goods. And if Delaine does stick at defensive end, there's not a position coach on the staff I'd trust more to turn those goods into something useful than Tracy Rocker.

--So, yeah, Delaine's not going to move the guru needle; yeah, he's very likely going to need a redshirt even if he qualifies; yeah, it would be nice if Auburn could land another high-profile prospect to get some of that good ol' Big Cat feelin' back. But seeing what guys like Daren Bates and Anthony Gulley are doing already, it's already fair to give this staff the benefit of the doubt when it comes to evaluating under-the-radar prospects like Delaine.