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Shades of Jeff Burger? Probably Not.

By on August 4th, 2014 in Football 22 Comments »

So much for the big announcement. Gus Malzahn’s declaration that Nick Marshall would not start the opener against Arkansas really didn’t give fans the definitive answer they were expecting. All we know for sure is that he won’t take the first snap.

This is nothing new for Auburn and its quarterbacks. Back in 1987, Tiger quarterback Jeff Burger found himself in a similar situation minus the weed. He accepted a ride on a plane from a friend of a teammate, which was a violation of NCAA rules and for a time was ruled ineligible.

Just prior to Auburn’s game with Florida, the NCAA relented and reinstated Burger’s eligibility. However, it wasn’t over yet. Some at the University insisted on Burger being punished by the school.

Finally, Auburn coach Pat Dye relented and benched him as the starter against the Gators – for one play. It was the ultimate middle finger to University officials pushing for the punishment. Burger and his Tigers defeated Florida 29-6 and went on to capture the SEC Title.

Something tells me Marshall will sit more than one play, but will likely be on the field before the halftime show cranks up…

Tired of worrying about Marshall? Take a closer look at the offensive line. Replacing All-American Greg Robinson and fullback Jay Prosch was a bad enough hit for Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant. Now, perhaps Auburn’s top returner on the line, Alex Kozan is gone for the year with a back injury.

Tre Mason was special. Auburn’s offensive line turned him into Superman. With Kozan gone, there has to be some concern among coaches. The 6-foot-4 300 pound Kozan had bonded with fellow lineman Reese Dismukes this summer at Navy SEALS Training in San Diego. Now Dismukes will be expected to do even more.

Coaches are expected to shuffle players around in the coming days, with Chad Slade, Patrick Miller and Avery Young all getting looks at different positions. Malzahn tried to downplay the loss.

“Obviously that’s a big blow for our guys up front with the type of year he had and the type of player he is,” said Malzahn.

“With that being said, we do have quality depth up front. I’ll take you back to the spring: Avery Young played some guard. That was good. We will kind of mix and match probably the first week or so, and we’ll see what happens with that.”

While very concerning, if there’s any place Auburn can absorb it, it’s on the line – I think…

Been worried about Tony Barbee since was fired by Auburn this spring? Yeah, I bet. Especially considering how fan friendly he was during his tenure on the Plains. Well, you can sleep easy now. Barbee has been hired as a “special assistant” to Kentucky coach John Calipari. Barbee played for Calipari at UMass and coached under him at Memphis.

Isn’t it amazing that Bruce Pearl has done more for Auburn recruiting in four months without being allowed to leave campus than Barbee did his entire tenure? Can you say, W-O-R-S-T Auburn basketball coach ever? And hey, we all know, that’s saying a lot.

Until next time…


  1. uglyjoe says:

    I am glad Barbee is back on his feet and comfortable in his work. It was a bad fit for him and Auburn and probably went on longer than needed. Even if he was the “worst” Auburn coach ever, I’m ok with wishing him well and supporting coach Pearl from here out.

  2. DBAU81 says:

    No need to take shots at Barbee. Lots of basketball coaches have failed at AU. We are fortunate now to have Coach Pearl, so let’s all just enjoy the ride.

  3. KungFuPanda9 KungFuPanda9 says:

    I agree that losing Kozan is a big deal. The one thing that allays my panic is that they rotated some guys on the line last season and there was no appreciable decrease in play quality when other guys rotated in.

    Changing players is a fact of college football. The best teams are able to maintain a stable of starter quality guys. This is one of the glaring advantages schools like Auburn has over teams like Central Florida or Maryland. The name schools recruit two and three deep at critical positions while the lesser lights are lucky to be two deep.

    Auburn pays attention to lineman depth and recruits accordingly.Smart coaches know how critical the line is to overall team play. Even so, I will be holding my breath a little to see how it goes.

    General Patton said, “Do not take counsel of your fears.” But the loss of Tre Mason, Prosch, Lawson and Kozan looks kinda bad on paper. It will be up to the team to determine how they man up to fill the gaps.

    I think the defense will be able to put quality guys on the line. They may not be the killers that Lawson would be, but still very high quality. And we’ve recruited taller guys for the secondary, where height may have been an issue at times previously. Linebackers should be okay. So overall, I see an improvement in defense this year.

    Offensively, we still have a good line. Will it be as good if Kozan were present? Not sure. But the guys we have will be very good. Tre Mason will be difficult to plug-and-play replace. But Corey Grant has the speed and durability, and is the most Mason-like of the guys from last year. Prosch was a beast. But I have seen Gus put guys like Eric Smith in that role and the team did just fine. Fulse, Uzomah, and even Cameron Artis-Payne have the body size to block effectively.

  4. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    An interesting analogy.

    Only taking a ride on a plane doesn’t have the same stigma as with Marshall. He was a reject from UGA who knew he was getting a second chance at Auburn. He did great his first year but somehow lost sight of the law and the fact so much is riding on him in the summer of his second.

    It was just a little pot.

    While its been awhile since I was 22 or 23 or 40 for that matter the thing i can’t seem to look past is that Marshall is given every kids dream at Auburn and yet none of it matters. He is going to do what Nick wants to do. Auburn is obviously hostage to him instead of the other way around.

    It was just a little pot.

    Anyone advocating this remember the scandal that happened to the 2011 national champs? The robbery? Its possible they were just doing what kids do… with a little nudge from this substance.

    While I can forgive the kid (which most folk will probably question since i have made such a big stink over the issue) the detail that is hard to overlook is the character flaw. And if this has already happened before both at UGA and now Auburn… when will we see the real Nick? Keep in mind that he isn’t just anyone on the team… he’s our starting QB, as Gus so aptly stated. He influences others.

    Its just a little pot.

    I am well aware of the University’s policy. That’s great. But he doesn’t live in a dorm. Nobody can hold his hand when he isn’t on the field or in the class room.This to me is a fuse for something bigger. The young man has character issues which I hope it doesn’t unravel at Auburn. And while I wish the kid luck… which apparently a SEC championship, a run at the national championship game and potentially another good season, not to mention a promising NFL career could’nt do… i guess i will keep my fingers crossed. We have more riding in this than just a player or season.

    Wonder which has more to lose?


  5. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    On the matter of our Oline… i think we will be okay. Recruiting has more than taken care of us. We have more sitting in the wings… the bench isn’t bare.

    Replacing Prosch is a tougher matter… not that he was Heath Evans… but he was big and an obstacle to get around. I think Fulse will be ok.

    The million dollar question… who will get the starting RB job? Payne seems like the logical fit with Grant taking the scat back roll. But with Barber back healthy…. and Robinson in the backfield it is safe to say that if Payne can’t get it done… someone else will.


  6. Tigerstripe Tigerstripe says:

    As far as the University reaching in and controlling the coach’s decision on discipline…follow the policy (that’s what it’s there for) and keep your nose out of the money making machine and let the coach run his team. We don’t see Gus attacking the engineering dept on how to run their program. Dye shouldn’t have caved with Burger or maybe he did it on purpose in order to give the university the “finger”.

    IMHO, losing Kozan is the biggest/worst news coming out of Auburn since A-day…Marshall is just a distraction but losing Kozan could be a game changer if replacements can’t fill in. I say, see if Coach Pearl can play the position. He might have some eligibility left.

    If Jeremy goes in and plays “lights out” who knows when we will see Nick. Either way, I can forgive Nick’s youthful choices. After all it was just a little pot.

  7. Older Whiskey says:

    Just to clean up a detail or two about Burger’s suspension, the opponent was Mississippi State. Not that it matters. Reggie Slack fumbled that highly publicized snap, but survived that minor embarrassment to have a great career at Auburn. As to the reason for Burger’s suspension, my memory says it was the plagiarism deal, not the plane ride he took with OL Jim Thompson. Burger had submitted a term paper in spring or summer that was improperly footnoted; the implication was that he had passed off someone else’s work as his own. The SGA Disciplinary Committee wanted him expelled, originally. This all came up before the season started. At the Auburn-Texas game that opened the season, an airplane towed a banner over Jordan-Hare that was uncomplimentary to Burger, regarding the plagiarism charge. I don’t recall the exact slogan.

    My memory is subject to malfunction at my advanced age, but Jim Thompson wasn’t suspended for a play, that I recall.

    I predict Marshall will also survive his embarrassment to have a great season.

  8. War Eagle Girl War Eagle Girl says:

    I’m old. Lots of pot at AU even in the 70s. Lots of drinking too. 90% underage. Didn’t see anyone I knew doing these things that had character flaws. I don’t think he should even sit. Times are a’changin’. JMHO.

    Yes, they are living in a dorm now. All of them. And I don’t think Nick has been out of Malzhan’s sight except to sleep since the incident. I will leave it up to him to discipline HIS team as he sees fit. That’s why he’s paid millions. He knows if he makes the wrong decision ~ it might cost him his job (see predecessor). So I don’t have to make the decision but just get to have an opinion. I love Auburn and I love football. For me it doesn’t reflect how I feel about my university as an alum. It is a game.


    • friedca friedca says:

      While I don’t personally agree with benching him (guidelines are there for a reason) I can see why some folks are worried. Just two seasons ago we saw the team out of control. People have rose colored glasses about Chizik before and after the championship. Chizik, in my opinion, never had control of the team the entire time he was there. I still maintain it was the leadership of Cam Newton and Nick Fairley and some of the support staff (Malzahn) that made that team win games. Malzahn reminds me more of Tuberville who I was a massive fan of. If he puts him in after the first snap against Ark or if he holds him out the whole game, either way the team will do great and I trust the coaching staff. I’m actually very excited to see JJ play since he is our future. Plus, and I know this is arrogant, I think we will murder Arky pretty handily.

      I haven’t seen (I live overseas with no ESPN), has the University said anything about the decision i.e. happy, satisfied?

      • wde1988 wde1988 says:

        Exactly right. Considering that we are ever striving to improve our program… anything that causes issues to the program needs to be fixed or at least properly addressed. Neither has occurred.

        I thought 2011 was pretty bad. It was an indictment of our program and the progress it had made. It was an indictment of our University. While under the influence these kids decided they wanted to rob a fellow student. Damn lucky that no one was seriously hurt or killed. I am actually kind of surprised they were not wearing their jerseys when they did it. Suddenly Auburn went from the prettiest village on the Plain’s to urban blight in the span it takes to pull on a mask (figure of speech).

        I wouldn’t probably have blinked if one of the new freshmen… say Javon Robinson… got busted for pot. He’s new to college and (going out on a limb here since I don’t know him) would say never got crossed with the law before. Even that wouldn’t make this right… but at least there would be some mitigating issues here: he’s a freshman and new to college and being away from home.

        Marshall? He’s a junior/senior (not really sure which) and he has already been thrown out of one program already. Should he get the same privilege?

        Looking past that… Robinson (or new freshman) would not be a big influence on the team. But Marshall is… he’s the starting QB. Last report he was even considered for Heisman at one time. Do remember the angst of what Cam Newton went through? Get ready for that X 10.

        My point by continuing to raise the issue expressing my disappointment is to say that these guys didn’t even get punished. Some think they did. By missing media days and a snap or three in the first football game is going to get them on the straight and narrow? Really.

        Is this the message we want to send the rest of the team and future recruits? Really.

        JMHO. Nah. But by doing as little as we have we are really saying that winning is everything. Just like the music in the stadium states… “all I do is win, win, win”. I fully understand the concept… and I can say unequivocally… that I disagree. I like to win… but in the right way. Besides, I am not sure that they can even deliver on the promise now that there are obviously other things competing for their attention. And that’s usually the case when it comes to pot.

        I will be the first to admit… practice looks good and there appears to be no problems so far but the lack of emphasis and overall message is definitely a conflicting one. Can it sustain the team? I don’t know. I think I could handle truth much better than a lie or saying nothing at all. But that’s just me.

        BTW I used the word character… because the dictionary defines it as: “the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person”. I think it fits here. Not because of any one opinion of whether what he did was right or wrong… I am going strictly by the law in Georgia and the fact that it held him accountable by issuing a ticket.

        That and UGA actually kicking him off the team for me makes two distinct data points. If two data points are not enough to determine someone has a character issue… don’t worry. We may get more in the days ahead. This good news PR story has a huge potential of blowing up in our face. And while I was just like anyone else here… hoping for the best and then thinking UGA must have been nuts for letting him go… now, I don’t know.

        My prayer if it does happen will be that it doesn’t affect Auburn.

        The question that anyone that thinks what Marshall did was nothing should be asking themselves… if/when it happens again… what’s going to be your reasoning that you/the University/Gus & JJ allowed it to go on?

        It’s that kind of stuff that leaves an indelible mark when it happens. No matter how hard you scrub… it won’t come off.

        That’s why I take it so serious.


  9. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..If I didn’t have such a hugely busy two weeks ahead of me, I’d pop into the local library and look up the Burger business in the old newspapers. I’m vaguely remembering that he was sat down twice, both times against Mississippi State. The 1986 game, I think, was the one that Burger sat just one play, and the fumble happened. I’m thinking that Burger sat the whole game in 1987, and Slack led Auburn to a 38-7 win. Normally I remember better than that, but not this time. I’d look it up on the computer, but Auburn’s box scores and such only go back to 1996 on

    …..I think Kozan is a big loss. The coaches thought so, too, as evidenced by the fact that he was on several All-SEC rosters at Media Days. We’re already looking for help at H-back…

    …..Speaking of H-Back, a comparison between Jay Prosch and Heath Evans is interesting, although they were not really similar college players. Prosch was a true fullback all the way. Evans was really a bigger running back when Auburn got him, and had to grow into a fullback role. Evans was about 30 pounds lighter, too. Evans redshirted in 1997, won the starting fullback job in 1998, although Terry Bowden stated to the media that he wasn’t happy with any of the candidates. Evans broke his leg against LSU, and didn’t return till the end of the season. In 1999, Noel Mazzone and Tuberville installed a one-back offense, and Evans became a bit player used only on short yardage, till the Arkansas game. Evans was put in late as a running back, in a blow-out loss. Evans ground for a TD, and started the last three games as a running back. In 2000, Evans gave way to Rudi Johnson, but was the first guy in off the bench as the single back. Then Evans left early for a long NFL career.

    • wde1988 wde1988 says:

      Acid, does AU have dorms now? I thought the NCAA made us (and the rest of the SEC) get rid of those things and subsequently that was one of the reasons why Chizik had the issues he did. Ultimately he had to set a mandatory curfew with a security team checking on the players.

      Just curious. Wouldn’t be the only thing I get wrong in my rose colored glasses.


      • War Eagle Girl War Eagle Girl says:

        How can you not know about the new dorm where Sewell Hall used to be? Where do you live? They all live there among other students so that it is not considered an Athletic Dorm per se. But they all live there including other athletes. There just has to be 51% regular students living there too. It’s very expensive but an extremely nice dorm.

        Also everything you say is fine but still your opinion and you don’t manage the team. I’m more of Glass half-full kinda person.

        “The question that anyone that thinks what Marshall did was nothing should be asking themselves… if/when it happens again… what’s going to be your reasoning that you/the University/Gus & JJ allowed it to go on? -” Um, that people are not perfect and don’t always have the answer and can make mistakes. Happens everyday. No one has all the answers and try to make the best decisions they know how with the information they have. WE don’t even have all the information and know what is going on behind the scenes.
        Great discussion but that’s all it is since we’re not in the position to make any decisions. #WarEagle

        • wde1988 wde1988 says:

          I don’t live in Auburn. Sorry.

          It’s been a while but I seem to recall when I attended college in the early 1980s that all SEC schools had dorms for the football players. A real place that was only for players so coaches did control the coming and going of players… funny, back then I don’t remember there being a food issue then for these players that we keep hearing about today. I seem to recall the atheletic dorm having some of the best food on campus. But since I wasn’t a player… that’s second hand info. 😉

          But I also recall that these dorms were closed because of what I think was an NCAA rule change. I think that’s part of the reason why Chiz had the issues he had… most folks didn’t understand that he wasn’t able to truly affect the situation. Which IMHO explains your comment above clarifying the difference today. There is no dorm persay – at least not like in the past. It’s a mixed group that demands that most of the population be “regular students”.

          This was a bit of my argument. Exactly what do we expect the coach to do? He doesn’t control the players…. it’s really the other way around. They control him. I highly doubt that when Nick isn’t on the field or at practice… Malzahn has any idea what he’s doing.

          I appreciate that you expressed your point of view. I would absolutely agree that I don’t manage the team. But I do support it. And where my impressionable children are concerned when they are observing and idolizing these players… you’d best believe I make sure they understand the issues surrounding them – the good and the bad. For me, it’s extremely important that they understand that one day they will have to make their own decisions and it’s important that they know the facts and understand that they are accountable for their actions.

          I never stated that I have all the answers. Instead I have tried to make a cogent arguement expressing my opinions. I simply think the situation demands a bit more than the white wash of ‘nothing to see here’.

          From a personal standpoint my career choice didn’t allow the use of pot and I am eternally grateful. And while it did have a stigma when I first enlisted… the services eventually changed their stance on alcohol too.

          All I am saying is that decisions like these can come back to haunt head coaches and programs and people. Auburn should know that more than any other considering our past. Speaking for me again, personally I hate change… but I do realize its here to stay. We will all deal with it when it does eventually happen. Suggest we will table the argument until this rears it’s ugly head yet again. Considering our past history… that’s not too far away.


          • War Eagle Girl War Eagle Girl says:

            “I don’t live in Auburn. Sorry. ” Neither do I ~ it has been all over the website. That was my smart aleck answer… 😉

            “He doesn’t control the players…. it’s really the other way around. They control him. I highly doubt that when Nick isn’t on the field or at practice… Malzahn has any idea what he’s doing. ” Don’t kid yourself. This man is focused and has a mind like a steel trap. He has been training kids since his high school days. He knows. But in the end they are in charge of their own actions and he can only guide them not make them do what they know they should do just like our own children.

            “For me, it’s extremely important that they understand that one day they will have to make their own decisions and it’s important that they know the facts and understand that they are accountable for their actions.” THAT is completely correct! That’s how my children were raised. One just graduated from AU two years ago and lives in NYC now. I have no control over his final actions but hope I have instilled enough in him so that he makes the right decisions. But I can’t do it for him. He is learning as his goes just like all of us. He has made mistakes (and continues). I have made mistakes (and continue). And we all pay for our actions in the end. He’s an Eagle Scout and that makes me proud but he is definitely not perfect!

            “From a personal standpoint my career choice didn’t allow the use of pot and I am eternally grateful. And while it did have a stigma when I first enlisted… the services eventually changed their stance on alcohol too” Mine either. I married an AF man and followed him around the world for 30 years. No more cocktail parties like in the beginning. I am used to hearing from a man where everything is in the manual and all things are black and white. But sometimes life is not that way and the manual has to be rewritten. He is learning after retirement that the civilian way of life is nothing like the military way of life. 😉

            I’m not trying to make you see my way either. But a discussion without discounting others way of thinking. One of us might change our minds after hearing what others have to say…..As I get older, I find that all battles are not worth fighting!!

            And I hope that our past history doesn’t repeat but until it does I will be positive that things are being done the right way. If not, then it will repeat until someone learns but in the end it is out of my control.


    • wde1988 wde1988 says:

      Evans was a stud. A real tough guy. Played on special teams mostly in the NFL. But served as a full back too.

      If I remember right he played from 1998 to 2000. He had one year under Bowden and the first two years of Tuberville.

      Isn’t the 1998 Iron Bowl the one where Auburn comes out and scores 17 points and leads through half time? Gabe Gross was the QB? I can’t remember when Ben Leard came on but it was during this time I think. Didn’t he become the QB in 1999?

      Regardless, Evans was one of the bright spots of that season and subsequently became ‘the guy’.

      If he could have played under Malzahn… wow! He would have been a house hold name… like Captian Kangaroo

      Just kidding about CK. I’d hope he be even more famous than that… 🙂


  10. Older Whiskey says:

    Acid is correct about the 1987 MSU game. I just consulted the ’88 media guide. Slack played the whole game (in Burger’s absence, it says), and went 11 for 17 for 185 yards and 3 TDs. So my memory has malfunctioned. There was, however, a game for which Burger missed only the first snap. My memory is that this was a day game at Auburn, and Florida was a night game; but as we’ve all seen, my memory could be wrong.

  11. Older Whiskey says:

    After doing some Google research, I apologize to Jay Coulter and my fellow readers for correcting his correct statement. I found a 1987 NY times article that made it clear that Burger missed the first snap of the 1987 Florida game after missing the entire Miss. State game the week previous, both due to the hunting trip escapade. In the plagiarism incident, the Committee for Academic Honesty recommended that Burger be suspended for three quarters of school. This was later reviewed and reduced to two quarters. Finally, the VP for Academic Affairs overruled the Committee. Burger was given an F in the course, and required to retake it. His record was stamped for Academic Dishonesty, which was to be removed after he successfully completed the course. Burger’s side of it was that he had failed to enclose certain statements in quotes, although they had been footnoted.

    There was another incident involving Burger that summer, one that closely parallels the Marshall case. Burger and some friends stopped at a local fast food eatery late at night in early July after a day at Burger’s hunting/fishing camp. Burger had an altercation with a heckler and police were called. They found a gun under the seat of Burger’s car and he was arrested. Pat Sullivan bailed him out. Sullivan was later reprimanded and suspended from off-campus coaching activities for 90 days. Burger later said the gun was a friend’s, but he pled guilty for that in exchange for another charge being dropped. This incident did not affect Burger’s playing time.

    Now back to the regularly scheduled 2014 season. ..

    • wde1988 wde1988 says:

      Wow. I don’t remember any of that. And yes, I think that would be similar to Marshall in some regard.

      Way to dig! And if you are going to modify your statement… I will have to do the same. It does have the same stigma as the pot. Maybe even more so.

      But it still don’t make it right. 🙂


    • WarEagleEngr says:

      Thanks for clarifying the plagiarism incident. I definitely remembered controversy over a plagiarism charge against Burger during the ’87 season, but couldn’t recall the specifics.

  12. WarEagleEngr says:

    Two upperclassmen in trouble for marijuana-related discipline problems, two rising underclassmen already gone for the season with injuries.
    I’m considerably worried…

  13. bubbajack says:

    Gus did say “…that’s part of their punishment…” and “…the rest is between us”.

    I can only speculate as to what “the rest” would be, but I would guess that it might foster better decisions in the future.