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A Really Big Cat Weekend!

By on May 29th, 2011 in Football Comments Off

If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times last year leading up to the national championship game. Going to Glendale to watch Auburn play for the national championship was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

I’m not so sure.

While it took 53 years to get the second national title at Auburn, I’m fairly certain it won’t be another half-century before the next one. Those of you over 40 will remember people saying the same thing back in 1983 when Auburn grabbed its first SEC title in 26 years. Pat Dye’s teams went on to capture three more before the end of the decade.

As Gene Chizik prepares for his third season at Auburn, he’s beginning to draw comparisons to former Bulls and Lakers coach, Phil Jackson – on a much smaller scale. Because Jackson put Jordan, Pippen and Bryant on the court, he never got the credit.

Critics like to say the jury is still out on Chizik’s coaching abilities and that the 2010 title was an anomaly because of what Cam Newton and Nick Fairleybrought to the team.

Someone who makes a comment like that is exposing his true ignorance. Nobody defended Tommy Tuberville more than me; but let’s be honest. His coaching staff couldn’t have guided this team to a title last year. That’s taking nothing away from Tuberville. But there’s a time and place for everyone.

More than talent, coaching made all the difference between being good and being great in 2010. It will be no different moving forward.

While Auburn’s recruiting hauls over the past two years have become legendary, what we are seeing this year exceeds anything in the program’s history. Auburn recruiting has moved from one that concentrated on Alabama, Georgia and Florida to a national power that’s casting its net across the entire country.

Tune in to Bill King’s morning recruiting show on XM/Sirius Radio and you’ll hear Auburn in the hunt for players all over the country. There’s no debating that Chizik has taken this program to heights unseen in three short years.

The talent on campus this weekend for the third installment of Big Cat Weekend is its best yet. On Saturday, Auburn grabbed a commitment from one of the top offensive lineman in the country in Shane Callahan. The Parker, Colorado native seems as solid as they come.

It’s the best feeling I could ever have,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. This is the best town you could live in. It’s hard to describe how great it feels to make this decision.”

Auburn also sits in the driver’s seat for Miami four-star wide receiver Ricardo Louis. “They’re No. 1,” Louis said. “It’s family. That’s the one thing I’m looking for in a college. They really emphasize that a lot.”

The 6-foot-2, 210 pound receiver puts Auburn ahead of Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State and LSU.

Chizik and Co. have also moved to the top of the list for the nation’s top tight-end, Ricky Parks. The competition for Parks has an Amen Corner feel about it, with Auburn battling Alabama and Georgia for his services.

“I think Auburn probably has a top lead on the other two schools now,” Parks said. “Since I’ve been here so many times, I think it has the lead. I’m just getting a much better relationship with the coaches every time I come (to visit).”

A name synonymous with college football royalty also paid a visit during Big Cat Weekend. Barry Sanders Jr., the son of the 1988 Heisman Trophy winners says he liked the Auburn environment.  

“Anytime you have fun, you look forward to coming back,” Sanders said. “This is something I’ll remember.”

Sanders says he plans to take a game day visit during the season. He’s ranked the sixth-best running back in the country. Don’t automatically assume he’s headed to his father’s alma mater, Oklahoma State.

Barry Sanders Sr. played with Auburn assistant Curtis Looper back in Stillwater in the 1980’s. “Anywhere in the SEC, it’s the commitment of all these guys,” Sanders Jr. said. “They are committed to what they are trying to do. It’s family. They made that very clear.”

This weekend shows the Auburn coaching staff hasn’t rested on its laurels. Has there ever been a better time in Auburn’s history?

I’m beginning to think not.

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