Thursday Ramblings.

By Posted on: February 20th, 2014 in Baseball, Basketball, Football 12 Comments »
Bleak Midwinter

We’re in the bleak midwinter.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody. A long offseason continues, but there is a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel. Snow and ice have given way to thunderstorms and short sleeves here in the Deep South. Auburn football players have begun the dreaded mat drills in their off-season workout regime. This means Spring Drills and A-Day are just around the corner!

     For me, this is a week for idle thinking, and I’ll share a few thoughts on Auburn-related items. First off, I guess I’ve got to weigh in on the “ten second hold-up” rule being proposed this spring by the NCAA Rules Committee. As we now know, this whole rule change is one being pushed by two dissatisfied, frightened SEC West coaches, and was not on the NCAA’s agenda. It turns out that Nick Saban invited himself to the the rules committee meeting, and was not a planned attendee. Bret Bielema claims to be representing the interests of American Football Coaches Association, but not a single other coach will admit to supporting Bielema. Hmmm…

     I don’t get it. The refs we have now can’t even tell if the game clock has run out, or needs one second put back on, without instant replay. They are now supposed to signal the ball, “ready for play,” but not really, for ten seconds? They are already holding up the ball when the offense substitutes, to allow the defense to follow suit. How much more time does the defense need? Offenses usually run a few shifts and motions before the snap, and probably a meer-cat to the sideline, anyway. I think it’s pretty rare for a team to snap it before ten seconds are up. Saban and Bielema have made themselves the poster children for “whiney,” and there’s no real benefit to them even if the absurd rule were to pass! I chuckled at the news this week that Saban was considering being involved in a Mercedes dealership in Birmingham. What, coaches? Lobbying for “American football,” and selling German cars? That’s rich! How many times did we watch those Saban “Ford Tough” commercials last fall? Let the buyer beware.

     Speaking of football, Auburn will start spring drills on March 18th. Checking the calendar, that’s a mere 26 days away! Can we wait that long? A-Day will be played at 2:00 PM Central Time on April 19th. Auburn’s A-Day this year will be televised on ESPN. Here’s hoping the Tigers can entertain another massive crowd like last year, with the nation watching!

     Even though Auburn’s once again mired with a losing SEC basketball record at 4-9, I do have to give embattled head coach Tony Barbee some credit. His guys have usually played hard, if not well. I finally got a chance to watch a complete game last Saturday against Mississippi State, and I’ve seen the highlights of last night’s close loss to number two Florida. The biggest negative about Barbee’s style is that his players seem to be continually daring the refs to call fouls. The MSU game was an absolute free-throw fest last Saturday. As the home team, Auburn got a few more calls, and pulled out a ten point victory.

     Against Florida, Barbee was whining about Auburn allowing 12 offensive rebounds. Coach, when you lob up as many long range shots as Auburn does, offensive rebounds will happen. That ball can kick out to anywhere when you miss a three point shot. What was painful about the loss to Florida was that Auburn had the game tied at 66 with 20 seconds left, and could have forced Florida to try to make a shot to win. It wasn’t a great night for Florida shooters, who only hit 40 percent from the floor. Instead, Auburn immediately was called for a blatant grab right in front of the ref, and sent the Gators to the free throw line. Following the successful Florida free throws, Auburn could not inbound the ball because all four guys on the floor took off, and there was no one to throw the ball inbounds to. Coaching, folks. Coaching. Twenty four games into the season, and Auburn can’t even inbound the ball with the game on the line.

     I think it’s going to be another long baseball season at Auburn, also. Auburn began their home season yesterday by being shelled by FCS opponent Alabama State, 9-3. ASU is actually a pretty good FCS team, and they played error-free ball. Not so for the Tigers. The game got away on two errors in the 8th, while the Hornets were hitting balls to the wall. What’s ominous is that these pitchers are going to be expected to get SEC batters out. Worse is that the Tiger team batting average stands at a meager .217 for the season. It’s going to be a battle to stay out of last place. About the only thing going for the Tigers is that this is head coach Sunny Galloway’s first year. But coach, talking trash about playing in Omaha while giving up 9 runs to Alabama State just makes you look bad. Man, the game has changed. I remember college baseball for the “clonk” of aluminum bats, and run totals in the teens for both teams, not .217 batting averages!

     On a lighter note, I had a chuckle yesterday evening when I read this piece from our old friend Jerry Hinnen, formerly of the Joe Cribbs Carwash and the War Eagle Reader. Apparently Oklahoma’s compliance department turned in a some secondary violations for three players for being provided “pasta in excess of the permissible amount allowed.” The players each were required to cough up $3.83 to be reinstated. There’s a “pasta allowance” in the NCAA rules? Who knew?

More Rule Changes We’d Like to See

By Posted on: February 18th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 9 Comments »
taunting_medium

With Nick Saban and Brett Bielma drawing all the attention and flack for their endorsement against HUNH offenses, we believe at TET that not enough interest is being shown for legislating against some of the real problems of the game.  While other college football outlets might be reluctant to tackle these issues, we have no such compunction here. The following is a list of such high football crimes and the punishment we expect to be metered out, as suggested by notable college football blogger Draco.

Not Filling In Your Student Section. While every generation believes the next is going to hell, this would surely be my leading argument in any civil proceeding attempting to provide proof thereof. Apparently, Nick Saban was on to something with these little snot-nosed, entitled punks, not just leaving early but showing up at all. Why even matriculate at a football factory at all if you’re not lining up in the snow and rain for hours before a game?  Cut the size of the box or give away the tickets if you must. Penalty: NCAA level infraction, loss of one schollie per year for every % point below 90 for conference games. (not even students can be expected to attend the cupcakes en masse).

Coaches Covering Their Lips While Mouthing Plays On the Sidelines. Since when was stealing an opposing team’s signals supposed to get so complicated? HD television opened this bit of clandestine observation open to even the casual viewer at home and no longer for just assistant coaches with binoculars in the press box and stands.  Also, what else is one to do with a degree in sign language and lip-reading? If they’re going to snap the ball in eight seconds without allowing the substitution of defenders, it’s only fair that it is known what play they’re calling beforehand. Penalty: Dead-ball foul and loss of down.

More Than One Player With the Same Jersey Number. No longer is it allowable to just not allow them on the field at the same time. Can we please try and weed down the roster a bit? 100 slots should be plenty, even if you’re Nick Saban. Basketball doesn’t have this problem! It’s too confusing for the average fan. As a bonus, it’ll prevent some teams from retiring too many numbers, which is bound to catch up to us in a few hundred years. Penalty: Dead-ball foul and ejection of all players wearing the same number for a cumulative four quarters.

Removal of Helmet During or After Play. This is especially key in the new age of concussions and annoying since the dawn of HD television where every player wants his mug to be seen by the cameras. When they penalized taking off the helmet on the field, players started failing to properly secure their headgear so it would occasionally pop off, exposing them to more TV airtime. Making them sit out for a play doesn’t go far enough, it’s still way too common. Penalty: Spot foul, 15 yard penalty and ejection of any player whose hat wasn’t obviously ripped off by an opponent.

Playing Main School Fight Song More Than Ten Times Per Half.  Self-explanatory, but while long thought to be unduly punitive only to Tennessee, such a rule also opens up a can of worms about what truly constitutes a fight song. Georgia doesn’t actually have one, but Battle Hymn of the Republic can be a placeholder until they acquire/write it. Additional language might also be added about alternating the playing of Hold That Tiger by competing teams. Penalty: Dead-ball foul, 5 yard penalty increments. Exception: One additional stanza per touchdown scored.

More Than Five Uniform Combinations Per Season. For teams that don’t have tradition or heritage, you can always have style. If an alum just happens to own a large sporting goods marque, the temptation might be too great, but this is college football and not the fashion houses of Milan or Paris. All the uniform changes are hard enough for your fans–just think about the casual viewer on TV. Granted, some balance has to even out the Penn States and Alabamas of the CFB world, but we’re only a few decades into teams having both home and away jerseys. Penalty: NCAA level investigation, outfit one mid-major team for an entire season the following year.

Non-Use of Compound Sentences From Coaches During Halftime and Post-Game Interviews. You pay them millions of dollars and they are the faces of your programs. They ought to be able to string a few sentences together. The networks insist on putting these guys on air, they should be able to answer some simple questions with more than a word or two. Sometimes you’d think they’re politicians who were just handed a subpoena. Not all coaching interviews are made equal but some of these guys are boring. Penalty: Dead-ball foul, loss of timeout for second half or beginning of next game.

So which rule changes do you have?

I Bet the New Nick Saban Wears Pink Panties

By Posted on: February 17th, 2014 in Football 17 Comments »

pink pantiesLet’s put aside all this talk about being the best college coach in America. When Nick Saban boarded a plane recently to Indianapolis to whine about the Hurry-Up, No-Huddle Offense to the NCAA Rules Committee, he effectively told his rivals in the SEC that he has no answer for it.

The Old Nick Saban is dead.

The new one wears pink panties and answers to Nicki. The new Saban listens to Spandau Ballet in the car and cries with his wife while watching The Notebook. I bet he sits when he pees.

Forget those national championships. Late in his career, Saban just threw in the towel. He’s announced to the world that he can’t stop Gus Malzahn. Somebody put a sun dress on that statue outside of Bryant Denny Stadium.

Alabama just thought Harvey Updyke was an embarrassment. They are paying Saban $7 million a year and his answer to stopping the HUNH is to fly to Indianapolis and beg for mercy?

Washington St. coach Mike Leach thought it was some kind of joke when he heard the news that Saban was spearheading legislation to slowdown the offense in the name of safety.

“My suggestion is rather than spending a bunch of time coming up with a bunch of really stupid rules, spend that time coaching harder,” Leach said. “Worry about your own team and try to make your product better rather than trying to change the game so you don’t have to do anything.”

Under the proposed rule change, offenses would be prevented from snapping the ball until the 40-second clock hits 29 seconds (excluding the last two minutes of a half).

“The 10-second rule is like asking basketball to take away the shot clock – Boring!” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy tweeted Thursday. “It’s like asking a blitzing linebacker to raise his hand.”

Not surprisingly, Saban has been unavailable for comment since his meeting with the committee. Then again, with it being Valentine’s Day on Friday, he’s probably been too busy counting the roses that Ms. Terry sent him on his special day.

Fortunately, most experts doubt the legislation will pass this year. This is not just an Auburn-Alabama issue. Texas A&M and Ole Miss run similar attacks, not to mention most of the Pac-12 and Big 12 conference schools.

Saban being a sissy won’t be enough to move the needle – not yet anyway. But you can bet he won’t stop trying. It’s the sign of an aging coach. Rather than adapt, you just try to change the rules to your favor.

He reminds me of the kid on the playground that cries because the basketball goal is too high to reach. The tough ones adapt, the weak ones go inside and cry to mama.

Somebody find Nicki a shoulder to cry on and get him one of those umbrella drinks while you’re at it.

What a joke.

Exoneration.

By Posted on: February 14th, 2014 in Football 10 Comments »
Charges dismissed

Auburn keeps a great cornerback signee.

     War Eagle, everybody! After a bit of bad post-signing-day news, it appears that Auburn football signee Kalvaraz Bessent will likely be joining the team after all. After reports surfaced last week that Bessent had been arrested on felony drug charges,  things did not look good for his future. Today, all charges have been dropped! Evidently, common sense prevailed, and Auburn is plus one in the secondary. We’re relieved for Mr. Bessent’s sake, and glad to have another good Auburn man on the team!

Friday from the Eagle’s Nest – Special Investigative Report

By Posted on: February 14th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 15 Comments »

With recent developments coming to light, it has been revealed that University of Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema and University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban are two key supporters of a radical proposed NCAA rule change that would drastically limit the pace at which offenses could operate.

Having been fascinated by the possible implications of such a rule change and the monumental stupidity required to even believe it should be put into place, I sat down with both Bielema and Saban individually to discuss their reasons for advocating such a cause and what led them to their pitiful state.

Bret Bielema Derrick Roberts: First off, thank you for setting aside time from your busy schedule to speak with me – Could you briefly summarize your position on the proposed rule-change that would penalize offenses for snapping the football too quickly in certain situations?

Bret Bielema: It’s no problem. Trust me, I’m in no hurry. Really what it boils down to, for me, is that I’ve found offenses have the ability to know what they’re going to do to move the football long before I can – as a coach – figure that out. And so basically I don’t have time to figure out what is going to happen – so that I can stop them.

DR: But isn’t that an offense’s goal? To be as deceptive as possible? Therefore more difficult to defend?

BB: Well, yes and no. It would really depend on who you ask. In my first 10 years as a head coach I would have my quarterbacks literally outline the play we were about to run verbatim to the opposing defense.

DR: Interesting. And how well did those offenses perform?

BB: I want to preface this by saying I don’t ever like to evaluate my offense’s performance based on points scored or even first downs gained – We scored 19 points.

DR: You averaged 19 points a game? That’s not terrible.

BB: Actually it was just the 19 points. Total. For the decade.

DR: Oh I see…

BB: Honestly though – and I know you understand this – if you just don’t have the athletes that fit into your system, you are going to struggle no matter what. That’s the price you pay however, for doing genius work. It’s always going to seem wacky or downright stupid from the outside looking in until things begin to fall into place.

DR: Genius work, you say? Expound upon that if you would…

BB: Sure thing. I feel like I’m on the cusp of bringing a lot of radical approaches to the forefront of college football. I know it may seem like I’m only interest in altering the way offense is played, but I’ve got a lot to bring to the table on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Like my ’12 Man’ defensive formation.

 ”Look at what the Seahawks accomplished in the Super Bowl a few weeks ago by only pretending to know and run my defense.”

I’ve been to countless Texas A&M football games and more recently the Seattle Seahawks. They both boast about being the “Home of the 12th Man.” Well, I’ve counted their personnel for every defensive snap and they send 11 men onto the field every single time. At first I was worried they had stolen a few pages from my playbook, but I eventually found out that it was all one big decoy. They only wanted to make other teams think they knew my secret to the ’12 Man’ defense. It seems to still be a pretty effective approach regardless. Look at what the Seahawks accomplished in the Super Bowl a few weeks ago by only pretending to know and run my defense.

That’s really only the beginning though – I’ve got tons of cutting edge stuff I’m working on. Like for example – why can’t I get the ball on defense some? Why does the offense always have to be the one to possess the football? Stop me if I’m lying, but I think every football fan in America would want to see what a Ray Lewis or Brian Urlacher could do taking snaps on the field.

DR: I literally don’t believe the series of words that just left your mouth.

BB: I’d say that’s the typical reaction. It’s a shame too, but my ideas are simply too far ahead of their time. People can’t seem to wrap their heads around them. I’m coming to terms with that one day at a time though.

DR: Well they are interesting if nothing else. Before we end our discussion – if there were one thing you could say to the NCAA rules committee to persuade them to put these new rule changes into place, what would it be?

BB: I’d say slower offenses are better, safer, and most importantly – the most straightforward to defend. I’m a football genius. I know all there is to know about the game, but stopping an offense that doesn’t run at my preferred pace is something I shouldn’t be forced to figure out when I’ve figured a lot of other things out.

Nick SabanDerrick Roberts: Coach Saban I’d like to thank you for giving me a second of your time. How would you sum up your feelings towards fast-paced offenses and the proposed rule-change you support that would slow them down?

Nick Saban: For nearly a hundred years, the game of football has been played the same way. Offenses have played the same way. For all of a sudden – some half-wit high-school “guru” with a new idea and sweater vest – to come along and flip all of that conventional wisdom on its head is completely absurd.

DR: But football has changed in the past decades and has transformed immensely since its earliest beginnings. What about the “radical” move to make the forward pass legal?

NS: For starters, the forward pass being legitimized is a terrible example because it’s common knowledge that the U.S. Government – much like they did with gasoline and other national resources – rationed NFL runningbacks during wartime and forced teams into developing an alternative.

DR: I don’t think that’s accurate at all.

NS: It’s totally the same as ‘A League of their Own’ starring Tom Hanks.

DR: Somehow I imagined you being much more grounded in reality…

NS: Well the reality of the situation is we’ve got offenses running rampant all over college football like bandits and outlaws in the old Wild West. Fans don’t want to come to the stadium on Saturday nights in the fall just to be robbed blind by Jesse James.

DR: So would you then equate an offense like Auburn’s performance against your defense a case of ‘highway robbery’?

NS: If you want to put it delicately, then yes.

DR: I feel like we’ve gotten off-track.

 ”It’s totally the same as ‘A League of their Own’ starring Tom Hanks.”

NS: We certainly have. The game of football used to be about simple formations, limited creativity, and predictability on offense. Now it seems more and more coaches want to devise some blasphemous scheme to catch defenses off guard and move the football down field more efficiently. Well, if they want to make a “new football” I am going to make my own “new football” with rules that compensate for my lack of ability to adjust to their dirty ways.

DR: But if the play-clock is running, shouldn’t the team on offense be allowed to snap the ball at any given time?

NS: Of course. As long as it has been running at least 10 seconds previously and my defense is properly aligned and adjusted to the exact play about to be run.

DR: Well I don’t suppose that’s too demanding of you.

NS: It certainly isn’t. In its original form, this proposed rule also involved the backs and receivers having to tie their shoes together with their shoestrings and the quarterback having to recite the capitals of 10 U.S. states before being allowed to attempt a forward pass. I’d say they are getting off easy.

DR: If nothing else, Coach Saban, you are certainly fair. 

In conclusion – my journey provided many more questions than answers and did little to convey the actual advantages of the proposed rule-change. Saban and Bielema are tragically just two little children that want to take their ball and go home, but without a way to stop college football’s hottest new offense – they may be forced to go home without it.  

Long Term Recruiting Success.

By Posted on: February 13th, 2014 in Football 6 Comments »
Star impact

How do those four and five stars pan out at Auburn?
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! This morning, from the snow-covered hills of the Tragic City, we’ll talk some Auburn recruiting. More specifically, we’ll look at how Auburn’s last five classes have contributed, with an emphasis on four and five star players. Four years ago, I looked back at five years of recruiting and what had become of those classes. I bemoaned Auburn’s numbers, as it seemed that a ton of players from Tommy Tuberville’s last few classes had not been able to contribute. How different are things now, four years later?

     Before I begin charting recruits, I need to say a word or two about a top recruit this winter. Folks, I cannot believe the backlash linebacker Rashaan Evans has received for choosing Alabama over Auburn. There’s no call for the vitriol he and his family have received. Last time I checked, this is supposed to be a free country, and a young student does have the right to choose where he goes to college. We Tiger fans would have liked to have seen Evans in orange and blue in the coming years. It won’t happen. He’s decided to go to Alabama. Here’s where we wish Evans well, and move on. Leave the name-calling and worse to other fanbases.

     Speaking of moving on, that’s clearly what’s happened with the Auburn coaching staff in regards to 2014 signee Kalvaraz Bessent. About a week ago, Bessent was arrested on felony drug charges. While the Auburn coaching staff has declined to comment much on the situation, they’ve added a new commit this week. JUCO cornerback Joseph Turner is on board, and welcome to the Auburn Tigers.

     So, how have Auburn’s four and five stars from the Gene Chizik era turned out? For reference, I’m going to use 247sports star ratings for this, citing ease of use of their material. After the jump, we’ll take a look.

     Chizik’s first class in 2009 was ranked 22nd in the nation, and did not include any five-star players. The four stars were: Phillip Lutzenkirchen, Demond Washington, Eltoro Freeman, and Tyrik Rollinson. Lutzenkirchen and Washington became multi-year starters, and Freeman played a role in the linebacker corps, coming into his own late in 2011. Rollinson left after just one year.

     Lesser recruits that went on to big things included Dee Ford, Nick Fairley, Nosa Eguae, John Sullen, and Emory Blake.

     The 2010 class was a big one at the time, ranked 6th in the nation. It featured five star recruits Michael Dyer and Trovon Reed, as well as four-stars Corey Lemonier, Jeffrey Whitaker, LaDarius Owens, Eric Mack, Craig Sanders, Kenneth Carter, Jake Holland, Cam Newton, Antonio Goodwin, Roszell Gayden, Shaun Kitchens, and Shon Coleman.

     Dyer had two big years before running afoul of the coaching staff, and Reed has found a place in the playing rotation after several years battling injury. Lemonier was a good defensive end who left early for the NFL. Whitaker and Owens are expected to be starters again on the defensive front. Craig Sanders was a special teams standout and contributor on the line. Kenneth Carter also started a few games up front on defense. Holland was a three year starter. Cam Newton was one year and done, but what a year it was! Goodwin and Kitchens were both involved in criminal activity, and were kicked off the team after one season. Gayden battled for the right tackle starting job, lost it to Brandon Mosley, and left the team. Shon Coleman battled cancer, but has now positioned himself to fight for a starting tackle spot this spring.

     Lesser recruits that made some noise on the field included Cody Parkey, Brandon Mosley, Demetruce McNeal, Ryan White, Chris Davis, Ryan Smith, Steven Clark, and Jonathan Mincy.

     Chizik fielded another top ten class in 2011, which was ranked 8th in the nation. Christian Westerman was the lone five star. Four stars were Khiel Frazier, Quan Bray, Erique Florence, Reese Dismukes, Kris Frost, Greg Robinson, Jonathan Rose, Brandon Fulse, Robensen Therezie, Jermaine Whitehead, C. J. Uzomah, Tre Mason, Thomas O’Reilly, Sammie Coates, and Angelo Blackson.

     Westerman competed for a couple of years, then transferred. Frazier started 5 games at QB, moved to receiver this past season, and has transferred. Bray is in the receiver playing rotation, and has been a mainstay in the return game. Florence looked to have a starting safety spot nailed down in the spring of 2012, but left the team without any significant contribution. Dismukes has been the starting center since his first game, and will have one more year after an all-star season in 2013. Kris Frost looks to take sole possession of the starting middle linebacker spot next season. Greg Robinson anchored the left side of the Auburn o-line for two year, and is on to the NFL. Rose did not crack the playing rotation at corner, and left after a couple of seasons. Fulse has been a starter or co-starter for the past two seasons, and is probably Auburn’s best skill position blocker returning in 2014. Robensen Therezie broke out at the Star position last season, and was one of Auburn’s defensive leaders. Jermaine Whitehead spent his first season as a backup corner, then moved to safety and has started every game the past two seasons. C. J. Uzomah has been in the receiver rotation since game one, but really took over as the starting tight end at midseason in 2013. Tre Mason made an immediate impact as a kick returner, and developed into a Heisman finalist last season. He’s off to the NFL. O’Reilly transferred after a year on the scout team. Coates became Auburn’s go-to, big-play receiver last season. Blackson has been a part time starter on the defensive line.

     Lower stars that have been bright spots include Jaylen Denson, Justin Garrett, Anthony Swain, and Gabe Wright.

     Gene Chizik’s final class in 2012 ranked 11th in the nation. There were no five stars in this class. Four-stars were Avery Young, Ricky Parks, Jordan Diamond, Joshua Holsey, Tyler Nero, Jovon Robinson, Patrick Miller, Shane Callahan, Cassanova McKinzy, Ricardo Louis, Zeke Pike, JaQuay Williams, and Darrion Hutcherson.

     Avery Young started 3 games before being injured his first year. Last season, he took over the starting right tackle spot at midseason. Ricky Parks was booted off the team this past summer, but is back this winter as a walk-on and should be in the playing rotation at tight end/h-back. Joshua Holsey started several games at corner his first season, and was a starting safety for six games in 2013 before being sidelined with a knee injury. Patrick Miller started 9 games as a freshman, and was the starter for the first half of 2013. Cassanova McKinzy moved into a starting linebacker role in just his second season in 2013. Ricardo Louis moved into a starting receiver spot late in 2013. Guys that are still with the team but have largely toiled without seeing the field include Diamond, Nero, and Callahan. Jovon Robinson left the team after a grade-fixing scandal emerged. Zeke Pike transferred. Williams and Hutcherson didn’t make it to campus.

     Lesser stars that have made contributions on the field include Alex Kozan, Jonathan Jones, Javiere Mitchell, and Jonathan Wallace.

     Despite coming in late, Gus Malzhan held together a 13th ranked class after just a couple of months on the job on 2013. His five stars were all on the defensive line, Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel. Four stars were Tony Stevens, Jeremy Johnson, Ben Bradley, Jonathan Ford, Cameron Toney, Jason Smith and Earnest Robinson.

     Lawson, Adams and Daniel all were major factors on Auburn’s defensive line as true freshman. Tony Stevens cracked the playing rotation at receiver. Jeremy Johnson secured the backup quarterback spot, and put up impressive numbers against a couple of opponents. Ben Bradley was in the playing rotation at defensive tackle. Jonathan Ford played on both sides of the ball. Smith and Robinson did not make it on campus.

     Lesser stars that contributed significantly were Nick Marshall, Cameron Artis-Payne, and Marcus Davis.

     Looking through these lists, I think Gene Chizik and his staff deserve some credit. While there have been a few high profile defections and flame-outs, the majority of his four and five-star guys have stood the test of time, and become valued Auburn men. These guys got Auburn to the BCS title game twice in the past five seasons, and should be commended. So far, Gus Malzhan and his staff seem to have continued the momentum without missing a beat. Time will tell!

Hal Herring – Man’s Man and the Last of an Era

By Posted on: February 12th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 3 Comments »
Hal Herring was an All SEC Center and Linebacker for Auburn

Hal Herring was an All SEC Center and Linebacker for Auburn

The year was 1957. The Auburn Tigers won the National Championship and did so with a lock down defense. Just as Auburn won a national championship in 2010 behind the play calling of an offensive guru named Gus Malzahn, the Tigers of ’57 won it behind the play calling of another guru, but that time it was on defense.

It was a different era. It was a time when players went both ways and games were defined by who was the toughest. Hand to hand combat might better describe what took place on the gridiron. It was a game where (unlike today’s offenses that put up big numbers) defenses choked the life out of offenses.

It was in that environment that a former SEC and NFL star player had become the defensive coordinator for Auburn. Having a separate coach just for defense had been an almost unheard of  practice. Up to that time, coaches like players had gone both ways. The name of that early defensive guru? … Former Tiger great, Hal Herring.

He was a pioneer in coaching defense exclusively. He was also one of the best. In fact, he may have been the best to ever coach the ‘D’ at Auburn. He coached on The Plains for 13 years and all of those seasons his defenses were in the top 10 nationally including a No.1 ranking six times. Auburn’s reputation over the years as being a tough defensive team is due  in large part to Hal Herring.

The 1957 National Champions surrendered the fewest points in modern history (28) and one of those touchdowns was an interception and the other three TD’s came against the second team. The Tigers won four games in that championship season, scoring seven points or fewer and six times Auburn shut out their opponent.

Many would say yeah, but that team couldn’t do that today because the game is more sophisticated. Well Hal was asked before the 2010 BCS Championship game if his players could match up today. His response was, “Easily …  Back then, you kicked somebody’s a- – or you got kicked. It was for men only.”

But it wasn’t exclusively about out-manning the other guy. Like Auburn’s current offensive genius, Herring was an innovator who was constantly adjusting his defensive alignment; something that was ahead of its time in the 1950′s and 60′s. Many of the following generations of defensive coordinators owe their craft to Coach Herring. He (like Malzahn on offense) wrote a book about defensive football. He knew from which he talked. He coached for the great Shug Jordan and against some of the best in the game – guys like Bobby Dodd, Bear Bryant, Vince Lombardi and Don Shula.

Herring didn’t just make his mark in life as a football coach. He was a husband, a father, and a teacher. A member of America’s greatest generation, he chose to leave college to help defend his country as an infantryman in World War II. After the war, he returned to Auburn and was named the Tigers’ Most Valuable Player in 1948. That same year he was selected All-SEC both as a center and linebacker. He went onto play professionally for the legendary Paul Brown, helping the Cleveland Browns win an NFL World Championship in 1950.

In 1965 he left Auburn to coach defense for the Atlanta Falcons and later coached for the San Diego Chargers. In 2002, he was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. But perhaps his most cherished honor came in 2001 when he was given the highest recognition Auburn can bestow on student-athletes who have distinguished themselves as alumni, The Walter Gilbert Award.

Sunday night Coach Herring passed away in Cuming, Ga. just two weeks shy of his 90th birthday. The funeral service will be at 2 p.m. at Ingram’s Funeral Home in Cuming. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

He will be missed. He was an Auburn Man. He was a man’s man. He was a football coach through and through. And he was the last of an era.

ACC Looking to Ride Some SEC Coattails

By Posted on: February 11th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 14 Comments »
NCAA Football: BCS National Championship-Florida State vs Auburn

                                                                                                                       Image: CBS Sports
Last week an interesting proposal came down from ACC commish John Swofford that the ACC, now considering the possibility of playing nine conference games, would forgo that extra contest and play eight if they could instead have each team schedule at least one SEC opponent every year. Also on the ACC’s wish list; world peace and being able to register on the affordable healthcare act website.

This model is definitely only in the brainstorming level of development as conferences look to the future of the four-team playoff this season and the best ways to position themselves for a run. The ACC, who is also considering major changes in it’s conference championship game  to garner what most describe generally as national interest, is looking to bolster it’s impressive streak of BCS national championships, which now stands at one.

Bravo, yelled every other conference who would be unbridled with a mandatory extra out-of-conference game against a former BCS team, giving them one less possible hurdle into the playoff, the equivalent of a two touchdown lead if Vegas handicapped getting to the playoff like the game itself.

Other than getting all fourteen teams to sign off on the deal, an additional impediment to such scheduling mojo is a future 5-game schedule the ACC has signed with Notre Dame, who is expected to at least score more than one touchdown in each of those games. Geez. If the SEC turns the ACC down, it looks like they’ll have to hit up the Service Academies next.

With basically a quarter of the two conferences already playing each other in long-standing rivalries, a big collective yawn went up from Georgia, through Florida, and up to South Carolina and Kentucky.

While the notion of this proposal is noble, no conference in their right mind is going to want to hamstring themselves with such a requirement unless you make it mandatory for all the major conferences to do so. With the playoff looming, the stakes are just too high. I’ve always thought it was a good idea to have the big boys play themselves more often, but it’ll only work if you force all of them to do it. That’ll at least give some of the smaller guys on a roll at least a prayer of possibly getting into the playoff.

Speaking of the smaller teams, this is also one of the reasons why I don’t want to go to a nine-game conference schedule: we will never be able to give these up-and-comers a chance to take on the heavyweights. Don’t the Southern Misses, UL-Monroes, and Arkansas States deserve a chance to play the giants in their neighborhood now and then? We may think of them as cupcakes now but that could change one day. Nine conference games will force us to be stingy with ourselves.

You don’t think Troy would relish one day to get a shot at Auburn or Alabama? We’ll never play them if we’re only playing the heavies. How does a team get good if they can never take on the bigger boys on the block?

If we do mandate one non-conference BCS opponent each year, don’t limit it to just a cross-conference rivalry either. After the SEC is finished with the ACC, let’s move on to the Big 12, then the PAC-14, then the Big 10, and then whatever conference gravity causes to form out of the remnants of the Big East and the other debris in our college football solar system.

Big thanks for thinking of us, ACC.