It’s Down to the Wire!
Who will show up on the field for the Tigers?
War Eagle, everybody! We’re in the last frenzied hours of football recruiting, with signing day less than a week away. With the addition of linebacker commitments Cameron Toney, Kenny Flowers, and Brandon King, Auburn has rocketed up in the rankings. ESPN currently has the Tigers ranked 7th in the nation, after hovering around 20th for much of the season.
Of course, there’s still plenty of time for kids to change their mind, and Auburn is still in play for a number of big undecided guys. How the Tigers will wind up is still anyone’s guess. We’ll likely lose a guy or two we thought we had, and pick up some unexpected surprises. That’s how it goes every year at this time.
This week, I’m going to replay a conversation over the past weekend with fellow TrackEmTigers.com writer MyAuburn. And kudos to him for a great idea leading up to signing day.
WHY DO RECRUITS CHOOSE A CERTAIN SCHOOL?
Did you often wonder why a certain recruit choose school A or school B? I have a few opinions (big shock there, huh?) Acid and I are going to have a little round table discussion. Please chime in with your comment/opinions.
Since this was my idea, I get to go first.
MyAuburn: I think a big reason a player chooses a certain school, especially the elite, so called 5 star players is which college gives them the best chance to get to the NFL and the millions that awaits them. Schools that run a certain scheme that the NFL likes is a sure fire draft booster. Take Andrew Luck from Stanford. The number one comment I heard from writers is that since Stanford ran a pro style, drop back passer style, Luck was the most NFL ready QB to come along in a long time.
OK, Acid…let er rip.
Acid: That argument is certainly valid, but savvy “system” coaches will always have examples of guys who succeeded in the NFL despite playing in “non-NFL” systems. A great example is Cam Newton, who made a very successful transition to the NFL from Gus Malzhan’s “spread to run” concept. Sam Bradford is another NFL starter (with St. Louis) who played in “the spread” at Oklahoma. For that matter, Drew Brees ran the Joe Tiller variant of the spread at Purdue.
Early playing time is also a factor. It could be said that every high school star believes he’s good enough to start, but even the best guy doesn’t want to sit on the bench behind Peyton Manning for two or three years in college. We also see young college players transfer for the same reason.
MyAuburn: I agree that there have been players who made the switch from one system to another but they are few. Look at the decades of the 50’s and 60’s. Almost every NFL team had a big bruising back and some great pulling lineman. Green Bay with Paul Hornung and Jerry Kramer, Cleveland with Jim Brown and Pittsburg with Franco Harris.
Most colleges ran the same system and the elite players went to the big boy schools that ran a “student body left” system. In a sense, colleges are the farm system for the NFL. In later years, the pros starting throwing it more so the elite players went to the big boys who threw the ball more. aka. Peyton Manning and Bret Favre. Personally I see a shift coming in the NFL that will make the elite recruits want to come to the spread teams even more. The read option will be the next big thing in the NFL and the schools who run the spread will be where the elite guys want to go.
Acid: There were guys who slung it around in the 1960s. That decade produced Joe Namath, Steve Spurrier, Ken Stabler, and Pat Sullivan. One of the guys I thought made the biggest transition was Bama’s Richard Todd. He ran the wishbone at Bama in the mid-1970s, then went on to be a very successful quarterback for the Jets in the late 1970s early 1980s.
Man, I hated the Steelers growing up. Terrible towels, and all of it. Mostly because they beat my Cowboys a few times! Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier could grind on a defense, but for my money it was the defense that made the Steelers great. L. C. Greenwood, Mean Joe Green… I never thought much of Bradshaw. I felt like Swann and Stallworth made him look good with amazing catches. OK, that was off topic.
I don’t see the read option becoming huge in the NFL. I think the THREAT of it will have an impact, but when push comes to shove, owners don’t want their high-draft/guaranteed money QB running around and taking shots. Look at running QB extraordinaire Colin Kaepernick against Atlanta in the NFC title game. He had exactly two carries. Two. Harbaugh let Frank Gore and LaMichael James do most of the damage on the ground.
MyAuburn: RGIII proved you right on your last point. Last years Heisman winner, Johnny Football would not last very long running the read option in the NFL, way too small. However, I do see more read option stuff being put into more game plans in the NFL. Wonder what offense Chip Kelly will run?
Now that you have mentioned the defensive side of the ball, I think my original premise holds true there also. Big nose guards for the 3-4 and athletic, fast DEs for the 4-3.
I was not a big fan of the Steelers either. I liked Terry Bradshaw a lot better in some of his movie rolls like Hooper with Burt Reynolds.
OK, we have bantered this about long enough. Lets get to AU recruiting and talk a little about who we are going after that fits into GMs wide open offense. Of the guys we already have in the bank, I think Jeremy Johnson has a chance to push for significant playing time if not the full time starter. I hope Garner can keep Lawson in the fold. He could start right away. While JUCO recruits have a short life span, I like the fact we are getting some proven players right away.
Acid: I think that the only way Johnson sees playing time in 2013 is if Khiel Frazier or Jonathan Wallace get injured. I see Wallace winning the starting job, and Frazier running the wildcat. Spring ball may give us a clue, if we see a lot of errant throws by either or both. That would give Johnson or others a chance to come in and take the job. I do like that Coach Malzhan has worked to bring the numbers up at the quarterback position. You can’t go in the SEC with only a couple of scholarship guys on the roster.
Lawson has a definite chance to play right away. Right now, you’ve got Eguae and Ford starting, with LaDarius Owens and Craig Sanders off the bench. We did not get what we needed at end last season, and Lawson may be a bit bigger than what we’re currently fielding. He’s listed at 251 pounds, which is huge for an incoming freshman defensive end.
I’d also think that Cameron Artis-Payne has a chance to at least play right away as a short yardage back, if not break into the main playing rotation. Add Kenny Flowers and Brandon King to the list, too. We’re thin at linebacker, and those two could get in there if they are in shape. At 215 pounds, King could move to the spur position. That’s Ellis Johnson’s term for a hybrid third linebacker/nickel back.
MyAuburn: Do you see Marshall getting into the quarterback mix. Do we have Cam light?
Acid: “Light” would be the word, as he’s only being listed at 210. Marshall was a drop-back passer in high school, and seems to have developed as a runner in junior college. Cam Newton was 225 as a true freshman.
And there you have it. No one really knows exactly why each recruit makes the choices they do. Everyone makes decisions differently, and each case is different. I do know that we fans are eternally grateful for those guys who do put in the hard work to become Auburn football players! Soon, it will be time to celebrate another great class!