Auburn’s Wellness Kitchen is a Move in the Right Direction

By Posted on: July 28th, 2014 in Football 10 Comments »
wellness kitchen

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.


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.

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 »
TAMU Preview

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!

Auburn defensive line vs. Texas A&M offensive line: Auburn’s final starting lineup next fall is a bit up in the air, at this point. I’d expect senior Gabe Wright to start somewhere, either at tackle or end. Expect tackles Angelo Blackson, Jeffery Whitaker, Montravius Adams, and Ben Bradley to all play prominent roles. LaDarius Owens will likely anchor the run-stopping end spot, with Elijah Daniels now the likely rush end starter. Carl Lawson is coming off spring knee surgery, and the latest word is that he might or might not play at all, in 2014. There is room for newcomers to make an impact at end, especially on passing downs. For the Aggies at left tackle, senior Cedric Ogbuchi moves to the left side. From left to right it’s Ogbuchi, senior Jarvis Harrison, junior Mike Matthews at center, junior Joseph Cheek, and talented sophomore Germain Ifedi moves out to right tackle. Last season, Auburn was able to hold the Aggie running game to 3.3 yards per carry, and get pressure on the quarterback. And the Tigers did it with just a four-man rush most of the day. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn linebackers vs. Texas A&M backs: Auburn’s starting linebackers coming out of spring drills are juniors Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy. Both are veteran, athletic SEC players, looking to make the next move up. The Aggies lose Ben Malena, but have veteran players returning. Juniors Trey Williams and Tra Carson have played plenty of football, combining for 756 rushing yards and 13 receptions last season. Auburn contained the Aggie running game last season, and should again. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn corners vs. Texas A&M receivers: Auburn is again fairly deep at corner, with veteran Jonathan Mincy hopefully locking down one spot, and either junior Joshua Holsey or junior Jonathan Jones at the other spot. Senior converted wide receiver Trovon Reed also looked pretty good in spring drills here. Auburn should be able to run with any receiving corps, and play physical run defense on the edges. The Aggies return senior Malcome Kennedy and his 60 catches, but will have new faces elsewhere in the spread attack. Redshirt freshman Ricky Seals-Jones is a 6′ 5” 240 pound giant on the other side, and might be a matchup problem. Still, I like Auburn’s chances on the outside. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn safeties vs. Texas A&M secondary receivers and quarterback: Senior Jermaine Whitehead anchors one spot here, and Auburn will feature either junior Joshua Holsey, or JUCO transfer Derrick Moncrief at the other position. Moncrief was a beast in spring drills, this year, and Holsey is a veteran. It is very tough to bring a new quarterback on the road in the SEC, and that’s what the Aggies will have this season. If there’s a silver lining in this game for the Aggies, it’s that true freshman Kyle Allen will have already started games in Columbia, Starkville and Tuscaloosa before this contest. Aggie slot guys are led by junior Sabian Holmes, with freshman Speedy Noil also listed as a starter. At home with experienced, talented safeties, I’ll take the Tigers. Advantage: Auburn.

Punting: Auburn must start a new punter, here, going with redshirt freshman Jimmy Hutchenson, who had a really solid A-Day game. Texas A&M’s junior Drew Kaser had a monster year punting the football, averaging an astounding 47.4 yards per punt. The Aggie punt coverage unit did give up 10.7 yards per return, but considering those howitzer shots, that’s not too bad. Auburn gave up only 5 returns all last season, for 35 yards. (That’s 7.0 yards per return.) Both teams are still trying to find punt returners. The Aggies have listed freshman Speedy Noil as their top guy, while Auburn’s most experienced returning punt returner is senior Quan Bray. Advantage: Texas A&M.

Kickoffs: Auburn must replace veteran kicker Cody Parkey, and will do it with redshirt freshman Daniel Carlson. Junior Taylor Bertolet is back for the Aggies, and he hit 47 touchbacks on 97 kickoffs last season, and when he wasn’t kicking it to the end zone, he did an excellent job of placing the ball in the corner without having any go out of bounds. As a result, the Aggie coverage gave up only 18.3 yards per return. Auburn’s coverage was porous, giving up 25.8. Auburn senior Corey Grant ripped off 5 returns for a 32.0 yard average for Auburn as the top guy coming back. Junior Trey Williams led the Aggies last season with a 25.2 yard average on 28 returns. Advantage: Texas A&M.

Place kicking: Auburn redshirt freshman Daniel Carlson is the man for Auburn. He hit a monster 51 yard field goal this year in the Auburn A-Day game, but also missed an extra point. The Aggies counter with junior Josh Lambo, who last season hit on 8 of 10 field goal attempts. Advantage: Texas A&M.

Auburn offensive line vs. Texas A&M defensive line: Auburn returns 4 starters on a road-grading, violent offensive line. Greg Robinson moves on to the NFL, but Auburn has talent to replace him. From left to right, it’s sophomore Shon Coleman, sophomore Alex Kozan, senior all-SEC Reese Dismukes, senior Chad Slade, and sophomore Avery Young, with junior Patrick Miller still in the hunt to perhaps unseat one of the tackles for a starting job. Texas A&M will start junior Alonzo Williams and sophomore Hardreck Walker inside, with senior Gavin Stansbury and sophomore Daeshan Hall at the ends. The starters will be bigger and stronger than a year ago, but a look at the depth chart is worrisome. Most of the listed reserves are freshmen. Any injuries here will leave the Aggies very young on the defensive front. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn backs vs. Texas A&M linebackers: Although Auburn lost Heisman finalist Tre Mason early to the NFL draft, Auburn should be fine here with seniors Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant. Grant was this year’s A-Day star, looking even more explosive and unstoppable. Add in a corps of talented newcomers, and it’s no secret Auburn will be able to tote the rock again this season. H-back is a bit thinner. Senior blocking specialist Brandon Fulse moves from end/receiver to take over the starting nod, but depth behind him is questionable. Texas A&M is rebuilding at linebacker, and will likely start senior Donnie Baggs, sophomore A. J. Hilliard, and sophomore Jordan Mastrogiovanni. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn receivers vs. Texas A&M corners: Auburn juniors Sammie Coates and Ricardo Louis developed into one of the more dangerous receiving duos in the SEC, last season. Add in monster transfer D’haquille Williams, and this unit became downright scary this spring, with lots of depth behind the big three. Texas A&M has moved probably their best defensive player, senior Deshazor Everett back to cornerback full time, and he’ll be joined by junior De’Vante Harris. The Aggies will be solid this season at corner, but they’ll have their hands full in this one. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn secondary receivers and quarterback vs. Texas A&M safeties: Auburn senior tight end C. J. Uzomah is a nightmare for safeties to cover. When Auburn needed to go to him late in games last season, C. J. was there every time to haul in the score. Auburn also has senior Quan Bray in the equation, who’s been the career quick screen guy. When guys start to clamp down on him, he can get open down the field. Auburn returns senior quarterback Nick Marshall, and he’s easily the most dangerous guy returning at the position in the SEC this fall. With a spring spent working on a shaky passing game, the sky’s the limit this fall. Marshall was devastating running the zone-read option last fall. The Aggies start seniors Floyd Raven Sr. and Howard Matthews. Matthews is the leading returning tackler on the team. Advantage: Auburn.

     On paper, Auburn should win this game in a rout. The Tigers will have a veteran offense going against a defense that will at best be middle of the pack. The Aggies will be bringing in a freshman quarterback, against a veteran defense. Still, I’ve seen Kevin Sumlin offenses generate yards and points with a rotating cast of characters, again and again. I expect that the Aggies will have some offensive success in this one, and Auburn will have to play well to win. This one is sort of a trap game, sandwiched in between tough road trips to Oxford and Athens. Hopefully, the Tigers won’t be caught looking ahead.

     This will be a transition year for Texas A&M, and even optimistic local reporters are projecting at best a 9-3 season. Others figure something like 6 or 7 wins. I’m not sure 9 wins is achievable with this team. The only SEC West team the Aggies are likely to be favored over is Arkansas. Add in a tough opener against South Carolina and a visit by Missouri, and that looks like seven possible losses. Success this season will hinge on how many upsets the Aggies can spring.

Prediction: Auburn takes care of business in this one, bulling to a 45-20 win.


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. 

Photo by Albert Cesare/

On the page it looked nothing. The play was simple, almost comic. Just a zone read run option at pace – standard formation and blocking – like a rusty squeezebox. Then suddenly – high above it – the ball, a single pass, hanging there unwavering, till a receiver caught it and sweetened it into a score of such delight! This was no composition by a performing monkey! This was an offense I’d never seen. Filled with such scoring, such incredible scoring, it had me trembling.”

In the post game hype and sensation, Nick Marshall’s touchdown pass to Sammy Coates may have been marginalized by the unbelievable Kick Six that followed, but if you look at what happened when Auburn got the ball back with just 2:32 left on the game clock, you’ll discover some insight into how Gus’s offense leveraged the Tide defense, their tendencies and why it may be what most influences the future of the sport going forward. He played Nick at his best in the biggest game of the season, and on this drive displayed a superior understanding of what was happening on the field.

The coaching chess match starts with two and a half minutes left on the clock, Auburn has just blocked a field goal attempt, receives the ball over on downs, and is on their own 35 yard line trailing by a touchdown.

2013 Iron Bowl Video – skip to 2:39:40

With 2:32 remaining on the clock, 1st and 10 at Auburn 35, Gus shows a normal shotgun formation with Mason to the left of Marshall, and Uzomah in motion, stopping in a power set left. Marshall takes the ball and executes an inside zone read to the right side, handing off to Mason for 7 yards. Immediately, Auburn players race back to the line for an identical set, this time without Uzomah in motion, with the same exact play, and inside zone read to the right which only gains one yard to the Auburn 43 yardline, 3rd and 2 to go.

At this point, Auburn lines up at pace, then hastily sends in two substitutions -Corey Grant as a second running back (with Sammie Coates coming off from the edge) and Shon Coleman at Right Tackle – Nick Saban tries to match the call, but has to call a timeout. Mentioned in the TV broadcast is OLB Adrian Hubbard being late on the substitution which caused Saban to burn a timeout. The film shows Nick blowing a gasket over the mixup. Which raises the question – why?

The reason can be found in the choice of Adrian Hubbard as one of the substitutions – the 6’6″ OLB had six tackles for the Tide that game – four solo and two for loss, including a sack, the best run-stop performance of any Alabama defender in the entire game. By that choice and the other players sent in, it is obvious Saban is thinking to reinforce his run-stop capability on the edge of the line of scrimmage. With an additional speed back like Grant in the game, it is a logical choice, a factor obviously not lost on Malzahn or Lashlee as the exceptional play called at the end of the drive will show.

After the timeout, the clock stands at 1:43. Mason is back in at running back and Grant goes in motion presnap to the left in the speed sweep option. Coleman stays on the field at RT. Mason sets behind and to the left of Marshall and takes the hand off inside to the right for five quick yards and a first down at the Auburn 48 yard line. Since it is a first down, Auburn does not go at pace and lines up with the Mason back to the right of the quarterback. Auburn substitutes Prosch as the second running back, who lead blocks for Nick Marshall for the remainder of the series, again selling the QB keeper on every hand off to Mason.

This time however, the inside zone read is to the left and Mason scoots forward five more yards, giving Auburn a 2nd and 5 at the Alabama 47. Auburn players go at pace to the line in the same set, with Mason to the left of Marshall. The call is yet another inside zone read to the right side, and Mason pushes forward 3 yards to the Alabama 44 yard line, giving Auburn a 3rd and 2. Auburn players are up again at pace, and are at the line of scrimmage in an identical set with Mason to the left of Marshall. The call is the same – inside zone read to the right for 5 yards and another first down at the Alabama 39 yard line. If you notice, at the end of each play, Nick is motioning pace to the sidelines – it is a question, evidently verified off screen. The communication and coordination between field and sideline are a marked feature of Gus’s system.

As well coached as Alabama is, frustration seems to be growing on the Alabama side of the line and field. Auburn has run six straight plays using the inside zone read and except for a single gain of one yard, has blown the defensive line off the ball for an average of 4.5 yards per carry, never running a single play outside of the tackle box. Both Kirby Smart and Nick Saban know a changeup is coming, and with the way that Nick Marshall, Mason and Corey Grant have burned them, are obviously anticipating it as a run to daylight option play off the zone read and have their defense set to prevent it. With a first down inside the 40 and the clock winding down under a minute, this will certainly be the series in which it will happen.

Sure enough, Malzahn and Lashlee don’t disappoint. In yet another inside zone read to the right, for the first time in the drive Nick Marshall keeps the ball and races to the sideline, out-stepping the defensive end who bit on the inside run once again and who now is sprawled helplessly on an island in his wake. Prosch is sealing the middle linebackers out of the play, again making the run seem plausible. Marshall watches both remaining defenders on the outside closely, holding the ball tucked in his left hand on what looks like an obvious run. As the two defenders bite down and set to contain him, he quickly switches the ball to his right hand and lofts a perfectly timed pass a yard before he would cross the line of scrimmage to a wide open Sammie Coates who has nothing but open field between him and the goal line.

The play and the setup are classic Gus Malzahn. The tendencies of the Alabama defense were identified, noted, and leveraged until a weakness found and then deftly exploited. In setting their defensive package to close the outside runs that had scorched them all day, Alabama left their down linemen and linebackers shorthanded to adequately defend the inside run for most of the drive, which Auburn exploited with brutal efficiency on this drive, pushing pace on a tired Alabama defense and steadily gaining field position. It is interesting to watch Nick Saban’s defensive package react to this both on a play by play basis and the composition of the containment package he tried to field when Grant was sent in for Coates. He is obviously taking the bait quite well, helping to set up the option play for what proved to be the climax of the drive.

One further item on the Auburn field-sideline communication –  note what Nick Marshall does immediately after Coates catches the ball on the game film, which is the entire reason I wrote this piece. The TV coverage only shows a glimpse of it on the last slow motion replay, but it is truly remarkable and enlightening. This is a quarterback who has just thrown a game-tying touchdown in the last minute of the biggest match of the year. But what is he doing just two footsteps after throwing the ball, even before the play has scored? Celebrating watching his receiver run to the end zone to tie the game?

Nick checking to go for 2
No, that comes later. The moment after the ball is caught, Marshall is already looking back at the sideline to see if there is a signal to go for two or not. This is why I think Gus had this exact sequence already in the game plan and had communicated this entire series to his offense long before that last play was called. This series was NOT called on the spot, but planned well beforehand, in specific detail and executed by the players to perfection.

The training, discipline, and exact planning required for such a series speaks to a level of orchestration that I haven’t seen often at any level of play, or from many previous Auburn coaching staffs. This is Lombardi or Landry level stuff of genius, and not just in terms of comprehension and conception, but training his staff, assistants, starters and backups to drill this type of game play to perfection and perform it at the highest level.

This, I believe, is why Nick Saban chose to try such a long field goal in the end. With his current offense failing spectacularly (6 of their last 7 drives ended in no points) and his defense gassed and outplayed late in the game, there was little else for him to do but try to kick his way out of a game which was rapidly spinning out of control. The “Process” was no longer working, and Gus had his number.

One wonders if Nick Saban’s legacy will survive Malzahn’s rise, or if it will be lost in the changes in the game that will inevitably come from such skilled innovative game planning and adept play calling. With the loss to Oklahoma who ran through, over and around this same defense in much the same way, Saban’s standard practice of fielding a tough run defense, crushing pass rush and conservative offense will likely need to change too. If this change means placing the entirety of his offense is in the hands of the likes of Lane Kiffen, with that man’s legacy of failure it must surely be a sign of desperation.

Which raises yet another question – In the future, who will football fans remember most, The Process and the movie “Gamechanger” or The HUNH offense and Gus Malzahn’s playbook?

But the game plan showed no corrections of any kind. Not one. He had simply written down plays already finished in his head.
Page after page of it as if he were just taking dictation. And such plays, scoring as no game plan has ever scored. Displace one formation and there would be diminishment. Displace one block and the structure would fall.”

“I was staring through the cage of those meticulous ink strokes – at an absolute beauty.”

Overheard after the Alabama Spring game,…

Saban: Malzahn! It was good of you to come! 
Malzahn: How could I not? 
Saban: How… Did my work please you? 
Malzahn: [hesitantly] I never knew that offense like that was possible! 
Sabani: [uncertainly] You flatter me. 
Malzahn: No, no! One sees such plays, and what can one say but… “Kiffen”

Movie photos from Amadeus courtesy of Warner Home Video

Why Gus Malzahn Will Get Auburn Back to the National Championship Game

By Posted on: July 22nd, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 15 Comments »
1389131889000-USATSI-7657712 -USAToday file

                          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.

Will Marshall Play?

By Posted on: July 21st, 2014 in Football 16 Comments »

14O2O7.AuSt.70- Nick runs over Tenn. - Auburn media, anthony hallIf I were a betting man, I’d say that starting Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall will sit for the opener against Arkansas. While athletic department policy says a suspension is not required, something tells me Gus Malzahn will send a message to his team.

The fact that he has Jeremy Johnson as the backup makes the decision all the more easy. As much as I hate to see it, Malzahn needs to make a statement. Giving a slap on the wrist to your star player is never smart this early in your tenure.

Arkansas won’t be a lay down, but there’s no doubt Johnson has the ability to lead Auburn with more than a month to prepare. Malzahn needs to announce a punishment sooner rather than later. Marshall is by all accounts a good kid who made a mistake.

Let’s not allow this story to play out for two months. Announce the punishment and move on. It will all be forgotten by the first week of September…

If this past week’s preview of the SEC Network during SEC Media Days is any indication of the quality programming that lies ahead, I’ll only be tuning in for the games. I still don’t see the wisdom of throwing Greg McElroy, Paul Finebaum and Jesse Palmer into viewers faces for two hours on Saturday. I’d rather have a long dinner with Nick and Terry Saban than endure these clowns…

Speaking of the new network, it looks like its going to be on most major cable operators when it launches early next month. Comcast reached an agreement with the SEC on Friday and it looks like DirecTV is about to follow…

It’s official. Erin Andrews will not be part of college football this upcoming season. Considering she hosted Fox’s version of GameDay last year, you probably thought she left a year ago.

Andrews was recently promoted to the top sideline reporter position for Fox’s NFL coverage, replacing Pam Oliver. Last season as host of Fox College Saturday, Andrews and her team failed to convert viewers from ESPN’s College GameDay. The ESPN show averaged more than 1.8 million viewers a week compared to Fox’s 73,000.

There are some cable access channels with better success. Say what you will, but I’ll miss Andrews. When you saw her on the sidelines you knew it was a big game. She’ll be missed…

Something that’s flown beneath the radar is the relocation of the College Football Hall of Fame to Atlanta next month. The 94,000 square foot facility is scheduled to open August 23rd.

It’s relocating from South Bend, Indiana. I had a chance to visit there a few years back and the experience was incredible with a ton of Auburn representation. I can only imagine what the new place will bring. To see more, click here.

NCAA Fought Mike Slive and Slive Won

By Posted on: July 19th, 2014 in Football, News 3 Comments »
ncf_a_slive_ps_600- Ap,butch dill

                                                                                                                                  (photo:AP,Butch Dill)
In his opening remarks at SEC Media Days, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive stared down the NCAA in a game of chicken and the NCAA blinked. Speaking at the opening of the media event, Slive reiterated the Big 5 Power Conferences’ threat to break a way from the NCAA and start a new collegiate governing body if the NCAA did not grant their wishes.

The NCAA steering committee was scheduled to meet August 7, to consider the Five’s request for authority to govern themselves. However, the NCAA Board was apparently listening when Slive said, “I think when push comes to shove, it will pass;” because after his latest “push,” the NCAA announced Friday a restructuring plan that would essentially give the big boys what they want – autonomy.

The Steering Committee will still meet on Aug. 7 to vote on it but the restructuring plan assures its passing is a forgone conclusion. The move will give the Big Five (SEC, Big 10, PAC 12, ACC, Big12) more power to run their own affairs without much of a threat of being voted down by the rest of the membership.

Had the other (smaller) Division I schools not overrode their proposal of a $2,000 player stipend three years ago, this may have never happened. Now the new super majority will be able to implement their wishes with near impunity.

The immediate impact of all this will be that “cost of full attendance” scholarships (paying players) will go in to effect before the 2015 football season and possibly within the next six months. In addition we can look for changes in the transfer rules, increasing the number of scholarships, revising of recruiting rules, as well as any number of concerns of the Big Five.

To be sure it was political hard ball, by Slive and his fellow commissioners, and it paid off. If the conferences had not gotten their way, it may have ultimately meant the demise of the parent organization altogether.

Nick Marshall Receiving More Pre-Season Recognition

By Posted on: July 18th, 2014 in Football, News 1 Comment »
Nick Marshall has been on the cover of several pre-season football magazines.

Nick Marshall has been on the cover of several pre-season football magazines.

Despite his recent troubles, Nick Marshall continues to have his name selected for various pre-season honors. It was announced today that Nick has been placed on the list for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award.

A frequent mention in Heisman discussions, he was named a pre-season First Team All-SEC quarterback and picked as the SEC Player of the Year at SEC Media Days.

This past week he landed on the Maxwell Award list which goes to college football’s top player as well as the Davey O’Brien Award which recognizes the nation’s best quarterback.

Last year the Auburn senior became the fourth quarterback in SEC history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He threw for 1,976 yards, combining for 26 touchdowns while leading his team to an SEC Championship and berth in the National Championship game.

There still remains a question of whether he will miss any playing time due to Gus Malzahn’s statement to the media that Marshall will have to face consequences for his misdemeanor citation in Reynolds, Ga.

The winner of the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award will be announced on Dec. 11. at the Home Depot College Awards ceremony.