Tigers move forward to a new era.
War Eagle, everybody! It’s the week before Christmas, and it’s sure hard to believe another year is nearly done. It’s a damp, stormy morning more typical of April than December around Auburn. For Tiger football fans, one must make do with recruiting snippets and the occasional hire from new Head Coach Gus Malzhan. It’s the season of speculation, so pull up a chair, enjoy a warm mug of coffee, and listen to the thunder rumbling in the distance.
There wasn’t much to celebrate this past season at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn, but changes will be coming to the iconic spot. It’s been mentioned before elsewhere, but Auburn University is looking for supporter input into the final fate of the school’s quarter of the intersection. Whether you’d like to see the corner restored to exactly what it was a couple of years ago, or you’d like to see it totally redesigned and turned into a Disney-like celebration-space, or something in between, take the survey and make your voice heard! The link is here. A big thank-you goes to Tiger on the Mountain, for passing this along!
I try not to get too wrapped up in the recruiting phase of football, but I did note this week that there’s general uneasiness among those in the know that Auburn is currently ranked somewhere around 28th in the nation in this year’s recruiting rankings. This year, even if Auburn finishes at that spot, there’s no reason to panic. The talent level on the current squad is pretty high, with just a few glaring weak spots. I’d fully expect the new staff to plug holes with this year’s group, possibly signing a half dozen junior college players.
I’ll remind everyone that Auburn finished in the top 5 the last three years in recruiting, and didn’t win an SEC game last season. Obviously a team can’t win without some talent, but I think it’s far more important how the players are developed, and utilized.
Three years ago, Auburn recruitniks were ecstatic that Auburn had a chance to sign the three top running backs in the country: Marcus Lattimore, Michael Dyer, and Lache Seastrunk. Three years later, only one is still playing college ball, Seastrunk at Baylor. All three guys have had rocky roads in college, and had difficulty staying on the field. In early February, I’ll look at who we signed, and how they might fit in. After that, there are no stars. I’ll be looking for Auburn guys who make plays.
In the assistant coach search, head coach Gus Malzhan continued to raid his former employer to help fill out his Auburn staff. The latest hire is J. B. Grimes, who comes in to coach the offensive line. This is a very solid hire, as Grimes has consistently produced lines that pave the way for big ground games. It will be exciting to see what the new “Coach Grimes” can do with Auburn’s well-stocked offensive line.
Tracy Rocker’s name continues to be a hot possibility in the coaching search, and the latest is that Auburn is trying to lure former Tiger Rodney Garner back to the Plains. Both guys are currently defensive line coaches, but those in the know say that Malzhan has a plan if he can get both of them. Luring Garner back will take some doing, as there was bad blood at the end of Garner’s last tenure at Auburn, as the tight ends coach.
My recollection of things was that head coach Terry Bowden tried to reassign Garner from tight ends coach to an off-field position, and Garner left, rather than take the demotion. Rumor indicated that Bowden didn’t trust Garner’s recruiting integrity, and that he thought he could do better developing the tight ends. In my opinion, Garner has recruited for 20 years in the SEC, and has yet to have an NCAA scandal. To debunk the second notion, Garner coached Fred Baxter and Andy Fuller while he was at Auburn. Baxter went on to a long, successful career in the NFL, and Fuller was a four-year starter who went from basically being an extra lineman to being a stand-out receiver. I hope Garner considers the offer. I think all of the principle folks involved in his ouster have long ago moved on.
So what should we expect out of the gate at the start of the Malzhan era next fall? I’d expect the offense to get off to a fast start, much like it did in 2009. As you’ll recall, Auburn didn’t have a settled situation at quarterback till the last minute, then. With Chris Todd at the helm, Auburn roared out of the gate scoring 37 or more in the first four games, and the Tigers won five in a row. Then Todd’s arm got sore, or Chizik slowed the offense down, take your pick. The West Virginia game was the highlight of that magical run, as the rains fell before the game, and Auburn took it away from the highly regarded Mountaineers. Hopefully this next season, the Tigers will continue to roar. War Eagle, and have a great holiday season!
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