Shug Said Football Helped Him Get Through D-Day

By Posted on: June 6th, 2014 in Football 5 Comments »

Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Over 150,000 allied soldiers stormed the beaches amidst some of the most hellish combat conditions ever experienced in war. Over 9,000 are still buried there at the Normandy American Cemetery and another 1557  names of the missing in action are listed on a memorial.

Be sure to read Sullivan013′s moving and excellent account (in his tribute To the Men of that Era) on that historic day including war hero Shug Jordan’s participation. In this brief video, Jordan who carried a copy of the Auburn Creed with him also said football helped get him through that day.                    

                        

To the Men of that Era

By Posted on: June 5th, 2014 in Football, Memories 10 Comments »

  
Helmet insignia of the 
1st Engineer Special Brigade.

On an early June evening 70 years ago, many thousands of young men waited in trepidation for a decision to be made. On stormy seas, in the depths of rolling cargo ships, they waited. Most were unable to sleep despite the exhaustion that comes from preparing for military operations, what with the incessant nausea inducing movement of the ship, the gagging smell of gasoline, sweat and vomit, and the interminable delay. They fitfully stirred in their cramped quarters both in exasperation and dread for the word to be sent.

A 33-year old Captain waited with them. If the order was given, he was to command a Higgins boat full of veteran combat engineers in the second wave of the landing. While he and many of his men had done this before, they never had faced such a determined and prepared defense nor the sea and weather conditions expected during the proposed landing. Besides, extensive combat experience often serves more to heighten than relieve anxiety. Having already conducted opposed amphibious landings like this before merely provided a precise reminder of the true dangers ahead. They knew their enemy, and were fully aware of what was in store for them at the water’s edge.

Late in the evening the order came. D-Day would be tomorrow, June 6, 1944.

The Captain would later say a newspaper clipping sent to him, written by his former history professor, helped him through that wait and what followed. He said he was entranced listening to the old man’s descriptions of past civilizations both as a student in the classroom and after graduation when he was hired as an assistant coach by the same school. They would often discuss world events in casual conversations on the wide porch of the professor’s home, just across from Samford Hall. A fond memory of a time before the war.

Now he was participating in one of those great events, and as a keen student of history this fact was not lost on him. However small in the grand scheme of things, his role was absolutely vital to the soldiers around him. He was a proven combat leader and those younger men would look to him first and foremost for both direction and inspiration, especially in the most extreme situations they would face on the morrow.

The clipping sent was cut from his Alma Mater’s student newspaper, a contribution written by his mentor and friend, that he had received some months before. By now it was creased and worn, having been read time and again before being folded and put away in a uniform pocket, to be returned to later when he again sought inspiration or solace.

He unfolded it once more to read the faded text in the dim lighting below decks.

“I believe that this is a practical world and that I can only count on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work….”

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A Manhattan Night.

By Posted on: June 5th, 2014 in Football 4 Comments »
KSU preview.doc

SEC and Big 12 contenders clash on Thursday Night!
(Watch out for #16! Tyler Lockett is very dangerous!)

     War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for another Auburn opponent preview. The Tigers take week 3 off in 2014, then travel to Manhattan, Kansas, to take on the Kansas State Wildcats on Thursday night, September 18th. This one is a prime time ESPN biggie, kicking off at 6:30 PM Central Time. Both teams are considered title contenders in their respective conferences, and the loser will likely drop out of the top ten.

     The Wildcats are coached by the legendary Bill Snyder, who’s won 178 games at Kansas State, since he took over in 1989. By comparison, Auburn’s Shug Jordan finished with 176 wins. What Snyder has done with that program has been incredible, considering that Kansas State was known as “Futility U,” prior to his arrival. Auburn last played in Manhattan back in 1978, defeating the Wildcats 45-32 behind a healthy dose of electric running backs Joe Cribbs and William Andrews.

     This season, Kansas State opens with Stephen F. Austin, then travels to Ames, to take on Paul Rhodes and the Iowa State Cyclones. Like Auburn, the Wildcats have the week off before the Thursday night headliner. Auburn will have played at home against Arkansas and San Jose State. Last season, the Wildcats were stung in the first game by FCS opponent North Dakota State, losing 24-21. It was a tumultuous first half of the season, before Snyder righted the ship and the Wildcats won 6 of their last 7 games. Lest one think an 8-5 season is poor, consider that none of the Kansas State losses were by more than 10 points. This was a better team than its record indicated, especially down the stretch.

     What should be worrisome to the Auburn faithful in this game is that the Tigers have endured five seasons of shaky defenses, all of which have given up 24 or more points per game on the average. Even with green quarterbacks and a bit of a controversy, Kansas State racked up 33.2 points per game last season, and they return a lot of veterans on offense. Junior quarterback Jake Waters is now an experienced quarterback, and he’s one of those Aaron Murray-types that just keeps slinging accurate balls, and he scrambled for 312 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground as well, last season.

    Where Kansas State is vulnerable is on defense, where 6 starters depart, including several to the NFL. The Wildcats lost both starting corners, a top safety and an All-Big 12 linebacker to graduation. Last season, when Kansas State could disrupt the opposing offensive line, they created chaos. Against contenders like Baylor and Oklahoma, they did not, and tended to get ripped apart on defense. There are some definite holes to fill on defense, but the good news for Wildcat fans is that the rebuilt squad did a pretty good job in the K-State spring game.

     The Wildcats had a pretty solid kicking game last season, and return accurate sophomore place-kicker Jack Cantele. A new punter must be found, and punt coverage must be shored up. The Wildcats had a pretty electric return group on both units, and Tyler Lockett is a guy Auburn must avoid kicking the ball to with any room to run.

Unit matchups, after the jump!

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Could New Four Team Playoff Eventually Harm Smaller Schools?

By Posted on: June 4th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 4 Comments »
college football playoff logo

With the transition to a four team playoff in 2014 for Division I (FBS) schools, the scheduling of FCS teams by the big boys may be a thing of the past.

A glimmer of what’s to come was seen in the days after the SEC voted in April to keep the 6-1-1 conference model. It didn’t matter that the SEC and ACC both said their teams will play at least one opponent from the power five conferences beginning in 2016. Many of the sports media decried the move to keep eight game schedules.

Some opined that the SEC scheduling is too soft in comparison to other conferences – No matter that the SEC has dominated in National Championships and bowl wins for the past decade. In particular, they point to the FCS schools that appear on most SEC schedules.

What most of those folks really want to see is the SEC playing more SEC teams so that the league can further weaken it’s positioning for the top four spots in the new playoff system. 

I spend a lot of time in my car listening to sports radio. Most of the time the dial is set to SiriusXM’s College Sports Nation. Everyday for two solid weeks Mark Packer and Eddie George gave the same diatribe about how terrible it was for the SEC to be playing FCS schools.

But this spring is not the first time anyone has mocked what some dub ‘cupcake scheduling.’ However, this is one writer that you will never see questioning the practice especially within the nation’s toughest conference, the SEC.

When you have to play in the toughest division (SEC West) and in the toughest conference in the nation, you need a break. Besides not many schools are ready to add the likes of an Auburn, an LSU, a Georgia, or an Alabama to their schedules.  

Most of the big schools schedule those smaller schools right before one of their biggest games. For example this season Alabama will play Western Carolina the week before facing Auburn, Georgia has scheduled Charleston Southern between Auburn and Ga. Tech, and Auburn plays Samford the week before the Iron Bowl.

Contrary to what some think though, it’s not just a practice carried on by the SEC and ACC … of the 128 FBS teams only 23 will not play an FCS opponent in 2014.

Yet, that may become a thing of the past in the very near future, with the new College Football Playoff Committee looking at strength of schedule as a possible factor in choosing the final four teams for the championship playoff.

I’ve always thought that if one truly loves the game, they should be in favor of these type match-ups because it does much more than give the big boys a respite before big rivalry games.

The athletes from these schools have the opportunity to play in some big time venues and even more importantly earn a big payday for their schools. Often times the pay out for the game will fund most of the smaller schools annual budget.

Without those funds many schools may have to face closing down their programs, thereby shrinking the opportunities for student participation in intercollegiate sports. And if that happens … it will be a travesty for college athletics

Can’t Wait to Run Out of That Tunnel With 85,000+ Fans Screaming War Eagle!

By Posted on: June 3rd, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 4 Comments »
os-hs-apopka-chandler-cox-photo - orlando sentinel

                                                                                                                       (photo: Orlando Sentinel)
One of the most devastating blockers to ever play for Auburn University will be playing for the NFL’s Houston Texans in 2014. Jay Prosch singed a multi million dollar contract after helping pave the way for the nation’s No.1 ranked rushing team in 2013. It was Prosch that led the way out of the backfield taking out defensive tackles and line backers for Auburn’s Nick Marshall and Tre Mason.

No offensive shoes will be bigger to fill in 2014 than Jay Prosch. Some could argue that about First Round Draft pick, Greg Robinson but there are several talented lineman competing for his left tackle position. There are not any players on the roster with the skill set of a Jay Prosch – not even senior Brandon Fulse is a true fullback.

Prosch was rated No.1 out of 57 fullbacks available in the NFL Draft and with good reason. He was a first Team All-American as a sophomore who was nicknamed the juggernaut at Auburn for his smash-mouth style of play. His position coach  Scott Fountain said, “He’s the best player I’ve ever seen at that position. That’s for sure.”

He never graded lower than 92% as a blocker in any game his senior year. And while he only had five receptions, he proved his versatility as an offensive threat when one of those receptions was a 56 yarder against Texas A&M and another resulted in a touchdown against Western Carolina. 

In addition Jay had that intangible quality of leadership. Auburn Strength Coach Ryan Russell said Prosch was a physical presence on the field and a highly self motivated team leader. “I’ve never seen anybody else quite like him.”

How do you replace a guy like that? 

Auburn may have just gotten an answer to that question this weekend when the No. 3 Fullback in the nation committed to the Tigers over the Big Cat Weekend. Chandler Cox is a versatile player out of Apopka, Fla. who seems to be cut out of the same smash-mouth mold of Jay Prosch. 

The 6’2″ 230 lb. fullback has the mental and physical toughness needed to play the position. And those that have followed him say he doesn’t just block his man out of a play but rather tries to flatten defenders (a la Jay Prosch).

In addition he may even  be more versatile a player than Prosch as he’s played fullback, H-back, and wildcat quarterback at Apopka. When the Darter’s starting QB went down with an injury last year, he showed his versatility and leadership by stepping into the quarterback role and leading his team to the state championship game. 

Along the way he rushed for over 1,100 yards and13 touchdowns while completing 53-of-93 passes for 1,267 yards and 11 touchdowns. As a receiver, Cox has good hands and has been compared by some to former Tiger Tight End Philip Lutzenkirchin. 

He definitely appears to be tailored made for the 3-back position in the Malzahn offense.

He chose the Tigers over Alabama, Ohio State, Tennessee, Florida, and several others. Admittedly, most of the time when a player commits there is always concern about him keeping that commitment but Chandler, who has dreamed of playing in Auburn’s offense, has told multiple outlets he does not plan to take any more visits. In fact, he said Saturday:

 ”This day will go down as one of the best days of my life! (I’m) so blessed to be apart of the Auburn Family!” (And) I can’t wait to run out of that tunnel with that fog going and 85,000 plus fans screaming War Eagle!”


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Cox recruiting highlight video:
                                

It’s Time for Auburn to Claim More National Championships

By Posted on: June 2nd, 2014 in Football 24 Comments »
ATLANTA - DEC

It’s time for Auburn to claim more national championships. For years we’ve laughed at Alabama fans that drive around the state with those stupid “15” stickers on their cars. But here’s the thing: There are many across the country who actually believe Bama has that many titles.

Perception is reality.

Auburn will tackle the issue of claiming more national titles this month, with a decision expected before the start of the season. At issue is whether to claim the seasons of 1910, 1913, 1914, 1958, 1983, 1993 and 2004 as championship years.

On the surface it’s all very silly; but when you have a rival that uses it as a recruiting tool, then sometime you have to fight stupid with stupid.

By Alabama standards, these seasons easily qualify for celebration. By their measure, so would last year, considering many of their claimed championships came following bowl game losses.

Some in the Auburn family complain the move would make them no better than the morons who came up with the idea in the first place. It’s hard to argue that point. But when you have a national media that readily acknowledges the titles claimed by Alabama, you have to ask yourself, what’s to lose?

For years, the Auburn Media Guide has acknowledged those teams as champions. I wasn’t around in 1913, but until his last dying breath, my great-grandfather claimed Auburn was robbed following the 1913 undefeated season. Only the Billingsley poll had his beloved Tigers number one.

Or was it the 1914 season?

Joking aside, the Official NCAA Division I Football Records Book lists Auburn, Chicago and Harvard as champions that season. I can honestly make a case for that one. When you look at those grainy, black-and-white pictures from that season, there’s no arguing this team was tops in the land.

Years later, former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville is still bitter over the school not doing more to claim the 2004 title following USC being stripped by the NCAA a few years back because of the Reggie Bush scandal.

“What I was disappointed with is we didn’t have the media step up and say, ‘OK, there’s got to be a champion so who is it? It obviously should have been us,” Tuberville told USA Today. “Oklahoma lost. Maybe they could say it should be split because they played in the game. But Auburn went undefeated.

“If it’d been Michigan, if it had been Alabama, there would have been more of a push toward saying, hey they should be named No. 1. But Auburn, for some reason, we never got to first base on it. There was no support out of the administration.”

Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs now wants to take a look.

“We want to do what’s best for Auburn, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks or says,” Jacobs said. “The things that I said about it back in January is the same I feel today. If other schools are counting championships a certain way, then we should count that same exact way.

“Those players deserve whatever accolades, whatever recognition that any reputable organization gave them, so why shouldn’t we honor them that way?” Jacobs said. “It’s not about taking it from somebody. We’re not interested in that. Who was crowned a national champion by whatever polls, that’s good. But all we’re interested in is what’s best for our current and former student-athletes as far as recognition goes.”

Amen.

Nine national titles have a nice ring to it – even if it’s not completely real.

Nostalgia Friday: 1987 Auburn vs. Georgia Tech

By Posted on: May 30th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 8 Comments »

Editor’s Note: The YouTube feed to these videos have recently been removed. While they functioned correctly prior to publishing, they no longer work now. Attempts to restore them have been unsuccessful. Because some have commented, we’ve chosen to leave the story up. We apologize for the inconvenience. 

Today’s Nostalgia Friday looks at the 1987 Auburn-Georgia Tech game which produced one of the most famous Auburn calls of all time. Jim Fyffe’s “Tillman! Tillman! Tillman! at the baseline of the end zone….” can still be heard around Auburn tailgates today.

Auburn was trailing Tech with about 24 ticks on the clock when quarterback Jeff Burger found Lawyer Tillman in the back of the end zone. Future NFL number one overall pick Aundray Bruce picked off two passes that day in leading fifth-ranked Auburn to a 20-10 win at Grant Field.

                         

                         

Splatter the Spartans!

By Posted on: May 29th, 2014 in Football 7 Comments »
SDSU Preview

San Jose State had trouble with the better teams, last season
(AP Photo, Ron Delhorn)

     War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for another Auburn opponent preview. In week two, Auburn takes on Mountain West team San Jose State in Auburn, on September 6th. This one will be televised somewhere, and it is likely to be pushed to late afternoon or evening, which will no doubt be a relief to those baking in the stands in the waning days of summer.

     The Spartans open at home in 2014, with North Dakota, on a Thursday night game before Labor Day. This gives San Jose State a winnable scrimmage, and an extra practice or two before heading to Auburn. The Tigers, meanwhile, will have opened with a Saturday grudge match against Arkansas led by Majin Boo Bret Bielema in week one.

     Two years ago, San Jose State enjoyed a miraculous turnaround, winning 11 games in 2012. Then, they lost their coach to Colorado, and retrenched with Ron Caragher, who tried to install a 3-4 defense in his first season. Despite having prolific quarterback David Fales and a high-powered offense, the Spartans were absolutely shredded in many games on defense. The Spartans plunged to a 6-6 finish, and didn’t make the bowls.

     This season, the Spartans return to a more familiar 4-3 look on defense, and will try to rebuild. This year’s replacement defensive coordinator is Greg Robinson, who most recently was seen in Austin, Texas trying to put out a Longhorn defensive dumpster fire. Before that, he was Rich-Rod’s defensive coordinator in Michigan, where he had great difficulty figuring out complicated Big Ten offenses.

     Offensively, the team must replace record-setting quarterback David Fales. Last season, offensive coordinator Jimmie Dougherty proved that he knew what he was doing, producing almost 500 yards per game (493) and 32 points per game. He’ll have to do it this season with a less experienced triggerman, and there was a quarterback battle still in play exiting spring drills.

     Spartan special teams are headlined by returning junior kicker Austin Lopez, who was a reliable man with an absolute gun for a leg, when called on. A new punter, and anemic return games must be worked on. San Jose State was reasonably decent covering both kicks and punts last season, and should be again.

Unit matchups, after the jump!

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