Auburn Baseball Nationally Ranked

By Posted on: March 25th, 2014 in Baseball 4 Comments »
5324df14cf0dd.image- auburn Baseball  crack top 25

                                                                                                (photo:Albert Cesare,Opelika/Auburn News)
The Auburn Baseball Team has broken into the Top 25 teams in the country for the first time this season. Four out of five national polls including Baseball America have the Tigers ranked. The No.21 ranking comes on the heels of the Tigers’ second SEC series victory in the last week and a half.

Auburn took two of three games against Texas A&M and two against No.18 Tennessee to garner the national recognition. The Tigers are now 17-8; 4-2 in the SEC and have won 11 of their last 13 games. Auburn has done it on strong pitching and a revived offense that has outscored opponents in four of the last five games 30-6.

The Tigers will be back in action tonight in a home game against Kennesaw State before playing their third SEC series of the season Thursday when they take on Missouri at Plainsman Park in an ESPNU 6:30 game. First pitch for tonight’s game will be at 6 p.m. CT.

Congratulations to our Tigers and keep it going!

Update:
The No. 21 Tigers beat Kennesaw State 10-5, picking up their 12th win out of the last 14 games and improved to 18-8 heading into their nationally televised game with SEC foe Missouri on Thursday.

Changes Coming to SEC Television

By Posted on: March 24th, 2014 in Football 13 Comments »
NCAA Football: Alabama at Auburn

You like change? Then, this is your year. In addition to the playoff era beginning in college football, the media landscape and how you watch Saturday afternoon football will change dramatically.

The biggest news in these parts is the launch of the SEC Network. Promising to deliver 24/7 football programming during the season, the new ESPN-sponsored network is set to launch on August 14th. The big question is whether it’ll be available in your area.

Negotiations with cable and satellite providers continue to move slowly. Right now the only providers signed on are Dish Network and AT&T U-Verse. The conference plans to carry three games each weekend, including an early, afternoon and evening contest.

Game coverage kicks off on Thursday, August 28th with Texas A&M vs. South Carolina and Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee. Two days later, the premier of SEC GameDay airs live from Auburn just before kickoff of the Arkansas game.

ESPN’s Joe Tessitore will anchor the new program and will be joined by Tim Tebow. Like the original GameDay program, the show will rotate to different campuses each week.

Recently, Brent Musburger was named lead announcer for the SEC package on the new network. Viewed as a demotion from his duties as lead play-by-play man for ABC’s Saturday night broadcast, Musburger is being replaced by GameDay host Chris Fowler.

Fowler’s contract expired this year and it’s believed that Fox and CBS both were chasing him. His new deal with ESPN likely will keep him around the network for the remainder of his career. It’s reported that his new deals pays $3.5 million annually. He’ll continue his GameDay hosting duties in addition to the new gig.

Now for the bad news: Joining Musburger in the booth will be Jesse Palmer. For me, this will make Saturday afternoons virtually unwatchable on the new SEC Network. I’m not sure what’s worse, hiring Paul Finebaum to simulcast his show live daily or allowing Palmer’s ignorance to roam freely for three hours each Saturday.

Either way, the new network has already made some missteps before flipping the switch to on. Speaking of Finebaum, look for him to have an expanded role on the new Saturday show.

Tebow will be begging the NFL to give him any kind of job after spending a few Saturdays with Finebaum and Palmer. Count me among those who’ll be sticking with the original GameDay show.

The SEC can do better.

Life on the Island

By Posted on: March 21st, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 14 Comments »

Defending the edge against Auburn’s Zone Read play

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe;
every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse,
as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were;
any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

John Donne can be excused for his opinion, having never witnessed the Auburn zone read play as a defensive end or outside linebacker in the SEC. But if he had, he would know the pang of Tom Hank’s character the the movie Castaway – unable to overcome the fate of being left all alone, virtually helpless as everything he’s been taught about his role in life is taken from him and slowly going crazy watching a ball drift away out of reach.

Defensive ends and linebackers in the Southeastern conference are a unique blend of size, speed, intelligence and tenacity. The emergence of edge speed rushers in both the NFL and NCAA football has led to large, explosive athletes gravitating to the end of the defensive line where their incredible agility, speed and leverage can alter the pace of the game by pressuring the quarterback into ill-timed throws or drive killing sacks. This issue has been illustrated in many commentaries on the sport, most notably by the now celebrated book and movie ‘The Blind Side’ by Michael Lewis. The game of football, Lewis asserts, was forever changed by the vulnerability of the West Coast offense to athletes of Lawrence Taylor’s caliber and their ability to apply pressure on drop back pass-heavy offenses.

But like anything, just because a situation is conventional in the present doesn’t necessarily indicate a permanent aspect of the future. The game of football is one of constant improvement and leverage of opposing tendencies, applications of force, and the opportunistic exploitation of vulnerabilities. One of the most dramatic examples of this is how the Auburn offensive scheme under Rhett Lashlee and Gus Malzahn attacks these skilled defenders on the edge of the line of scrimmage.

The Auburn offense of 2013 used a series of plays that leveraged the expected role of the edge defender against himself, often leaving him alone, untouched, unblocked and completely out of the play at the very point where his athletic ability was supposed to dominate.

At times it was a thing of beauty and magnificence rarely found on the field of play. One moment a talented and graceful athlete was poised to create a negative play, and the next he was alone in a seemingly infinite expanse, mournfully crying out to the vanishing object of his desire.

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Spring Drills Begin!

By Posted on: March 20th, 2014 in Basketball, Football 12 Comments »
Spring Drills Begin

We have to earn it.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! It was an incredible day in Auburn Tuesday, as Auburn University announced the hiring of Bruce Pearl as the new men’s basketball head coach, and a wild all-day celebration followed. Lost in the euphoria and welcoming of Pearl was the beginning of spring football drills. Head coach Gus Malzhan had the right message with the above quote. The Tiger football team must earn it. Starting now, the SEC Tittle and improbable comeback of 2013 means little. A new slate of games awaits, and it’s a very tough schedule this fall.

     At the crack of dawn Tuesday, Auburn began a new grueling regimen. What was evident quickly on a day in shorts is that the off-season hasn’t been wasted. The team looks bigger and faster, and a quick look at reported weights on the roster bears that out. There are guys out there like Shon Coleman and Shane Callahan who’ve added more than 10 pounds of muscle. Likewise, a few guys who were overweight last season have trimmed down. Of particular note is that starting Star position senior Robensen Therezie has put on 8 pounds. In a defense without a true strong-side linebacker, the star has to sometimes make that tough tackle. At 212 pounds, Therezie should be even better this spring.

Position by position breakdown, after the jump!

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Malzahn: Time to Speed Things Up

By Posted on: March 19th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 5 Comments »
Photo by Julie Bennett/al.com

Photo by Julie Bennett/al.com

Can it possibly be the start of spring practice? With the announcement yesterday morning of the hiring of Bruce Pearl as Auburn Head Basketball Coach, it didn’t seem much like opening day of football practice. Besides I still haven’t gotten Rod Bramblett’s voice out of my head and we’re about to start over again. But Auburn did hold its first practice of spring Tuesday.

And things are a little different this go around. For starters, ESPN brought live reports throughout the morning from Auburn. And this year its Gus Malzahn’s guys who’ll get the coveted Saturday afternoon ESPN slot for its A-Day Game – not Alabama.

But don’t expect Malzahn to sit around with Bruce Springsteen playing in the background while he reflects on the glory days.

“We’ve been really up front with our guys. We’re definitely proud of how far they came. That’s in the past. It’s a complete, new season. This is a new team,” Malzahn said. “We’ve got to earn it. All we’re talking about is earning the right to try to get back to a game like that (the national championship).”

In Monday’s pre-spring press conference, Malzahn seemed to poke his finger back into Nick Saban’s eye.

“We think we can be quite a bit faster,” Malzahn said.

Of course, he was referring to his HUNH offense that’s become the kryptonite to Saban’s future in Tuscaloosa. On a day when Malzahn was talking about moving faster, Saban continued to whine, this time to David Pollack of ESPN.

Again, Saban continued to use safety as his excuse for reducing the HUNH offense. He never commented on the dangers of his team facing the likes of Chattanooga, a team Alabama outweighed by more than 40 pounds across the offensive line. If he really cared, seems like that would be a good jumping off point.

If last season was like driving in the left-hand lane, this year should resemble the Autobahn. With eight starters back from last year’s record-breaking offense, including quarterback Nick Marshall, look for Auburn to significantly increase its play count.

Marshall is the first returning quarterback in Malzahn’s nine years as a college coach. Yes, it’s a scary thought.

While Auburn has been the face of the HUNH in the national media, surprisingly, there were five other teams in the SEC last season that ran as many or more plays from scrimmage each game, led by Ole Miss who averaged six more plays per contest than Auburn at 79.8 per game.

In fact, Auburn ranked only 61st nationally in that category last year. Malzahn is out to change that this year. You look at these stats and realize why Saban is so spooked.

And to think, he brought Lane Kiffin in to keep up. Spring has never felt so good.

Bruce Almighty!

By Posted on: March 18th, 2014 in Basketball 24 Comments »
photo by julia bennett/al.com

Photo by Julie Bennett/al.com

Who would have dreamed that the most prominent coach ever hired by Auburn University would be its basketball coach? In a span of little more than a year, the athletic department has gone from employing Gene Chizik and Tony Barbee to Gus Malzahn and Bruce Pearl as its two marquee coaches.

George Jefferson would be proud.

It’s a shame Jay Jacobs won’t allow himself a few stiff drinks because if anyone has earned it, it’s the reinvigorated athletic director. Hell, I’d be running around tonight in my boxers with my tie around my head. Mike Tyson wouldn’t be able to knock the smile off my face.

Has anyone grown into a job better than Jacobs? Less than 18 months ago, Las Vegas wouldn’t have given you a line on his job security. Now you have to wonder whether there’s another one better.

One thing is certain. If Bruce Pearl can’t succeed at Auburn with a still new arena and an energized fan base, then it can’t be done. We’ll know soon enough. Past success never guarantees the future, but it’s hard to imagine this program not competing for championships soon.

When the wheels of Auburn’s plane touched down today, Tiger basketball became relevant again. There couldn’t be more of a contrast in Tuscaloosa. It’s hard to explain how an athletic department with its recent football national championships now suddenly looks worn and tired.

Trophies have been replaced by a whining football coach who suddenly looks and acts old; and its basketball program has officially been tossed out as just another athletic department expense that sucks away profits.

While Alabama fans spent early Tuesday talking about how cool it was that Vince Vaughn bought Lane Kiffin’s home in California, Jacobs punched Tide boss Bill Battle in the nose with the Pearl hire. Once Battle was on the ground, it was Bama fans that were kicking him while he was down.

Paul Finebaum said Pearl’s hiring was Battle’s worst nightmare. I may argue that Kiffin is, but why split hairs?

And who said Auburn basketball couldn’t upstage football on the first day of spring practice?

With March Madness barely underway, the most asked question in these parts is when does basketball season start? Something tells me a seat at Auburn Arena may be a tougher buy than one in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Who would have guessed it?

Happy Birthday Coach Pearl ! – (with videos)

By Posted on: March 18th, 2014 in Basketball, News 2 Comments »

It’s Coach Bruce Pearl’s birthday today and he says coming to The Plains was a great way to celebrate the day. In the following video, watch Rod Bramblett’s (the voice of the Tigers), meeting with the new Head Men’s Basketball Coach. It’s Coach Pearl’s first interview at Auburn.

You can really get a good feel for the man, his philosophy and especially his impression of the Auburn Family. Be sure to see his last words in the first video and in the second video watch the fans greet him at the airport today.

The third video is Coach Pearl’s introductory press conference. Pearl says his reception was  “just beyond my wildest dreams.” The coach opens with a jubilant “War Eagle,” goes into the crowd to welcome Coach Malzahn, and then gives enthusiastic and humorous remarks followed by taking questions from the audience. Afterwards the students again wish their new coach a happy birthday. Watch it, you’ll enjoy it.

There’s no doubt he’s excited to be at Auburn and the fans are just as excited to have him in the Family. Happy Birthday Coach, welcome and …

War Eagle!

                            

In second video, fans sing Happy Birthday to Coach Pearl after greeting him at the Airport.

                             

In the third video, watch Coach Pearl’s unusual introductory press conference in front of fans at the Auburn Arena.

                            

Video of  Rod Bramblett’s, meeting with Auburn’s new Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Bruce Pearl in his first interview at Auburn. Pearl talks about his philosophy and about his impression of the Auburn Family.  be sure to see his last words in this piece. – See more at: http://trackemtigers.com/?p=25958#sthash.79LpxBbp.dpuf

Auburn Hires the Right Man as Tigers’ New Basketball Coach

By Posted on: March 18th, 2014 in Basketball, News 26 Comments »
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Auburn announced the hiring of Bruce Pearl this morning as the Tigers’ new basketball coach. Auburn AD, Jay Jacobs said, “From the moment I met Coach Pearl and heard his vision for our basketball program, it was clear he’s the right man at the right time for Auburn.”

One things for sure, Jacobs has brought a proven winner to The Plains. A three time National Coach of the Year and a two-time SEC Coach of the Year, he is the second fastest coach to amass 300 career wins in NCAA history.

“I’m humbled and blessed to be back in the game that I love,” Pearl said. “I don’t know how long it will take, but it’s time to rebuild the Auburn basketball program, and bring it to a level of excellence so many of the other teams on campus enjoy.”

Currently an ESPN analysts, he  took six teams to the SEC Tournament while coaching at Tennessee from 2005 – 2011. We are looking forward to seeing Coach Pearl bring his winning ways to The Plains. Basketball just got fun again.

Welcome Coach Pearl and War Eagle!