Thursday, August 06, 2009

And they're off

So, one day of practice in the books and we’ve learned … well, not a lot about the team itself. But we know a lot more about the composition of it, courtesy of Tate, Goldberg, Bitter, and (in the case of JUCO destinations) Beaver:

--Whew: Frenchy’s still on the team. But the career your favorite mighty-mite and mine must be hanging by the slimmest of threads: he won’t join the team until Aug. 16 and Chizik straightforwardly stated that it wasn’t an injury issue. Taylor called it "personal things" and there's no real reason not to expect Pierre-Louis back ... but man, this is rough ride he's had ever since that ACL tear last fall.

Of course, it could be worse, as Justin Albert could tell you. Most of you will recall that the walk-on from Prattville was supposed to challenge for playing time even in Auburn’s crowded backfield and had at the worst a solid chance at the punt return job. He drew all kinds of notices in the spring even got a notice not too long ago from ESPN’s Chris Low as one of those Sleppers to Watch or whatever. Nevermind all that now: he’s gone, without Chizik offering so much of even a veiled explanation. This is how it goes, I guess, with a new staff intent on laying down ye olde proverbial law: here today, dismissed tomorrow.

As I was never too bullish on Albert’s chances for playing time, I don’t think there’s too much upshot to worry about here, but it does make finding someone to return punts a little trickier. (My useless, probably way off-base guess for that job: Washington.)

--The final ruling for three of the Clearinghouse Four: Daren Bates survives, Terrance Coleman and Josh Jackson do not. As mentioned yesterday, losing as deep a sleeper as Bates to academics wouldn’t have been a huge deal at the start of the summer, but with Reggie Taylor and Izauea Lanier already having fallen by the wayside and Taikwon Paige’s status looking murkier by the day, getting someone besides Demond Washington--who may wind up on offense anyway--to plug the class’s hole in the secondary is by now a pretty significant deal.

Likewise, losing Coleman is tough. For months he’s been considered the most likely of Auburn’s freshmen d-line class to make an immediate impact and if those projections were accurate, he would have only been a couple of injuries away from major PT. Now he’s, uh, not. Attention Messrs. A. Coleman, A. Carter, M. Goggans, M. Blanc, J. Ricks, Z. Clayton, and N. Fairley: I’ve asked this of you before, but seriously, please stay healthy.

--Once again, the importance of academics in recruiting illustrated: T. Coleman was allegedly a must-sign prospect last spring, one of the top recruits in a loaded in-state class and all that blah blah blah. Meanwhile, no one in Auburn had ever heard of Nosa Eguae. But it’s Eguae who’s drawn raves from everyone he’s come in contact with and looks poised to kick off a solid Auburn career under Tracy Rocker while Chizik and Co. won’t see Coleman for at least two years--if ever--during which time he’ll burn his eligibility while receiving coaching and conditioning at Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) that, while adequate, is not going to be Tracy Rocker’s.

In short: yeah, I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but the academics of our recruits matter, and matter a ton.

--The four freshmen spotted running with the varsity were Fairley, Deangelo Benton, Phil Lutzenkirchen, and Emory Blake. Not-so-coincidentally, these also happen to be the four players that were the answer to the question “Who are the four incoming freshmen most likely to be spotted running with the varsity?” Conventional wisdom wins again.

--Man, we all knew Robert Cooper’s time at quarterback was going to be short-lived, but I figured the staff would at least give him more than a day before moving him to tight end. Assuming Cooper picks things up quickly at TE, that this move has obviously been in the works for long before now helps explain why Auburn’s been so ambivalent about their potential 2010 tight end prospects.

One other quick note: with Cooper now catching passes and Trotter of course out for all of ‘09, this seven-quarterback battle you might have read about (and heard chuckled at in certain places) is actually a slightly more reasonable five-QB battle.
Of course, because it’s slightly more reasonable doesn’t mean we’ve yet crossed over into “normal” territory, much les “desirable,” particularly when at least three and possibly all five of those QBs have a legitimate shot at the starting job.

--Do you think Malzahn started the QB race with a starter’s pistol last night? I hope he did.

--That's about it, right? Back tomorrow.

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