Tempering Steele

By Posted on: August 1st, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 3 Comments »


                                                           A properly tempered sword will sport Auburn colors*

First off, let me say that I enjoy reading Phil Steele’s magazine and daily blog. If ever I need to know how many starting offensive linemen are returning for a given team year to year, or how each SEC team’s yards per play compares to any other at a glance, it’s just a quick search in his archived articles. His annual articles related to such data and his comprehensive magazine are anticipated by college football fans for weeks before thier publication dates. They’re a wonderful blend of hard numbers and oftentimes very astute analysis.

That being said, at other times much of Phil’s analysis is either puzzlingly vague or laughably absurd. Many of his regular articles are either overly simplistic or completely irrellevant in any rational analysis. Why this occurs in amongst his other fine articles is unknown. I can only surmise that as his entire business revolves around keeping his readers engaged, he sometimes chums the water every now and then just to keep them occupied while he works on other more relevant material.

For example, some of his more common articles involve the return of key position players for various teams. While this might seem to be an important factor in assessing a team’s potential, it is often misleading in the extreme. Take last year’s report on % of Offensive Yards Returning. I looked at what Phil reported and added the actual yards per game in 2013 for each of the SEC teams. Sorting first for Phil’s numbers from his mid-summer article shows what seems like important data on returning talent.

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However, when you sort by actual yards gained during the season, you see that such analysis is completely useless in terms of predicting or analyzing what any one team will do.

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Granted, he pegged a few teams correctly – Alabama and LSU started and ended in the top five and Vandy and the Gators stayed at the bottom, but few other teams are anywhere near what his numbers would suggest by the end of the season, least of all the team that led the SEC in running the ball last year. Marshall, Artis-Payne and Grant had zero yards in 2012, and although Tre Mason was a thousand-yard running back, it was under an entirely different offensive scheme that woefully under-utilized his true talent.

So my question is, if Phil Steele’s data is so often irrelevant day to day, what about his predictions for the coming year?

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Fall Camp Begins!

By Posted on: July 31st, 2014 in Football 12 Comments »
Fall Practice Begins

Tiger Coaches will try to mold another SEC Champion!
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! After a long, arduous off-season, Auburn begins fall practice tomorrow afternoon. The Tigers have about 4 weeks to get ready for the opening tilt at home against Arkansas on August 30th. I can’t wait for practice reports to return to my daily reading list!

     The Tigers will run one afternoon practice per day through Tuesday August 5th, which is the first day in pads. The Auburn football team will not get an off day till Friday, August 8th. There will be two-a-day practices on Wednesday, August 6th, and Saturday August 9th. Fan Day is Sunday, August 10th, before another afternoon workout. It’s pretty clear that these coaches are trying to build toughness, taking this team out each afternoon during the hottest part of the day in the August heat.

     Auburn begins this camp with 15 returning starters, including 9 from one of the nation’s top offenses. The only starters not returning on that offense are left tackle Greg Robinson and running back Tre Mason. News of what happens at those two spots during camp will be eagerly anticipated.

     While the defense returns only 6 starters, it does have 5 of the top 7 tacklers from last season coming back. This defense may have more talent than last year’s unit, with an infusion of newcomers expected to contribute. At the end of spring drills, a starting safety job was all but locked down by Derrick Moncrief, and several talented new defensive ends should have a chance to break into the playing rotation as pass rush specialists.

More Auburn ramblings after the jump!
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Can Auburn Repeat as SEC Champions?

By Posted on: July 30th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 6 Comments »
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                                                                                                                                        (Auburn media file)
It’s finally here. The 2014 Auburn football season begins Friday. The Tigers officially begin “fall” camp in the heat of the day (3:10 p.m.) and will continue everyday for the next seven days before taking a one day break.

It will be a grueling schedule but that’s part of any pre season camp. Pre season practices are meant to serve sort of like boot camps, preparing and toughening a team for the battles that lay ahead. And no team or coaching staff has a more daunting task ahead of it than Auburn.

Last year the coaches had to get the team to release memories of the previous season’s losing record and believe in themselves. This year memories need to be released again, but this time it’s different.

This time it’s not a loosing season that needs to be put in the rearview mirror.

This time it’s an SEC Championship year that produced one of the most magical and miraculous seasons in the history of the sport – one that fell just 13 seconds short of a national championship. That’s going to be hard to do when the team’s motto is, “We need to be 13 seconds better in everything we do.” Yet the lesson in last season is that the impossible … sometimes can become the possible.

Senior Reese Dismukes acknowledges that last year’s heroics, no matter how wonderful, are not going to help the Tigers repeat as champions this year. However, he believes the team can use it as motivation. “We learned that we’re never out of it,” said Reese. “No matter what the situation is, anything can happen,”

Nevertheless, the Tigers will be playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation having to face no less than seven top 25 teams.

While many teams open with a cupcake of sorts, the Tigers begin with a conference game against Arkansas and then visit Big 12 power, Kansas State in the third week for a Thursday night match up. And after facing La Tech at home, have to play LSU, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama. In addition, Auburn plays the Rebels, the Dogs, and the Tide on the road.

A tough assignment to be sure but Gus and crew are up to the challenge. When Gus became the Head Coach, he announced his goal was to win championships. He did that in his first year.

The question is can his Tigers become the first SEC team in 16 years to repeat as champions? Auburn has a great coaching staff, returns 14 starters, a veteran line, a stable full of quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers. In addition, most look for the defense to be much improved. So is it possible?

No one knows the answer but I do know one thing, if you look at Gus Malzahn’s coaching record, you can’t count him out. Gus is a proven winner who has never had a losing season as a college coach. And we know he is a focused and driven man who can’t stand losing.

Add all that up and I believe it’s definitely possible for the Tigers to repeat. After all, didn’t we learn last year that, “Anything is possible?”

Auburn Recruiting is also “Auburn Fast”

By Posted on: July 29th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 13 Comments »
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                   Auburn’s latest recruit, 4-star Line backer Richard McBryde. (photo:Dennis Victory,al.com)

The middle of the dog days of summer means one thing in the south – college football is almost here. The off season is almost over and in just a few days Auburn will begin preseason training camp.

While the coaching staff has to get the Tigers prepared to defend their SEC Championship, another challenge always lies underneath the surface no matter what time of year it may be. Of course we’re talking about recruiting, the life blood of the sport.

Last year Auburn not only had unexpected success in reaching the BCS Championship game, the Tigers also had success in putting together a star studded Top Ten recruiting class.

In fact 247Sports Composite recruiting rankings (which equally weigh the ratings of all the major recruiting services) had the Tigers 2014 class ranked at No.6 in the nation. Auburn surprised many when they signed four of the top seven players in the state of Alabama and came close to going five out of seven.

Will Auburn be able to match that success in 2015?

This time last year Auburn had 13 verbal commits. The Tigers are ahead of schedule this year with nineteen having already committed. Just this past week, three top recruits committed to Auburn including Wide Receiver Nate Craig. Rivals rates him the No.1 overall prospect in the nation for the 2016 class.

While his commitment doesn’t make an immediate impact on this years rankings it could serve to influence some other top players to join the Tigers. The 6’3″ receiver is a consensus 5-star prospect out of Tampa Catholic. He chose the Tigers over offers from Alabama and Ohio State.

Also committing this week for the 2015 class was 3-star Defensive Back Chris Westry from Orange Beach, Fla. along with 4-star Inside-Line backer, Richard McBryde from Charles Henderson. McBryde chose Auburn over Alabama and Westry picked the Tigers over his in state school, Florida.

Not surprisingly, both players said they were swayed by the family atmosphere they felt on The Plains. McBryde was quoted as saying, “Every time I go to Auburn, they show me love.” He became Auburn’s 19th commitment, pushing the Tigers’ 2015 class in to fifth place nationally.

It seems that “Auburn Fast” applies to more than just the pace of the game. National signing day is still six months off and the Tigers do not have many spots left. However, there are still some top recruits left out there that Auburn is interested in signing.

To name just a few:

 - DT Daron Payne: A 5-star tackle from Birmingham says he grew up an Auburn fan and has the Tigers, in his top four along with Alabama, Mississippi State and Texas.
– OT Martez Ivey: The 5-star Lineman from Florida is being heavily recruited by Auburn and Florida. He grew up a Gators fan but his best friend is current Auburn commit and team mate Fullback, Chandler Cox.
– DT Trent Thompson: The No. 1 overall prospect in the country from Westover High in Albany, Ga. has listed Georgia and Auburn as one and two on his list.
– LB Jefferey Holland: 4-star receiver and linebacker from Jacksonville, Florida. Holland has wavered this summer between Auburn, Florida and UCLA. It may prove difficult to pull him away from his in state school.

Recruiting is something that is a 365 day endeavor for a winning program. The Tigers will be dueling the rest of the SEC the next few months not only on the field but on the recruiting trail as well. No fewer than seven SEC teams are presently ranked in the top 10 with Auburn at No.5.

It’s a battle every week. Successful programs can’t afford to take their time lining up new talent. So far though, Gus and crew are proving that they recruit just like they coach … Auburn Fast.

List of 2015 Auburn commitments after the jump:
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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.

$209,457.84/month.

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.

Frank Thomas Speaks of Auburn at Hall of Fame Induction

By Posted on: July 28th, 2014 in Baseball, News 1 Comment »

If you didn’t get to see Auburn great, Frank Thomas at Cooperstown, below is a video montage of Thomas’ speech at his induction into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Frank thanks his former coaches (Hal Baird, Pat Dye, Jay Jacobs) and says it was at Auburn University that he acquired a will to win.

                            

Former Auburn-Walk-on Will Be Inducted into Cooperstown Today

By Posted on: July 27th, 2014 in Baseball, News 7 Comments »
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A former Auburn football player will be inducted into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame today. Frank ‘The Big Hurt’ Thomas goes in as the first ever player to be inducted from the South Eastern Conference.

Despite the threat of rain, the crowds are expected to possibly set a record of more than 40,000; due in large part to the popularity of the former White Sox first baseman as well as two former pitchers and two former managers from the Atlanta Braves.

Joining Frank will be former managers Bobby Cox and Joe Torre along with Cy Young winners Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux. “I don’t know if there’s ever been a bigger day in the history of the Atlanta Braves.” says former Braves pitcher John Smoltz.

Well maybe so but it is most certainly the biggest day ever for SEC and Auburn Baseball as a favorite son goes into the Hall. After 19 seasons in the big leagues, ‘The Big Hurt” goes in on his first year of eligibility with 84 percent of the votes.

Thomas was a two time MVP and five time All Star with the Chicago White Sox . He drove in 1704 runs, and hit 521 homeruns. He is the only player in major league history to have 7 consecutive seasons of a .300 avg, at least 100 walks, 100 runs scored, 100 RBI’s, and hit at least 20 homeruns.

I was able to watch Frank play high school ball in Columbus, Georgia. Even then you did not have to be a major league scout to recognize that he was an unusual athlete that would make a name for himself in professional sports.

He excelled in basketball, baseball, and football. He was considered by many to be one of the top tight ends in the south, making All State his senior year. I was excited when Coach Pat Dye signed him to a football scholorship in 1986.

Coach Dye said Thomas was good enough to have been a 1st Round NFL Draft Pick, but after being injured his freshman year, Dye allowed him to remain on football scholarship. He went on to walk-on for the Tiger Baseball Team and light up the SEC scoreboards with RBI’s  and homeruns. His senior year he led the SEC with a .403 batting avg, with 83 runs batted in, and  was voted the SEC MVP.

Frank is a proud Auburn man. And to this day, he gives credit to his time on The Plains for being where he’s at today. He says he owes a lot to Coach Dye for keeping him on scholarship and to Tiger Baseball Coach Hal Baird for helping to develop him.

On this day in Cooperstown it’s hard to imagine that he was ever a walk-on baseball player in college. Yet the former Auburn player will be inducted today into the most prestigious Hall of Fame in all of sports.

Don’t be surprised if (in his acceptance speech) he doesn’t give us all a “War Eagle!”


Editor’s note: Festivities are scheduled to begin at 11:00 am CST.

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.