How Excited Are You About the Start of Auburn Football?

By Posted on: August 27th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 30 Comments »
Auburn Tigers Football vs ULM 2012

Take a walk around Auburn and you can just feel the excitement over the upcoming football season. Anticipation of the first game is always high. But there just seems to be something extra in the air this year.

Could it be the fact that this will be the first year in the past eight to have a veteran returning quarterback? Maybe it’s the excitement of the Tigers’ top 10 preseason ranking. Maybe it’s opening against an SEC West opponent. Or possibly the fans can sense the determination of the team to be 13 seconds better than last year.

Being in the Loveliest Village on The Plains on game day is always special. And that’s especially true with the first ballgame of the season. It’s always one of the most exciting times of the year for my family.

There’s nothing else like it for the Elder clan. In fact we observe four seasons at our house … winter, spring, summer, and football! And I can tell you we are excited about the beginning of our favorite time of the year.

We’re excited about tailgating with friends and family, excited about Tiger Walk, excited about watching the eagle fly again. And we are excited about hearing the band.

One of the most energizing moments of the entire year is when we watch the Auburn Drum Major spearing his baton in to the Pat Dye turf and hear 80,000 fans sing the War Eagle fight song as the Band marches down the field at the first game.

Then the pre game video finishes up with a picture flashing on the jumbo-tron screen of the team standing in the tunnel. The decibels reach dangerously high levels as the Tigers make their entrance under the adoring cheers of the Auburn faithful.

It’s enough to make grown men cry.

This is the moment we all have been waiting for – for nine months. In a little more than 72 hours, the long days of the off season will finally be over.

On Saturday the Auburn Family will gather around radios, TV sets, and at sports bars to cheer on the Tigers. Another 80,000 will have a family reunion at Jordan-Hare.

Auburn Football begins Saturday at 3 p.m. CT when the Tigers take on Arkansas. I can hardly contain myself. –  I’m excited! How about you Auburn fan … 

How excited Are you?


The Professor of X

By Posted on: August 26th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 8 Comments »

What else is the 4-2-5 but a Professor X protocol?

There is little doubt that Ellis Johnson knows a thing or two about defense and the Southeastern Conference. He has coached for four full decades, on four separate conference teams, three of whom played in the SEC championship game in each of three decades while he was a defensive coordinator. He has undoubtedly earned his reputation as one the best minds on the X side of the ball.

Few others can match his success at defensive coordinator across such a span of time and in such varied environments. In terms of performance, his defenses have been remarkably consistent year to year, team to team, against the best offenses and legendary players that have graced the conference: Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Tim Tebow, Aaron Murray. Ellis Johnson has set his defenses to compete against all of them.

It is one of the remarkable legacies of each of the teams he has coached, despite the varying won/loss records. Whether it was the 3-8 Mississippi Bulldogs of 2005, or the 11-2 South Carolina Gamecocks of 2011, Ellis Johnson’s defensive squads were always tough game day foes who shut down some of the best aerial attacks, and served as a brick wall to the ground attacks in the conference week to week.

That being said, there were two years when Johnson was an incoming defensive coordinator since 2000 that proved to be his worst years statistically in terms of points scored and yards per play. The first was in 2004 when he was hired at Mississippi State by Sylvester Croom to rebuild that program. The school was in the midst of NCAA sanctions and had not won consistently since the mid 1990s. That year the Bulldogs went 3-8, allowed over 25 points per game and surrendered nearly 5 and a half yards per play.

The second worst opening year as a Defensive Coordinator was the SEC Champion Auburn Tigers of 2013, who gave up nearly 25 points per game and almost 6 yards per play.

Unlocking Ellis Johnson’s defensive secrets can be a challenge

Since the mid-1990s, Ellis Johnson has had four ‘second seasons’ as a Defensive Coordinator. The first was at Alabama under Mike Dubose (1997 to 1998), the second at Mississippi State under Sylvester Croom (2004 to 2005), and the third at South Carolina  under Steve Spurrier (2008 to 2009) before taking the job at Auburn under Gus Malzahn (2013-2014). I took a look at each of those years and compared his statistics from one year to the next and also against his entire time since then as a Defensive Coordinator.

But despite my best effort, I didn’t find what I was looking for – a distinct statistical improvement I can apply as a factor to Auburn’s 2013 baseline as a projection to what might happen in 2014. Instead what I found was a remarkable pattern of consistent performance. A series of  tough, shut-down defenses that rarely gave up the big play over a span of 13 years. 

Take a look at his first ‘second year’ in 1998 under Mike “The Flop from Opp” Dubose at Alabama.


What do you see? A tough, hard nosed defense that lost to five ranked teams but still managed to hold their opponents to an decent average of less than 23 points per game, and proved remarkably stout near the goal line.

In 2005, at Mississippi State, Ellis Johnson fielding yet another ‘second year’ team that went 3-8 for a second year, yet still managed to improve into a consistent defensive team remarkably similar to the 7-5 Alabama team of 1998.


In 2009, Ellis coached his second 7-5 regular seasons at South Carolina, and his defenses showed,…


…virtually the same stingy defense of his other teams. It’s almost uncanny how statistically similar all of the man’s defenses appear. They don’t allow much scoring, hold teams on third down, and don’t let them score touchdowns on a compressed field. There is steady but unremarkable improvement between the first and second year for each of these teams. In fact, there is a remarkable sameness to Professor X’s defenses.

Which is to say that the most remarkable aspect of what Ellis Johnson does is that he provides his head coach with a  quality defense year in and year out, tweaking this and that to ensure steady improvement, but almost never having a bad year no matter what was happening on the other side of the ball.

Except for one singular exception – Last year.

So to see what could be possible this coming year, I was stuck with comparing what an Ellis Johnson defense usually does to what the Tigers did last year.  What else could I put besides his worst statistic year but his average output?


And therein lies the difficulty in my drawing any comparisons with ‘second year effort’ from Ellis Johnson’s career.

Last year was such an exceptional one in terms of what Ellis Johnson has provided in the past. So far removed from his usual performance in terms of scoring and yards per play, that anticipating what will happen this year in comparison to other ‘second years’ is almost impossible.

Last year was likely the worst we’ll ever see of an Ellis Johnson coached defense in our lifetime. The man just doesn’t seem to have many of those, so it’s probably best for all concerned that he got that out of his system early. When you look at his long career and the types of defenses he normally fields year in and year out, seasons like last year almost defy explanation.

Which probably doesn’t lend itself to comforting our opponents going forward. If last year’s SEC champions were one of Coach Johnson’s WORST years as a defensive coordinator, heaven help the SEC this coming year and every year after.

Professor X won’t let them off so easy this time


Track Em Tigers’ 7th Annual Yahoo! Pick Em Contest

By Posted on: August 26th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 3 Comments »

Sorry so late, but we simply couldn’t miss the chance for our 7th annual Track Em College Football Pick Em contest, sponsored by Yahoo! Sports. If you’ve never participated before, it’s real simple. Each week has a slate of Top 25 and SEC games where you choose the winner AGAINST THE SPREAD. At the end of the regular season, whomever successfully choses the most number of games wins all the marbles. Each week we’ll announce that Saturday’s winners and publish a ranking of the top 25 of participants.

To sign up, you’ll need to create a Yahoo email account if you don’t already have one. Then go here:  Insert our Group #: 9213 The password is: auburn2014   Try and use a pickset name that you use on TET so you’re easier to identify to others, but it’s not required. This week’s games are already posted so you can start picking. Here are the rules and protocol that have prevailed over the years:

  1. Each week’s games and spreads don’t show up until mid-Monday or sometimes as late as Tuesday. Be patient!
  2. Spreads can sometimes change during the week so check your picks closer to Friday to see if you want to make changes.
  3. Fill out the tiebreakers as they are important. There will be a logjam at the top early in the season.
  4. Your pick for each game can be changed up to 5 minutes prior to kickoff for that individual game.
  5. Failing to pick one game in a week will not jeapordize your other picks.
  6. Sometimes (but rarely) there are Friday games. Check the date and time of each kickoff.
  7. If you fail to make a selection for a game, you will lose that pick. It’s not like taking the SAT.
  8. We will discard each players’ two WORST week’s worth of picks. This is calculated immediately but is in play until the end.
  9. That means you can get in during week 3 and still have a fighting chance. Tell your friends about this.
  10. Please don’t sign up unless you intend to play the entire season. Sometimes this is like having a part time job.
  11. Quitters will be shamed/have their email address given to Al from Dadeville.
  12. Ask questions below or post within the system.

Sound off below in the comments to let us know you’re in!


It’s Time to Save Tailgating; Push Back the Start of College Football

By Posted on: August 25th, 2014 in Football 13 Comments »

Even though it feels like the inferno from hell in East Alabama, the calendar says otherwise. It’s game week in Auburn. College football is back. All is right with the world. Now let’s fix the damn thermometer.

If season openers feel much warmer to you than in your childhood, there’s good reason. We played later in those days. A look at past Auburn schedules shows a historically much later start to the season. Throughout the 1960’s things kicked off at the end of September, coinciding with the quarter system most all college students were on at the time.

Auburn opened with Tennessee on September 29th to begin the 1962 season. By the end of the decade not much had changed. Auburn began the 1967 campaign on September 23rd.

The college football creep gained speed in the 1970’s. Football was starting nearly a week earlier in 1973 when Auburn faced Oregon St. in Birmingham on September 15. The second week of September would remain the standard for the rest of the decade.

By the time Pat Dye arrived on campus, college football had moved things up another week. Dye’s first game as Auburn coach was on September 5th. Three years later, Auburn would play its earliest opener in history when it traveled to East Rutherford, N.J. to face Miami in the Kickoff Classic on August 28th.

When the Terry Bowden era started in 1993, Labor Day weekend had become the de facto start to the college football season, guaranteeing that fans south of the Mason-Dixon Line would broil for a minimum of two games until any change in climate.

Now that we have a college football playoff, can’t we push the season back three weeks? I mean, it’s hot enough wearing all that equipment running around a hot football field, but what about the fans?

Have you ever attempted to drink a six-pack in 100 degree weather? Of course you have. So you see my point. It’s almost impossible once you reach the age of 30. Player safety comes first, but tailgating is a close second.

Come Saturday morning, we’ll all put on our orange shirts, head to campus and put up our tents, televisions and satellites and continue to tell ourselves it’s not that bad. Don’t fool yourself. It’s going to be miserable.

The idea that Auburn football is back will make all things tolerable. We’ll push through it and make new memories with friends and family. But things could be so much better. Let’s move the season back three weeks. Push the playoffs back to mid-January and play the championship at the end of the month.

What else do we have to do in winter? Leave September for the beach and football for the true Fall. That said, I’ll see you on campus bright and early Saturday. I’ll bring the water.

Look for me. I’ll have on orange. 

2014 Tunnel Video – Song Ideas

By Posted on: August 23rd, 2014 in Football 7 Comments »


A new season of Auburn football brings new sights, sounds, and a whole lot of football. But before the Tigers even make their way out of the tunnel and into the smoke, the fans have to get psyched for kickoff too. A favorite pre-game ritual of mine is the tunnel video that AUHD airs every single game. It’s the time to feel the goosebumps on your arms, the hairs on your neck stand up, your heart pumping faster and faster, and the adrenaline rushing throughout your body. Music is everything — it can either make or break an inspirational video. So here are some of my wishes for this year’s tunnel song…

Icky Thump – The White Stripes

A good amount of The White Stripes’ discography could work for this spot (the basketball team used “Seven Nation Army” for their intro video last year). But this song is just an absolute blood-pumping, hard-nosed track that’ll make you want to run through a brick wall (or at least try). Just close your eyes and hear that guitar lick booming through the Jordan-Hare speakers this fall as the team makes its way to the field.

Black Skinhead – Kanye West

I know some of you may not be the biggest fans of rap, but remember how quickly “All I Do Is Win” caught on? With an opening beat that mimics the “Hey!” song that’s typically played over stadiums’ P.A. systems, I bet this would be a fan favorite in no time — at least for the college students.

Fortune Days – The Glitch Mob

In recent years, Auburn has gone down the electronic route when it comes to the pre-game song. I’m not the biggest fan of the genre, but at least this one would sound brilliant with a montage of Rod Bramblett’s radio calls overlaying the track.

Remember the Name – Fort Minor

I’m pretty confused as to why Auburn has never used this song — it’s pretty old. But nonetheless, it would still work extremely well for a fast-paced team like Auburn.

Survival – Eminem

The theme song for the 2014 BCS National Championship, this single off of Eminem’s latest album could certainly do the trick to get the fans jacked up. With an extremely catchy hook, “This is survival of the fittest, this is do or die”, it’s only fitting for a premier SEC team to use it. 

The Expectation

By Posted on: August 22nd, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 7 Comments »

Synchronize your watches to GMT – Gus Malzahn Time

There are many challenges for an incoming coach at a major university in the NCAA. There is the ever present distraction of being the center of media attention. The higher the profile school, the greater the media focus on his every move and utterance. Then there is the pressure of the hiring process and organizational meetings with primary and secondary staffs. There are recruiting goals, objectives and of course athletes to contact, interview and review. There are countless tasks concerning the ordering of existing facilities and procedures. There are alumni gatherings, speaking engagements, and even mundane day to day tasks like moving in to a new home, settling personal affairs and the every precious family time. Last but certainly not least, there are your new players, some of whom you might happen to know, either from crossing paths on recruiting trips or even having the opportunity like Gus Malzahn did, of coaching them in the past.

The time spent on these tasks for an incoming coach before the first practice of the spring can be immense, even with the advantage of having been on campus before. As a head coach, you’re in a different role than any other opportunity you’ve had before. The task list is infinitely longer, the schedule is now yours to establish rather than follow and everyone is looking for you to decide nearly everything. There is a wealth of things that a new coach must attend to in addition to getting his team ready for that first season, and no matter how many times you’ve done it before, it still requires an inordinate amount of time to accomplish.

Even when that first season begins, and many distractions fall away there are still growing pains to overcome as you establish not only your game plan, but your leadership philosophy and “the way” you and your staff will work going forward. The players and your subordinate coaches all have their own input and plans as well, and throughout that first year there are inevitable mis-communications and misunderstandings that will usually be addressed and resolved by the start of the next year.

By the second season the mettle of a team has been tested and a working routine is well established. The productive tempo of day to day tasks increase dramatically and the extra time now afforded the head coach can be spent adjusting and improving key areas of his team, coaching staff and program. The second year coach is allowed to fully establish his philosophy, fine tune his coaching style, and communicate quickly with his staff and players in the common language of shared experience.

Everything just seems to go smoother the second time around. How much smoother? Well, let’s take a look.

A Golden Eagle in its second year, showing the War Eagle tail feather coloration

In 2008, Gus Malzahn was in his second year as the offensive coordinator at Tulsa under his friend Todd Graham, now the head coach at Arizona State University. Back in 2007, the Tulsa Hurricanes had lit up scoreboards and set school records for offensive production, improving from 37th in the nation to 6th with a 41 point per game average.


In 2008 they were 2nd in the nation and scored over 47 points per game. In all other respects, there was a notable improvement across all measurable aspects of the team’s performance.

In Gus Malzahn’s first year as Offensive Coordinator at Auburn in 2009, the Tigers had one of the best offenses in the SEC, averaging 33.3 points per game against some of the best defenses in the nation, and good enough for 17th in the nation.


In 2010, Auburn scored over 41 points per game, 7th best in the nation and went undefeated to capture the BCS Championship. In fact, using my Cafe Malzahn measurements, we can actually measure the improvement in each of Gus’s previous 2nd year teams.

Using these two examples, the following average improvement from year 1 to year 2 under Gus Malzahn can  be seen.


Drum roll please,…..

If you take these improvements (and even the slight degradation of Red Zone and Red Zone Touchdown output) into account, Auburn’s offensive improvement in 2014 can be approximated.



My friends, that is the offensive output of an SEC Championship team in every single measure that I’ve been tracking for the last seven years. In fact, it EXCEEDS every one of the previous seven SEC championship teams in three of the five categories – Points per game, yards per play and 3rd down conversion rate.

Is this a verifiable prediction? Can you take this to the bank? Obviously not on only two examples. Nothing is certain in college football and I’m not so blind to ascribe any statistical certainty to the numbers I’ve collected, but I will say this: This team has the potential to blow the socks off the rest of the SEC and the nation this season. With a full year to improve over last year’s remarkable SEC championship run, veteran lines on both sides of the ball, superb receivers, outstanding running backs, the best tandem of quarterbacks in the nation (not to mention the best offensive mind in the game today), there is no determinable upper limit to what the Tigers might do in 2014.

For those who say Auburn won’t be as ‘lucky’ this year as they were last year, I’d say that is most probably true. Then again, if these number prove accurate they won’t need to be. 

“Hey babe,…”

College Football is one Week Away!

By Posted on: August 21st, 2014 in Football 14 Comments »
One week till football

Preparation for Arkansas begins.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! I think I speak for all of us, when I say that college football frenzy is building rapidly! Maybe it’s just a giddy product of having the SEC Network on the air, and having it on as background noise during most hours I’m home, but I have to say that I’m fired up. Likewise, I’m excited to hear that the coaches have already started Arkansas preparations, more than a week from the opener. Auburn fans are certainly hoping for a good showing against the Hogs.

     For much of this summer, I’ve previewed one of Auburn’s football opponents. This week should be dedicated to the Samford Bulldogs, who travel to Auburn on November 22nd. While I enjoy typing “Advantage, Auburn” as much as anyone, I just don’t see boring everyone with a dozen position capsules of that variety regarding this matchup. Auburn is an FBS championship contender, and they are playing an FCS school. This game should not be close, unless Auburn has suffered some horrible setbacks.

     Samford has been making slow but steady progress under former Auburn Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan. Last season, Samford won a share of the Southern Conference Championship, finishing 8-4, before getting blasted by Jax State in the opening round of the FCS playoff, 55-14. The Bulldogs do have a lot of players back, and have added intriguing Arizona State transfer quarterback Michael Eubanks, who’s a mobile guy with a strong arm. The Bulldogs should have a chance in most games they play, except for the opener at TCU and the finale in Auburn.

     Auburn will likely try to jump on Samford with 3 or 4 early scores, then try to rest folks in preparation for a titanic, SEC-deciding Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa. Bama will be bad news, this year, mark it down. A lot of fuss is being made over the fact that Alabama will have a new starter at quarterback this season. Folks, that really hasn’t mattered, in the Saban era. Greg McElroy took Bama to an undefeated national championship in his first season as a starter, and A. J. McCarron brought home a crystal football in his first season as a starter. With Alabama’s schedule, I’ll be shocked if they don’t enter the Iron Bowl undefeated, and rolling.

A few tidbits on Auburn practice, after the jump.

      As the week finishes, I’d expect the Tigers to have a semblance of a depth chart in place. As was the case last season, Auburn will have positions that have depth, and will rotate players freely, and being a starter is merely a formality. I’d expect that the defensive line and receiver areas fit that bill, as does the running back spot. Some areas have had surprises the past week, though.

     On the defensive line, Auburn has lots of tackles. Seniors Gabe Wright, Angelo Blackson, Jeffery Whitaker and Ben Bradley anchor a tough unit, and all will play a lot. Throw in talented sophomore Montravius Adams, and this is a scary bunch. Wright and Adams have been practicing at defensive end, and it’s a strong bet that Wright will start at an end position against Arkansas. The intrigue on the line has been at the end spots. We know sophomore Elijah Daniel will play a prominent role. LaDarius Owen is back at practice after an infection, and he’s a proven commodity. The wildcard on the line is incoming end Davonte Lambert. Word is that he’s too fast and talented to keep out of the lineup.

     Auburn appears to be set at linebacker/star with Cassanova McKinzy in the middle, Kris Frost at will, and Justin Garrett at star. This is a solid package of juniors. What happens when one or more guys goes out of the game? Well, that’s still a question. Anthony Swain probably has the most experience at linebacker, but things look scary at the star position behind Garrett.

     Probably the most interesting development on the defensive side of the ball has been the emergence of safety Jonathan Ford. He’s surged ahead of projected starter Derrick Moncrief, which based on what I saw on A-Day is a pretty incredible feat. Moncrief has missed a little time with an illness, and Ford evidently shined during the absence. This fall, I’d expect both guys to play a lot.

     On special teams, coach Scott Fountain is still either trying to build a ton of depth at the return spots, or no one’s doing a good enough job, because Auburn is still repping a lot of players at every spot. I think Corey Grant will get the first shot at being the featured kick returner, but we still have no clue who’s going to actually field punts. And by some accounts, kicker Daniel Carlson is on the verge of snatching away the starting punting duties from a trio of promising guys I watch boom the ball on A-Day. Can a freshman both kick off, place-kick and punt effectively? Last guy to do that at Auburn was Damon Duval way back in 1999.

     Six months ago, I opined that in recent years, I’ve always worried most about Auburn’s offensive lead-blocking depth. And at that time, despite the graduation of Jay Prosch, Auburn had the most favorable situation in years at the tight end and H-back spots. Folks, that illusion is shattered, and there are serious issues if seniors C. J. Uzomah or Brandon Fulse miss any time. Uzomah and Fulse can play both spots well, and can back each other up. Problem is that now, the third guy into the mix is a freshman, at either spot. Now, freshman Jakell Mitchell is on the spot at H-back, and freshman Chris Laye would be the next option at tight end. Ouch. And what about next year?

     Last season, Auburn’s top-ranked rushing offense was basically powered inside by six guys: the offensive line plus H-back Jay Prosch. At this point, half of those guys are gone. Left tackle Greg Robinson was the top lineman drafted by the NFL this past spring, and Prosch is turning heads in Houston this fall. The star of the future was Gage Batten, but he’s out indefinitely with an injury. This week, walk-on Patrick Young was pushing for a prominent role, but he’s now also out for the year with a knee injury. Bottom line: with three folks gone, don’t expect Auburn to roll as easily on the ground as late last season.

Auburn Will be Tough to Beat in 2014 Despite Hardest Schedule in the Nation

By Posted on: August 20th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 8 Comments »
527e8d693cce9.image- Gus & Nick

                                                                                                               (photo:Albert Cesare,
Auburn’s magical 2013 football season is now part of college football history. The team that few predicted to have a winning season came within 13 seconds of winning it all. To say the Tigers snuck up on some teams would be putting it mildly.

No one had picked Auburn to finish in the top 25 yet the Tigers went 12-1 on their way to an SEC Championship and berth in the Big Game. From disrespect to being picked as a top five or six team in the 2014 preseason is a phenomenal turn around.

In fact some think the Tigers may be the best team in the SEC. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit is one of them. The Herbester said yesterday at the end of last year he felt like, “Auburn (was) going to be the team to beat in the SEC.” Kirk said, “I think they’re going to be as good, if not better, than a year ago … (and) be tough for anybody to beat.”

However, to prove that point, the Tigers will have to run the table on one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Most prognosticators have Auburn’s strength of schedule rated as one of the top five toughest schedules in the country.

Phil Steele has rated the Tigers’ schedule as the fifth toughest in college football while Yard Barker and both say Auburn plays the number one hardest schedule.

Auburn plays seven Top 25 teams and opens against SEC West foe, Arkansas. In addition, the Tigers will have to play Georgia in Athens this year and Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Throw in a road trip to Big 12 power Kansas State, play LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State and the schedule is dauting enough. But then Auburn also has to play the two best teams in the East – Georgia and South Carolina. It’s easy to see how tough an assignment Gus Malzahn and his staff have cut out for them.

Incidentally, while this team is facing that kind of schedule, the other team from across the state has not had their pre-season strength of schedule rated above 61. But hey, if you know anything about Auburn’s past, they have always had one of the toughest schedules even before conference expansion. That’s why Pat Dye used to refer to the Tigers’ last three games as “Amen Corner.”

Nothing’s ever been easy for the Orange and Blue. And it won’t be easy in 2014.

Sure it’s going to be a difficult gauntlet to run. But as Herbstreit said yesterday, “As long as Nick Marshall’s there, and Gus Malzahn’s calling plays with a chip on his shoulder, they’re going to be tough for anybody to beat.”

I got to say it’s a rare moment that I find myself agreeing with anyone at ESPN. But In this case, I’m with Kirk … my money is on the Tigers.

War Eagle!

Editor’s Note: Also of importance is the fact that Auburn is returning fourteen starters on offense including a veteran QB and a veteran offensive line. And even though Defensive End Carl Lawson will miss the first half of the season, the defense will have a deeper depth chart to augment the six returning starters.