Celebrating July 4th Week and …Track ‘em Tigers Auburn Football Hall of Fame

By Posted on: June 30th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 25 Comments »
hi-res-51553967_crop_exact - Carnell

                                                                                    Cadillac Williams (photo:Chris Graythen/getty images)
With the possible exception of Christmas and New Years, there’s not a bigger American holiday than the fourth of July. The celebration of our nation’s independence is a time honored tradition. It’s a time for parades, fireworks, barbecues, and vacations. And traditionally it’s a time for the staff here at Track ‘Em Tigers to take our annual weeks vacation.

july-4-fireworksThe 4th of July also signals an important time in the world of college football. There isn’t much football news in the middle of the summer. However, after this week that changes, especially with the start of SEC Media Days.

We appreciate all of you that make TET a part of your daily lives and wish you a happy and restful 4th of July. We will be back with our regular postings on July 7th.

In the interim, we have something we would like for you, our readers to help us with.

For the last three years Track’em Tigers has taken nominations for our own Auburn Tigers Football Hall of Fame, which now includes seventeen former Auburn  players and coaches. You can find a list of those names at the end of this article.

The rules for the selection process are:

(1) Nominate only one person from the following positions: QB, RB, FB,WR, TE, OL, DL, LB, DB, ST, and Coach. (2) To be eligible players and or inactive coaches should have been out of college for four years. Eight names, seven chosen by our readers, will go into the 2014 class and may come from any period in Auburn History. (3) Although it would be good for you to have seen the nominee play or coach (at least on television, we recognize that in some cases that would not be possible).

This year the staff will nominate for our selection, legendary Auburn Coach “Iron Mike” Donahue. But Track ‘Em Tigers is about you the fan. So we want to know what you think.

The next two to three days we will be taking nominations to fill up the rest of our ballot of 10 nominees from which seven new names will be selected.

Please tell us in the comment section why you think a player is deserving of the nomination. If your player has already been nominated, you can still nominate him again  - an action that will simply add to the nominees weight to be placed on the final ballot.

Toward the end of this week, we will publish a list of the top vote getters along with a ballot/poll to decide the seven players that will make up the 2014 class of TET’s Auburn Football Hall of Fame.

On behalf of the guys here at Track ‘Em Tigers, thank you in advance for your help. War Eagle and we wish you all a safe and

Happy 4th of July!

Editors note: The names of the seventeen present members of TET’s Hall of Fame are listed after the jump
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We Have Lost Lutzie … “Crushed and without words.”

By Posted on: June 29th, 2014 in Football, News 13 Comments »

Reports have surfaced from Georgia that Phillip Lutzenkirchen was killed in car crash in Troup County, Georgia. He was signed by the Rams and released in August 2013. I will always remember him as a fine young man who did his job and led others to do theirs. The winning Iron Bowl Catch is legendary. He will be sorely missed by Auburn fans.

Auburn AD Jay Jacobs said in a release:
“Philip’s death is a devastating tragedy for his family, the Auburn family and his countless friends. Today is also a profoundly sad day for the Auburn Athletics family, who loved and respected Philip not only as a great player but more importantly as a friend and the epitome of an Auburn man.”

Both Gus Malzahn and Gene Chizik expressed deep respect for Phllip and sadness for his passing. However, perhaps Offensive Coordinator, Rhett Lashlee best expressed the feeling of the Auburn Family when he said:
  “The Auburn Family is broken today with the loss of a great Auburn man and friend Phillip Lutzenkirchen. Crushed and without words.”

Condolences to his family and rest in peace Lutzie. 

Here is a link to a story from the NBC affiliate in Huntsville, Al.

Nostalgia Friday: 1972 Sugar Bowl

By Posted on: June 27th, 2014 in Football 1 Comment »

Our Nostalgia Friday pieces typically highlight Auburn victories from years past. Today we take a look at a loss. The footage here from the 1972 Sugar Bowl between Auburn and Oklahoma is just too good to pass up regardless of the outcome.

The 1971 season will be remembered as the Heisman Trophy winning year of Pat Sullivan. He also had a pretty good receiver by the name of Terry Beasley – you may have heard of him. Auburn started the year by winning its first nine games and putting itself into national championship contention.

It then laid an egg against Alabama, losing in blowout fashion 31-7. Despite the loss, Auburn was invited to face Oklahoma in New Orleans at old Tulane Stadium. The outcome wasn’t much better than the Iron Bowl.

Led by Greg Pruitt, the Sooners ran all over Auburn and Sullivan-to-Beasley never got going that afternoon, with the Tigers falling 40-22. Auburn would finish the year 9-2 overall and 5-1 in the SEC. The Associated Press voters put Auburn at 12th in its final poll while UPI (the other major poll at the time) had Auburn fifth.

There are two parts to this video. The first one is embedded above. The second one can be found here. Despite the loss, this is some of the coolest Auburn footage I’ve seen in years.


A Showdown in Starkville!

By Posted on: June 26th, 2014 in Football 3 Comments »
MSU Preview

Auburn’s last visit wasn’t so great.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for another Auburn opponent preview. On October 11th, Auburn continues its SEC schedule with a tough road trip to play Mississippi State in Starkville. I’ve seen some projections that both teams will be undefeated coming into this game, but I’m not so sure I’m buying that. The Bulldogs play LSU in Baton Rouge before playing Auburn, and under head coach Dan Mullen, they haven’t beaten a Top-25 opponent since taking out Florida in 2010. Mullen’s record against Top-25 opponents is just 2-22.

     The Bulldogs open with home cupcakes Southern Mississippi and UAB, before traveling to Mobile to play South Alabama. Then, State is put to the test when they visit LSU in Baton Rouge on September 20th. A week to recuperate follows, then the Bulldogs host Texas A&M. Some folks think that without Johnny Manziel, the Aggies will be down. I’d caution such folk to look at Aggie coach Kevin Sumlin’s record. He’s lost good quarterbacks before, and keeps right on cranking out big numbers on offense. After Texas A&M, the Bulldogs host Auburn. The Tigers will have faced Arkansas and San Jose State at home, Kansas State on the road, Louisiana Tech for homecoming, then LSU. The concern for Auburn is the road trip to Starkville, right after a physical game with LSU.

     Every preseason look at MSU focuses first on returning junior quarterback Dak Prescott. Some believe he’s the best returning signal-caller in the league. Prescott battled injury last season, but led some big wins that got the Bulldogs to a bowl game. Prescott’s rushing numbers were second only to Auburn’s Nick Marshall, but only finished 11th in the SEC in passer rating. There’s talent returning among the offensive skill players, but it’s important to recognize that MSU returns only 6 starters on offense, and they’ve had questions on the line this past spring. One of the more dangerous problems was one with bad snaps that cropped up. Shoring up the center position will be a prime focus in fall camp. The Bulldogs must also replace leading running back Ladarius Perkins.

     On defense, the Bulldogs return 19 of 22 players on the two-deep depth chart, and most folks expect the Bulldogs to be tough on defense. Experience is a plus, and these guys last season held Auburn to 24, Alabama to 20 and Ole Miss to just 10 points. On the other hand, they allowed 59 to LSU, 51 to Texas A&M, and 34 to South Carolina, so it’s a mixed bag. Mississippi State held Auburn to just 120 rushing yards last season, and Tre Mason had just 34 yards on the ground. Look for the Bulldogs to again try to make Nick Marshall beat them with his arm.

     Special teams are somewhat of a concern for the Bulldogs. They’ve had snap problems on kicks this spring, also. Last season, a trio of guys managed just 10 of 21 field goals. Mississippi State was just average on kickoffs and punts, and got very little out of the return game, even with the talented, speedy Jameon Lewis fielding both punts and kickoffs. Coverage, at least, was solid. Much like Auburn, MSU special teams are a work in progress.

Unit matchups, after the jump!

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Squeezing Even More Out of the Gus Bus

By Posted on: June 25th, 2014 in Football 10 Comments »

snake·bit (see also snake·bit·ten) adjective – Experiencing a period of misfortune or inability to succeed

We all saw the incredible effect and potential of the Gus Bus HUNH offense on the defenses of the Southeastern Conference last year. Auburn transformed from an unremarkable and misfiring offensive scheme in 2012 into one of the most potent and dynamic forces on the gridiron in 2013 with many of the same personnel they had the year before.

The Tigers went from 0-8 and averaging 10 points per game in conference play to 8-1 and scoring over 38 points per SEC game. Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee took a team averaging just 235 yards per conference game in 2012 and transformed it into a inexorable juggernant grinding out a whopping 485 yards per game in the span of just 8 months.

That translates to a 100% increase in yards gained and an unbelievable 280% improvement in scoring during SEC games.

Even six months after the fact, those numbers still astonish me, and I have to pinch myself from time to time to bring my thoughts back to earth. It is incredibly difficult to overlook those numbers and see the downside of what happened last year. Like every other Auburn fan as the 2013 season unfolded, I increasingly saw the world through Orange and Blue lenses as each towering obstacle was overcome by this Phoenix-like rebirth of the Auburn offensive.Sometimes success on that scale can mask some troubling flaws that will plague a team even through the wistful euphoria of a championship run.

So what about the times when the Gus Bus WASN’T racing up and down the field, mowing over SEC defenses, leaving star defensive ends on islands and linebackers lying on the turf like so much roadkill in it’s wake? What stopped the Gus Bus when it struggled to gain first downs? Can we draw any conclusions from the drives that DIDN’T result in jubilant end zone celebrations that seemed so common by the end of last year (and so infrequent the year before)? Are there any improvements the Gus Bus can employ this year to further the meteoric rise of 2013 into the top of the game in 2014?

Answers to these and other questions after the jump.

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Former Tiger Tim Puetz Plays Today in Second Round at Wimbledon – (Updated: Puetz impressive in loss)

By Posted on: June 25th, 2014 in Featured Article, Other Sports 3 Comments »
day-one-championships-wimbledon-2014-20140623-172642-237 - Tim Puetz by jim kruger

                              Tim Puetz won his debut match at Wimbledon. (photo:Jim Kruger,yahoo)
In four seasons at Auburn, star tennis player, Tim Puetz was named All-SEC four times averaging at least 18 wins per season including racking up an incredible .857 winning percentage during his senior year.

Now that Puetz is a tennis pro, it comes as no surprise to Tiger fans to see him qualify for the biggest tennis event in the world – The 2014 Wimbledon.

Tim not only qualified for the Wimbledon but he advanced to the second round of the championships with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Russia’s Teymuraz Gabashvili on the grass of Wimbledon. He went into the competition ranked at 251 in the world and has become the talk of the tournament.

6283677 - Tim PuetzTo even qualify, he had to win all three of his qualifying matches in singles. He not only did that but won the last match by posting a straight-set victory over Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (3), 7-6 (16), 6-1.

When Puetz was in school there were glimpses of potential greatness. He was named All-American both his junior and senior years after playing in the NCAA National Singles Semifinals in 2010 and making it to the National Doubles Semifinals in 2009 along with his teammate Alexey Tsyrenov.

Although Tim dropped the first set to Gabashvili to start Monday’s match he battled back in his debut with a dominant serve recording 19 aces in his first-round win. He was a perfect 11-for-11 on points won at the net to mark his first career win at a Grand Slam event.

Bq5s_4tIUAARouu.jpg large - AU flag at World CupWith the victory Tim advanced to today’s second round at the 2014 Wimbledon. He will be facing the 16th tournament seed in Italy’s Fabio Fognini.

Yesterday, pictures made the rounds on the internet of an Auburn flag in the crowd at the World Cup testifying to how the sun never sets on the Auburn Family.

While I don’t know how many Auburn fans may be in attendance at the All-England Club in London today … I’m sure there will be many Auburn flags raised across the globe as we pull for one of our Tigers.

Good luck Tim and War Eagle!

Even though Tim lost a thrilling second round match today, he did himself proud as he gave the No. 15 ranked player in the world all he could handle winning the first set 6-2. and forcing Fognini to a tie in the third before the Italian finally prevailed 8-6.

Tim traded breaks early in the fourth set before Fognini pulled ahead to make it 3-1, and even then he had to fight off a determined Puetz to complete the win. Tim was very impressive in his first appearance on the grass of the All-England Club and should be a regular in future Wimbledons

Judge in Ed O’Bannon Case Appears to be Leaning Toward Decision to Radically Change College Sports

By Posted on: June 24th, 2014 in Basketball, Featured Article, Football, News 5 Comments »
Former UCLA Player Ed O'Bannon brought suit against NCAA in 2009. (photo:Isaac Brekken/AP)

Former UCLA Player Ed O’Bannon brought suit against NCAA in 2009. (photo:Isaac Brekken/AP)

In July, 2009 former UCLA All-American Basketball Player Ed O’Bannon filed a suit against the NCAA to allow players to sell the rights to their names, images and likenesses for use on television broadcasts and in video games.

The problem with that:

The NCAA has always viewed college athletes as amateurs. The official line from the NCAA states that, “All student-athletes are required to adhere to NCAA amateurism requirements to remain eligible for intercollegiate competition.”

The amateurism rule includes restrictions against student athletes signing professional contracts with professional teams, receiving money above actual and necessary expenses, receiving a salary for participating in athletics, or receiving benefits from a prospective agent. All of which may be in jeopardy should the plaintiffs succeed.

The three week case is set to end this week.

Those that have not closely followed the trial may be surprised that the outcome will not be decided by a jury but by a single judge (named Claudia Wilken). I’m not sure that a jury trial would be more fair to either side but one thing is troubling. The future of college athletics will be decided by a person who knows little about college athletics.

Judge Wilken may be an excellent antitrust judge but she has demonstrated a lack of knowledge during the proceedings about the basic structure of college football. Last week she was surprised to discover that the bowl games are run by bowl committees and in yesterday’s proceedings she asked a witness what he was talking about when he referred to the BCS, the FBS, and the CFP (College Football Playoff).

Early in the trial she instructed the NCAA lawyers that “amateurism” was a word she didn’t feel had any bearing on the case. Yet that goes to the very heart of the NCAA’s position which states that, “In the collegiate model of sports, the young men and women competing on the field or court are students first, athletes second.”

To anyone who has followed the proceedings, it’s easy to see that Judge Wilken is leaning toward the plaintiffs’ side. For one thing, she has already publicly stated she has a problem with the NCAA’s no-pay rule.

If she issues an injunction against the NCAA and it is upheld on appeal, the new model of college sports will be radically different from what it has looked like for the past 108 years.

While some may view that possibility as a victory, the ramifications could signal a defeat for non revenue producing sports. In addition such a decision will put college sports in the marketplace bringing with it salaries, player unions, and possible labor disputes.

The judge will hear final arguments Friday and take a few weeks to issue her decision. While it is impossible to predict how Judge Wilken will rule, after two weeks of hearing the case, it doesn’t look good for the NCAA.

Do you feel a decision in favor of the O'Bannon law suit would be good for college athletics?

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Will You Be Able to See the SEC Network?

By Posted on: June 23rd, 2014 in Football 9 Comments »
sec network

Yesterday I found myself starring semi-comatose at the Belgium-Russia World Cup Soccer match. This is what happens to college football fans in the summer. You sit in front of the television for six hours watching a sport you don’t understand and then walk away speaking with a British accent.

The good news is that Auburn kicks-off 10 Saturdays from now. I couldn’t believe it when I counted. It was like finding a $20 bill in the pocket of a dirty pair of jeans. Football season is actually getting close.

Speaking of television, it’s never too early to look at the television schedule for Week One in the SEC. The million dollar question is whether your cable or satellite provider will be carrying the SEC Network. More on that in a minute.

Here’s how Week One shakes out for SEC Fans…

Thursday, August 28th

Texas A&M at South Carolina, 5:00 PM CT, SEC Network

Ole Miss vs. Boise State (Atlanta), 7:00 PM CT, ESPN

Temple at Vanderbilt, 8:15 PM ET, 9:15 PM CT, SEC Network

Saturday, August 30th

UT Martin at Kentucky, 11:00 PM CT, SEC Network

South Dakota State at Missouri, 2:30 PM CT, ESPNU

Alabama vs. West Virginia (Atlanta), 2:30 PM CT, ABC

Arkansas at Auburn, 3:00 PM CT, SEC Network

Clemson at Georgia, 4:30 PM CT, ESPN

Idaho at Florida, 6:00 PM CT, ESPNU

Southern Miss at Mississippi State, 6:30 PM CT, SEC Network

LSU vs. Wisconsin (Houston), 8:00 PM CT, ESPN

Sunday, August 31st

Utah State at Tennessee, 6:00 PM CT, SEC Network

With the new conference network showing six games on opening weekend, you are pretty much out of luck if you can’t get the channel. As of now, only Dish Network and AT&T U-Verse have committed to carry it on a national basis. Many smaller cable companies have already joined.

If you are not sure about your area, there’s a website, getsecnetwork.com where you can check availability in your town. The site is pretty aggressive, allowing fans to send emails to their providers requesting the network. It’s even offering up a signed letter from the SEC coach of your choice if you fill out the form.

I’m a DirecTV subscriber. I love the service, but I’ve given them until the second week of August before I switch to Dish Network. These satellite companies are notorious for waiting until the last hour to strike a deal with networks. That will probably be too late for most Southerners.

I hope DirecTV, Comcast and some of these larger cable companies understand the passion of SEC football. They stand to lose substantial money from viewers in the Southern states. Trying to wait the SEC out will not work in this case. Fans will just switch.

I hope they are listening.