Thursday, April 30, 2009

Google surveys the signees: Nosa Eguae

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

Back around Signing Day I made a joke that Auburn fans should come together to write a sitcom about Eguae called "Everybody Loves Nosa," because for a kid without much guru approval or any previous connection to Auburn, his reception was stunningly enthusiastic. Not that it's really all that surprising when you read anecdotes like these:
Texas Tech coaches were mighty unhappy when Eguae committed to Auburn on Jan. 26. That was the day after Eguae returned from an official visit to the Tech campus. Assistant coach Carlos Mainord tried to follow-up with an in-home visit after learning of Eguae's commitment. Mainord tried to push The Parent Angle, too.

Eguae's response?

"You can talk to my parents as much as you want, but I'm still going to Auburn," Eguae said he told Mainord. "That's where I want to be. Auburn is the best fit for me. I told him that I want to play for Coach (Tracy) Rocker and that's how it's going to be. I'm looking forward to getting my conditioning packet from Coach (Kevin) Yoxall and getting to work."
Add in a heavy helping of praise from any beat writer who got the chance to speak to him and rave reviews from Rocker himself, and you get near-universal consensus that there's more to Eguae than his recruiting ratings would suggest. Hooray for Auburn!

Basics: Fill us in, Auburn Signing Day information sheet:
Nosa Eguae
DL, 6-3, 234
Mansfield, TX (Summit HS)
High School Coach: Kyle Geller

HIGH SCHOOL: As a senior, had 67 tackles, including 14.5 for loss and six sacks, recovered three fumbles and forced two fumbles ... As a junior, collected 76 tackles, including 18 tackles for loss and seven sacks, and intercepted a pass ... Named to the All-District 4-5A Second Team as a senior ... Named a PrepStar All-American
As with most of Auburn's other Texas products, Auburn first got involved with Eguae when Luper and Taylor were recruiting for Oklahoma St. LOLZ.

At 6-3, 230, it's tough to see Eguae playing anywhere other than end, but Eguae is nonetheless usually described as the strong, sorta-stocky sort who'll be better at holding up against the run than rushing the passer. So at the very least he'll probably be on the strong side, and he's occasionally listed as a tackle.

Recruitnik hoo-ha: Eguae's guru profile reads very similarly to Izauea Lanier's in the last entry in this series: some respect from Rivals, a general "OK, nothing special" from ESPN, and dismissal from Scout. At least, I think it's fair to call two stars and no place in the DT rankings a dismissal.

ESPN's scouting report gives Eguae a 77 like most three-star types and says the following:
He is a physical defensive prospect with a tough name. (???--ed.) He plays hard and is productive. He has good size. Nothing that will blow you away, but good measurables for a high school prospect. He is a tough player versus the run. ... Will generate power from the hips and can stand a blocker up and hold his ground. Needs to watch his pad level and be more consistent, as he will try and anchor at times and can get overextended and be pushed off the ball. When he uses his weapons he is tough to block, but will try and slam into a blocker at times and allow them to get into his chest ... He has good size and ability to match a good motor.
So some positives, but they don't seem excited, either. The service closest to excitement is Rivals, which hands him three stars but an "upper-tier three-star" grade of 5.7. They rank him the No. 17 strongside DE, just two slots away from the four stars (and, I have to point out, six spots ahead of Alabama commit Anthony Orr), and 60th in his class in Texas--not terribly impressive-sounding, but then again, the first 48 kids on that list were four-stars.

The offer list is pretty well right in that good-but-not-great level too: Texas Tech, Colorado (to whom he committed for a while), UCLA, Kansas, Minnesota. So plenty of BCS attention ... but with possible apologies to UCLA, Auburn was still pretty clearly his "biggest" offer.

Links of potential interest: Fortunately, we don't have to take the gurus' words for it, do we? Not when Tracy Rocker his own self is saying things like the following:
"Ohhhh. Hey, that's the sleeper. I think he has great upside. I think he brings definitely a maturity. He doesn't act like the average freshman. School is very important to him. Very smart. I think he brings something a little bit more to the table as this thing goes on and as he gets older here, I think, God willing, he's going to be special."
That's about as enthusiastic as Rocker get with any of the incoming d-line recruits, so clearly he's got high hopes. Rocker played a pivotal role in Eguae's commitment--Eguae cited the chance to play for him pretty regularly after making his decision.

And about that "very smart" claim: Eguae made a 1330 on his SAT, so academics won't be a problem. (The quote at the top about wanting to get started on his workout regimen right away would seem to back up Rocker's implication about his work ethic, too, right?)

Hey, highlights:

First impression sort of fits the scouting reports, doesn't it? Good strength, good motor, not quite as much explosiveness.

As you would expect, Eguae sees bright things in Auburn's future:
"A down year at Auburn doesn't happen a lot," he said. "With the players they have there, and the offensive coordinator, coach Malzahn, scoring points won't be much of a problem. Everything's going to turn around very quickly."
At that same link, the writer said that Eguae "thanked everyone who recruited him"--a gracious gesture that seems to fit right in with everything else we know about his personality.

Colorado blog The Ralphie Report went over Egaue's profile when he committed to the Buffs; they'd probably like to take back that line about being OK with him visiting elsewhere, I'm guessing. Interesting breakdown of Eguae's highlight film in the comments.

And lastly, here's Eguae's Myspace page, complete with a rather kick-ass photo and a video with some Mansfield Summit highlights. Egaue's big play comes at the end of the 30 seconds.

What conclusions we can draw, if any: Whatever the gurus think of him, Eguae is basically a can't-lose prospect: with his smarts and willingness to work, the worst-case scenario for him is that he puts in his four years, gets his degree, and helps fill out the two-deep as a junior and senior. There's so many worse ways to spend a scholarship, I'm delighted Auburn got him into this class.

And there's a very good chance Eguae's going to be a lot more than that. I'm not sure he'll ever be a superstar, but he's big enough, smart enough, and motorrific enough that it's also difficult to see him not contributing on the field once he fills out a little bit and Rocker teaches him college technique.

With virtually no downside and plenty of upside, I think it's easy to see why Rocker is so excited to have Eguae around for these next 4-5 years.


I have got to get me one of these shirts. I'm serious. I think a pool party could spontaneously break out around you just by wearing one:

Those of you trapped at work without the Tube, you're not missing too terrible much: the limo pulls up, the coaches all get out and shake hands, they walk around the school and shake hands some more, Luper answers some questions about the Limo Gambit with the same answers we've heard already, Taylor has a funny line at the end involving food stamps, and that's about it.

But that's why I think this video is interesting: aside from the mode of transportation and the certain measure of, I don't know, "impressiveness" that comes from seven different Auburn coaches all entering the school at once, it's as mundane as it gets. It's just football coaches doing boring offseason football coach stuff. And wearing awesome shirts.

So: where's the "embarrassment"? It's not really having all seven coaches together: that's unusual, sure, but I don't think anyone would have blinked if they were riding around in an RV. Which means the entire hubbub comes down to their choice of vehicle. That's it. That's all. Yes, they could have picked something less flashy ... but why would they?

There's more worthwhile description of the Limo Gambit's nuts-and-bolts operations in this OA News story*, along with some discussion of how much attention Auburn's managed to wring out of it:
Though the five-day trip has been confined within the state’s borders, the noise it’s stirred up has permeated in all four time zones.

Even during the midst of NHL and NBA playoffs, the topic was debated during a full segment of ESPN’S Around the Horn on Wednesday.

While opinion remained mixed among national pundits, the positivity it elicited around Lee County was unanimous.

“Hey, if it draws attention in a way and gets people talking, I think it’s worthwhile,” (Auburn High coach Tim) Carter said. “It’s within the rules and it shows innovation. I like it, and as an Auburn fan I like it.”
Me too, coach Carter. (Though this will be the last time I mention it for a while. The blog is probably Prowled out by now.)

*This isn't meant as a critique--Lord knows I've written some truly, tru;l screwed up leads in my days at the sports desk--but it is kind of funny that Gribble's story starts by saying that Carter "doesn't need a mindreader" to know what his kids are thinking, and then the very next sentence is Carter saying "What they're actually thinking, I don't know." Hey, it made me grin.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Works, various goods and sundries-style

Nothing earth-shattering today, just an assortment of links and news tidbits I think are worth taking a gander at. But first, just because I saw Adventureland recently and can't recommend it highly enough--seriously, it's just about as funny as Superbad (same director) but perfectly in that sweet-but-not-saccharine, uh, sweet spot--here's a 120 Minutes classic that appears on the soundtrack:

<a href="">The Replacements - Bastards Of Young (Video)</a>

On the NFL personnel front. Well here's something of a surprise: the third Auburn free agent to sign on with an NFL team wasn't Lester or Johnson, but apparently long snapper Robert Shiver. The first reaction is "Really? That's weird, I never even thought about him"; the second reaction is "Oh, he's a long snapper, that I never thought about him proves how good he really was, huh?"

Attention Dax Dellenbach: this could all be yours some day! Also worth noting (given the slowness on the current news front) is that Rod Hood was released by the Cardinals. Which is too bad, but maybe he'll catch on somewhere else, and even if he doesn't, he's had one hell of a professional career for a guy who had to walk-on at Auburn.

Krootnews. Here's the full quote from Marcus Lattimore on Auburn's "big lead" and exactly which schools Chizik and Co. will have to hold off for his signature:
Running back Marcus Lattimore (6-0, 210) of Byrnes High in Duncan visited Auburn on Friday and Saturday with his mother, stepdad and a friend, and he left there with the Tigers the favorite for his services.

"They've got a big lead," Lattimore said. "Georgia and Florida State would be second. And USC and Clemson are still going to be up there. My mom liked (new Auburn head) Coach Gene Chizik and everything. He has a three-year plan for me and no other college has done that for me."

Lattimore said he won't take any more visits until he goes to Penn State this summer. He will attend the Nike camp this weekend at Georgia.
Standard disclaimer about how there's always a post-visit bump and how things could change next week much less in 10 months goes here. (HT: VB.)

Also, those of you who find recruiting nothing but borderline-creepy hype and hot air may want to turn away now, but Auburn's already started offering recruits for the 2011 class. Well, one recruit, a safety out of Valley who was first-team All-State as a sophomore.

BlAUgosphere. The Auburner has a comic up on the Limo Gambit. It's gold, of course. (Don't miss Saban's small turn as Michael Dukakis.)

Elsewhere, Lifetime of Defeats wraps up his draft talk by examining why you can't blame kids for departing early and taking a shrewd swipe at the NFL's quarterback scouting:
Which of these guys do you think would make a better QB?

QB rating of 183.2/ 6,390 yards passing/ 67 tds to 9 int/ a 66% completion rate


QB rating of 124.73/ 8,078 yards passing/ 44 tds to 34 int/ a 59% completion rate

That's Tim Tebow's 3 year stats (only 2 of those were as a starter) vs. Josh Freeman's 3 year stats (all of those as a starter) not to mention Tebow has won 2 national titles and a Heisman and Josh Freeman went to the Texas Bowl once. But yeah, Tim Tebow is gonna be a Tight End in the NFL and Josh Freeman is gonna be the future of the Tampa Bay Bucs.
See, I would agree wholeheartedly--and other very smart people certainly are--but tons of college-oriented wise guys were totally convinced Matt Ryan was going to be the second coming of Akili Smith ... and then he went and made us all look like chumps. So now I'm tentative to declare any quarterback the pros think might be worth a first-round shot a future bust ... but, yeah, dude, Josh Freeman sucks and The Bucs are suckers for taking him. It's Josh Freeman.

Also also, Guaranteed to Satisfy throw their lot in with Neil Caudle:
The issue comes to a singular point--empirical evidence. We have a very comprehensive body of work on one side (Kodi) compared to a blank slate on the other (Caudle). We have seen Kodi's happy feet under pressure when he needs to hit his safety valve. We have seen the deer in headlights look when the Alabama defender stuffed him to the ground as he flailed helplessly. We have seen him, time and again, not go through his progression and run after his initial read was not open ... Caudle, on the other hand, is a complete unknown with some worthwhile credentials ... In the face of all we saw last year, he cannot represent a downgrade in our quarterback play.
The post is definitely worth a read (I'm ellipsing the "worthwhile credentials" GTS lists) but I have to disagree that our evidence is all that "empirical" when things have changed so dramatically from last year to this year: the Kodi we got under Borges and Franklin and Ensminger is by no means guaranteed to be the Kodi we get from Malzahn. The schemes are too different, the coaching too much better (I'm assuming). Burns may not earn the job--whoever Malzahn picks, I'll trust to be the best choice, unlike the "Hello? You can't run without Burns, Tony!" reaction from last season--but it's still way too early to write him off just yet.

Let's hope so. The Andy Bitter position-by-position series continues with the receivers and running backs. The receiver post doesn't do a whole lot to soothe the worries there, but I thought this was an interesting take on the Tate/McCalebb situation:
Speed is usually the trump card in football, and McCalebb brings a ton of it. He's fast — legitimately fast. Everyone on the team agrees. Malzahn's system seems like it can free up running backs in open space quite a bit, where McCalebb can be most dangerous. Get him in the open field and you're going to have a tough time bringing him down. In my time covering college football, the fastest back I've seen was Michael Bennett when I was in college at Wisconsin (these two games stand out in my mind). A legitimate track star, Bennett was good for a 50- or 60-yard touchdown run in every game, simply because the Badgers' line got him a hole and nobody could touch him. Bennett's problem was that he was a featured back and he physically broke down by the end of the year from repeated poundings. Tate is Auburn's featured back, meaning Malzahn can be smart about getting McCalebb into the game on a limited basis and keep him fresh.
Sounds good to me.

Hey, other sports. The baseball team showed something approaching signs of life against Troy last night, beating the Trojans 26-6. The 26 runs represented Auburn's fourth-highest scoring total ever. Now, as the old saying goes, if only they could have saved some for the upcoming Ole Miss series.

Also, both tennis teams made the NCAA Tournament. Which is good, even if I feel like the devoted tennis followers at the Red Cup Rebellion could probably tell you more about our team than I could.

Etc. Tony Barnhart names Malzahn one of five "SEC assistants who will make a difference," alongside Kiffin the Elder, Carl Torbush (State's new DC), Scot Loeffler (Dan Mullen's replacement at Florida), and John Chavis ... The Advertiser editor supports the Limo Gambit ... since stealing a dead girl's credit card and being accused of "us(ing) brass knuckles to send a man to the hospital" isn't enough for Houston Nutt to give up on the dream of Jamar Hornsby playing for the Rebels, so we'll see what happens after today's preliminary hearing on the brass knuckles incident.

Yet more defending of The Limo Gambit

You wouldn't think after twice mounting mild defenses of The Limo Gambit the past couple of days the JCCW would have fresh angles of support ... but here's not just one but two to go alongside the "Uh, have you seen our in-state recruiting results the past couple of years? How could they not try something over-the-top?" angle covered yesterday.

1. Gene Chizik is, as the kids say (or probably don't by now), "down with it." Indoor ball caps or no indoor ball caps, demands for meticulously-kept lockers or no demands for meticulously-kept lockers, it's hard to keep thinking of the Chiznick as a dour, obsessive disciplinarian when he OK'd sending all seven of his assistants out in a limo to tour the state to the tune of "Fantastic Voyage." (I mean, that's gotta be the unofficial theme song of the trip, right? Gotta be. The image of Malzahn bobbing his head and rhyming along is too perfect.) The Limo Gambit is too splashy, too attention-grabbing, too fun for Chizik to be the SEC football's answer to Bob Knight.

A lot of people wondered aloud why Chizik would enforce a strict dress code on his players and then let Trooper Taylor coach practice in a backwards hat, and with Chizik left behind while the assistants party it up, we're getting an even clearer picture of that, I think: it's standard Good Cop/Bad Cop. Yes, Recruit X, thanks for asking, Coach Chizik is strict, and yes, you're going to have to be disciplined and work really hard ... but that doesn't mean you aren't going to be able to joke around and cut up with Coach Taylor and Coach Luper when there's time for that! If a recruit's first impression of Auburn is seven guys cruising in a stretch limo dressed like they're on their way to a backyard luau, they're not going to be quite as worried about suffering through a Communist-grade boot camp if they come to campus.

So I like the Limo Gambit from that particular recruiting perspective. I like it even better from my own personal perspective on Chizik, who's proving that he's not going to be a my-way-or-the-highway type of coach who shuts up his assistants when they come to him with wild and wacky ideas like this one. The more open-minded our head coach is--as with the hiring of a coaching-world weirdo like Malzahn--the better off Auburn will be.

2. They're in on the joke.
Honestly--you think Auburn's coaches lined up for that picture on Day 1 in their bright orange shirts and, to man, thought to themselves Yeah, baby ... smooooooooth ... ?

Uh, no. These are smart guys who are well aware of what age they are. They know the Limo Gambit is over-the-top. They know it's on the silly side. I would posit they also know that it's not going to win over any recruits singlehanded. But they also know none of that matters compared to just helping them get a foot in the proverbial door. As K-Scar explains in an on-point column* that provides an excellent antidote to yesterday's Terence Moore discussion:
You think it's cheesy. You think it's undignified. You think it's un-Auburn-like, whatever that means.

OK, tell the truth. You're a middle-aged man, aren't you?

See, that's the real problem here. It's the people who have a real problem with this harmless little publicity stunt.

Showing up in force and in style is about recruiting, and recruiting is about making an impression on teen-age boys.

It's not about middle-aged men ...

(M)eeting high school coaches, teachers and principals in person to evaluate high school prospects in the spring is an important but routine task. Auburn has put a new twist on it by letting everyone on those high school campuses know that the Tigers are in town.
These are the sorts of points apparently lost on known middle-aged man Richard Pittman at ATVS, who would like Auburn's coaches to get off his damn lawn:
I hope ("this sh*t") doesn't work, because the college-coach-as-pimp meme is one I'd really not like to see become viral. I'm not naive enough to be blind to the fact that lots of crazy things happen on the recruiting trail, but this is a significant step down in class from the kind of crap that Lane Kiffin is pulling ...

My guess is that some recruits will be impressed with it, most of them impressed without really being persuaded by it. They'll say, "Hey, that's kinda cool. Now let's talk about your depth chart." Some others will be turned off by it. The ones who are genuinely persuaded by the limo will disproportionately end up as prima donnas or as off-field distractions.
I usually appreciate and enjoy what Richard has to say about LSU and the SEC, but in this case ... not so much. For starters, I'm not sure what sort of horrible past experiences Richard has had with limousines, but I imagine they must have been pretty severe for him to think that their use automatically signals "a significant step down in class" from falsely accusing another coach of a recruiting violation. He's correct that the majority of recruits will be "impressed without really being persuaded," but who, exactly, is claiming otherwise? Luper himself says he's not sure what impact it will have. And as for recruits turning against Auburn because of it, well, maybe like the Lord God woodpecker there's a few rare specimens of this species out there somewhere. But judging from the 16- and 17-year-old high school football players I've met in my time, the numbers that are going to be not just less-than-amused but actively "turned off" by a giant kick-ass limo, dude, pulling right up to the school! are very, very few indeed.

Lastly, no one is going to be "genuinely persuaded" by the Limo Gambit. No recruit is going to come to the end of the recruitment process, weigh Auburn against his other choices, and say to himself, "Well, everything's equal, so I would play for this other team, but that limo I saw that one day was just so damn tight I think I'll have to go Auburn, the School of Limos." We know this, the coaches know this. But even so--what's the connection between this and being a "prima donna"? Because a kid happens to like vehicles that draw attention to themselves, they're more likely to draw attention to themselves on the football field? That's some awfully flimsy armchair psychology in my opinion, and is frankly the sort of thing that's only going to be said by Scarbinsky's stereotypical "middle-aged man."

Perhaps I'm being too harsh on Richard here; he's a good blogger, no disputing that. But this is the exact opinion adopted and rehashed by non-Auburn fans all over, and though the offseason is always a time for making mountains out of molehills, the idea that this publicity stunt (and an apparently successful one at that) is somehow "an embarrassment" for Auburn is mindless, knee-jerk fuddy-duddyism at its finest. Richard writes that "this sort of thing signals that Auburn is going to become the Fabulous Freebirds of college football," and provides this pic:

Now, I don't know anything about their wrestling characters, but based on that picture alone I'd say the Fabulous Freebirds look like the sort of people who aren't above playing dress-up and acting a little crazy as long as they're having a good time with it ... and I'm going to come right out and say I'd much rather knock back a few beers with those guys than, say, John Chavis.

Yes, on some level that metaphor works. But I think that's a good thing.

*One caveat: I think K-Scar overreaches a bit arguing that Saban's de facto "no comment" when asked about the Limo Gambit should be interpreted as "I wish I'd thought of that." Maybe Saban does, but I think it's more just a case of him understandably not wanting to give Auburn the satisfaction of even a half-response.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Works, meathouse-style

You will be missed, Tez Doolittle. Mostly for the whole "unexpectedly stout play at one of the most critical positions on the defense" thing, but also for quotes like the following:
Doolittle, an Opelika native and six-year defensive tackle at Auburn, went undrafted Saturday and Sunday, but was quickly scooped up by the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent. He will fly to Seattle on Thursday to go through minicamp.

“I’m going to be like a blind dog in a meathouse,” Doolittle said.
Not just a dog, and not even an "angry" or "hungry" dog ... a blind dog. And a blind dog not "after a piece of steak," as the defensive cliche is usually expressed, and not in a steakhouse or a smokehouse or some other such generally recognized term for a building that would house delicious cuts of meat ... but a blind dog in something called a meathouse. This, ladies and gentleman, is what WIN is made of. Seattle ain't ready.

But we do have to sound a sad note while discussing the fate of Auburn's undrafted free agents, because, uh, Doolittle and Rod Smith (on his way to San Diego, you'll recall) appear to be the lucky ones. With still no reports of other Auburn-related free-agent signings, it now seems safe to assume there aren't any. So for Brad Lester, Tristan Davis, Jason Bosley, and Merrill Johnson: hoo boy, does that suck. I guess maybe they could still attend camp somewhere? Maybe? I dunno. But here's an offer of condolences and well-wishing anyway.

Looking at these two lists, though, at least Doolittle and the rest had some pretty good company in the undrafted pool. Daniel Ellerbe? Top linemen from Penn St. and West Virginia? Jeremiah Johnson? Dude, Mitch King was the Big 10 Defensive Lineman of the Year if I'm not mistaken. You're weird sometimes, NFL teams.

ON THE PROWL. Screenshot of Rivals in the wake of the limo's debut down in Mobile:

Never seen anything like it! "Like their swagger"! Big splash! I should probably stop using exclamation points, but we are talking about seven Auburn assistants driving up to recruits' schools in a pimped-out stretch limo, so I don't think I can!

If you're wondering what sort of mind would come up with such a stunningly brazen scheme, Curtis Luper would like you to know it's the same mind that can say things like this with a straight face:
"This is unprecedented in college football this time of year," Luper said.
Yeah, I guess there's not really much point in humility once you've committed to The Limo, is there?

The more important takeaway from that post, though, is this: there really is a method to Limo Madness beyond, well, spending a week cruising through Alabama in a limo. The staff believes that something big and splashy is necessary to re-establish Auburn's in-state bona fides, and the limo idea is certainly big and even more splashy. With spring now behind us, Chizik and Co. clearly feel like this is the official Start of Something Special, so they might as well treat it like that, right? Who the hell knows how much of an impact it's going to make--even Luper admits that--but when the only real downside is a series of one-liners from all corners of the SECosphere (and having the coaches spread out for the week instead of concentrated in one spot, which, like, fat lot of good that did Tubby the past couple of years) and there's headlines all over the place, it makes sense to me. Prowl on, fellas.

More pictures here, and no, I don't know why those particular shirts were chosen, either.

Baseball. Plainsman Parking Lot says of last weekend's sweep at the hands of LSU: "To put it simply: the weekend sucked."

Yes, yes it did, but after Auburn's earlier string of one-run victories the worm turning into back-to-back one-run losses isn't all that surprising. The Tigers get back on the diamond tonight against Troy, but PPL is already looking ahead to the weekend series with Ole Miss and what it means for Auburn's chances of making the SEC tournament:
Let's play the Hypotheticals with Auburn. Say we win our final 3 Series but don't sweep (going 6-3). That puts us at 14-16. Meaning we'd probably be the final team in. Just barely.

Say we lose (but don't get swept in one of those series, and it's not the UK series). That puts us at 13-17. Meaning we'd miss the Tournament (just barely) because we'd lose the Tiebreaker to South Carolina.

So, it's simple. Win and your in. Just playing the hypotheticals, we MUST WIN our next two series at the least. We get swept by Ole Miss this weekend and we are pretty much done.
Yipes. Old buddy P-Marsh has a few thoughts on the baseball team's woes as well, blaming Auburn batters who swing for the fences literally rather than metaphorically.

Yep. Not that he's telling us anything we didn't know, but Andy Bitter's look at Auburn's offensive line situation is still worth reading in that Stephen King horror-in-black-and-white sense. The starters are of course actually a decent-to-good group, but here's Bitter's projection of the second string:


* OL Bart Eddins, Jr., 6-4, 290
* OL Jared Cooper, So., 6-4, 300
* LG Darrell Roseman, Jr., 6-4, 294
* OT Vance Smith, So., 6-2, 255
* OL A.J. Greene, So., 6-5, 279
Or, left to right: injured, never played, injured and never played, converted tight end, converted defensive end. Look, I'm just not going to discuss or even think about this until August, OK? Is that fair? I think it's fair.

Etc. A worthwhile SEC roundtable at CFN, including an interesting discussion on whether anyone can challenge Florida in the East (i.e., hells to the naw they can't) ... Blutarsky examines why USC can't win national titles anymore despite supplying half the bodies in the NFL draft ... and in the start of what promises to be a terrific series, at TeamSpeedKills Year2 delves into Mark Richt's Pythagorean record and thinks this could be a rough year in Athens.

The wrong objective

Non-beloved, non-legendary Atlanta Journal-Constitution non-columnist Terence Moore submitted his final column today after accepting a voluntary buyout from the beleaguered newspaper. (Note: "beleaguered" is, technically, a redundancy.) The column itself, titled "To Braves, Hawks, Falcons, Thrashers: Good is for losers" is typical Moore: a mixture of the blindingly obvious (Atlanta's pro sports teams are not yet championship-caliber) with the stunningly wrongheaded (they're going to stay this way forever ... why?) and a misinformed cheap shot at Georgia fans tacked on at the end. It's not good, it's not even really in the same ballpark as "good," but as Moore columns go, it's actually par for the course: sometimes he doesn't even get the "blindingly obvious" stuff down right.

But this particular column isn't even the point. The point is in the "ediotr's note" that prefaces the oclumn, and which reads like so:
Editor’s note: This is Terence Moore’s last column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Terence has decided to take a voluntary buyout, ending a stellar 24 years as a sports columnist. Terence sums up his time this way: “My objective was to get people to think, not to agree or disagree, just to get people to think.” We thank him for making all of us think and wish him the best as he moves on to new endeavors.
No. No. That is not the correct objective for a sports columnist. Moore is, in fact, supposed to try and get his readers to agree with him--this is the point of his position, to elucidate, inform, analyze, help his readers understand the sports they're subscribing to his paper to follow. "Making people think" isn't the same thing as "getting them to understand." If Moore really doesn't care if you agree or disagree with him, then he doesn't have anything at stake in what he's written beyond how much attention it's getting--he's admitted to writing things even he doesn't truly believe, just for the sake of stirring the proverbial pot. On these here Interwebs, we call this "trolling."

A recent fisk at BHGP reminded me of this sterling and apropos quote from Fire Joe Morgan, may it rest in the awesomest peace ever:
I, for one, am sick of wrongheaded writers telling me I love to hate them when in fact I hate to hate them. A note to Baylessian contrarians: you should take no joy in being so wrong about something that throngs of people rise up as one to denounce you. This should not be what it means to be a writer. When thousands of people write you angry emails about something you said or wrote that was wrong, you should not shrug your shoulders and say, "I must be doing something right if I got so many people interested!" No, sir. Sir, no. You were wrong. That is the end of the story. You were so wrong you made people angry. There is no glory in your profound wrongitude. Please stop doing this.
Trust me, Terence Moore: it was never your job to make me think. It was your job to explain why I should think the same way you think. Forgive me, but I think the inability to understand the difference between those two objectives--why the first gets you only halfway to where you need to be, why not risking being right can only result in being wrong--goes a long way towards explaining why neither Terence Moore nor tons of other former sports columnists have their job at all anymore.

Monday, April 27, 2009

That smell on the recruiting trail is the cheap champagne

So I saw the above picture at Auburntron and thought to myself "You know, that's almost kind of understated. If you're going to pimp out a limo in Auburn colors to take to Game Day or on the road to T-Town or Athens or wherever, you might as well just go all the way and have a giant Aubie painted along the top, huge burnt orange and navy blue racing stripes, a hot tub in the very back with Matt Targett doing tiny, tiny laps ... I mean, once you've already invested in an Auburn-themed stretch limo, why hold back?"

Then I found out the answer was "because the limo is being used by Auburn's coaches as a recruiting tool and they don't want to look too 'conspicuous consumption' when they pull up to the home of a kid whose Dad lost his job three weeks ago." I kid you not, this is the info from the Rivals header:
In what is being termed the first annual "Tiger Prowl", seven Tiger coaches, the most a program can have out at one time, will be cruising the state of Alabama this week in a decked-out Auburn limousine.
3SiB got in the first of what will surely be many jabs at this cunning plan. Me, I just think it's funny imagining the likes of Gus Malzahn and Phillip Lolley hanging out in the back of this thing with Luper and Troop as they cruise up and down Highway 280 or 43 to Mobile. And hell, if we're sending seven assistants all out together in the same vehicle, might as well let them make an entrance, right? An old Dodge van bought from the local Korean church isn't going to cut it.

That said: oh, the jabs, they are going to be plentiful.

Draft stuff

Not taken Saturday, but probably a fair representation of Sen'Derrick Marks's reaction to getting drafted, yes?

So, there was an NFL Draft this weekend. Unless you're an Auburn fan who's living in a house at the top a tree, you're aware that:

1. Sen'Derrick Marks went to the Tennessee Titans late in the second round with the 62nd pick overall;

2. Jerraud Powers went to the Indianapolis Colts with the 92nd overall pick, late in the third;

3. Tyronne Green became the second former Auburn player on the San Diego offensive line when the Chargers took him in the fourth round, No. 133 overall.

A handful of players hoping to get their name called--Tez Doolittle, Brad Lester, etc.--didn't get picked up, but there weren't any shockers. For Auburn's draft hopefuls as a whole, things actually went much better than expected: both Marks and Green were taken in the upper range of when they were expected to be off the board, and Powers wasn't supposed to be a third-round pick on any mock boards I saw.

So yeah, as far as the "Auburn gets guys paid (eventually)" argument I know our coaches would love to sell on the recruiting trail goes, things could have gone a lot worse. The picks extend to six years two different streaks--having a minimum three players drafted and having at least one Tiger go in the first two rounds--that it's nice to see continue, especially in a draft in which, and I quote, "UConn had more players picked on Day 1 (four) than Florida, Oklahoma, Michigan and Penn State (three) combined." A few thoughts:

--So much for Powers making some horrible, life-rending mistake by coming out early, huh? I'd like to think the more volatile edges of Auburn's fanbase would remember this the next time a kid decides to leave early and comes in for some excoriation, but oh well, I wanted him to stay too. In the end it may have been a win-win situation for all involved: Powers winds up with third-round money and in a secondary where he'll probably see early time, and Auburn finds a way to keep Neiko Thorpe developing on the field in what should be something akin to a rebuilding year.

--Further recommendation for Powers's decision comes from the fact that it's the Colts and Bill Polian who were doing the reaching for him. Polian has a long track record of successful drafting--I mean, there's a reason the guy has been the Colts' president/GM since the late Cretaceous--so it's not like Powers was getting the benefit of the doubt from Al Davis's Dessicated Corpse or anything. I'm still not sure how on earth Powers got drafted ahead of D.J. Moore, but the Colts probably know more about it than I do, right?

--More on the situations Auburn's players find themselves in from Andy Bitter, here telling us the Titans are in fairly serious need of DTs (i.e. why they took Marks when they did) and relaying quite the intriguing quote re: his reaction to the Auburn coaching turnover, and here informing us the Chargers expect Green to play center at the next level.

--Not surprising when you consider that both Power and Marks were taken a little ahead of schedule, but Auburn players didn't help their new teams into Mel Kiper's good graces. He gave the Titans, Colts, and Chargers each a grade of "C+" for their draft, calling Green a "good selection" while saying Powers was taken "a little high" and Marks was "a bit overhyped, but he wasn't a bad reach at No. 62."

Of course, the entire concept of draft grading the day after is ridiculous--yeah, obviously the Raiders blew it the way they always do, and the Bucs trading up to grab Josh Freeman (Josh Freeman!) was silly, but neither Kiper nor anyone else really has any idea whether the Colts, Chargers, or Titans had a better or worse draft than an other of two dozen teams. The NFL draft is the kind of thing for which the term "crapshoot," i.e. the shooting of crap, was invented.

--Abilene Christian, a D-II school in Abilene, Texas, had as many players drafted (2) as Michigan (2), or as many as Miami (1) and Tennessee (1) combined. Helps explain why each of those teams struggled so badly last year, right? (Likewise, despite the three players in total, that Auburn has just one senior drafted goes some way towards explaining DEATH as well.)

--Braves and Birds nails the exhausting nature of the OMG CHARACTER ISSUEZ caterwauling that's a now annual occurrence leading up to the draft:
It's not easy to evaluate Andre Smith as a left tackle. It's easy to get up on the soap box and attack him for showing up to the Combine fat.
Smith, of course, went sixth overall and will probably anchor the Bengals' line for years. As Michael says, "it's almost like NFL teams remember that Warren Sapp and Randy Moss both plummeted out of the top ten for character issues and are both going to end up in the Hall of Fame." Word.

--I just thought this was interesting:
What's up with Chicago's crush on Vandy? With the Bears picking Vanderbilt cornerback D.J. Moore in the fourth round (119th overall), Lovie Smith's team is turning into the Commodores-North. Moore will have as teammates in Chicago four other ex-Vandy players: quarterback Jay Cutler, offensive tackle Chris Williams, receiver Earl Bennett and linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer.

By one unofficial count, there are six other Vanderbilt products in the entire rest of the NFL -- or one more than in Chicago.
More quality SEC-wide reaction from Team Speed Kills.

--Rod Smith has signed with the Chargers, Tez Doolittle with the Seahawks. No word yet I can find on the rest of Auburn's free agents.

Google surveys the recruits: Izauea Lanier

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

Gordo's Izauea Lanier set a couple of firsts with his Auburn commitment. One was that he became the first new commitment of the Gene Chizik era, forever becoming the answer to a trivia question in the world's most Auburn-centric game of trivia.

The second is that he's the first-ever "Google surveys the recruits" subject whose last name isn't even necessary for Google purposes. Like Tigger, Izauea (pronounced "Isaiah") is the only one.

Basics: From the ever-invaluable Auburn Signing Day information sheet:

Izauea Lanier
DB, 6-0, 185
Gordo, AL (Gordo HS)
High School Coach: David McKinney

HIGH SCHOOL: As a senior, rushed for 871 yards and had 870 yards receiving, while also recording 68 tackles with seven interceptions on defense ... Also returned one punt and one kickoff for scores ... Named Star of Alabama for his performance against West Blocton, rushing for 166 yards and four touchdowns and adding 89 returns yards, while also collecting 10 tackles and an interception ... As a junior, had 25 catches for 687 yards and eight touchdowns, returned one punt and one kickoff for scores, and had 38 tackles and five interceptions on defense
You can see that at 6-0 and 185, Lanier is like many of his fellow members of the Auburn recruiting class of 2009 in that he is small, fast, and athletic. Unlike LaVoyd James, Travante Stallworth, Demond Washington, etc., however, Lanier will be small, fast and athletic in the defensive backfield: he's been expected to be a DB (and probably a safety) since the day he committed.

Recruitnik hoo-ha: Unfortunately, the gurus--as with James and Stallworth--aren't all that high on Lanier. The biggest pessimists are at Scout--they give Lanier just two stars and ranked him the No. 150 wide receiver.

Of course, maybe that's the problem--the other two services didn't peg Lanier as a WR and perhaps as a result were decidedly more enthusiastic. Not crazy enthusiastic, mind you, but ESPN does rate him as a 77 (their "run-of-the mill three-star" grade), rank him the No. 73 athlete, and have this to say:
Lanier is an impressive athlete with all the tools to develop into a good skill player at the next level. He has the size, speed, smooth hips and ball skills that should make him more coveted on the recruiting trail. ... Can change speeds and kick into a second gear when needing to pull away in the second level. Top-end play speed is very good ... Can change direction sharply with gearing down much ... Could get a look at safety with his good range, breaking quickness and long frame. Return skills add to his upside. Overall, Lanier is a very versatile athlete and a kid who could provide depth and a spark in all three phases of the game at the next level.
So there's some optimism there, though it seems to mostly be for Lanier's offensive potential rather than defensive.

Rivals is another small step up the approval ladder, calling Lanier the 19th-best prospect in the state, the nation's No. 54 athlete, and a three-star recruit with a grade of 5.7--a slight uptick from the 5.6's handed out to most of Auburn's three-stars. Somebody there thinks he's got at least a little upside.

Still: the consensus across the three services is that Lanier is an average-at-best recruit by Auburn's usual standards, and there's not a ton of help from the offer list. Kentucky was Auburn's biggest competitor for his signature, with Mississippi St. and Troy his only other confirmed suitors. Could be worse, but could be better. Perhaps it's also worth noting that the Tubby regime wasn't interested: he didn't get an offer until Chizik arrived and committed almost immediately.

Links of potential interest: No one's bothered to give the world any free Izauea Lanier highlight footage, and we're all the poorer for it.

I suspect Lanier is used to having his name mangled by now, but still, that the T-Town News video accompanying this rather well-done Signing Day story calls him "Ivauea Lenoir" had to bring a shake of the head. It's worth watching regardless, for both Lanier's and his coach's comments, the latter of which included a claim that Lanier would be "a four or five-star" if he wasn't going to a small school like Gordo. Not quite, I'm guessing, but certainly trying to draw attention to yourself from Gordo doesn't do you any favors.

You wouldn't think that there would be much of an Auburn legacy coming out of a Tide-centric area like Pickens County, but Courtney Taylor was apparently a pretty big role model for Lanier: he told Jay Tate as much ("I came down here with Courtney (Taylor) starting in ninth grade, so I've always been about Auburn ... he changed a lot of people's minds") and he made no doubt about it in that T-Town News story:
Lanier, a multi-purpose athlete for the Greenwave, said he expects to get a chance to play safety for the Tigers, but he also feels confident in his ability to play wide receiver.

"I've been going to Auburn on and off since my ninth-grade year, like when Courtney Taylor was there," Lanier said. "I used to go down there a lot. I just fell in love with it then, so me getting this opportunity to go to Auburn, I just took it the first chance I got."

Taylor, a former Auburn wide receiver, played for Carrollton High School. Lanier lived in Carrollton before moving to Gordo for his sophomore season.

Lanier said his love for Auburn didn't change, even when Gene Chizik replaced Tommy Tuberville as head coach. Lanier was the first high school senior to announce a verbal commitment to Auburn after Chizik got the job. Lanier said he got to know the new coaching staff when he went for a visit on Jan. 16.

"It really didn't change at all as far as what coach was there," he said. "It was more about me playing for Auburn.

"I knew a lot of people were happy that I decided to go to school. Nobody's been to college to play football (from Gordo) in 25 years, so it's really like a good thing for me to be the first one out of 25 years."
There's not a ton out there on Lanier, but there's some brief reports of his high school exploits here, here, and here--that last one is the huge game against West Blocton:
Lanier anchored a Greenwave rushing attack that piled up 276 yards.

He scored on runs of 38, 8, 10 and 64 yards. He also had 89 return yards and had three solo tackles, seven assists and one interception on defense.
Not a bad night's work.

Somebody at ESPN thought enough of Lanier to mention him as a reason Auburn's 2009 class stayed in their top 25:
Athlete Izauea Lanier (Gordo, Ala.) was Chizik's first commitment in his return to The Plains. Lanier's is an underrated skill player with the versatility to play both safety and receiver.

Apparently there was some doubt that Lanier might qualify. Jay Tate's post-Signing Day wrap on Lanier read like so:
Auburn's new coaching staff viewed film of Lanier's work at cornerback and soon made an offer to play defense. He's more raw on that side of the ball, which signals a longer learning curve. Lanier said recently that his grades have improved significantly since his junior year and he expects to qualify.
"Expects" in these parts = not guaranteed just yet. But it's hard to think of Lanier being in too much danger when TV station WCBI is citing him as some kind of nebulous example that "Athletics & Academics Go Hand In Hand," right?

Anyway, Tate also touches on another consensus opinion regarding Lanier: he's going to redshirt. Between Auburn's depth at safety and the inevitable adjustment period to becoming a defensive back full-time, it's hard to see Lanier contributing as a true freshman.

Hey, Lanier was voted Gordo's Class of 2009 Most Athletic! Sweet! Then again, it might have been a very, very bad sign if he wasn't voted Most Athletic in the senior class at Gordo.

What conclusions we can draw, if any: Lanier's coming into a tough situation: sure, he's got some versatility to him, but that versatility allows him to play two positions--wide receiver and safety--that happen to be two of Auburn's most competitive on the roster. Combine that with Lanier's relatively substantial lack of guru approval, and it's hard to see him contributing any time soon.

Of course, with a late-offered three-star recruit like Lanier, no one's expecting a home-run: the question is whether he'll find his way onto the field at any point, and there's plenty of reasons to think he'll accomplish that. For starters, it really is easier for the services to overlook players from outposts like Gordo. He seems to have the athletic goods--would he have had that much success across his various high school positions if he didn't? With coaches of Thigpen's and Chizik's quality around, if that athleticism is there you would think they would find a way to sculpt it into a dependable player. Lanier will have his shot.

Lastly: you have to be feel good for a kid who's been holding down the Auburn fandom for years in an area that close to Tuscaloosa, right? He's got an uphill climb, but here's hoping for the best for him.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy Draft weekend

OK, so I'm not going to finish anything substantial this afternoon, not with the sun finally coming out in Michigan for what feels like the first time since late 2002. But before grabbing the weekend with both hands, I did want to pass along this post by Jay discussing the possibility that stone-cold Auburn legends Jason Campbell and Ronnie Brown could be traded during this weekend's NFL Draft. Trading away Miami's most efficient offensive weapon seems a little on the peculiar side for the Dolphins, but, you know, he's Keith Hernandez Bill Parcells, so he can do whatever.

So keep an eye on that, and while we're on the subject if how awesome Ronnie Brown is, enjoy the following YouTube classic, featuring what's probably my favorite musical selection for a highlight package ever:

Enjoy your weekend.

Schedule gibbering

So earlier this week Blutarsky posted a link to a page at Phil Steele's place ranking 2009 schedules by 2008 winning percentage. This approach (which gets a lot of play in NFL circles when their schedules are released) has a couple of gaping, obvious flaws, which is why Steele disavows it even as he offers up the info: first, last year's winning percentage is no guarantee of this year's winning percentage, and secondly going undefeated against, say, the Sun Belt is just a wee bit less difficult than doing it in the SEC or Big 12.

With all that said, it was still something of a shock to click over and see the following top 10:

1 Florida St
2 Oklahoma St
3 Syracuse
4 South Carolina
5 Auburn
6 Baylor
6 Mississippi St
8 Wyoming
9 Texas Tech
10 Miami, Fl

Those numbers, from left, are team's 2009 opponents' win-loss record, win percentage, and the number of teams on the 2009 slate with winning records in '08. If Auburn was playing their 2009 schedule in 2008, it would, without question, be one of the toughest schedules in the nation.

But what about playing their 2009 schedule in, you know, 2009? Is "fifth-toughest in the nation" at all accurate? That'll depend on whether Auburn's 2009 opponents live up to their 2008 pedigree. So while this is not a full-scale preview of Auburn's fall opponents and I reserve the right to change my mind four more times before the season actually starts, I figure it'll be worthwhile to provide a quickie guess as to whether Auburn's 2009 opponents will be better or worse than they were last season, in the effort to gauge how close to "fifth-toughest" the slate's actually going to be. Like so:

1. Louisiana Tech
2008 record: 8-5
Stock arrow: Up, unfortunately. Every time I remember the Gene Chizik era's kicking off with a well-coached team that's gotten progressively better every year under Dooley I kick the wall. The Bulldogs return nine offensive starters, including the entire offensive line, and seven on defense. Ugh.

2. Mississippi St.
2008 record: 4-8
Stock arrow: Up, slightly. Mullen will have them much better-coached on offense, and they'll be more experienced, but there's still so little talent here by SEC standards.

3. West Virginia
2008 record: 9-4
Stock arrow: Down. No Pat White, huge losses on the offensive line, Bill Stewart in charge. Don't see them winning 9 again.

4. Ball State.
2008 record: 12-2
Stock arrow: Down. Especially without the likes of Nate Davis and without the coach that put that team together, somehow I don't think Ball St. is going to interject itself into the "BCS wild card!" discussion two years in a row.

5. Tennessee.
2008 record: 5-7
Stock arrow: Neutral. On the one hand, you wouldn't think the Vols could help being a little better, but then again they've lost half the defense and of their seven returning guys on offense, one of them is Jonathan Crompton. The schedule also exchanges Mississippi St. for Ole Miss at the worst possible time.

6. Arkansas.
2008 record: 5-7
Stock arrow: Up. Hogs dramatically improved in the second half of the season and now Petrino has the same quality of quarterback he enjoyed at Louisville. This year's Ole Miss, if you ask me.

7. Kentucky.
2008 record: 7-6
Stock arrow: Down. Dr. Saturday: "My guess ... is stagnation for a roster that doesn't look very different from last year's in any notable way. That means another round of tight, low-scoring games, not all of which will fall the Wildcats' way again, leaving them just on the wrong side of .500." Sounds right to me.

8. LSU.
2008 record: 8-5
Stock arrow: Up. LSU's not going 8-5 again. I'm not sure Jordan Jefferson is a savior, but the main problem was on defense, and Chavis should fix that.

9. Ole Miss.
2008 record: 9-4
Stock arrow: Neutral. That Snead is back and that the Rebels lost a couple of games last year in which they were the better team suggests improvement; that it's a Houston Nutt team getting a media tongue bath in the offseason suggests disappointment. So it should balance right back out to 9-4.

10. Furman
2008 record: 7-5.
Stock arrow: I'm not putting the effort into finding that sort of thing out today. But this should help illustrate how flawed this method of determining strength-of-schedule: Furman's 7 wins do count towards the total of 96 used in the table above.

11. Georgia
2008 record: 10-3.
Stock arrow: Down. Ruthless schedule, new QB, same on-again off-again defensive coordinator.

12. Alabama.
2009 record: 12-2.
Stock arrow: Down. I'm already sweating 2010, but going undefeated in the SEC two years in a row--this time with a new quarterback and revamped offensive line is a hard--just isn't happening.

Final verdict: That's five downs, three ups, one "up slightly," two neutrals, and one TBD. Add it all together and you get: No, Auburn's schedule isn't nearly as bad as that No. 5 ranking would suggest.

It's easy to see how Auburn would rank so highly by this method: we're playing two different teams that won 12 games last year, our I-AA patsy won 7, all four nonconference teams finished with winning records, Kentucky piled up four wins against (almost) the worst non-league slate imaginable. The odds of both Ball State and Alabama winning 12 again are nil; the I-AA team's record is irrelevant unless they're winning championships; Kentucky was kind of a fraud. So, yeah, it's far from the easiest slate Auburn could have put together. (I really, really wish we'd found a different opener.) But from this vantage point, it's not murderer's row, either.

Arond the Plains, 4/24

I think I could use a pair of shorts like those.

Champions. So I'm kind of stupidly behind on this, but better late than never, right? Anyways, the Auburn women's golf team took home an SEC championship last weekend. The team put together a Tiger-worthy charge on the final day of competition, going from 3 strokes down to Arkansas to win by a decisive 8. (By "Tiger-worthy," I of course mean "worthy of Auburn's long and distinguished athletic tradition" and not, you know, that Woods guy.)

The title is the program's first since 2006 and their seventh all-time, placing them third on the SEC list and just one behind second-place Florida. Not bad at all, ladies, not bad. War Eagle.

Beisbol. Oh, this is not going well. Plainsman Parking Lot, after Auburn fell to Samford 8-2 Tuesday, summarizes the current state of the team:
Last Night we lost to Samford. A team Auburn beat 18-7 earlier in the season (in a game where the Bulldogs trotted out 8 different pitchers)

-In that loss, Auburn had only 2 hits, (solo Home Runs). However, that's 2 hits. At home. To Samford.

-With the loss to South Carolina on Sunday, Auburn has now lost its last 2 SEC series. We are sitting at a cool 8-10, good enough for 8th place in the league

-Joseph Sanders, one of our top hitters (some might argue our best hitter), is now gone for at least 3 weeks after getting nailed by a pitch Tuesday, cracking his jaw.
Particularly with the upcoming slate looking as rugged as it does--a road series at LSU starts today--you might think Auburn's "Road to Hoover 2009!" was toast, but PPL notes that if they can win the May 8-10 Kentucky series in Lexington, they'll have the head-to-head tiebreaker with all four of the teams below them in the standings. So hope? Definitely not lost just yet, but the loss of Sanders and the general across-the-board decline in play mean there's a ton of work to do.

Gettin' paid, son. Also old, but worth noting: Nell Fortner got her much-deserved extension. She will earn more as Auburn's women's basketball coach than Charlie Weatherbie earned as UL-Monroe's football team when the Warhawks upset Alabama. I'm not sure what that means, exactly, but for some strange reason I feel compelled to make the comparison.

Also, they're smart. 10 different members of the Auburn national champion men's swim team made the SEC Academic honor roll ... including four swimmers majoring in "biomedical sciences." Damn.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Works, Too Much Information-style

How many links and stories are we covering today? I'll let Duran Duran explain:

Dude, the Wedding Album rocked, and I'll brook no argument on this one.

Chizik to Tubby: "You kind of sucked." The tidbit from Mark Schlabach's Chizik profile that's drawn the most attention is the Chiznick's contention that everything was peachy keen in Ames (and that he sees a "similar rebuilding job" at Auburn, but those are Schlabach's words, not Chizik's, who I suspect would have put it a little differently). But for me, the most intriguing quote from a story that offered us precious little insight into Auburn's new head man beyond "even ESPN's not going to get an especially juicy or creative quote out of the guy" is this one:
It didn't take Chizik long to realize why the Tigers struggled so badly last season.

"We've got some deficiencies right now and we've got to overcome that," Chizik said. "I think there's a difference from 2004. Depth is an issue at this point, and I think that's glaring. I left here in 2004, and compared to now, it's a different-looking team physically. We've got to ramp it up, and I think we can do that."
So a "glaring" lack of depth and "a different-looking team physically," huh? Hmmmm ... should we translate that as "my predecessor quit recruiting"? Because I think that's how I'm going to.

I'm not going to spoil it for you ... but you should know that this picture:

is paired with a related chart at the Auburner that's every bit as good as "chart at the Auburner" implies.

Yes. The cheap shot at Auburn's spring game crowd isn't necessary--since when do schools who set attendance records turning out for a coach who the school's fans are supposed to be unhappy with have their support called inadequate?--but K-Scar's column on the UCLA FAIL is otherwise dead-on. The highlight:
Losing the big payday of an eighth home game is no excuse.

Alabama played seven home games in 2008 and will again in 2009. How has that affected the bottom line? ...

By the way, a school official said Alabama earned about $2 million for playing Clemson last year. That's not as much as Alabama or Auburn earns for a home game, but the intangible benefits - see recruiting - are priceless ...

It would put Auburn in the spotlight, and let's face it. Auburn has to go the extra mile to earn national respect. It's not many miles to Atlanta, which offered a national stage in a home-away-from-home setting.
This link is also noteworthy for the comments, which blast Scarbinsky for daring to criticize the great Jay Jacobs with logic and sense and in the process set a new record for stupidity in an comment thread. That's not an easy bar to clear, as you know.

Krootin' links. I forgot yesterday to mention that Auburn has a very special recruiter hot on the Marcus Lattimore trail. I'll force you to click over to find out who, but it would help you to know the recruitment is being conducted by ... wait for it ... Facebook!!?!?

Also, courtesy of Lifetime of Defeats, here's some free Rivals video discussing Auburn's "buzz" on the recruiting circuit, highlighted by some film of Shon Coleman:

As you can see, Coleman really is one very, very large gentleman. LoD also runs us through Auburn's top 10 2010 recruiting targets. Linemen figure prominently, as you might imagine.

So much for that. Recruiting pedigree and all, Phelon Jones is not coming to Auburn:
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound cornerback from Mobile's McGill-Toolen Catholic School received a release from LSU on April 3 to talk with coaches at Auburn, but his father, Tony Jones, said the Tigers do not have a spot for him. Jones said his son, who started two games at cornerback in 2008 and saw extensive action as a nickel back, would like to consider transferring to Alabama or Troy, but has not been released by LSU to talk with those schools.

"Phelon wanted to come back home and play," the elder Jones said. "In talking to (Auburn head coach Gene) Chizik, he's not making it happen. The NCAA said he would count in the 2010 scholarship class and Chizik just doesn't have enough scholarships."
I'm a little surprised--and, yeah, kinda disappointed--that Chizik can't make room for a player of Jones's quality, but it's preferable to him saying "Welcome aboard!" and then praying somebody decides to transfer to Wyoming at the last minute without a word of explanation to relieve a numbers crunch, that's for damn sure. On top of that, with Bell, Thompson, Slade, etc. showing well in the spring and Paige and Washington coming in this fall, the secondary might be one of two places on the team--RB the other, of course--where Auburn really isn't in all that much need of help.

Speaking of the depth chart in the secondary ... Andy Bitter is breaking the entire Auburn roster down position-by-position in the wake of spring practice and is doing a hell of a job with it. A sample from the secondary post:
Jerraud Powers' decision to enter the NFL Draft might not be the blow everybody thought it would be. The secondary is undoubtedly the deepest position Auburn has on the defense, with three starters returning from last year, another player who nearly started before injuring his knee in two-a-days (Savage) and a former nickelback who is coming into his own (Thorpe). Despite injuries that kept both Etheridge (shoulder) and McNeil (broken leg) out for part of spring drills, Auburn has plenty of bodies to take their place, with three sophomore safeties eager to get their shot. The Tigers had so much depth, in fact, that safety Marcus Jemison moved to linebacker and cornerback Harry Adams moved to wide receiver, which tells me the coaches are very comfortable with this group.
Linebackers are here, the defensive line here. Enjoy.

Inevitable. This is making the rounds in record time, but I'd encourage you not to scoff at the chance to by your own Auburn Snuggie. After all, check this guy out:

He's hanging with two hot chicks! Then again, kissing the one on the right would taste like eating something batter-dipped you can't quite place and the one one the right would whisper things like "I'm gonna run up the score on you, baby ... you want me to roll over for you in the big game?" in your ear, and that would just be weird. So maybe you should pass. (HT: WRAS.)

Feelin' a draft. Luke Brietzke tells us not to tune in if we're just hoping to see Auburn players picked up:
Kiper doesn't think any Auburn player will get selected on the first day. In fact, the first player he has getting selected is offensive guard Tyronne Green, who Kiper currently has slated to get taken with the 91st overall pick.
After Green, Kiper only projects one player to get drafted in the first four rounds -- DT Sen'Derrick Marks.
Brietzke also wonders aloud how it is that a disruptive DT like Marks--one of the hardest commodities to come by in the NFL--has fallen as far as he has. The guess here: he's just not that physically intimidating, and let's face it, as good as he was last season he could have been a shade better, too. I think he'll succeed in the NFL, but I don't think it's an outrage he's slipping, either.

Been waiting' for this one. Acid Reign offers his now-annual (I hope?) review of the A-Day game and is less than impressed with the quarterback play:
Beyond the first quarter, the quarterbacks mostly had ALL DAY to throw the football, with excellent protection. Did we have a guy step up and prove that he can be an excellent starting SEC quarterback? Sadly, no.

The offense, under Kodi Burns, had much early success. But, it was mainly on handoffs to Tate, Zachary, and McCaleb. On most of his eight passing attempts, Kodi still seemed to be throwing off balance. There was a high throw to Carr on the hitch. A bomb to Fannin into coverage that should have been intercepted. A slip screen to Spry WAY behind him. An underthrown post pattern to a wide open Derek Winter that allowed the safety to close. An overthrow out of bounds on the screen to Spry, with pressure coming. A line drive on a post to wide-open Winter, no air under it, overthrown. That was six bad throws on 8 attempts. The capper was Kodi, late, deciding to try and run for it on 3rd and 27. Bear in mind, though, that if the quarterback had been live in this one, Kodi probably could have run for 200 yards.
Acid goes on to say that Caudle had his moments, but wasn't quite as good as some fans made his performance out to be, either. On the positive side: I don't think I've seen anyone else note that Byrum was sticking his kickoffs inside the 5 with regularity. That would be a big help if he can keep that up in the fall. Anyways, tons of good stuff.

Lowder = nuclear cockroach, as usual. TeamSpeedKills' Year 2 took a look at the current status of Bobby Lowder this week, noting this article reporting a potential $300 million infusion that could save Colonial. But the deal is fragile and Colonial could collapse around Lowder's ears anyway. Year 2 summarizes:
(E)ven with this development, Colonial isn't in great shape. It's financial strength rating is E+, with A being the top mark on the scale. Plus, some shareholders are suing the company over Lowder being somewhat dishonest last December about disclosing regulatory actions taken by the state of Alabama. Tiger fans, try to contain your shock.

In any event, Colonial will almost certainly be headed for insolvency and FDIC receivership at some point if this round of private and public funding falls through. Many had given up on the possibility of Colonial getting enough private money to qualify for government loans, but at the last minute it's back on the table.

What does this mean for Auburn?

Well, it means we can't yet say that the recession will K.O. Bobby Lowder. It's brought him down pretty far, but he's not out yet. Then again, given his realm of personal influence it's difficult to predict that he'll ever truly be out of Auburn's business while he still draws breath without intervention from the law or the NCAA.
I think we all agree on that last part, but I think we all also agree that if Lowder doesn't have megamillions to dangle in front of the school like a carrot on a stick, he also won't have as much influence as he's had before. It's a story worth tracking.

Thankful for this. Bruce Feldman reports on the West Virginia spring game:
Completing his first 15 passes and 21-of-28 before retiring for the afternoon, (new QB Jarrett) Brown threw for 273 yards and four touchdowns in the Gold team's 35-7 mismatch with the Blue in West Virginia's spring-ending scrimmage Saturday at Mountaineer Field.
Dr. Saturday delves further:
Saturday, though, was the most clear evidence yet that, with White taking his show on the road, the Rodriguez-era spread 'n shred is kaput, replaced by Mullen's insistence on balance. Brown, despite his forgettable relief efforts in the crucial '07 losses to South Florida and Pittsburgh, was always considered a more traditional passer than White, and completed his first 15 passes -- against the second-team defense, it must be noted, but still -- while dropped back on a Texas Tech-like 25 of 34 snaps in the first half.
So: that West Virginia team that ran Auburn silly last fall and has generally been the most explosive rushing team in the nation over the past few years? That's not going to be the West Virginia team that's coming to Jordan-Hare this year. They've been replaced by a team headed up by Bill Stewart with a green-as-can-be offensive line that's going to throw the ball all over the place into the teeth of Auburn's strongest unit. It's way too early to say I like Auburn's chances, but I like them better than I did before I read these particular reports.

Etc. Garnet and Black Attack imagines a big-city Pitchfork type vs. an SEC football-lovin' type with humorous results ... kleph has some interesting thoughts at RBR regarding global culture, the perception of time, and the 1966 tie between Notre Dame and Michigan St. Like I said, interesting.