Spring Proceeds Apace
The Tigers are working hard
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody! Spring proceeds apace in Auburn, and football practice continues. We are just a little over a week away from A-Day, and expectations are high for the coming season. It has been an interesting week for Auburn sports overall, as well. Today, I’ll touch on a variety of things I’ve noticed this past week.
I think, first off, congratulations are due for the Auburn equestrian team. The team was named as the number 3 seed in the coming NCEA tournament in Waco, Texas. The top 12 teams in the country will compete for the national championship. Last season, Auburn won it all. This year, a young team has struggled at times but seems to be peaking at the right time. A 3 seed ensures a first round bye and should help the Tigers’ championship hopes this year. Auburn has won the national title in this tournament in 2006, 2011, 2013 and 2016,and the tournament happens the weekend after A-Day.
The Auburn softball team made headlines this past weekend, and not for the right reasons. A lot of media folks have weighed in on the subject of the pushing and shoving in Gainesville, Florida, so I’ll not belabor this much. A grown man shoving a female college student? That’s an assault charge in a lot of situations. It also shows an incredible lack of maturity for a guy who’s supposed to be teaching young people. Color me shocked that the UF administration hasn’t administered at least a token censure of this behavior.
I think the Auburn softball team showed some grit by coming back and winning the last game of the Florida series. The Tigers previously choked a game away in the bottom of the last inning then got shelled the next day. The Tigers shook it all off and played great defense in the last game, winning 1–0.
Speaking of balls and bats, how about a big War Eagle for the men’s baseball team? Auburn once again beat Alabama in the Capital City Classic, taking a 4–3 win in Montgomery. This Auburn team was picked last in the SEC Western Division in a lot of preseason polls. Instead, the Tigers have won 21 games and lost only 6. In baseball, that’s really good.
In football news …
I am somewhat amused by the hype coming out of the Auburn quarterback race. There has been plenty of praise for this spring’s presumed number one guy, Jarrett Stidham. By all accounts, Stidham is playing well and is doing the right things both on and off the field. Of course, with his only serious challenger, Sean White, being held out, that’s not too surprising. Folks, how many times have you heard a coach or reporter opine that the quarterbacks in camp looked bad? We really won’t know till we see them live.
Speaking of live, freshman quarterback Malik Willis was live and exposed to contact in the scrimmage last Saturday, and he apparently performed well, throwing a couple of touchdown passes and scrambling well. That’s great to hear, but I have a couple of caveats to offer. First, how far down the depth chart was the opposing defense, late in a scrimmage? And folks, it’s one scrimmage. We can’t exactly anoint someone as a star, based on one scrimmage against the scout team.
Good news on the defensive side of the ball indicates that Auburn might be really good again on the front seven this season. By all accounts, Nick Coe has been dominant up front in the quest to replace Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams. Coe redshirted last season and apparently used most of his time in the weight room. Coe is listed at 270 pounds on the official roster but looks more like 300, and he has freak agility and speed for someone that size. Line coach Rodney Garner expects to come out of spring with about 10 guys that can rotate next fall on the line, but he’s not yet satisfied. “We’ve got a talented group. Somebody has to step up and say, ‘I’m going to be that guy,'” said Garner.
Much like last year, linebackers coach Travis Williams is enthused about his unit’s prospects this year. Last year, the linebackers were a real question. This year, Williams has a veteran group that surprised everyone last season. Darrell Williams, Deshuan Davis, Tré Williams and Montravious Atkinson lead the way. The Tigers are trying to build depth behind those guys.
The only real question on the defense is depth in the secondary, particularly at safety. Starting safety Tré Williams sat out last Saturday’s scrimmage due to a hamstring issue. That left Stephen Roberts and Nick Ruffin as starters, and the next guy up was walk-on Michael Sherwood, who is a cornerback by trade. Sherwood did get an interception in the scrimmage.
There was some surprising good news from the secondary, this week. The Tigers are looking to replace the departed Jonathan “Rudy” Ford at nickel back. Ford has led Auburn in tackles over the past 3 seasons and was one of the fastest guys on the team. This spring, Jeremiah Dinson and Daniel Thomas have impressed there. We last saw Dinson in 2015 against Texas A&M, as he took the cheap shot of the year and suffered multiple injuries. By all accounts, Dinson is healthy again and shows great promise. Tiger fans were introduced to Daniel Thomas in last year’s Iron Bowl when Thomas came up with a pair of interceptions in that game.
Other tidbits include shuffling on the offensive line. With Alex Kozan moving on to NFL tryouts and Braden Smith moved out to right tackle, the guard positions are wide open, according to line coach Herb Hand. The line had its hands full in the last scrimmage, giving up a number of sacks. Lead-blocker depth continues to be an issue. By all accounts, Chandler Cox and Jalen Harris should be SEC caliber. I’m told that Harris has really stepped his game up this spring and is relishing the chance to catch more passes. Cox should be one of the better fullbacks in the league. Who will relieve either guy is the big question mark right now.
We’ll keep our ear to the ground as spring ball continues. Next week, I plan to do my annual “5 burning questions for A-Day” post, then I’ll head down to Auburn to see it all that Saturday. Here’s hoping for a good sunny day, so I can fill my camera’s memory card…