Life on the Island

By Posted on: March 21st, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 14 Comments »

Defending the edge against Auburn’s Zone Read play

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe;
every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse,
as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were;
any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

John Donne can be excused for his opinion, having never witnessed the Auburn zone read play as a defensive end or outside linebacker in the SEC. But if he had, he would know the pang of Tom Hank’s character the the movie Castaway – unable to overcome the fate of being left all alone, virtually helpless as everything he’s been taught about his role in life is taken from him and slowly going crazy watching a ball drift away out of reach.

Defensive ends and linebackers in the Southeastern conference are a unique blend of size, speed, intelligence and tenacity. The emergence of edge speed rushers in both the NFL and NCAA football has led to large, explosive athletes gravitating to the end of the defensive line where their incredible agility, speed and leverage can alter the pace of the game by pressuring the quarterback into ill-timed throws or drive killing sacks. This issue has been illustrated in many commentaries on the sport, most notably by the now celebrated book and movie ‘The Blind Side’ by Michael Lewis. The game of football, Lewis asserts, was forever changed by the vulnerability of the West Coast offense to athletes of Lawrence Taylor’s caliber and their ability to apply pressure on drop back pass-heavy offenses.

But like anything, just because a situation is conventional in the present doesn’t necessarily indicate a permanent aspect of the future. The game of football is one of constant improvement and leverage of opposing tendencies, applications of force, and the opportunistic exploitation of vulnerabilities. One of the most dramatic examples of this is how the Auburn offensive scheme under Rhett Lashlee and Gus Malzahn attacks these skilled defenders on the edge of the line of scrimmage.

The Auburn offense of 2013 used a series of plays that leveraged the expected role of the edge defender against himself, often leaving him alone, untouched, unblocked and completely out of the play at the very point where his athletic ability was supposed to dominate.

At times it was a thing of beauty and magnificence rarely found on the field of play. One moment a talented and graceful athlete was poised to create a negative play, and the next he was alone in a seemingly infinite expanse, mournfully crying out to the vanishing object of his desire.


“Wilsonnnnnnn!”

In 2008, defensive end Ed Stinson (#49) was a 4-star prospect for Alabama. After redshirting during the 2009 season, he played in nine games as a Freshman in 2010, earning two starts, and played as a starter in each game over the next three years, including two BCS championship games. In 2013 he was a dominant part of the Alabama defense line, and will likely be a solid mid second round draft prospect for the NFL in April. In all respects, he was the prototypical size (6’3″, 293 lbs), speed and dynamic one would expect from an Alabama Defensive End of the Nick Saban era.

But on the opening drive of the second half of the 2013 Iron Bowl, he might as well have been on a desert island in the middle of the Pacific for all he was able to accomplish in stopping the Auburn drive. 

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After two plays to the far side, Auburn snaps the ball on the third play of the drive. Ed Stinson has a clear lane to the ‘mesh point’, or the hand off decision point of the zone read between Nick Marshall and Tre Mason. If you notice, Ed is not blocked at all, he is up from his stance and advancing with a clear path to the ball.

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One second later, Ed is yards behind the play, caught up in the wash of the line and well out of position to make a stop. Result: 10 yards and a first down for Auburn

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Fourth play of the drive, Ed is in the same position, facing the mesh point of the zone read again, untouched by any Auburn player. Only this time, Marshall keeps the ball and rolls right, and Ed pursues, intent on a sure tackle for a loss.

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But Nick Marshall quickly unloads on a designed sideline pass to Quan Bray, who gains 9 yards on the play, leaving Stinson grasping at air, unable to touch Nick Marshall for fear of drawing a penalty. Result: 9 yard gain.

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After two plays to the opposite side, where his counter part on the the right side does no better in stopping the ball carrier, giving up a total of 16 yards, Ed again finds himself unblocked with the ball coming his way on yet another zone read. This time Nick Marshall hands the ball off to Mason, who rumbles for six yards to the far side, leaving Ed futilely alone in the backfield.

Auburn now has a first down in the Alabama red zone, after marching 54 yards to the Alabama 15 yard line.

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On the eighth play of the drive, Ed Stinson finally makes his lone contact with the ball carrier. On yet another zone read, he is again unblocked and facing the mesh point between Nick Marshall and Tre Mason. Nick keeps it and attempts another out pass to Quan Bray. But this time, the coverage is too close and Nick pulls in the pass as Ed closes with him behind the line of scrimmage.

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But Nick accelerates and almost breaks that desperation tackle, and ends up with a solid two yard gain on the play.

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On what will be the last play of the drive, Ed faces a blocker for only the second time in the entire series as Nick Marshall hits C.J. Uzomah on the wheel route for a game tying touchdown.

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In nine straight plays of a game tying series, a starting defensive end was only blocked by an opposing player two times. In the seven remaining plays of the drive he was left untouched and alone on an island in the eye of the Zone Read whirlwind. Despite having the ball handed off directly in front of him less than two yards away on seven of those plays, he ended the drive with one desperation tackle after surrendering almost three yards, despite having his hands on the ball carrier two yards behind the line of scrimmage.

Keep in mind, this was not some random Freshman brought off the bench to substitute in a critical series. This was a four year All-SEC starting defensive end, a veteran of two BCS championship teams having his best year to date and establishing himself as a top tier prospect for the upcoming NFL draft. And yet he was as ineffective as Gilligan in getting himself off the island and helping his team on that series.

Such is the beauty and power of the zone read in the hands of a skilled quarterback. It can leave one of the best defensive players in the country flailing impotently in the wind, helplessly watching the ball recede into nothingness as his hopes and dreams come to naught. A conventional Caliban at the mercy of mystical conjuring by a gifted Prospero.

“I am subject to a tyrant, a sorcerer, that by his cunning hath cheated me of the island.” Caliban, The Tempest



You and all the rest of the SEC defensive ends, Caliban. You and all the rest.

Spring Drills Begin!

By Posted on: March 20th, 2014 in Basketball, Football 12 Comments »
Spring Drills Begin

We have to earn it.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! It was an incredible day in Auburn Tuesday, as Auburn University announced the hiring of Bruce Pearl as the new men’s basketball head coach, and a wild all-day celebration followed. Lost in the euphoria and welcoming of Pearl was the beginning of spring football drills. Head coach Gus Malzhan had the right message with the above quote. The Tiger football team must earn it. Starting now, the SEC Tittle and improbable comeback of 2013 means little. A new slate of games awaits, and it’s a very tough schedule this fall.

     At the crack of dawn Tuesday, Auburn began a new grueling regimen. What was evident quickly on a day in shorts is that the off-season hasn’t been wasted. The team looks bigger and faster, and a quick look at reported weights on the roster bears that out. There are guys out there like Shon Coleman and Shane Callahan who’ve added more than 10 pounds of muscle. Likewise, a few guys who were overweight last season have trimmed down. Of particular note is that starting Star position senior Robensen Therezie has put on 8 pounds. In a defense without a true strong-side linebacker, the star has to sometimes make that tough tackle. At 212 pounds, Therezie should be even better this spring.

Position by position breakdown, after the jump!

     Auburn defensive line was the strength of the defense last season, and it returns a good number of players this season, although finding a few more ends is crucial this spring. Missing from yesterday’s practice was senior starter LaDarius Owens. Don’t know if that was a class conflict, or something more serious. Carl Lawson was running first team, in Dee Ford’s former spot.

     Auburn appears set in stone as to the starting linebackers, Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost. Building quality depth behind them will be a priority. There are plans to play junior Justin Garrett, who missed last season with injuries at both linebacker and star. Yesterday, he was working at linebacker.

     On the back end, Auburn will be missing starting safety Joshua Holsey, who’s recovering from a knee injury last season. While Holsey won’t be cleared till fall, he was taking part in non-contact drills, which was a good thing to see. While Auburn begins spring with 19 defensive backs on the official roster, a notable one who is not there is Trent Fisher, who has been a valuable special teams guy the past 3 seasons. Jermaine Whitehead and Jonathan Mincy likely have starting spots locked down, but Auburn will look at a lot of new faces this spring. At least on the first day, the most impressive-looking of the bunch was JUCO transfer Derrick Moncrief. At 6′ 2” and 218, he gives Auburn more size than we’re used to seeing at safety. Trovon Reed worked at corner for the first time, and looked like a natural. He has switched to number 25.

     On the offensive line, Patrick Miller appears to be getting first crack at replacing Greg Robinson at left tackle. Miller took first-team reps on that side, with Avery Young on the right side. Coaches have said that they’ll look at Miller, Shon Coleman and Robert Leff as possible replacements.

     Most years, I worry about Auburn’s numbers at tight end and h-back. This year, things look as good as ever. C. J. Uzomah has added another 6 pounds, and looks the part of a tight end at 264 pounds. He and fellow senior Brandon Fulse should give Auburn the best pair of blocking tight ends in the SEC this fall, and we also know Uzomah has a knack for making the tough touchdown catch in traffic. Ricky Parks has returned to the team at H-back, and looks to again be in the playing rotation like he was last spring. Gage Batten returns after backing up Jay Prosch last season to compete for a starting job.

     Even with Trovon Reed moving to cornerback, Auburn returns a deep and talented receiving corps this spring. In drills yesterday, newcomer D’haquille Williams looked impressive. He’s got size, moves, speed and hands, and might be a threat to take a starting job. Another guy who’s evidently taken a jump forward is Tony Stevens, who played sparingly last season. Stevens is Auburn’s tallest wide receiver at 6′ 4”, and he’s added about 8 pounds of muscle. Auburn has really increased the size of its receiver corps in recent years. Auburn can rotate through Coates, Williams, Stevens, Ricardo Louis, and Jaylon Denson and not have a guy shorter than 6′ 2”. Add in slot guys Quan Bray and Marcus Davis, and it’s a deep and talented group. On the injury front, Jaylon Denson was at practice, but did not do any drills.

     One of the bigger questions on most folks’ minds is who will replace Heisman Finalist Tre Mason? Taking first team reps was Cameron Artis-Payne, with Corey Grant on the second unit. Auburn only has 7 running backs listed on the roster, but more big-name talent will arrive in the fall. For spring, I think the big names will be Artis-Payne, Grant and redshirt freshman Peyton Barber. On A-Day, I’d look for CAP and Grant to be sat down early, and the majority of carries given to the younger guys. That’s the way it usually is. I’ll be looking to see if junior transfer Lawyer Tillman gets a few carries. Yes, we have a Lawyer Tillman on the roster again! He’s the son of former Tiger wide receiver who scored the winning touchdown in the 1986 Iron Bowl.

     At quarterback, Gus Malzhan has his first returning starting quarterback since Mitch Mustaine in 2005. Nick Marshall will go through his first spring at Auburn, and I think everyone is looking forward to seeing what he can do with a greater command of the offense. As Jay Coulter wrote yesterday, I think the offense will run much faster this season. Rounding out the spring depth chart are sophomore Jeremy Johnson, junior Jonathan Wallace, junior Ben Durand, and sophomore Tucker Tuberville.

     The Tigers return to the practice field this morning, and will have a full-pads practice Saturday.

Malzahn: Time to Speed Things Up

By Posted on: March 19th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 5 Comments »
Photo by Julie Bennett/al.com

Photo by Julie Bennett/al.com

Can it possibly be the start of spring practice? With the announcement yesterday morning of the hiring of Bruce Pearl as Auburn Head Basketball Coach, it didn’t seem much like opening day of football practice. Besides I still haven’t gotten Rod Bramblett’s voice out of my head and we’re about to start over again. But Auburn did hold its first practice of spring Tuesday.

And things are a little different this go around. For starters, ESPN brought live reports throughout the morning from Auburn. And this year its Gus Malzahn’s guys who’ll get the coveted Saturday afternoon ESPN slot for its A-Day Game – not Alabama.

But don’t expect Malzahn to sit around with Bruce Springsteen playing in the background while he reflects on the glory days.

“We’ve been really up front with our guys. We’re definitely proud of how far they came. That’s in the past. It’s a complete, new season. This is a new team,” Malzahn said. “We’ve got to earn it. All we’re talking about is earning the right to try to get back to a game like that (the national championship).”

In Monday’s pre-spring press conference, Malzahn seemed to poke his finger back into Nick Saban’s eye.

“We think we can be quite a bit faster,” Malzahn said.

Of course, he was referring to his HUNH offense that’s become the kryptonite to Saban’s future in Tuscaloosa. On a day when Malzahn was talking about moving faster, Saban continued to whine, this time to David Pollack of ESPN.

Again, Saban continued to use safety as his excuse for reducing the HUNH offense. He never commented on the dangers of his team facing the likes of Chattanooga, a team Alabama outweighed by more than 40 pounds across the offensive line. If he really cared, seems like that would be a good jumping off point.

If last season was like driving in the left-hand lane, this year should resemble the Autobahn. With eight starters back from last year’s record-breaking offense, including quarterback Nick Marshall, look for Auburn to significantly increase its play count.

Marshall is the first returning quarterback in Malzahn’s nine years as a college coach. Yes, it’s a scary thought.

While Auburn has been the face of the HUNH in the national media, surprisingly, there were five other teams in the SEC last season that ran as many or more plays from scrimmage each game, led by Ole Miss who averaged six more plays per contest than Auburn at 79.8 per game.

In fact, Auburn ranked only 61st nationally in that category last year. Malzahn is out to change that this year. You look at these stats and realize why Saban is so spooked.

And to think, he brought Lane Kiffin in to keep up. Spring has never felt so good.

Writing On Wall For NCAA Amateur Status

By Posted on: March 18th, 2014 in Basketball, Featured Article, Football 15 Comments »
emmert

Yesterday, a lawsuit was filed in US federal court in yet another attempt to tear down the amateur distinction of big time college athletes at big time college institutions in an ultimate attempt to get fair compensation for student athletes in the respective multi-billion dollar industries in which they toil. This new suit, against the NCAA and the five largest conferences, challenges the lawfulness of the “wage” assigned to football and basketball players to being capped at the value of an academic scholarship, presumably under existing anti-trust legislation. With recent suits also pursuing the NCAA on similar grounds, could it finally be 3rd and 25 for college football? Watch for the pooch kick here soon.

While no reasonable person can defend hundreds of millions in value added to major programs’ bottom lines by a countless parade of high-profile athletes with little more than tuition and board as the carrot, no sane college football fan can discount the negative effect of direct money payments to players on the integrity of the sport. While this type of compensation and resulting corruption have gone on ever since we’ve had the game of football, the modern age brings the spotlight full on the big money sport it truly is. With major programs generating billions in revenue, the lavish amounts of money heaped on from ticket sales, television, and merchandising is too much to ignore anymore.

It’s un-American to think that  players’ images on TV and in video games can earn these types of dollars cumulatively but can provide no more than books, lodging,  and two semesters a year for the individual himself. It’s also unreasonable to think that the schools themselves, who have been building their brands for in excess of one hundred years in most cases, have no intrinsic value other than a revolving cast of semi-employees who filter in and out of their ranks every year. Why must it always be 3rd and long?

How did football and basketball end up like this, with the colleges serving as de facto farm systems for the sports, unlike baseball, which does provide a real alternative for those who wish to become semi-pro and those who want to remain amateurs until they get their education? We’ve so bastardized the systems and they’ve grown unchecked for so long that it may well now be impossible to separate those two distinctions again.

One must know that direct payments in the open to amateur athletes will only drive the illicit payments further underground and to ridiculous amounts. The NCAA investigative arm would never be so busy as it would be once direct compensation was approved for athletes. The corrupting influence of money over and under the table would kill the sport entirely as the integrity of the sport, schools, and individual players will be under constant scrutiny. Larger schools could always pay more than the smaller ones–the same with conferences. Recruiting would literally morph into a draft.

No one wants to think about the alternative of the pros establishing legitimate farm systems for football and basketball. Even if the NFL and NBA could, the lure of college athletics would still be strong. What 18-year old kid would want to play in front of nobody for $50,000 a year if he could instead strut his stuff in front of  a home crowd of 90,000 and a national TV audience? It would be a much harder decision than you think. You can’t break the stranglehold of decades of national prominence and tradition overnight–for any price. I’d like to think we’d still root for our schools even if we only fielded intramural level teams, but college fans are a lot more sophisticated than they were even two decades ago. Everything in the sport is evolving.

I think it’s inevitable. Athletes are soon going to get a better compensation package than they’ve been getting. So many lawsuits, so much money, and so many good arguments about the fairness of it all are swaying the sentiment. The only details are in what form the compensation will be. Here’s some of the things I think I know what it CANNOT be:

  • An inducement for a player to be recruited by a particular school
  • Anything based on wellness or non-injury
  • Differences in conferences
  • Media attraction, TV appearances, individual awards, or star power

I think a good starting point for compensation would be in a deferred fund for players of a division–FBS, FCS, etc– after their eligibility was exhausted. Call it the ultimate collective bargaining agreement. They all earn as a collective body and share in the rewards after their college careers have ended. Having the compensation deferred would help protect their amateur status, if not in word, then in perception. A share of all revenue they help earn would go into the pot, to be drawn on eventually for such issues as medical treatment, continuing education, and perhaps a pension.

No one should pretend to have all the answers on such a large, complicated, comprehensive issue as justly compensating college athletes a fair wage for the revenue they help generate, but we should try to get ahead of it very soon and do it voluntarily–instead of having it ordered as a judgement in a huge lawsuit.

How would you help solve it?

Nostalgia Friday: Auburn vs. Alabama 1993

By Posted on: March 14th, 2014 in Football 6 Comments »

It was one of Auburn’s most unlikely seasons. While they were not the long shots we saw in 2013, the 1993 Auburn football team was nowhere to be found on the college football radar as the season started.

Taking over following the Pat Dye era, Terry Bowden was the surprise pick of the Auburn search committee and expectations couldn’t be lower heading into his first campaign.

Following a nasty, months long investigation by the NCAA involving former player Eric Ramsey, Auburn was not only on probation and ineligible for bowl play, they were also banned from television. In fact, they were the last major program to be subjected to this penalty – one that likely will never be implemented again.

Bowden’s bunch captured the hearts of Auburn people across the country, but only a select few ever saw them on the field.

Auburn ran through its 11- game schedule unscathed and perfect. The crowning moment came on November 20, 1993 at Jordan-Hare Stadium when Auburn defeated Alabama 22-14. It’s remembered as one of the greatest wins in Auburn football history.

The above video is from the coaches cameras because no broadcast cameras were allowed. Auburn would go on to finish fourth nationally in 1993 and while they didn’t win the SEC in the record books, they were clearly champions of the SEC.

Tigers Will Be Tough Again in 2014!

By Posted on: March 13th, 2014 in Football 6 Comments »
Linemen

Titles are won on the line of scrimmage.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! We are just five days away from spring drills, although you’d hardly know it by looking at the thick layers of frost on the windshield this morning. After a grueling winter of tough workouts, the Auburn Tiger football team is ready to hit the practice fields, and work towards a terrific season. What’s been impressive this offseason has been a unity of purpose displayed in the comments of these fine young men. To a man, the team seems determined to do everything they can to take another step forward, and win another national championship. That they came so close last January, and came up 13 seconds short has left them hungry for more.

     Auburn has a plethora of skill players on offense returning this season, including Coach Gus Malzhan’s first ever returning starter at quarterback in Nick Marshall. The situation has us all dreaming of scoring 50 points per game and setting new offensive records. But, it’s important to remember how titles are won. We’ve seen teams win the SEC with average quarterbacks, average linebackers, and even average running backs. What you won’t see is a team win the league with mediocre play along the line of scrimmage.

     Make no mistake. Auburn had the second most prolific scoring team in school history last season because Greg Robinson, Alex Kozan, Reese Dismukes, Chad Slade, Avery Young and Patrick Miller absolutely road-graded SEC defensive lines on a weekly basis. Likewise, Auburn made timely plays on defense because of a 12 man defensive line rotation that ensured fresh, talented defenders on the field throughout the game.

     Most of the offensive line returns, with only Robinson headed for the NFL. There is talent and depth there, and coach J. B. Grimes did an outstanding job tweaking Auburn technique last season. There is reason to be optimistic that this year’s bunch will be even better. It should be one of the highlights of spring to watch Avery Young, Patrick Miller and Shon Coleman battle to avoid being the odd man out. It’s going to be fun to watch three offensive tackles of this caliber!

     On the defensive line, Auburn returns a lot of good tackles, but might have a numbers issue at defensive end. With the talented Dee Ford, along with reserves Kenneth Carter and Craig Stevens leaving, some new faces must step up on the outside. I think senior LaDarius Owens is a proven product on the run-side of the line, as he held onto the starting job all last season. Who’ll be that “rush end” is a whole different story. Will sophomores Carl Lawson or Elijah Daniel grab that spot and hold on? Or will it be a committee approach, with room for newcomers to shine immediately?

     Even with Nosa Eguae graduating, Auburn is as deep at defensive tackle as any team in college football. Gabe Wright grabbed a starting job and held on down the stretch last season. Montravius Adams, Ben Bradley, Angelo Blackson and others made plays in the middle. Adams may have the most upside of any tackle. And Jeffery Whitaker returns for a 5th season with his knees as healthy as they’ve been while he’s been at Auburn.

     Another interesting spot to watch will be in the secondary. Safety Jermaine Whitehead and corner Jonathan Mincy are proven SEC players. Auburn will be trying to find some answers behind them. Last season’s safety starter Joshua Holsey will still be rehabbing a knee this spring. A starting corner opposite Mincy must be found. Auburn has some talent here, but much of it is unproven. Jonathan Jones played in spots at corner last season. Converted running back Jonathan Ford is said to be a natural at corner. Finally, Trovon Reed will try his hand at defensive back, something he was recruited for by many schools five years ago.

     There won’t be a lot of live kicks and punts on A-Day, so we won’t learn anything much about the return teams, although I do count dropped balls and cringe on a yearly basis. The best time to watch kickers on A-Day is during the pre-game warmups. I’ll be really interested in who has the big legs, and who nails most of their field goal attempts. Auburn is likely to field a team in 2014 with a pair of redshirt freshman kicking legs, as Daniel Carlson and Jimmy Hutchinson are expected to win the kicking and punting battles, respectively.

     The running back battle is going to be interesting to watch, too. Seniors Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant are the heirs apparent, after both rushed for over 600 yards each last season, off the bench. Artis-Payne has gone on record as saying that his goal this season is to be the SEC’s first ever 2000 yard rusher. The two experienced guys may be pushed by redshirt freshman Peyton Barber, who was said to be a scout team monster last fall. Barber is around 230 pounds, and dangerously shifty and fast. My guess is that he’ll find a way to contribute.

     One of the biggest obstacles to an Auburn repeat SEC title this fall is the schedule. On paper it’s much tougher than 2013. There are land mines early, and a particularly brutal November. Auburn has Arkansas for an opener, then travels to Manhattan, Kansas for a Thursday prime-timer against K-State in week three. Louisiana Tech makes for a high-powered homecoming, then LSU comes to town a week later. The rest of October is on the road at Starkville, an off-week, then Auburn hosts South Carolina. November begins at Ole Miss, Texas A&M at Jordan Hare, Georgia in Athens, Samford, then Bama in T-Town. That’s road trips to Oxford, Athens and Tuscaloosa in November. Gone from the schedule are the likes of Western Carolina, Florida Atlantic and Tennessee.

     I’ll go ahead and go on record now stating that I’ll likely be attending Auburn’s A-Day game on April 19th. I’ve been to three of the last five, I always have a great time, and it’s been a good way over the years to load my camera up with tons and tons of clearer shots during ever-increasingly rare daylight football at Auburn. I dig into those A-Day archives regularly!

Too Late Not to Draw Battle Lines Over Slowing Down the HUNH

By Posted on: March 12th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 22 Comments »
battle lines

Last week the debate over slowing down the Hurry-Up-No-Huddle offenses was put to bed when the NCAA’s Rules Committee withdrew their 10 second proposal to slow the college football game down. However, that doesn’t mean the debate is going away. Not while Nick Saban and Bret Bielema still have a pulpit to speak from.

Feeling the heat from ninety three college coaches and numerous media types, the committee wisely decided to follow Gus Malzahn’s recommendation and table the proposal.  But make no mistake, the issue is not dead. There will be numerous studies over the next year by those who wish to stop the HUNH; in an effort to find evidence – any evidence that could show it pose’s a safety threat to athletes.

You can cloak yourself in the garb of “player safety” all you want but even the most delusional bammer knows in his heart this is about wins and losses. As Texas Tech Coach Kliff Kingsbury said, “The last three losses (Saban’s) had, have been against, you know, some up-tempo teams.” Coincidence? Not hardly.

Saban has never made a secret of his distaste for the innovative offense. He fired his first salvo against the HUNH after the 2012 Ole Miss game when he said, “Should we allow football to be a continuous game? Is that the way the game was designed to play?”

But the battle lines were clearly drawn when the odd couple took it upon themselves to fly to Indianapolis in an effort to influence the Rules Committee to change the way the game is played. It will remain a hot topic at media days and conference meetings for the next 12 months.

The outcry over the Indy trip was a new experience for Saban. Usually accustomed to being portrayed as the king of college football, it had to be both surprising and frustrating for the little emperor to have his actions questioned by a normally adoring media.

After keeping silent for two weeks, and feeling the backlash from the coaching community, Saban finally came out and said he had nothing to do with the 10 second proposal. – Yeah, right.

Then sensing the possible failure of the “safety” excuse, Saban came up with the notion this week that he really wants to protect the refs by making sure they’re in place at the start of the play. It’s just another line in a continuous web spun by the tortoise to slow down the Hare.

First it was :
* Should we allow the game to be continuous?
* Next he jumped on the Bret Bielema “safety” wagon.
* Now he says he is concerned about the refs being in place.

That last one is no more legitimate than the safety ruse. Besides any officiating problems that might occur can be addressed by adopting the Big 12′s practice of having eight officials in conference games.

It is painfully obvious that what he is most concerned about is a competitive advantage or more accurately being at a disadvantage. Someone has built a better mousetrap and either Nick can’t or he won’t go back to the drawing board to figure a way to stop it short of asking for the rules to be changed.

Steve Spurier who runs a traditional offense at South Carolina says he’s had no problem defending against the HUNH. His Gamecocks have beaten Clemson’s high octane offense the last three years. Spurier said there is no big secret to it,” To me, the No Huddle is part of football.” He continued, “Our goal is to stay on the field and run that clock and all (the opposing offense) can do is sit on the sideline and look at each other.” That’s simple enough.

But what is disturbing is the people that still allow themselves to be influenced by Saban. Steve Shaw, the SEC’s Coordinator of officials told Al.com Monday, “My hope is that people won’t draw the battle lines. We’ll have a year cycle to debate this, not just for safety, but the competitive balance of the game.”

Did you get that? He’s referring to Saban’s position of a ‘competitive balance.’ While saying he doesn’t want to see people take sides on the issue, he may have tipped his hand with this statement. He seems to be leaning toward Tuscaloosa himself.

Anyway, it’s too late for the college football world to not be divided into battle lines over this issue. That ship sailed when Saban and Bielema chose to fly to Indianapolis to try and pull a fast one on the other coaches.

Should the NCAA continue to allow football to be played at a fast pace?

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How About a Cold One in Jordan-Hare Stadium?

By Posted on: March 10th, 2014 in Football 16 Comments »
beer

Fraternity boys across the South must be pinching themselves today. Is it really true? Might the SEC allow beer sales during college football games? They are at least going to take a look at it.

SEC officials plan to discuss the subject during league meetings this spring, with an eye on perhaps allowing neutral site games such as Georgia-Florida and Arkansas-Texas A&M to sell beer at those venues.

Many believe this is a first step in allowing beer sells campus wide. LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva is one who is open to the idea.

“(Selling beer at football games) would enhance the fan experience,” Alleva recently told al.com. “I don’t think that’s something that would necessarily be a negative for drunkenness and it might curtail the drunkenness if you sold beer.

“Right now, they drink excessively in the parking lot before they come in because they can’t get alcohol inside. Perhaps if they had access in the stadium, they wouldn’t drink as much when they come in. I think it’s something we have to talk about.”

I’m shocked it’s the LSU guy who’s leading the charge.

Of course, if you have enough money, drinking is allowed at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It has been for 25 years. Just pony up the 60 grand for a private suite and you can drink until you drop. Believe me; I’ve done it – as someone’s guest.

There was a time in my life where I’d been turning back flips at the suggestion. Now I’m not so sure. There are already enough morons sitting around me that come in juiced up prior to kickoff. The idea of them drinking for four more hours is something that gives me pause.

A lot of people bring in their stash now. I’ll never forget the time I was behind the young student pushing his friend through the gate in a wheel chair. The chair bound student handed the attendant his ticket, while a blanket draped his legs.

There was nothing unusual about it until they got 25 feet inside, at which point the handicapped student rose from his chair, chunked the wheel chair and out came a keg of beer that quickly disappeared into the student section.

I stood there in astonishment and admiration. Do we really want to take that kind of ingenuity away from our young people by making beer sales legal?

The discussion suggests a complete 180 degree change from the SEC’s past policies on alcohol. Just eight years ago, the league asked CBS to stop referring to the Georgia-Florida game as The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Now it’s looking at taking the party inside.

In an era where season ticket sales are on the decline due to the advent of inexpensive big screen, high definition television sets and satellite providers who carry every league game, schools are looking at ways to enhance the game day experience.

The fact that commissioner Mike Slive has been quiet on the subject suggests that changes may ultimately come.

“Up to now, we like our rule,” Slive said. I think this is an area where we want to walk slowly and carefully.”

That’s a long way from being opposed.

Financially the move makes lots of sense. From a common sense standpoint, it’s completely idiotic. We all take our football too serious in the South. Allowing beer drinking to move inside after a long day of tailgating will cause big problems. Ask the NFL.

When families stop coming, the sport will suffer. I’m all for having a beer or six before the game. But let’s keep the party outside. Who needs to keep drinking when you’ve got Gus Malzahn’s team on the field?

There’s nothing that can top that.