Auburn Recruiting is also “Auburn Fast”

By Posted on: July 29th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 7 Comments »
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                   Auburn’s latest recruit, 4-star Line backer Richard McBryde. (photo:Dennis Victory,al.com)

The middle of the dog days of summer means one thing in the south – college football is almost here. The off season is almost over and in just a few days Auburn will begin preseason training camp.

While the coaching staff has to get the Tigers prepared to defend their SEC Championship, another challenge always lies underneath the surface no matter what time of year it may be. Of course we’re talking about recruiting, the life blood of the sport.

Last year Auburn not only had unexpected success in reaching the BCS Championship game, the Tigers also had success in putting together a star studded Top Ten recruiting class.

In fact 247Sports Composite recruiting rankings (which equally weigh the ratings of all the major recruiting services) had the Tigers 2014 class ranked at No.6 in the nation. Auburn surprised many when they signed four of the top seven players in the state of Alabama and came close to going five out of seven.

Will Auburn be able to match that success in 2015?

This time last year Auburn had 13 verbal commits. The Tigers are ahead of schedule this year with nineteen having already committed. Just this past week, three top recruits committed to Auburn including Wide Receiver Nate Craig. Rivals rates him the No.1 overall prospect in the nation for the 2016 class.

While his commitment doesn’t make an immediate impact on this years rankings it could serve to influence some other top players to join the Tigers. The 6’3″ receiver is a consensus 5-star prospect out of Tampa Catholic. He chose the Tigers over offers from Alabama and Ohio State.

Also committing this week for the 2015 class was 3-star Defensive Back Chris Westry from Orange Beach, Fla. along with 4-star Inside-Line backer, Richard McBryde from Charles Henderson. McBryde chose Auburn over Alabama and Westry picked the Tigers over his in state school, Florida.

Not surprisingly, both players said they were swayed by the family atmosphere they felt on The Plains. McBryde was quoted as saying, “Every time I go to Auburn, they show me love.” He became Auburn’s 19th commitment, pushing the Tigers’ 2015 class in to fifth place nationally.

It seems that “Auburn Fast” applies to more than just the pace of the game. National signing day is still six months off and the Tigers do not have many spots left. However, there are still some top recruits left out there that Auburn is interested in signing.

To name just a few:

 - DT Daron Payne: A 5-star tackle from Birmingham says he grew up an Auburn fan and has the Tigers, in his top four along with Alabama, Mississippi State and Texas.
– OT Martez Ivey: The 5-star Lineman from Florida is being heavily recruited by Auburn and Florida. He grew up a Gators fan but his best friend is current Auburn commit and team mate Fullback, Chandler Cox.
– DT Trent Thompson: The No. 1 overall prospect in the country from Westover High in Albany, Ga. has listed Georgia and Auburn as one and two on his list.
– LB Jefferey Holland: 4-star receiver and linebacker from Jacksonville, Florida. Holland has wavered this summer between Auburn, Florida and UCLA. It may prove difficult to pull him away from his in state school.

Recruiting is something that is a 365 day endeavor for a winning program. The Tigers will be dueling the rest of the SEC the next few months not only on the field but on the recruiting trail as well. No fewer than seven SEC teams are presently ranked in the top 10 with Auburn at No.5.

It’s a battle every week. Successful programs can’t afford to take their time lining up new talent. So far though, Gus and crew are proving that they recruit just like they coach … Auburn Fast.

List of 2015 Auburn commitments after the jump:
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Auburn’s Wellness Kitchen is a Move in the Right Direction

By Posted on: July 28th, 2014 in Football 10 Comments »
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Maybe seeing it in real terms is what got my attention. We have become immune to these exorbitant figures thrown around when coaches are fired. But when you break it down into a monthly number it blows your mind.

$209,457.84/month.

That’s what Gene Chizik has been receiving every payday since losing his job back in 2012. He’ll continue to receive it until the end of 2016. That’s $7.5 million for those at home keeping score.

While Gene draws a fat check for sitting on his ass, the NCAA punishes players who accept a free meal. Programs get far worse.

Auburn paid a huge price back in the early 1990’s because coaches helped Eric Ramsey with meal money for he and his wife and new baby. When Ramsey turned out to be a scumbag, who was more interested in bringing down Auburn than helping himself, it ended Pat Dye’s career and likely cost Auburn a national title in 1993.

The hypocrisy of it all is disgusting. We bring kids on campus from poor backgrounds, work them like dogs in the winter and summer and expect them to win big in the fall. And it’s all done in the name of amateurism.

News was made last week when it was reported that every SEC school will make more money on television next season than Notre Dame, who has its own network deal with NBC.

No doubt it’s a beautiful thing. But it’s past time to start sharing the wealth with these so-called student athletes. If you’ve been following the Ed O’Bannon case you know that changes are ahead.

The case is already paying dividends before the verdict. Last week, Auburn opened its new $6.6 million Wellness Kitchen, a facility aimed at giving student-athletes access to food whenever they need it. Back in April, the NCAA changed its rules, allowing athletes to receive unlimited food and snacks.

It’s 2014 and the NCAA is finally allowing players to eat when they are hungry. This only came about because Connecticut basketball player Shabazz Napier said there were times when he went to bed hungry as a player. Had the Huskies not won a championship, the NCAA would still be calling nutrition an unnecessary perk.

It’s past time that college presidents and the NCAA start giving money to those that produce it. It’s damn un-American to pay coaches insane salaries without sharing the wealth with players. Can we at least provide insurance for them after they leave school? Something tells me they have a few more pre-existing conditions than the average 22 year-old.

Kudos to athletic director Jay Jacobs for getting ahead of the issue and getting the new kitchen built in time for the season opener. It’s a small step toward giving players what they earn.

It’s time for the NCAA to move fast on these reforms – not because they are being sued, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Frank Thomas Speaks of Auburn at Hall of Fame Induction

By Posted on: July 28th, 2014 in Baseball, News 1 Comment »

If you didn’t get to see Auburn great, Frank Thomas at Cooperstown, below is a video montage of Thomas’ speech at his induction into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Frank thanks his former coaches (Hal Baird, Pat Dye, Jay Jacobs) and says it was at Auburn University that he acquired a will to win.

                            

Former Auburn-Walk-on Will Be Inducted into Cooperstown Today

By Posted on: July 27th, 2014 in Baseball, News 7 Comments »
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A former Auburn football player will be inducted into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame today. Frank ‘The Big Hurt’ Thomas goes in as the first ever player to be inducted from the South Eastern Conference.

Despite the threat of rain, the crowds are expected to possibly set a record of more than 40,000; due in large part to the popularity of the former White Sox first baseman as well as two former pitchers and two former managers from the Atlanta Braves.

Joining Frank will be former managers Bobby Cox and Joe Torre along with Cy Young winners Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux. “I don’t know if there’s ever been a bigger day in the history of the Atlanta Braves.” says former Braves pitcher John Smoltz.

Well maybe so but it is most certainly the biggest day ever for SEC and Auburn Baseball as a favorite son goes into the Hall. After 19 seasons in the big leagues, ‘The Big Hurt” goes in on his first year of eligibility with 84 percent of the votes.

Thomas was a two time MVP and five time All Star with the Chicago White Sox . He drove in 1704 runs, and hit 521 homeruns. He is the only player in major league history to have 7 consecutive seasons of a .300 avg, at least 100 walks, 100 runs scored, 100 RBI’s, and hit at least 20 homeruns.

I was able to watch Frank play high school ball in Columbus, Georgia. Even then you did not have to be a major league scout to recognize that he was an unusual athlete that would make a name for himself in professional sports.

He excelled in basketball, baseball, and football. He was considered by many to be one of the top tight ends in the south, making All State his senior year. I was excited when Coach Pat Dye signed him to a football scholorship in 1986.

Coach Dye said Thomas was good enough to have been a 1st Round NFL Draft Pick, but after being injured his freshman year, Dye allowed him to remain on football scholarship. He went on to walk-on for the Tiger Baseball Team and light up the SEC scoreboards with RBI’s  and homeruns. His senior year he led the SEC with a .403 batting avg, with 83 runs batted in, and  was voted the SEC MVP.

Frank is a proud Auburn man. And to this day, he gives credit to his time on The Plains for being where he’s at today. He says he owes a lot to Coach Dye for keeping him on scholarship and to Tiger Baseball Coach Hal Baird for helping to develop him.

On this day in Cooperstown it’s hard to imagine that he was ever a walk-on baseball player in college. Yet the former Auburn player will be inducted today into the most prestigious Hall of Fame in all of sports.

Don’t be surprised if (in his acceptance speech) he doesn’t give us all a “War Eagle!”


Editor’s note: Festivities are scheduled to begin at 11:00 am CST.

Reliving the Moment

By Posted on: July 25th, 2014 in Football 5 Comments »

A full eight months have passed since that magical moment, and yet it’s everywhere. It’s been named the play of the year, the game of the year and widely accepted as the greatest play in college football history. I don’t know about you, but there’s rarely a week that goes by without me watching it at least a couple of times.

Now there’s a place to watch it 58 different ways. Auburn Athletics has collected dozens of videos reliving the moment and put it all in one place on YouTube. You can watch it up close, from the stands, see it the way the Orlando Auburn Club witnessed it or even how one Auburn fan stuck in an airport bar in Chicago celebrated.

Having a bad day? Fire this site up for five minutes and I dare you to walk away down. It’s that good. And just think, our Alabama friends will have to live with these images for the rest of their lives. It’s enough to make you want to watch it again.

Click here.

Amen Corner Continues with the Aggies.

By Posted on: July 24th, 2014 in Football 4 Comments »
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Will the Tigers play defense this time?
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for another Auburn opponent preview. On November 8th, the Tigers host Texas A&M. It’s the third game between the two schools since the Aggies joined the SEC, and it could possibly be Auburn’s third game in as many weeks against a ranked team. Auburn may well face 5 ranked teams in 6 weeks to close out the 2014 football seas.

     The Aggies have some chances to tune up in September, but the schedule becomes brutal down the stretch. From the East, Texas A&M draws South Carolina and Missouri. The Aggies open on Thursday night at South Carolina, followed by cupcakes Lamar and Rice at home, and SMU in Dallas. The Aggies then play Arkansas in Arlington, followed by a road trip to Mississippi State. The schedule continues without a break at home against Ole Miss, and then a trip to Alabama. The Aggies then get a week off, followed by a tuneup against Louisiana Monroe, then the Aggies travel to Auburn. Auburn will have played Arkansas and San Jose State at home, Kansas State on the road, Louisiana Tech for homecoming, then LSU. The Tigers have a bye week, then South Carolina at home before traveling to Oxford to play the Ole Miss Rebels.

     The first question that comes to mind for any look at Texas A&M this season is how will quarterback Johnny Manziel be replaced? In my opinion, the situation looks pretty dire, but we’ve seen head coach Kevin Sumlin win before with a green quarterback (Kevin Kolb at Houston, for instance). In fact, Manziel basically came out of nowhere in 2012 to win the Heisman as a freshman. It looks very much like the Aggies will again turn to a true freshman this season, early enrollee Kyle Allen. Allen took part in spring drills, while heir-apparent sophomore Kenny Hill was suspended due to a public intoxication arrest. Veteran senior Matt Joeckel transferred.

     Can the Aggie offense generate anything like the 44.2 point per game average generated last season? The are important pieces of that offense missing beside Johnny Football. Receiver Mike Evans is gone, as is left tackle Jake Matthews and running back Ben Malena. Of Manziel’s favorite targets, 3 of the top four are gone, including Mike Evans (69 catches), Derel Walker (51 catches) and Travis Labhart (51 catches). Four starters return on the offensive line, but there has been some shuffling. I expect the Aggies to be pretty good still, on the line. Having a lot of young receivers and a freshman quarterback will likely result in lower production in 2014.

     Last season, the Aggies had one of the worst defenses in the SEC. Most defenders return this season, but will they be any better? It’s make or break year for defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. I’ve heard grumblings from Aggie fans on several occasions, and there’s doubt that he’s the answer against SEC offenses. Last season, Texas A&M gave up 32.2 points per game. To put that in perspective, consider that the past five seasons have all ranked among Auburn’s worst ever defensive performances. The worst number Auburn put up during this period was in 2011, giving up 28.9 points per game. I think part of the problem is that its difficult to prepare for physical offenses when the Aggie offense is predicated on throwing the ball. With as many as 10 starters back, the A&M camp hopes for better production.

     Most folks give Johnny Football all the credit for Texas A&M’s success the past two seasons, but a closer look at the team reveals that the Aggies have been very good on special teams, and they return all of their key players. The Aggies had solid coverage, dangerous return men, and some of the strongest legs in the league. Look for that trend to continue this season.

Unit matchups, after the jump!

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Gamechanger?

By Posted on: July 23rd, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 13 Comments »


You recognize it only after it happens
. The moment when something new arrives that changes your life forever. Up until that event occurs, you are confident, poised, clear thinking, at ease with the situation around you and completely secure with your world ordered just as it should be. Then in an instant everything turns upside down. The entire structure you’ve based your life upon collapses like a house of gilded cards and in panic you find yourself hiring Lane Kiffen as your Offensive Coordinator and saying things like:

“The players have responded to him very well. New energy, new enthusiasm, new ideas to do some things offensively that would enhance our chances of being successful. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to work with him.” Nick Saban, commenting on hiring Lane Kiffen, 2014 SEC Media Days

I’m wondering if it’s time to pass that title of Gamechanger to a younger, more talented coach whose potential influence on the sport may well prove to be greater than what Nick Saban has achieved. Over the last seven years, Nick Saban has established an enduring record of dominating teams and performance on the national level at Alabama, earning top rankings and being competitive in the national title race every year since 2008, winning that prize no less than three times. In all respects it is an unprecedented run of success for any coach or program in the entire history of the sport. But that legacy is now in real danger of being overshadowed and eclipsed by Gus Malzahn and his remarkable creation known collectively as the Hurry Up No Huddle (HUNH) offense.


“The rest is just the same, isn’t it?”

In the glittering court of media opinion, that torch may have already passed. The results of the last Iron Bowl and Auburn’s astonishing 2013 rise from the basement to the BCS title game is the stuff of legend and the ensuing media blitz has catapulted both Auburn and Gus Malzahn into the national spotlight. But flowing just beneath the surface of  media driven hyperbole and extravagant headlines is a sea change going on at a more fundamental level. While “The Process” at Alabama has been given lip service tribute by coaches across the country, it is actually elements of Gus Malzahn’s offense that are being adopted at all levels of football. While this is especially evident at the high school and collegiate level, the influence of Gus Malzahn has been felt even in the ultra conservative NFL, where the ‘Wildcat’ formation and zone read plays have achieved remarkably common usage among many teams, along with an uptick in the pace of the game.

The zone read play and ensuing options off of it, both running and passing the ball has seemingly taken the NFL by storm, including but not originating with Cam Newton’s arrival as a gifted rookie in 2011. By the 2013 season playoffs, two of the four teams playing in the NFL Conference Championship games were running versions of the zone read as a fundamental part of their offense, with blocking and option schemes hauntingly similar to Auburn’s offense from 2009 to 2011 and 2013.

Perhaps the best illustration of what Gus Malzahn’s offense can do, and a glimpse of the tremendous potential it has to impact the way football is played in the future is the last scoring drive of the Iron Bowl, which culminated in a play that shocked both the Crimson Tide defense and coaching staff along with the entire viewing audience. 
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Why Gus Malzahn Will Get Auburn Back to the National Championship Game

By Posted on: July 22nd, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 15 Comments »
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                          Gus Malzahn coaching in the 2013 BCS Championship game. (photo:USAToday file)

Human beings have many things in common and one of our shared traits is that we all are afraid of something. Whether those fears seem rational to others or not doesn’t matter. It matters to us and that is what’s important.

For generations, studies and surveys have been done to ferret out what causes people the most anxiety. While the No.1 fear may be different from survey to survey, most reveal the fear of public speaking is near the top of the list

Popular comedian Jerry Sienfield once quipped, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that seem right? That means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

While that’s funny, not everyone has public speaking ranked No.1. For me, it’s flying. I know, I know. I’ve been exposed to all those reasons why it’s a safe mode of travel and well meaning friends have tried their darn’est to convince me of the excellent safety record of air travel. None of the best arguments can change my mind. It’s all airline propaganda to me.

You see we all have something that causes us anxiety and often that fear drives us and motivates our behavior. That’s why I drove close to 4,000 miles (round trip) to watch Auburn play in the 2010 BCS Championship game.

So I can understand why Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn expressed his feeling Monday on ESPN’s Car Wash on what he fears the most. One interviewer asked Gus, “What’s your biggest fear?” The reigning SEC Championship Coach didn’t hesitate, ”Losing” he said.

In that one word answer we may have discovered what it is that drives the man who is known as a focused coach, a furious and tireless worker who doesn’t need much sleep and seems to thrive on coffee and bubblegum.

He is a man who has not only won at every level he has coached at – he has won championships at every level from the high school ranks to college. In the three years he has been a college head coach, he has a .808 winning percentage.

Malzahn is a proven winner who we now know is driven by a fear of losing. It’s something that he just can’t abide. Past championships are a nice thing to have but with him, it’s never been about the past. It’s always about the future. And that’s why Gus will get Auburn back to the National Championship game.