How Will the SEC Champions Replace Tre Mason?

By Posted on: April 9th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 6 Comments »
NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Auburn

                                                                                                                           (photo:Julie Bennett, al.com)
The NFL Draft is four weeks away and this year the first running back expected to be taken is Auburn’s Tre Mason. Last year Mason astounded all with his 23 touchdowns and 1,816 yards rushing. Tre was the leading rusher on the No.1 rushing team in the nation. A feat that made him a Heisman finalist.

He leaves behind a  legacy as one of the greatest running backs to ever play at ‘Running Back U.” His early departure for the pro’s leaves some big shoes to fill. However, the good news is – Auburn’s cupboard is full of talent. In fact, Auburn has enough stallions in the stable that promising sophomore Jonathan Ford has been permanently moved to the defense.

Looking over the list, the number one contender has to be senior Cameron Artis-Payne. He started last season sharing the carries with Mason before Tre claimed sole possession of the role. He had  two 100 yard games and finished the year with 610 yards and six touchdowns.

Artis-Payne is feeling very confident this spring. Although he recognizes he’s in a race to be Mason’s successor, he said at the beginning of spring practice that he wasn’t worried about the competition. “I just feel like I’m not going to lose.” He added, “I’m trying to be the first 2,000-yard running back in the SEC.” Got to love that attitude.

Then there is, junior Corey Grant who made a name for himself as the Tigers homerun threat last year – mostly on speed sweeps. Grant had almost a ten yard per carry average, rushing for 647 yards and six touchdowns. Some think the 5’11″, 203lb. back is not big enough to take the pounding in the middle.

However, that was also a concern about Tre Mason early in his career before he put on extra weight. News out of Auburn is that Grant has also added pounds to prove he can be an every down back. Pound for pound, he may be the strongest player on the team; and Corey said going into spring that it’s his goal to prove to the coaches that he can carry the load.

Third on most people’s list is Peyton Barber. The 5’11″, 230lb. Redshirt Freshman may be the surprise of the group. Peyton has a legitimate shot at being number one. He has the build to run it through the tackles and he has the added benefit of having played scout team running back last year. That experience gives him a year of playing against college level talent. Running backs coach, Tim Horton believes Barber has the power and the moves to be a top college back. Reports out of Auburn say he has wowed both the coaches and teammates in spring practice.

Add to this list 5-star running back Racean ‘Roc’ Thomas who will be enrolling this summer and you can easily see the coaches have several strong options to fill the vacuum left by Mason. Although Thomas hasn’t played against college level talent, the 5’11″, 200 lb.back finished his high school career at Oxford High with 6,169 yards, 82 touchdowns, and was named ‘Mr. Alabama Football.’

There is little doubt that the next Auburn running back will be a 1,000 yard rusher. To start with Malzahn has said the 2014 offense will include more of a passing game which should keep the defensive back field from playing close, giving the running backs more room to gain yardage.

Moreover, in eight years as a college offensive coordinator or head coach, Gus Malzahn has had nine players produce eleven 1,000 yard seasons. That fact coupled with a more open passing attack assures that whoever wins the job … Will pick up where Tre Mason left off.

Who do you think will replace Tre Mason as Auburn's No.1 running back?

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Return of the The Rifleman – “A Very Special Day for Auburn Basketball”

By Posted on: April 8th, 2014 in Basketball 7 Comments »
Chuck Person, Auburn's all-time leading scorer, was a 1st Round Draft pick and NBA Rookie of the year in 1986.

Chuck Person, Auburn’s all-time leading scorer, was a 1st Round Draft pick and NBA Rookie of the year in 1986.

The greatest basketball player in Auburn history is coming home to coach at his alma mater.

Chuck Person, known as the Rifleman during his All-American career at Auburn has been hired by Head Coach Bruce Pearl as an assistant coach. He helped lead the Tigers to an SEC Tournament Championship and three NCAA Tournaments  including a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 1985 and the Elite Eight in 1986.

Since Pearl’s hiring, Chuck has made no secret of his desire to return to The Plains. He said last night that’s it’s a very special day for him.

The NBA legend said, “This is the only college I would have taken a job at. My heart and my path took me to the NBA but this, Auburn University, my school, is the only job, the only school that I would come back to, to be a coach, whether it’s as a head coach or assistant coach to be a part of. This is my life. This is where I want to be. I’m home. Short of a catastrophe, nothing can take me from being here at this school.”

It’s a homerun hire for Bruce Pearl. Not only is he getting a great coach, but the Rifleman being from Alabama and having 14 years of experience in the NBA will mean a big boost to recruiting.

Pearl said, ” I don’t know if I could have made a stronger statement. This is a very special day for Auburn basketball.” We agree Coach. A very special day indeed.

Editor’s Note:
Be sure to check out Coach Person’s press conference interview below this article.

Chuck Person Says AU Basketball Will be Fast Paced Like Malzahn’s No Huddle Offense

By Posted on: April 8th, 2014 in Basketball 3 Comments »

Chuck Person says he’s on the same page with Head Coach, Bruce Pearl. Flanked by his high school coach Earl Henderson and his Auburn coach Sonny Smith, the New Auburn Basketball Assistant promised at his hiring press conference to work hard to bring success to the Auburn program.

Chuck talks in the following video about his decision and about his desire to return Auburn Basketball to prominence. He sounds like a man who is already on the recruiting trail. “We’re going to run a no-huddle offense like Coach Malzahn does with the football team.”

“We’re going to get after it,” said Person. “We’re going to play fast, play smart, play tough. We’re going to rebound and defend. It’s going to be a fun game.We’re going to shoot three’s, we’re going to have fun. We may miss some of them, but we’re going to shoot them. So if any kids out there want to come to have fun, they need to come to Auburn (because) Auburn University is the place to be.”

                             

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Gene Chizik’s Daughter Goes to the Prom

By Posted on: April 7th, 2014 in Football 9 Comments »
Chizik Daughter

The picture says it all.

In fact, it may be the greatest father-daughter photo ever taken. Gene Chizik’s daughter went to the prom this weekend. Apparently, Gene wasn’t overly thrilled with her choice. Maybe it’s the long hair. Maybe it’s the thought of this boy taking his baby anywhere.

If you’re the father of a teenage girl, you understand the facial expression. Look up the term “father’s angst” and you’ll see that photo.

The boy’s mother took the picture and Tweeted it later that evening with the caption, “You think my son will come home from the prom alive?”

It looks like Chiz is flexing those guns. Maybe he wore the shirt on purpose, to send a subtle message. Pure gold…

saban sacrificeSpeaking of pictures, what would we do without Bammer Nation? This picture has been making the rounds of social media. I’m not really sure what the father is doing with his child. Offering her up for sacrifice? Asking Nick Saban to bless and protect her?

In the words of Verne Lundquist, “Oh my goodness.”

It has gone from bad to worse for the fledgling SEC Network. We just thought adding Paul Finebaum and Jesse Palmer to the network was bad. It was announced last week that former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy will join Joe Tessitore and Tim Tebow on the channel’s version of College GameDay this fall.

Who are the morons hiring the talent?

McElroy may be the biggest twit to ever play college football. His face immediately pisses off half the people who see it. Now we are being subjected to this each Saturday? I think I’ll stick with Fowler, Corso and Herbstreit.

They’ve also hired two more analysts, both from LSU. Former Tiger defensive linemen Booger McFarland and Marcus Spears will provide commentary on game day. I can’t hear it now, “Let’s send things back to Booger in the booth.”

Can I get another, “Oh my goodness?”

One of the big story lines of spring practice so far has been the play of backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson. While the upcoming season will be firmly in the hands of Nick Marshall, those looking to the future can breathe easier.

More than one insider has said that Johnson has closed the gap considerably. Known for his pocket passing, Gus Malzahn has the sophomore working on his running skills when in the zone read.

“I’m getting better every day,” says Johnson. “I watch film. I do better. I’m practicing on carrying out my fake. “It wasn’t anything I ever did. It’s just the simple fact with my footwork and how to do it and the right read.”

“He’s way faster than you would think, he’s way smarter with the zone read because he knows how to get to the edge,” safety Jermaine Whitehead said. “He uses his body, his length, to his advantage. He steps around a lot of guys; I’ve seen him make some steps around our D-ends that were pretty spectacular.” 

Up-scaling Cafe’ Malzahn for 2014

By Posted on: April 4th, 2014 in Football 5 Comments »


Serious-tiger-sports-a-wild-necktie

Coat and tie are now required

Welcome back to the Cafe Malzahn. We’ve revamped our menu to offer the latest Tiger-friendly cusine. Same inviting environment, same excellent service for an elegant dining experience unmatched anywhere. We hope you enjoy your meal from our extensive selection of fast seared, quick braized and speed grilled SEC meats served to you in record time.

Any analysis needs to be reviewed for relevance from time to time. My amatuer statistics are no exception. One of the most glaring anomolies I found last season was that teams seemed to have outlier quirks in my assessment that defied logic. For example, I would often find that a team being analyzed would show awful statistics on offense, yet have exceptional red zone performance. There were also examples of exceptional offenses that had disturbingly poor red zone numbers.

When I looked further, I found that sometimes the kicking game would skew these numbers. So I looked at Red Zone touchdown production for the last seven years for Auburn and had another ‘ah hah’ moment.

CM-14-AU

Take a look at the Red Zone production in 2007, 2011 and 2012, where Auburn had some of the worst offensive production in the last decade and see how it is jarringly divergent from the Red Zone Touchdown production in those same years. In 2008, Wes Byrum was asked to kick quite a few slim percentage long balls and his success suffered.

Call it the Cody-Coefficient, or the Byrum-Bump, or the Last Second Variable, but the scoring rating is often influenced by the presence or absence of a gifted kicker. As teams fail to score touchdowns in the Red Zone, they often settle for scoring field goals and the efficiency of kickers may keep the Red Zone scoring artificially inflated (or deflated), and not reflect what is actually happening. One the defensive side, there was also a need to reflect the ability of ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ defenses that regularly prevent touchdowns with impressive goal line stands.

To settle this, I’ve added a new measure – that of Red Zone touchdown percentage, calculated by the SEC champion teams since 2007. To fit the ‘ER’ rating, I’ve weighted each of these as half a point each. My logic is that both of these numbers are important, but I wanted to keep the calculations simple and straight forward. Hopefully, this should help clarify just how good a team’s offense and defense really are in a compressed field.

By the way, every kicker has a bad day. Cody Parkey did. Wes Byrum had several in 2008. Cade Foster had an exceptionally bad one under the lights of Jordan Hare and the red eyes of the television cameras, but if you look at his overall percentage, he was a money kicker for his team. Know what the statistical difference was between him, Wes and Cody? One career kick over four years. All three were in the 74-75 percentile. If Cade had made just one more kick in those four years, he would have a higher scoring percentage than either Wes or Cody.

I take that back, there WAS one other difference – the respective fan bases for each player. But as you well know there’s no accounting for taste, class or sense in that other crowd.

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My Top 10 Favorite Plays of 2013

By Posted on: April 4th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 7 Comments »

I decided to take one final look back at Malzahn’s first season on the plains and list my favorite moments from one of the best seasons in Auburn football’s history. These are the moments that still stick with me. 

10. Jeremy Johnson touchdown pass to Ricardo  Louis against Western Carolina. The play comes in around the 0:50 second mark and it’s a beautiful deep ball thrown by Johnson. The future is very bright at the quarterback position. 

9. Nick Marshall to Sammie Coates – SEC Championship Game.  Seeing this play develop took years off of my life and added some gray hair to my head, but the end result was a spectacular touchdown pass to Coates in double coverage. It seems especially unfair when you consider just how much success Auburn had at running the football in this game. 
Sammie+Coates+Braylon+Webb+SEC+Championship+anZgx8Ylms6l
8. Goal line stand against Arkansas. Good old-fashioned American football just wasn’t enough to overcome Auburn’s defense in this sequence. Bielema, eat your heart out. Skip to the 3:00 mark to see the stand.

7. Anything Tre Mason did. Technically this may be cheating, but I can’t pick just one highlight to sum up Mason’s final season on The Plains. One of the best running backs to ever suit up, Mason’s contributions will be missed for quite some time. 

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Ratcheting up the Reps.

By Posted on: April 3rd, 2014 in Football 10 Comments »
Building Depth

The Tigers are looking to build depth this spring.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! Spring has sprung in the southeast. The car air conditioner is back in use after a five month hiatus, yellow dust is collecting everywhere, and the pads are popping on the practice fields. We’re about midway through spring drills, and I think I can safely say that there’s a different feel to this year’s preparations. If nothing else, it’s pretty strange not to have an intense quarterback race in progress. Auburn hasn’t had an entrenched returning starter there since Brandon Cox 7 years ago.

     Last spring, Auburn was installing new systems, particularly on defense, trying to assess players, and build a two-deep. There is always a lot of teaching going on in spring drills, but last season was also about expectations and getting the players to buy in. This year, the players already know the expectations, and the coaches are able to do a lot more reps and a lot less explaining.

     It is evident that Auburn players took offseason workouts seriously. A number of players are bigger, stronger and should make more of an impact this season. Of particular note is the throwing and catching. There is a lot more chemistry between Nick Marshall and his receivers this spring than we saw last fall. During the winter, Marshall set up informal throw and catch drills several times a week, and it is paying off. The timing and accuracy are there, this spring.

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Spastic Random Thoughts

By Posted on: April 2nd, 2014 in Featured Article, Football, Memories 14 Comments »
13613346-mmmain - julie bennett

One of the most important plays for Auburn’s 2013 football season came against Texas A&M. (photo:Julie Bennett,al.com)

We (or at least I) interrupt our usual presentation of quality analysis and rapier wit to provide you just what the title says.  We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get going (numbered for your commenting convenience):

1.  Can anyone explain to me why ESPN and the media in general have their lips permanently implanted (notwithstanding Item 2 below) on the posterior of the Crimson Tide and Coach Saban?  How does that enhance their bottom line?

2.  We might be seeing a sea change with the above situation, after the obscene gambit that Saban, through his de facto lackey Bertie Boy, tried to pull with the 10-second rule proposal.  A lot of his cred seemed to evaporate with that move, at least amongst the coaching community (and, who knows, the media might just follow).

3.  Another question: Why were all the Tide trolls coming over here sincerely wishing us well in the aTm game?  Bama already beat Johnny Football a few weeks before; it would have behooved them and their obsession against AU for the Aggies to take us to the woodshed.  (Someone told me the answer to this is the aphorism “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  However, this analysis works only if UA hates aTm more than AU, and if that is the case, I feel thoroughly insulted to be the object of a lesser hatred.)

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