Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2009 Cheese Puff Previews: West Virginia

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:

Auburn residents, it's Week 3, so you'd better batten down the hatches: West By God Virginia is coming. In terms of the state, I'll let Toothpaste for Dinner give you the lowdown:

In terms of the football team, well, things are a little bit better than that. Or Jesco. The 'Eers won 11 games three straight seasons from 2005-2007, rolled up 271 rushing yards on Auburn at 7.7 a pop last year in Morgantown, and return seven starters from what was already one of the nation's better defenses. So even in Jordan-Hare, this looks like a difficult hill to climb, or, if you prefer, a long country road to hoe.

But--and this is a big but--this man is their head coach. Not the special teams coach, which is what he used to be. Not a coordinator, or the linebackers or tight ends coach or something, or even the lovable old coot nicknamed "Ol' Stumpy" who the administration lets dress up in a coaches' outfit and wear a headset on the sideline on his birthday. He's the head coach Auburn may not win, but as long as Stewart's there, I'll always believe they've got a shot.

Last year: Armed with Pat White, Noel Devine, a solid defense, and arguably the best offensive line in the country, the 'Eers were a preseason top-10 team assumed by many to be a serious threat to run the Big East table and squeeze into the national title game. Which made their back-to-back losses at East Carolina and Colorado in Weeks 2 and 3 something of a bona fide disaster that led to all kinds of awesomeness being unleashed on the Internet. (My favorite? Hyah.)

Unfortunately for us lovers of awesomeness, WVU rebounded to win their next five (including the aforementioned come-from-behind-and-finish-way-the-hell-ahead whipping of Auburn) and salvage a respectable 9-4 season. Unless, of course, you required at least one win over a team that finished the season in the final AP poll or a spot in the top two of one of the weakest single-season conferences in the BCS's history. In that case, it might have been a little less respectable.

Notable previous meeting: Last year's meeting was the first in the two teams' official history. However, an unofficial, impromptu exhibition game between the two schools reportedly took place in 1940 after a series of miscommunications that would eventually lead to an FBI investigation. Auburn coach Jack Meagher believed he had lined up a season-opening game against the Mountaineers in Morgantown, but after bringing his Tigers north by bus, he was informed upon his arrival that West Virginia coaches and officials had no knowledge of the game and ...

(You know what? This story isn't even close to being worth it. Not funny, not interesting, not plausible. Been trying to come up with something for a week, and I got nothin'. We're just going to move on. Sorry if you're a fan of this item. You're not, which makes me feel slightly better.)

Actual series history: West Virginia leads the all-time series 1-0.

Causes for Alarm

1. From West Virginia's Wikipedia page:
West Virginia University was the first in the world to establish a bachelor of science degree in Biometric Systems. In 2003 the university also founded the initial chapter of the Student Society for the Advancement of Biometrics(SSAB).[24] The program, located in the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering (LCSEE), provides a firm understanding of the underlying electrical engineering and computer engineering disciplines that support biometric applications.

On February 6, 2008, WVU became the national academic leader for the FBI's biometric research.
Now, I know biometrics is mostly about retina-scan and fingerprint-ID technologies to make sure Sticky-Fingers McRobberson doesn't get to walk into a bank vault. But would you put it past a program that "provides a firm understanding of the underlying electrical engineering and computer engineering disciplines that support biometric applications" to come up with a machine that sits on the sideline disguised as, say, a cooling fan, and emits a subsonic pulse that causes fatigue and discomfort in everyone in a 50--yard radius except the pre-programmed West Virginia players? Would you? Now that I think about it, I think this is the easiest explanation for why Auburn went from 17-3 ahead with the ball to a 34-17 loss.

2. Jarrett Brown has seen more time than most backup quarterbacks thanks to Pat White's occasional injury troubles ... but at the same time, how many backup quarterbacks spent three years as an understudy at the same school? Not many. Brown, on the other hand, has patiently waited Shockley-style to get his shot, and now he'll get it. Here's to hoping he skips the Shockley-like results, but I wouldn't past him.

Causes for Confidence

1. Bill Stewart.

OK, not just Bill Stewart, but the process by which Stewart became head coach, which went as follows:

1) Rich Rodriguez bolts to Michigan after various promises made by the WVU administration went unfulfilled
2) Stewart is named interim coach for the bowl game against Oklahoma, which the 'Eers win mostly by virtue of Rodriguez's offense as called by Rodriguez's offensive coordinator, who was set to leave for Michigan as well
3) Players make emotional plea for "Coach Stew" to take over as full-time head coach, because if there's one set of unbiased, rational judges of coaching talent out there, it's the coach's own players (or so says the Gators who carried Ron Zook off the field on their shoulders)
4) The very next day, without a formal interview process, Stewart is named head coach??!?!?!

Does this strike you as a competent, well-run organization? When has a player revolt in favor of the happy-go-lucky friendly uncle-type ever, ever worked? Auburn may or may not beat West Virginia this year, but this is not going to work long-term. And hey, maybe it won't work in the short term, either.

2. Stereotypes are awfully dangerous things, but there seems to be a pretty wide-ranging consensus that West Virginia fans are, by and large ... well, deeply, deeply unpleasant people. From Wire Road and Shug's report from the game in Morgantown (after noting that fans had been "so nice the whole time" before the night of the game):
We walked towards the stadium and it was like everyone in yellow had flipped a switch that said, "Get pissed". People are chanting, "asshole" at us constantly and telling us to go home. That's not even the worst of it, once in the stadium I can't even count the number of times we were told to "f*** off" or "go the f*** back to Alabama" or "orange and blue f***ing sucks". It seems they would rather be beligerant towards the road team than watch the game. Three times someone got in my face and cussed me out.
(Audio proof here.) Blogger and occasional commenter here Jimmy chimes in:
I spent all of last year in Morgantown at an internship and I warned everyone I knew about going there for the game. I witnessed some of the worst behavior imaginable. I lived next to the stadium and worked at the hospital. They would scream F*** you at young girls and people with families. During the Pitt game they threw glass bottles from the parking lot at fans walking by WITH KIDS. Grown adults have no problem jumping into peoples faces and forming a gang of drunken idiots around people. The fights never stop downtown and for Gods sake I am glad you did not venture out in Auburn gear after the game! It is a nasty college scene of drunken idiots. You can not imagine what a Monday at the hospitals are like there.
I know every fan base has its share of jackasses and jerks (the number of Auburn fans willing to yell "Go Buckeyes" or something similar at my Michigan friends during last year's road trip was definitely higher than I'd have liked), but this seems to be the reaction of nearly visiting fan who's ever set foot in Morgantown. Fans like these, like those who boo, do not deserve victory and surely cannot find too much favor with the football gods.

Actual alleged analysis: Always a good idea to start with Acid's preview of the game, but this is one of those rare cases where I find myself disagreeing with his conclusion, which is:
Auburn battles gamely, but the Mountaineers are too much, again. Auburn falls at home, 31-10.
It could happen, but the way I look at it, Auburn only lost by 17 in Morgantown last year, against a Mountaineer team that was much, much better than this year's will be--there's no way with the offensive line totally gutted (WVU returns one starter), White gone, their top three tacklers departed, excellent turnover luck (+12 last year) due to swing, and a new emphasis on the pass that WVU is going to be a 9-win team again. Auburn, on the other hand, should be improved. With Auburn moving up the ladder, West Virginia moving down, and the game in Jordan-Hare, shouldn't it be much closer than last year's edition?

Besides, on top of all of that, we're talking about a coaching staff headed up by Bill Stewart. I'll totally agree with Acid that the 'Eers are talented, but is this really the guy we'd expect to get the most out of that talent? I shouldn't judge him by the way he spoke to Erin Andrews during last year's Auburn telecast like a guy who still couldn't believe he'd been so ridiculously blessed as to have the job he has, but ... I'm going to anyway. He's not that guy.

And so I think Auburn has a good shot at this. A great shot ... eh, we'll see what both teams do in their respective first couple of weeks. But we're not going to see a replay of last year's debacle. That much, I'm sure of.


Some meat-and-potatoes reading for your lunch hour from around the Auburn beat:

--AuburnUndercover landed an interview with Tubby last week, and fortunately for the Auburn Internets-at-large, it's not behind the paywall. Most of his responses are by-the-book--it was "time to move on," he says he resigned, he feels like he did a good job at Auburn--but I thought his gauge of the current lifespan of a coach at a school like Auburn was interesting:
The days of coaches spending long careers at one school are over, Tuberville says. Florida State’s Bobby Bowden and Penn State’s Joe Paterno are the last of a generation.

“If you do a good job at a school, you are going to be there for 7-10 years,” Tuberville said. “It’s gotten harder. The media is tougher. You have to be able to handle all the things that are coming at you, a lot of truths and a lot of untruths. That didn’t bother me. I was able to handle that pretty well, but I ran myself ragged. I tried to do too much.
Eh, maybe: Meyer and Saban both have lifetime contracts if they want them, the bottom's going to have to seriously fall out on Mark Richt for him to get the boot, Miles could end up having a nice long stay at LSU if Michigan doesn't come calling ... I think the SEC should still have its fair share of 10-plus-year tenures.

Tubby also writes his own fitting Auburn epitaph, in a sense:
“We beat a lot more people that we weren’t supposed to beat than we lost to people we were supposed to beat.”
This is true.

(One other note: it really was a rough week last week for Marshall, who apparently was unaware the name of the Ole Miss lineman who's having the movie made about him was Michael Oher, rather than Michael Orr. We all make mistakes, and I knew who he was talking about, but ... this dude was arguably the most famous offensive lineman in the SEC for the past three years or so.)

--Marquis Daniels has been carrying the torch as Auburn's only player in the NBA for a little while now. Despite the fact that Indiana didn't pick up the option on his contract, that shouldn't be changing any time soon: Daniels still has plenty of value as a back-up combo guard (particularly if he can stay healthy), but he was overpaid based on the relatively fat contract he signed with the Mavericks several seasons ago after a year under Don "Career Year" Nelson.

--Jay G. Tate's on vacation, but he's left behind some more quality stuff on Auburn's coaches. Here's a kind of follow-up to his previous look at Ted Roof--"Roof concocted a se­ries of awkward sets and cover­ages that gave the Gophers a strategic advantage; Minneso­ta's resurgence wasn't serendip­ity"--and here's a Q&A with Tommy Thigpen. Much of it centers on the importance of technology and sometimes even race in recruiting and staff-building. I thought this was particularly revealing:
"You ask somebody: Why did you choose a place? I'm talking about the 18-year-old kids. They'll tell you "it felt right." Most people say that feeling has a lot to do with people knowing your name and feeling like they have a lot in common. That's where I come in. I know people's names, the mama's name, the uncle's name, the school teacher's name."
Thus Big Cat Weekend: Auburn's staff wants Auburn to "feel right" above all else. It's worked so far.

--The OA-News previews LSU.

--Auburn rising sophomore Marcus Rowland won the 100 meters at the U.S. Junior National Championships by running a 10.02. This means that every second, he ran 10 meters. That's 32.8 feet. Every second. Marcus Rowland is fast.

Krootin' 9/30

Dee Ford: fast as a Mustang?

Not a ton going on on the 'Krootin front ... this may be the calm before the storm we've been promised in July.

--First, this is more "reportin'" than "krootin'," and it's not new news, but might as well note here that Dee Ford and Jamar Travis joined Tyrik Rollison in reporting to Auburn's campus last week. Not that either one was a surprise, but given that Auburn couldn't really afford for its defensive line commits to not make it through the clearinghouse, it's good to hear.

If you weren't around when Google got to surveying those two, the Ford post is here and the Travis post is here.

--While we're on the subject of reporting, there appear to be more whispers that LaVoyd James isn't going to make it, but of course those whispers have been around for months now and there still hasn't been anything official, so we'll see.

--Cue the "in-state" caterwauling: Jarrick Williams has committed to 'Bama as expected, the winds from Corey Grant still seem to be blowing in either Florida's or 'Bama's direction (though he's still got a visit to Auburn on the docket), and even Auburn legacy recruit Davis Dudchock took Auburn's evident apathy towards tight ends in this class at face value and committed to Vanderbilt.

As I said last time out, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it so long as the out-of-state recruiting continues to bear fruit, Auburn closes on the in-state recruits it wants and earns a lead with, and there's some kind of step forward next year. But at some point, it would be nice to start seriously competing for the likes of Williams or netting an early commitment from a local stud like Grant.

--Then again, from one recently-released perspective, Auburn's not doing half-bad in-state. The Mobile Press-Register released its preseason "Elite 18" list, and unlike the Scout list several Auburn commits and leans figure prominently. Jeremy Richardson comes in at No. 6, Jawara White at No. 9, Jake Holland at No. 12, and potentially heavy Auburn lean D.J. Howard at No. 13. There's also this:
4. LaDarius Owens, LB, Jess Lanier (6-2, 225, 4.49). Physical freak made 92 tackles and 18 sacks in his first year of organized football last year. Uncle James Owens was the first black scholarship player at Auburn. Considering offers from Alabama, Auburn and LSU.
Knowing that the Register's list is put together with the assistance of the Rivals guys (who get quoted a couple of times, mostly about how the level of talent in-state has dropped), it's fair to say they're pretty damn high on Owens. If Auburn sews up Owens (as, again, even some well-connected 'Bama fans expect them to) and Howard, that's a third of this top 9 and as many as five members of the Register's top 13. For a first real crack at it for this staff, that'll do nicely. (If Auburn misses on Owens--for my money, as important a recruit as there is in the class--well, then things are much less encouraging.)

--Your every-other-weekly "offensive linemen, please" update has some good news: according to ESPN, Arkansas line prospect Dakota Mosley came away from a visit to Illinois saying the following:
Auburn's going to still be my No. 1 even after I leave here. They've been my No. 1 for a while now and I don't see that changing even after this visit.
Mosley doesn't have much of an offer sheet--La. Tech and Tulsa are his only other listed offers--and neither Rivals nor Scout have rated him yet, but a) he was graded a 79 at ESPN (albeit as a tight end) b) Auburn can't afford to picky about their offensive linemen, can they? c) at this stage of the game, if Auburn's coaches like him enough to come across with a firm offer, that's good enough for the benefit of the doubt. I know most you will file that last part under "Duh," but just for the record, if Georgia can take a commitment from a linebacker whose next-best offer was either Duke or Buffalo, we really shouldn't hear anything from the peanut gallery about Auburn taking an offensive lineman they're as high on as they seem to be. (I'll also admit here that the fact that Mosley is teammates with Michael Dyer might have something to do with Auburn's interest as well.)

One other note on the in-state thing: for a team in desperate need of offensive line help, man, did Auburn have some bad luck with the state's 2010 crop of linemen. The Register article mentioned 35 different players, and Chase Hughes is the only offensive lineman among them. At least Auburn's in good shape with him.

--Via Auburn by Beaver, future visitors to Auburn could include Wes Rea, Tim Jackson, and Jeffrey Whitaker. Georgia DT prospect Mike Thornton will also visit if this header is accurate, though I think he's expected to stay in-state.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Everybody else is doing it, so why can't we?

Sorry, not enough time this afternoon to put together a post with any substance, but there's a few links out there that are getting some wide play across the SEC-o-sphere and I thought I'd offer the proverbial Auburn spin on them. For instance ...


Jordan-Hare as done by NCAA '10. The rest of D-I is here if you haven't seen what you're looking for already. I haven't bought an NCAA game since its glory days in '04 and '05, and it's not likely I'm going to make the commitment this year, either ... but you do have to respect a franchise that takes the time to fill in the Haley Center behind the stadium, right? Now we just need to know if they've got the proper animation of the eagle flying down from the upper deck.

--Courtesy of Phil Steele, it's a listing of Vegas odds on the 2009 college football national champion. Auburn is listed at 200-1 alongside such notables as, let's see ... hmmm, Oregon St., South Florida, Boston College, and Arizona.

Then again, we can't really cry about disrespect, can we, when Illinois, Arkansas, and BYU are all listed at the same odds and don't quite have the same level of issues Auburn has? (My favorite bet on the board ... eh, either BYU, who could take advantage of Utah's offseason sabre-rattling if there's 2007-style attrition at the top of the polls, or Texas.)

--There's been some consternation out there regarding ESPN's apparent plan to phase out the disastrous Paul Maguire experiment (Hooray!) and phase in the allegedly sure-to-be-disastrous Matt Millen era (Boo!). But I can't say I'm anything but overjoyed the scourge of Maguire's "Watch this!" anti-analysis, since the basis for assuming Millen won't be able to cut it as a broadcaster is ... uh ... that he's a bad NFL general manager? That seems to pretty much be it, which is weird, since the skills of being a successful color analyst for a college football game and successfully running a National Football League franchise don't seem to have much in common. Besides, if you overlooked this picture when Dr. Saturday dug it up this morning ...

... you have to admit, looking at it now, he's probably not all bad.

More substance tomorrow.


After a rash of Auburn coaches taking the mic last week, over the weekend it became Jay Jacobs' turn. Jacobs did two separate Q&A's, each with accompanying newspaper article and web-based B-side extras. The OA-News's version is here and here, Andy Bitter's meatier version for for the Ledger-Enquirer here and here. The Bitter pieces, in particular, are full of interesting little nuggets. A few reactions:

--Reading comments to the OA-News like "I just know that we’re a couple years away from being the caliber team that we should be," it's pretty obvious that Jacobs has an accurate read on the situation and isn't chirping about being a handful of plays away from 8-4 or some such. That's something to be grateful for, I guess--and also explains why he might select a coach with as much of an emphasis on program-building as Gene "We Played This Many Freshmen For the Future, Did I Mention That? I Did? Chizik.

--The SEC TV money will go, in part, towards paying off the basketball arena. Fine by me, though I know if things go well for Auburn football there's going to be some raises to hand out.

--Not (not) saying I don't endorse this way of thinking, but it's still a little interesting to read Jacobs say Auburn's football players will grow "physically, mentally and spiritually" in the wake of Tony Franklin's comments about the, ahem, overabundance of religious references in the Auburn football program. Jacobs also makes several pointed references to his faith in the Ledger-Enquirer article. Fine by me, but it does give you a sense that for all the distrust and enmity between Jacobs and Tubby, this is one thing they probably had in common.

--Though speaking of Tubby, does it come as a surprise that he and Jacobs haven't spoken since Tubby left the program and that after all that "ambassador" talk, Tubby and Auburn would seem to be totally estranged at the moment? No, no it does not.

--And hey, on the topic of Tony Franklin, Bitter asks Jacobs "what you do think" about his recent comments, and Jacobs's response is basically "no comment." Unless you think "We wish Tony Franklin the best" qualifies as "comment." (It doesn't.)

--Bitter asks about the new staff's "envelope-pushing recruiting tactics," and Jacobs give an unequivocal, hearty thumbs-up. Given that Auburn was expected to self-report a couple of secondary violations after Big Cat and that Jacobs has always made a lot of noise (and makes noise here) about doing things "the Auburn way", I kind of wish he'd taken the opportunity to emphasize that "the Auburn way" will include abiding by the NCAA's recruiting rules. Not a huge deal, but just a little shading to the "Everything's swell!" response would have been appreciated.

--This sort of thinking (well, not the partkills me:
I knew that the thing that we have to do with 12 games is play, other than those eight SEC games, which are a playoff every Saturday, is that ninth game had to be a BCS opponent ... we’ll continue to have that BCS game. And we’ll have three games that are guaranteed home games, because … you can’t go through 12 weeks of playing SEC caliber schools.
Emphasis added, because you'll notice that Jacobs isn't arguing in favor of a precise number of home games--7 or 8, it doesn't matter, because if we're going to play a BCS school of any real quality, there's going to be 7 every other year anyway. The venue isn't really the issue. The quality of the opponent is. What Jacobs wants is three guaranteed wins every year, because apparently nine real games is enough for him. Meaning, as we've suspected all along, that shirking UCLA isn't about the extra home game or the revenue--it's about taking the gutless way out and not asking our football team to play two genuine non-conference opponents. Because Auburn's playing Clemson at home in 2010, they still would have had seven home games, same as they will in 2011, same as they will in 2013 (we would expect), same as Alabama had in 2007 and 2008 and will have in 2009 and 2010. Sorry, but as long as Jacobs is making this clear that his scheduling aim is one real team and three patsies, he can talk about the revenue and community and experience until he's blue in the face--he's scheduling like a coward.

(Even on the ca$h front, I'd love to know if the "$3 or $4 million" figure he cites as home game revenue is gross or net. Because if it's gross, once you take out the $1 million price tag for the tomato can's appearance fee, the financial difference isn't even all that great any more.)

--Beard-Eaves is going to face the wrecking ball. I don't think anyone's going to spill many tears over it.

--It's nice to read the A.D. offer up a boilerplate line like "(Chizik’s going to recruit student-athletes with character first, those that can compete academically and athletically" and know that if the "athletically" part is still the most important part of that equation, the recruitment of kids like Chase Hughes and Tim Jackson means it's only mostly hot air.

--Kudos to Jacobs for being honest about how closely his wagon is hitched to Chizik's. I'd have expected him to say something about how many successful athletics programs Auburn has and about how the hiring of the new golf coach was just as important as hiring a football coach and blah blah blah. For my money, admitting "that's the business" and acknowledging, however subtly, that he's out of a job the moment Chizik is* is a refreshing bit of self-awareness on his part.

--Of course, that's not fair. Jacobs has overseen the ground-breaking on what should be one of the country's best basketball facilities, thus far helped maintain the ludicrously high standards of the swim program, kept the football program's status as one of Division I's biggest cash cows, seen upswings in the fortune of many of Auburn's Olympic sports, and presided over a period in which Auburn has remained nearly totally scandal-free under his watch. By any measure other than on-field success of the two lesser revenue sports and the uncertainly regarding the football program's administration, Jacobs has been a success.

And still, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. The revenue sports and the running of the football program do. I wish I could train myself and 8 bajillion other Auburn fans to think otherwise, but I can't.

--Lastly, holy crap, dude:
(R)ecently, 4½ months ago, we stared fostering two little girls, they're 4 and 2. And that's all full-time. So I've got a 2-year-old, a 4-year-old, an 11-year-old, a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old. All girls in my house.
Jokes regarding Jacobs's exposure to that level of estrogen and his football scheduling preferences are strictly forbidden. Even if they're funny.

This is your brain on U.S. Soccer

Brain yesterday*: Shaken, stirred.

Brain this morning, after watching my DVR of the Unites States national team taking a 2-0 lead on Brazil in the final of a (mostly) major international tournament, defending valiantly for the better part of an hour before our defenders' legs finally began to betray them, and finally losing 3-2 in devastating fashion: liquefied, minced, shredded, pureed, scattered smothered and diced.

It's OK. It hurts, but it's OK. Our day is coming**.

*No, when agreeing to drive as part of a group trip two months ago, I did not take into account the possibility of the U.S. playing Brazil in the Confederations Cup final that same Sunday. Go figure.

**If someone wants to start a collection to persuade Cuomo to record a new, more polished version with Altidore, Demerit, Feilhaber, Spector, etc. name-dropped instead of Eddie Johnson and Pat Noonan, I'll gladly chip in my $20 or so.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Works, rapid fire-style

Obligatory. Sometimes I think the greatest testament to Michael Jackson's musical genius is that his work could be covered by bunch of talentless goons calling themselves "Alien Ant Farm" and it could come out kind of, you know, maybe not "good," but not the end of the world either.

Then again, maybe not that's not the greatest testament since it doesn't begin to convey how incredible the combination of that song with the dance moves in something like this can be:

It's a little weird to say "That guy will be missed" when he went missing years ago, but I guess now's as good a time as any.

With that out of the way, here's the rest of today's links. There's a lot of them, so they're going to come with less of my usual witty, insightful commentary than usual. I know you're devastated.

--Hey, remember that Terry Bowden nostalgia wave that hit earlier this week? Will caps it with a classic Bowden story that goes a long way towards explaining why The Powers That Be cut him so little slack when things went south.

--A ton of places have linked up this Sand Mountain Reporter piece in which the local high school coach raves about Saban's summer camps and gets his whine on on not being asked to coach at Auburn's camp. I'm sure 'Bama's camps are great and all (especially if you're into having high school kids brought to tears), but that doesn't change the fact you can smell the sour grapes from here. Maybe Auburn's not forging a great relationship with this guy, but we're also not hearing from the coaches who are working Auburn's camps, now are we? (HT to the Rap Sheet.)

--A pair of worthwhile-yet-unsurprising Auburn newsbits I can think of nothing interesting to say about: Tommy Trott and Antonio Coleman will be Auburn's representatives at Media Days, and the West Virginia game is set for a 7:45/6:45 kickoff.

--Attention recruits: "Toxic air shows cancer risks in Tuscaloosa County." Look, it's on the news and everything. I'm just sayin'.

--Here's your mind-blowing factoid of the day: based on OTS's research into the SEC's run-vs.-pass play-calling and Year2's examination of the same issue in the Big 12, if you turn on the Average SEC Game and the Average Big 12 Game, you're more likely to see a running play in the latter than the former. Which makes me think: how good would the SEC be if its quarterbacks weren't so overwhelmingly mediocre?

--The Pigskin Pathos profiles Drew Cole for totally random reasons and with a healthy dose of totally random "facts" that earn the scare-quotes with authority. An always-welcome clever jab on the fine state of Mississippi is also a highlight.

--Two cool pictures from LSU's College World Series triumph, one that the Bayou Bengal fans will enjoy here and one they're probably less fond of here. Since I doubt the folks at BON will mind if I reproduce it:

--Speaking of funny pictures, if you haven't seen it already, this is a very funny picture indeed.

--10 questions with Trooper Taylor at the official site. On playing sports with 15 siblings: "We never had to use a ghost runner." On his wife: "I outkicked my coverage by a long ways." He also describes a blooper from his playing days where he started celebrating while the opponent was busy making a first down. Anyone who can find the clip on the Internet wins a beer from me.

--Couple of krootin' links to pass on from the AJC: Jonathan Mincy's coach doesn't like early commitments, but for Mincy he's making an exception, and Auburn targets Tyrone Cornileus and Mike Thornton are probably headed elsewhere. Speaking of krootin', Tennessee's search for a quarterback isn't going so well, but at least it's given us this:

One other note: an Alabama-affiliated recruitnik says Auburn has made a bit of a move for Corey Grant. I'd personally love to get a guy with Grant's speed into Spread Eagle 2.0, but I'm still not holding my breath.

--Holly's assessment of 2009 UAB led to Doug recalling former UAB mascot "Blaze" the viking (i.e. "Burger King's ne'er-do-well younger brother who's been in and out of jail for a string of petty assaults and public-intoxication charges.") For me, the most memorable moment of Blaze's unfortunately brief tenure as the UAB mascot was at the press conference announcing his dismissal, where a Blazer administrator admitted that Blaze's problem was that he was, and I quote, "too Aryan." (Today, Doug also linked up this old-but-awesome-and-timely-again Slate article on why the original animated Transformers film was such a galvanizing, indelible experience for males of a certain age, like yours truly.)

--Acid Reign previews the Auburn-Arkansas match-up and foresees a narrow Tiger defeat. Honestly? With this team, at Fayetteville, I don't think we'd have much room to complain about a one-point loss.

--Lookie, some bloggers can actually be admirably rational when Brian Cook writes an oversigning post about their favorite program.

--JRS calls out Colin Cowherd for being not just an idiotic slimebag but an unpatriotic idiotic slimebag, and J.D. notes that Spain's Sergio Ramos had a role in "Dazed and Confused." You know U.S. soccer is having a good week in the publicity department when I'm not the only Auburn blogger writing posts about them.

--Lastly: just this past February, DeJuan Blair matched up against Hasheem Thabeet and destroyed him utterly: 22 points and 23 rebounds to Thabeet's 5 and 4, with an iconic body-slam for good measure. So of course at the NBA Draft last night, Thabeet went No. 2 overall while Blair fell all the way to No. 37. Makes perfect sense.

--Enjoy your weekend.

Oopsie: trails of a slightly less unhappy nature

Oh, Frenchy, we're all so sorry.

So when I posted yesterday about the reported departures from the back end of Auburn's football roster, I considered offering the caveat that nothing was official, this was still just one report, that grains of salt should be applied, etc. ... but I ended up skipping it, because the report was coming from Phillip Marshall. And whatever web site or sports section Marshall might be writing for, he's such an old pro and is so familiar with the ins and outs of Auburn's football program that I couldn't imagine him going public with information that was less than 100 percent reliable.

Too bad for me, too bad for all of us: Marshall is busy trying to clean the egg off of his face, I'm doing the metaphorical blogging version of Han Solo screaming "It's not my fault! It's not my fault!", and most importantly people are going around thinking things about Cameron Henderson and Philip Pierre-Louis that just aren't true. Blecccch, all the way around.

Well, with one major exception the to the Blecch: instead of four players gone, there's just three. Per Jay G. Tate and others, Jomarcus Savage and Christian Thompson are dearly departed as reported, but Pierre-Louis and Henderson are safe with Marcus Jemison the actual third player to be dismissed. Andy Bitter has a typically useful rundown of where the departures stood after spring camp.

The upshot from where I sit:

--As I said yesterday, Thompson's departure could really hurt the secondary if Etheridge and McNeil aren't healthy, and if Drew Cole isn't up for the occasional spot-duty snap it might hurt some even if they are. From the football perspective Savage's departure still isn't much more than a minor annoyance; once the freshmen arrive Rocker will have plenty of bodies on the defensive line.

--Henderson not being gone is, obviously, very good "news." I wasn't looking forward to seeing Gabe McKenzie in a three-point stance again. And while I'm not as excited about Pierre-Louis's "return," we're all in agreement there's potential there if he's fully healthy and he and Trooper Taylor can get on the same page. Plus, we get to keep using the nickname "Frenchy," and that's a big plus.

--Jemison's departure is probably closer to Savage's level of importance than the Thompson's. Position switches are never a good sign of where one stands on the depth chart, and while Auburn needs linebackers the way Florida needs lawyers, if Jemison wasn't able to grab a second-team spot over Spencer Pybus, Adam Herring or DaShaun Barnes, when was he ever going to grab one?

--I'll let you click over to PPL to read the current HOT RUMOR regarding the reasons behind the dismissals, and Auburn By Beaver adds "missed workouts" to the rumor mix. If there's nothing more to this story, I'll have to let my cynical side wonder if, say, Lee Ziemba or Walt McFadden would have gotten the ax for the same offense. But the likelihood is that there is more to the story, and in any case there's a pretty big difference between Ziemba and McFadden and Savage/Jemison/Thompson in that, as far as we know, the former pair wouldn't do the kinds of things to earn this kind of wrath from the coaches. If you want to maintain order and discipline on one's football team, there's probably no better way to do it than to prove, and prove early, that you're not screwing around when you issue warnings and the like.

In short, I am all for these kinds of dismissals as long as there's no double-standard going forward. And as we have no evidence there will be, I am all for this kind of dismissal.

--Man, I bet Marshall takes some serious crap from the other Auburn beat hacks at SEC Media Days.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Damn semantics

To recap: last January, the JCCW posited that Tennessee's and Auburn's commitment to spending far more money on their assistant coaches than at any point in their program's history while simultaneously spending less (far less in Auburn's case) on their new head coaches than their predecessors might represent "perhaps a new way of financial thinking in the SEC." Blutarsky responded with skepticism. The JCCW responded with silly pictures. Earlier this week, Rocky Top Talk made a similar argument regarding Kiffin. Blutarsky responded, again with skepticism. The JCCW responded to that response.

That brings us to this new post from Blutarsky in response to that response. And it's tough to take too much issue with it. Unsurprisingly, it's a compelling, convincing argument that faced with a potential choice between the usual "break the bank to hire the biggest, best name we can" plan and an Auburn/Tennessee-like "hire a n00b but make him look better by throwing bushels of money at this assistants" blueprint, no AD is actually going to choose the latter--including Jay Jacobs and Mike Hamilton, who weren't making a choice so much as simply doing the best they could with what appeared to be a less-than-optimal pool of candidates to choose from. (I'd maintain that any pool in which Brian Kelly is still coaching at Cincinnati is a perfectly optimal pool, but that's neither here nor there.) So Auburn and Tennessee aren't so much "new models" for other schools to follow as just, well, a pair of programs who happened to make the same hires any school like Auburn and Tennessee would have made in similar circumstances.

So I won't argue that there's perhaps no "new model" here. But there's some crossed wires in the semantics here--no, maybe Auburn's not a "model," but that doesn't mean they're not something new. Blutarsky writes:
(T)he reason that there isn’t a traditional gap between Lane’s and Monte’s salaries is because there’s a huge gap between their resumes. At some point in time, this deal got sold to Hamilton and the UT fan base as a package arrangement. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
My first response to this was Wait ... isn't whether the Kiffins and possibly Chizik/Malzahn/Luper represent "package deals" or not what we're arguing about? Certainly, expecting other schools to discover their own "package deals" isn't likely, and yeah, Jacobs and Hamilton would have taken a better non-package deal if there would have been one available.

But there's still the matter I tried to emphasize last time: maybe these "package deals" aren't models, aren't revolutionary, aren't anything to get overexcited about from a "future of football" standpoint ... but how many other package deals have we had at programs like Auburn and Tennessee? Any? Whatever the thought process--or, sure, the lack thereof--that brought us the Kiffin Chimera and the Chizik-eclipsing Luper-and-Trooper Show, this isn't the sort of thing we've seen before, is it? Has an SEC football coach ever made a collective $1.3 million less than his own assistants?

Blutarsky writes
Why does it matter, anyway? Why are we getting all the chest beating about a new economic order from the ADs, the coaches and their supporters?
The chest-beating, yeah, that could be toned down, I guess. But the reason it matters is because it's interesting. It's different. The cult of the college football coach has dictated forever and ever that a team will eventually be as good or as bad as its head coach--don't Auburn and Tennessee represent an excellent chance to put that hypothesis to the test? No one would ever confuse "5-19 Gene" as a head coach anywhere near on par with, say, Steve Spurrier, right? So what do we do if Chizik succeeds while Spurrier keeps floundering in Columbia? We've been told a thousand times from a thousand different non-Knoxville directions that Lane Kiffin is a bumbling Mr. Magoo of a head coach (a view I largely agree with)--if his Dad's defense wins 9 games this year pretty much singlehandedly, doesn't that mean that Tennessee's head coach being an idiot would be a non-issue? Wouldn't the Tigers' and Vols' success--or failure--at least make us think about the relationship not head coaching salaries and victory, but between assistant salaries and victories? And have we ever really considered that a factor before?

What interests me (and what I suspects interests Blutarsky) about the Chizik and Kiffin hires isn't really the steps or decisions, on their part or the part of their administrations, that have brought them to this point; it's what happens next. A "new model"? Eh, maybe not. A fascinating, possibly unrepeatable experiment? Yeah, I think so.

A quick p.s.: I do also have to disagree with Blutarsky when he says that Chizik and Kiffin aren't at least a little on the underpaid side. Remember that Auburn and Tennessee are among the richest football programs and athletic departments in the country.... but that their head football coaches are still both currently making less than the coaches at Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, or Virginia? No, they're not underpaid based on what their respective resumes would call for, but you would expect the title of "Auburn/Tennessee head football coach" to come with a certainly salary scale of its own. If Kiffin (who was initially greeted in most corners as a sensible hire, until he started flapping his gums) was being paid as much as Fulmer was, would anybody really have cared? If Chizik has been earning $2.3 million instead of $1.9 million, would anybody outside of the Auburn budget-keepers have blinked an eye? To me, that says that for the time being the two of them are earning a little less than full wages.

Unhappy trails

Oh, Frenchy, what might have been.

I guess offseason roster attrition comes for us all, where "us" equals the college football programs of America. (It comes to some more than others, of course, but you get my drift.) According to AuburnUndercover, it's come to Auburn, with four players now departed from Auburn's 2009 plans. Those four players are: Christian Thompson, Philip Pierre-Louis, Jomarcus Savage, and Cameron Henderson.

The first question is: Why? We don't seem to know just yet. PPL hypothesizes "brain cramps," and academics does seem like the most likely explanation, but we may just have to wait.

The second question is: how does this impact the team? On one level, it's not that bad, I guess. None of the four were projected starters, none of the four has made any kind of legitimate impact on the field for Auburn, none of the four is a veteran leader or even (Henderson mostly excepted) all that particularly hyped a recruit. Particularly if this is an academic issue, Auburn can count themselves at least somewhat fortunate that no one more crucial to the 2009 effort has had to bite the bullet.

But man, that's not to say this isn't a big deal. It's no secret that pretty much everywhere but running back, Auburn is a thin, thin team, and this is four players, all of whom were young and still had more than a chance to become contributors or maybe even something better. It's a blow, and a big one. Taking it a player at a time, from biggest loss to smallest:

Thompson: If Aairon Savage returns--I'm not betting on it--this won't be quite so bad, but if he's done for the year we're down to basically three safeties who we'd feel comfortable playing: McNeil, Etheridge, and Mike Slade. Thompson by all accounts had a nice spring and was poised to both let Savage stay at corner and possibly get some serious PT spelling the starters ... which, given McNeil's and Etheridge's injuries in the spring, might end up being something Auburn really needs. Now? Either Drew Cole is going to suddenly come of age, or one of McNeil or Etheridge is going to have to be on the field for every halfway-important play Auburn defends this year. Yuck.

Henderson: If Zach Clayton can lend some aid at defensive end, it won't be quite so big a deal ... but if Rocker doesn't want to give snaps to Clayton at end, it's hard to see who else might have taken Henderson's spot on the two deep. Coleman, Goggans, and Carter are entrenched as the top 3, but they can't play every snap, can they? Henderson was almost without question in line for some major time this year, and now ... well, uh, let's hope Terrence Coleman can both play some end and play some end well, or Gabe McKenzie's can start working on his pass rush moves again.

Frenchy: Auburn will need a good slot guy, and after the talk from last fall Frenchy was due to become that guy ... but after that injury, it just never seemed likely to happen, did it? He lasted one play, he clearly didn't endear himself to Taylor in the spring (for whatever reason), and for a guy whose entire career would have been based around quickness, shifty moves, and out-and-out speed, a knee injury was the worst possible thing for him. So my expectations had been lowered. But still--Auburn still needs a solid slot receiver, and now there's one less player who that receiver might be.

Savage: He seemed to have fallen behind both Derrick Lykes at tackle and Henderson at end. You never know, but Savage was already third-string coming out of spring before Nick Farley, Terrence Coleman, etc. got to throw their hats in the ring. Particularly with Henderson also gone, the added depth at end would have been very, very nice, but I also can't say I think it was going to happen for him.

So, the sum up: while it could have been worse, this is still bad, bad news, and an injury at any of the afflicted areas--particularly safety or the defensive line--will make the news even worse.

A brief airing of a pet peeve

You're no doubt aware that in one of the more awesome developments of 2009 or any year, the U.S. upset Spain 2-0 in the Confederations Cup semifinal yesterday. Since putting forth the national team's worst effort in 10 years against Brazil, all the Yanks have done is overturn a six-goal differential deficit to advance out of the group, throw back-to-back shutouts against two teams that had combined for 12 goals in their previous five games in the tournament, and eliminate the reigning European champions and current consensus best national team on the planet. So, yeah, that makes sense. Beautiful, beautiful sense.

The only downside to that 3-0 Egypt win that got things started was realizing, again, that despite his generally acceptable command of play-by-play and a good rapport with rapidly-improving color analyst John Harkes, lead ESPN play-by-play man J.P. Dellacamera needs a freaking ton of work on his goal calls. Goal calls are (if you ask me) far and away the most important part of a soccer broadcaster's job; I mean, they're far and away the most important part of the game, right? Via Awful Announcing, listen to Dellacamera's call of the goals that against-all-odds snuck the U.S. into the semis:

"The U.S. has another! ... (pause) ... Clint Dempsey makes it 3-0! ... (longer pause) ... We will soon know how important that goal is." Contrast that with the BBC's call of the same goal from Dempsey (via):

I'm not asking for Dellacamera to start pulling some Larry Munson-grade homerism on us or anything, but still, dude, you're American. It's OK to sound more like the Brit who realizes he's calling one of the most stunning, surprising developments in recent international soccer memory rather than the crew stuck with the Wednesday night MAC special on ESPN2.

I'll give Dellacamera a little bit of credit: his goal calls yesterday were a marked improvement. But still, listening to this rather excellent compilation of U.S.-Spain calls in four different languages (and the good work of the Univision crew), you can tell he's still got a little ways to go to catch up to the rest of the world:

Here's the good news: Dellacamera could have Ursula the Sea Witch replace his voice with Carol Channing's, and I'd still rather listen to him than ESPN's choices for play-by-play at the last two World Cups. (Jack Edwards and the unforgivably atrocious Dave O'Brien, if you're wondering.)

Your regularly scheduled Auburn programming will resume shortly.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Google surveys the signees: Tyrik Rollison

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.

So, yeah, despite all my cynicism and the cynicism of the universe in general outside of Auburn, Tyrik Rollison has made the grade and will be an Auburn Tiger. As Rollison is a highly regarded quarterback prospect and Auburn appears to be in great need of highly regarded quarterback prospects, this is a capital-B, capital-D Big Deal. Here's what teh Googlez have to say about him.

Basics: I know the danger in statistics like these, so do try to keep your eyes from bugging out with too much force:
Tyrik Rollison
QB, 6-2, 185
Sulphur Springs, TX (Sulphur Springs HS)
High School Coach: Greg Owens

As a senior, completed 315-of-428 passes for 4,728 yards and 51 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,094 yards ... Led team to the Class 4A Division II state championship, passing for 398 yards and four TDs and rushing for 127 yards and three more scores in the title game ... Selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American All-Star game following his senior year ... During his junior season, completed 296-of-423 passes for 3,691 yards and 37 scores while rushing for 554 yards ... Class 4A first-team all-state selection as a junior

Not listed there from Rollison's senior season stats are his 12 rushing touchdowns. So your grand totals for the year: 5,822 yards, 63 touchdowns, and a 73.6 completion percentage. I know we're talking about high school and I know Rollison was (apparently) in an up-tempo high-flyin' system and I know he played a few extra games while, you know, winning a state championship ... but still, those are some utterly ridiculous numbers. Maybe most of them came against less-than-stellar opposition, but we would assume that a Texas state championship game would be played against a quality defense, right? Totals: 525 yards, 7 TDs. That's just silly.

As for Rollison's "measurables," assuming that 6-2 mark is slightly inflated, he's not exactly going to tower over his line, NFL-style. Still, he's not Pat White or anything (height-wise), and with his athleticism he should have plenty of opportunity to throw outside the pocket anyway. His listed 40 time of 4.55 probably isn't entirely accurate, either, but it doesn't change the fact he's faster than fasterson as far as quarterbacks go. Can't say Rollison quite looks as heavy as "185" on film, though, and several scouting reports says he'll need to put on some weight.

Recruitnik hoo-ha: Unless you want to count DeAngelo Benton's ratings coming out of high school, Rollison has not only the highest level of pure guru approval in Auburn's 2009 class but more than any other high school senior signed by Auburn since Lee Ziemba.

The least impressed of the three services is ESPN, who gives him a high three-star/low four-star grade of 79 but does rank him the No. 21 QB and says this:
Rollison is a clone of former Kansas State QB Michael Bishop: similar measurables, live arm, excellent athleticism and a knack for making plays when things break down ... Has great feet and very good speed for the position. Improvises and shows very good initial burst when plays break down. Buys second chances, but generally keeps his eyes downfield prior to running. Can make most of the necessary throws when his feet are set. Shows spicy zip on short and intermediate passes. Has nice touch on the deep ball and demonstrates the ability to drop the ball in over coverage ... His mechanics and footwork create accuracy problems. Carries the ball low and away from his body, and has a tendency to pat the ball. Has quick feet, but isn't always set or balanced to plant and drive the ball to a spot or a target ... In this era of the spread offense, Rollison is a perfect fit in the scheme--and he should only get better.
Most of ESPN's evaluations are written before a prospect's junior year, I believe ... so I wonder if there still would have been as much complaint about Rollison's "accuracy problems" after, you know, he completed 73 percent of his passes for an entire season if they'd waited.

At Scout, Rollison is the No. 11 QB and a solid four-star. Snippet of their blurb abouthim:
Tyrik is considered the top QB prospect in East Texas for the Class of 2009. Rollison throws the ball with pinpoint accuracy and his poise in the pocket is uncanny.
That seems more in line with his senior performance than the ESPN evaluation, doesn't it? And then there's Rivals, who loves the kid. Four stars, a 6.0 grade (one notch below the five-star level), the No. 60 slot on their list of the nation's top 100 players. (For comparison's sake, Auburn's next player on the list is Dontae Aycock at No. 165.) Rivals ranks Rollison the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country (just ahead of commits to Penn St., West Virginia, and Michigan), the No. 9 overall prospect in Texas, and--get this--the "most accurate" QB in his class. Again: based on guru approval alone, this is the hottest consensus prospect in Auburn's 2009 class.

Which means you have to ask: why the hell was one of the best quarterbacks in Texas headed to either Kansas St. or Baylor--with the only other offers of note Arizona or Oregon, or possibly Texas A&M--before Luper and Auburn swooped in? The easy, obvious answer is grades. Grades, grades, grades. It surprises me a little that no larger Big 12 program--not Oklahoma (hardly a bastion of academic integrity), not Texas Tech, not Oklahoma St.--would roll the dice on Rollison when he seems such a perfectly snug fit both geographically and in terms of their offenses. Could there be some other issue out there?

And after scouring the Interwebs for such an issue, I can report back: not that I can find. If there's some dank, dark secret out there, the Internet is keeping it well hidden; the consensus that Rollison's academics were the issue is universal. In fact, the tiny glimmers you get from people who might seem to know something about the situation suggest that apart from what his struggles in the classroom might suggest, Rollison's not the dim bulb he's being taken for. A Baylor fan who claims to know him says this:
You, and anybody else, who thinks he had a "complete disdain for academics" is completely clueless. Him being a "distraction" is such an ignorant comment.He's a very bright kid and a phenomanol athlete and we missed out bigtime not getting him.
Texas fan at the well-known LSU board TigerDroppings:
I've followed the kid and situation for over two years and I promise you it will be a pure miracle if y'all (meaning Auburn--ed.) can get him in on the first go around. He simply has way too much ground to make up in the short time he has left.

He is a really good kid from a really good family but his grades (both in quality and class numbers) are severely lacking.
Take with as much salt as needed, this being the Internet and all, but the guess here is that Rollison really was simply written off too early as an academic casualty. The Big 12's loss, Auburn's gain, I guess.

Links of potential interest: Sooooo many highlights out there. You saw this batch earlier today. More like so:

but my favorite single Rollison play available for your viewing pleasure? It's at the 1:35 mark of this clip--if there's still any doubt (despite his high school completion percentage) that Rollison has the accuracy and touch to go with his athleticism, that throw should pretty well dispel them.

You can hear Rollison speak in (and watch him throw a pretty spiral) this report from the Texas 7-on-7 championships.

As for text links ... there's so many of them. I'll just hit a few highlights, starting with Rollison's performance at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Rollison's best work at which is in the YouTube clip in the post below this one. Rivals named Rollison one of the "Stars of the Game," writing
ASSETS: Tremendous pocket presence, strong arm and throws one of the prettiest balls in the country.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Needs to add muscle mass and get stronger to take the physicality of D-I football.
WHAT WAS MOST IMPRESSIVE IN THE GAME: Easily the most effective quarterback for the West team. He never seemed to panic in the pocket and when he had to scramble he showed excellent speed.
CONCLUSION: Another D(ual-threat)QB who is actually a P(ro-style)QB that happens to have superior athletic ability. He could wreak havoc in the high-scoring Big 12.
He also earned "Best Arm" honors. Barry Every:
He struggled early in the week grasping the new offense and with his timing with unfamiliar teammates. But by game time he was throwing strikes to all parts of the field. I can't wait to see how live his arm is in a few years when he has physically matured.
Burnt Orange Nation wasn't as impressed, but that's OK since they had nothing but mean things to say about A.J. McCarron.

Report from Rollison's title game performance:
“He's an unbelievable talent,” Sulphur Springs coach Greg Owens said. “When he unleashes 65-yard passes, I can hear the sigh and gasps from the crowd, but it's just stuff he expects to do. It's natural for him.”

The most gasp-inducing of Rollison's plays in the state championship actually came from one of his incompletions. Scrambling on a play in the second quarter, Rollison threw a pass from the 18-yard line that hit his receiver's hands at the opposite 18-yard line but was dropped — a 64-yard strike from a player who can run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.

On his final TD pass in the fourth quarter, a 16-yard score, Rollison managed to place a pass perfectly in the end zone without ever moving his feet. He took a shotgun snap and immediately lofted a throw to his receiver to catch Dayton's defense off guard.

“That day was one of the best moments I've ever had,” Rollison said. “It was the first time (Sulphur Springs) got to state, and we set a record. It was perfect.”
This will shock you, but there's an Internet ... thing available here titled "Tyrik Rollison Appreciates Fans Support Online." Quote:
I think I can be an instant contributor to a team on the next level and I like the teams that are promising early playing time. I am also getting a lot of fan support on my Facebook from people wanting me to go to their schools. It’s a good feeling to know people out there recognize your talents.
I feel like I should write a post titled "Fans Appreciate Tyrik Rollison's Support Online" just out of irony. (If you're interested, the JCCW's lone post on the beautiful camaraderie between Rollison and Facebook is here.)

Lastly, in case you were wondering, Rollison was also a basketball player.

What conclusions we can draw, if any: Before you say that it's just not possible for a true freshman quarterback to just show up and take over the reins of a new offense (as some of you are saying), could I remind you about another Texas quarterback, one with the (still) made-believe name of Colt McCoy? A three-star from nowheresville, all McCoy did as a true freshman was take over the Texas offense before fall camp was finished and throw for 2,570 yards with a 29-to-7 TD-to-INT ratio. I am not--not not not--saying Rollison is the second coming of McCoy or predicting similar results this season. However: I am saying there is precedent for quarterbacks--maybe especially uncannily accurate spread quarterbacks--to not only take over their team's starting position but succeed in it.

Again, if I was a gambling man, my money would still be on Burns to start the opener. But it's hard to ignore what Rollison would seem to bring to the table--Malzahn's offense requires accuracy out of the pocket but desperately needs a dose of athleticism to make its zone reads and keepers work properly, and I think it's perfectly valid to ask if Rollison doesn't offer the best combination of Caudle/Todd's poise in the pocket and Burns's ability to run. Whether that combination is enough to take over the job immediately ... well, I still kind of doubt it. A freshman is a freshman is a freshman.

But down the road? Unless Rollison's academics really are as poor as his qualification troubles would suggest or new roommate Clint Moseley winds up being a super-sleeper (both legitimate possibilities, it has to be said), I think the worst-case scenario is a two-year apprenticeship and then he takes over as the clearcut No. 1 as a redshirt sophomore. (Barring injury or other off-field mishaps, of course.) The best-case scenario--given Rollison's accuracy, snug fit in the Spread Eagle, and guru reputation--is, well, a scenario a whole lot better than that one.

The Works sees coaches everywhere it looks

First things first. Tyrik Rollison's getting the Google treatment later today, but for now, you can read Mike Herndon's story on Rollison's arrival at Auburn--how awesome is it that he and Moseley are freaking roommates? it could be like Brian's Song, but just the friendship and not the dying--and take a moment to watch the saddest YouTube video in the world:

Many of you have probably seen that one already, but the aching, sincere desperation of the K-St. logo at the end and the comments of "KSUPoetWarrior"--holy hell, this video is actually named "Bryce Brown - We Genuinely Care About You"--just kill me. So, so sad. It almost makes me feel bad Auburn had to beat them a couple years ago. (Almost. Not quite.) And hey, while we're on the topic of Kansas St., you see the neck-deep vat of excrement their ex-athletic directors have landed them in? Fair to say that if sometimes I think Auburn could do better than Jay Jacobs, this is one time I know we could do one hell of a lot worse, too.

Coaches, coaches, coaches. Tons o' links recently profiling, interviewing, or otherwise discussing Auburn's new staff. First up: Jay Tate's continuing series of profiles, starting with Jeff Grimes. Sample:
Grimes is about as new-school as it gets. Though he spent a significant portion of his career around Dirk Koetter, one of the most gruff coaches around, Grimes doesn't consider scolding a powerful instructional tool. Much like Curtis Luper, Grimes corrects mistakes by explaining how each mistake affected everything else that occurred during a given play.

It's a cerebral approach. There is almost no yelling involved.
Like every other post in the series, it's chock-a-block with neat little details like those, like Grimes listening to reggae in his office or that he appears to be comfortable coaching a two- or three-point stance. More of the same from Tate's post on Phillip Lolley:
He lives by what I'd call an armed-forces code. He gets to work early and works through his list of tasks. When those tasks are completed, he works ahead. That's a big reason why Gene Chizik likes Lolley so much. Lolley's hard-edged approach provides an ideal complement to many of the new-school guys Chizik has assembled.

Lolley is respected by high-school coaches throughout the state, which makes him a valuable commodity to the Tigers' recruiting enterprise.
Unlike guys like Lolley, you would think everything Trooper Taylor could have possibly said to the press he'd have already said, but it turns out that's not the case; Andrew Gribble still managed to find some new choice bits a two-part interview you can read here and here. As with all of Taylor's interviews, the juicy, repeatable stuff somehow ends up vastly outnumbering the forgettable stuff, but I think this is my favorite nugget (from Part 2):
OAN: What did it take to bring Benton here?
TT: It was tough because in that state everyone is an LSU Tiger fan. Nobody wanted him to leave out of there. The relationship that we had, at the end of the day, helped. He didn’t want to let me down. We built that relationship over the phone talking, going to see him.

I was the only coach that went into his neighborhood. Everyone else who met him wouldn’t go into his house because the neighborhood was bad. I did and I met everybody in his family. And it wasn’t even that bad to me. I told him that if I can’t come into your neighborhood, it’s going to be a hard fit here. I need to at least sit face to face with your mother and grandmother and sisters and relatives. I know Coach (Gene) Chizik was the only coach that went to his house.
Uh ... really? The only head coach to go see DeAngelo Benton at his house? Wow. I'm still not convinced Benton's not at LSU right now if Miles doesn't make that "hard, fast decision" on him, but this goes a long way towards explaining why Auburn was Plan B. (Do also make sure you read Taylor's barber's chair analogy at the end of Part 2. He tries to keep it civil, but he's not any happier about the way Auburn's wide receiving corps has been coached or performed than we are.)

Still more from Auburn's coaches, as Chizik weighs in on the spread's spread and its impact on quarterback development:
First-year Auburn coach Gene Chizik said to some extent this season he will adapt to his quarterback's abilities.

"You can't always try to fit a round peg into a square hole, so you've got to adapt and adjust on the run, which we're constantly trying to do," Chizik said. "I think what the offense calls for, we've got guys (quarterbacks) that come close to fitting what we want. But again, that's why we're out recruiting."
Please contrast "adapt and adjust on the run" with the approach from last year's offensive staff, which on the part of Franklin meant running Omar Haugabrook's zone reads with Chris Todd, and on the part of everyone else meant ignoring Franklin and coaching the same way they'd always done. Easier for Chizik to say than do it, but this is the kind of thoughtful, open-minded approach that should may much greater dividends than last year's.

BlAUgosphere. PPL weighs in The Future of Kodi Burns by looking at the past of Kodi Burns, specifically the past that related to Burns's treatment at the hands of Tony Franklin. PPL digs up a bushel of old confusing, contradictory, and downright weird Franklin quotes to arrive at the following conclusion:
It could be completely baseless, but, I feel, Tony Franklin never wanted Kodi Burns to be the QB. He wanted Chris Todd. Todd was his guy, a player he knew, that was originally going to be at Troy to play for Franklin, and was given the shot to play at Auburn.
Given that Burns never saw the field under any circumstances against Miss. St. or LSU and only appeared against Tennessee because Tubby demanded it ... I'm inclined to agree. There's no denying that Burns wasn't good (or really, all that close to it) last year, but I also think there's a metric ton of damning evidence aimed at the coaching Burns has received to date. Maybe he's beyond reclamation, but even with his inability to pull away from Caudle in the spring and Rollison on board, the guess here--as it has been since the end of last season--is that Burns will start against Lousiana Tech this fall. And then we'll see if the light bulb can come on.

Elsewhere, hot off the Scarbinsky Terry Bowden stories, War Eagle Atlanta looks at the five best early-tenure Auburn coaching performances.

Volswatch. Somehow, I've ended up with a preponderance of Tennessee links to pass on. We'll start with the continuing eye on Tennessee's potentially hilarious quarterback situation, which Dr. Saturday touched on this week. Basically, the Vols have all of their eggs in Jesse Scroggins's basket, and after pulling out all the stops for him this past weekend, Scroggins' reaction was ...
"My top three is Florida, Tennessee and USC," the 6-3, 195 pound Scroggins said. "At this point I don't have a leader. I am camping at SC on Wednesday and Thursday then I will start sorting some things out."
A resounding endorsement if ever I've heard one. (To be fair, Scroggins was a little more enthusiastic immediately following the trip.) He could get an offer from USC this week, and if he does, well, if you lived 20 miles from USC would you pass on the Trojans to go to Tennessee? (Well, given that USC's top two quarterbacks are underclassmen, maybe, but when in doubt always go with geography.)

Tennessee could be the latest team to try a blackout. Predictable gnashing of teeth ensues.

Blutarsky takes Rocky Top Talk to task--as he's taken the JCCW to task in the past--for viewing the much smaller ratio of head coach salary to assistant coaches' salary at UT as a new model for doing business in the SEC. Although Blutarsky may be right that that ratio might not actually be voluntary on the part of Kiffykins and the Chiznick and that they're simply being paid the going rate for first-time coaches in the SEC (I would disagree with the second part--however fresh-faced the pair of them may be, they're still coaching at Auburn and Tennessee and earning far, far less for that than their predecessors), I still think that misses the point a bit. Whether it's part of a carefully orchestrated plan to try and get the most bang for the program's coaching salary buck or simply a natural, inevitable outcome of not having to break the bank for the man in charge, the ratio--both in terms of salary and perceived importance of the staff-at-large to the team's success--is still pretty well unprecedented, no? I think it's fair to say both Kiffin and Chizik were hired not for the coaches they are but for the staff they planned to create, and what other head coaches in the history of the SEC's major programs can we say that about?

Lastly, newly-relocated Hog blog (and friend of the JCCW) Arkansas Expats reminds us that Auburn isn't the only team to have trouble with sudden, inexplicable upsets at the hands of the Razorbacks:

Soccer. The U.S. takes on Spain this afternoon, and for those of you who care, I'd recommend this wonderful Rossi jerkface-related headline from Ives Galarcep, this post on the ascension of Landon Donovan (which I'd almost completely agree with, except that Michael Bradley has been the U.S.'s best player in the tourney-to-date), this preview from Braves and Birds, and most of all, this response to the U.S.'s Great Escape from Dan Loney, the best soccer blogger in America. The one-act play that opens that post is nothing less than Orsonesque.