A Big Week for Auburn Football

By Posted on: January 7th, 2013 in Football 11 Comments »
Dameyune Craig 2

Last week felt darn good. New Year’s is always fun and turning the clock over brings new optimism; but more importantly, it was Auburn’s first good week in a year.

There was actually positive news coming from the football program; and for the Auburn faithful, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Maybe the long winter is drawing to a close – even if it is early January.

While Tiger fans have celebrated heralded recruiting classes for more than four years, not one of them compares in importance to the moves Gus Malzahn has made in recent days. He didn’t just bring in a few great coaches; he brought in a team of all-stars.

Most impressive, was how methodical he was in his search and despite some public criticism for the time it took, Malzahn never wavered from his plan. This kind of patience should serve him well down the road.

Anytime there’s a disastrous season like this one, there’s fallout among the faithful. Many Auburn people remain dissatisfied with the overall direction of the athletic program and particularly Jay Jacobs.

Malzahn’s hiring has brought a calming effect to campus. He’s clearly taken the reins and gone about building this staff his way. What can’t be underestimated in these moves is the return of Rodney Garner and Dameyune Craig to Auburn.

Nothing unifies a fanbase like the return of two former stars who happen to be damn good football coaches. Over the weekend, Tiger Rags began selling retro Dameyune Craig jersey t-shirts. My guess is, they’ll sell thousands.

Now the task turns to recruiting.

Despite being in a freefall since October, surprisingly, Auburn sits in pretty good shape. They currently rank 18th according to 247 Sports. Malzahn has wisely targeted a number of JUCO players who will help close the gap quicker and even some blue chips are starting to take a second look at Auburn.

A source close to Reuben Foster says the heralded high school linebacker has Auburn back at the top of his list. Then again, this is a kid who changes his mind daily, so take the news with a grain of salt. Still, it’s going to be hard to outrun that massive AU tattoo on his arm.

Garner’s reputation as a recruiter is well known, considering Auburn competes with Georgia often for the same talent. What’s less known is how talented Craig is on the recruiting trail. Word of his hire has drawn rave reviews from Auburn recruits.

“I’m speechless. I’ve know Coach Craig for a while. He’s a great guy and a cool guy to be around,” said 4-star Auburn commitment Jason Smith talking to Auburn Undercover.

“He’s a man of his word and just somebody you would like to have as a coach. That’s another great hire that Coach Malzahn is bringing in. He’s played quarterback on the college level and knows the game of football. I think Auburn is on the rise. I really like the coaches he’s bringing in.”

Malzahn and staff likely won’t get all the ones they want this year, but things should return to normal next year. Best of all, he’s brought in a staff who not only can recruit, but coach.

That was a key ingredient missing with the last staff.

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  1. Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

    Really thrilled with this coaching staff. Hopefully, us fans can muster some patience to really let them do their jobs.

    Favorite hire: Dameyune Craig.

    Recruits: I am so over all those happy stars after those kids names. You can be a five star talent without grace or integrity. It’s not that I don’t want talented kids on the Plains or that they should never make mistakes. Normal college hijinks are OK. Felonies??..not so much. Kids who think that they don’t need to be coached or work out??..not so much. Hopefully these recruiters are focusing on talent AND character.

    • cmatt90 says:

      Tiger — let’s not forget that there are dozens of adults on the Auburn coaching staff who are paid to coach these kids, which includes both football and life. What I hope is that these new hires, who are clearly great recruiters, do a much better job than Chizik’s staff in developing and fostering talent and maturity. Let’s focus on making Auburn a place where troubled kids can come in and learn how to live and play football the right way. When we start paying the kids $500k a year, I’ll hold them more responsible than the well-paid adults who are profiting off them.

      • Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

        I agree that the ‘adults’ in the room harbor the bulk of responsibility for player development. And I love that football gives many kids opportunities that they would not otherwise have.

        But this ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘youth is stupid’ crap is what got us attrition from the team for FELONIES. Players that think that their opinion will actually dictate coaching changes stinks of the bs that has plagued this team under Chizik. My point is not perfection or to have a team of angels, but there does need to be accountability for clearly questionable and troubling behavior.

    • sparkey sparkey says:

      We must have the talent to win. It’s that simple.

  2. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    200+ years of coaching experience on this staff. That sounds like a good recruiting pitch to me, it also sounds like a heck of a lot of proven ( experience. War Eagle!

  3. cmatt90 says:

    My turn to say something positive. I was initially wary of Malzahn, especially when he got rid of some solid recruiters like Trooper. But the hires made over the last couple weeks have been very encouraging. We’ve basically taken the top recruiters from Georgia and FSU, which could be huge. Good job Gus.

  4. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    I can honestly say I was hopeful when Chizik was hired and formulated his first staff. I was impressed with the agressiveness AU showed to the likes of bama, UF and UGA. Everything was on the table. Everything seemed to go well.

    It doesn’t take much time for the newness to rub off of anything anymore.

    We found out after three years… that AU could recruit some pretty talented kids…. but what they couldn’t do was Coach them up after they got on the plains. Ultimately I think that was what got Chizik fired.

    I knew we had troubles when I saw after game #2 or #3 when more was expected from our receiving Corps (sans Blake and Lutz) and nothing ever happened. I remember the interview with Taylor and him acting almost surprised. So fast-forward to when Chizik was fired and Gus was named the new headcoach. I honestly was glad that none of the previous staff was retained. They only coaches I was sad to see go was Yoxall and Bouleware.

    I suspected there would be fall out. There always is when you have head coaching changes. But honestly, I thought it was going to be worse than what it was. I remember at near the end of the season, right before the firing, that it came out that AU was being looked at for possible recruiting violations. Almost immediately AU and Chizik hushed up the news of the infraction and pulled Luper and Taylor from the recruiting trail pretty quickly. But as soon as the firings came… not another word was mentioned of it.

    So what does Malzahn do? The defections are starting to mount and he goes out and hires an unbelievable staff. Not only of good coaches… but coaches who are KNOWN for their ability to recruit.

    Dameyune Craig (FSU)

    Tim Horton (Arkansas)

    Charlie Harbison (Clemson)

    Rodney Garner (Georgia)

    Melvin Smith (MSU)

    These guys were all primary recruiting coaches at their respective schools. That alone is pretty significiant. Let’s not forget that Malzahn and Johnson both are pretty decent recruiters in their own rights.

    I think Jay got it right. And not to put too fine a point on it, the big difference between this staff and the first one that Chizik brought in… is that this staff can not only recruit but coach too. I suspect if folks (coaches) can stay happy and Gus can keep folks focused…. that this staff could stay awhile. It’s definitely a dream team. My hope is that they can translate this to winning. And that translates into domination.

    It’s our time.

    WDE

  5. Jonathon Jonathon says:

    Yes, on paper it seems to be positive. I only hope it translates to ‘wins.’ There has been a great deal of press for these assistant hires so I would think that if things turn around quickly we’ll likely lose some of these coaches to other positions as they look to up their own stock. Their chemistry as one unit here at Auburn is still unknown.
    I wasn’t a fan of the Malzahn hire but his ability to build a staff of this caliber has been very impressive. At day’s end the players have to perform at their highest level to help it all translate to the field. I look forward to seeing that transition and am hoping for brighter days ahead.

    On another note – why give Jacobs much credit in all this? He went outside his own box to pull together a new coach ‘search committee’ which a lot of people viewed as his insurance policy if this hire doesn’t turn out well. Jacobs is still a bad seed and we shouldn’t back off his ability to perform as an AD across the board. I think other athletic program supporters at Auburn would agree.

    The future is looking bright.

    War Damn Eagle! oh, and GO IRISH!!!!!!

  6. sparkey sparkey says:

    A source close to Reuben Foster says the heralded high school linebacker has Auburn back at the top of his list. Then again, this is a kid who changes his mind daily, so take the news with a grain of salt. Still, it’s going to be hard to outrun that massive AU tattoo on his arm.

    This is absolutely not true. He does not change his mind daily. He has committed to two different teams so far: Alabama then Auburn. He said he would decomit if Auburn fired Trooper Taylor. He did that. He never said anything about not coming back. Reuben Foster is really a five star and the way he played in the UA game proved it. His word is not to be taken with a grain of salt. Furthermore, he’s a big reason why Carl Lawson whom I think is the best player in the country has stayed with Auburn the whole time.

    I would suggest you guys embrace this kid with open arms and show him he is part of the Auburn Family because he is coming here and he will be a starter here soon. Let’s not dislike the kid before he even makes it here.