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Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking Ahead

photo from Google archives

As I am writing this, I find myself looking into the future with both anxiety, and hope. Flushing with confidence that next season will be much better ( just like every other off-season). Yet, worried about which coaches will be poached by other teams, which players will declare early for the NFL Draft, recruiting and all of the unknowns associated with this time of year.

My confidence level is high that Jamel Dean isn't the only underclassmen declaring to enter the NFL Draft. I would expect Derrick Brown to declare his intentions soon. Who else might follow?

The early signing period went as well, maybe better, than most expected. I will restate my displeasure for the recruiting services, and their "star ratings."  Since it is the only metric we fans have to go by, I am left with that as a tool to use as a measuring stick, if you will.

By this metric, Auburn pulled off a Top 5 recruiting miracle amid a treacherous storm of  innuendo, and rumor about possible coaching changes that included Gus Malzahn possibly being fired. 

2019 Recruiting Rankings Top 10 (per player rating average 247comp.)

1. Bama (94.04) 2. UGA (93.71) 3. Ohio St (92.16) 4. Penn St (92.12) 5. Auburn (91.90) 6. LSU (91.39) 7. Oklahoma (91.13) 8. Texas A&M (91.09) 9. Oregon (90.97) 10. Texas (90.90)

Thanks to Skye Underwood for the chart. If you follow us on Twitter, please add Skye to your follow list. 

The second signing period should be a fun one to watch. Coach Malzahn is confident the massive blowout of Purdue will help strengthen that part of the recruiting cycle. 

I have rewatched the second half of the Bowl game trying to get a feel of  two players who will be closely watched this spring, and heading into next season. Malik Willis, and Joey Gatewood will be under a magnifying glass, and scrutinized in every way possible by fans, and media alike. None of that will compare to the test they will be put through by the coaches. 

Add Cord Sandberg, and freshly signed Bo Nix to the mix, and any one of them could be named the starter by the end of fall camp. In a perfect world, Nix would be redshirted, and given time to develop his body for the rigors of SEC play. 

Jatarvious "Boobee" Whitlow has the edge at being the starting tailback next season. Shaun Shivers delivered an impressive Freshman season as well, and looks to be in the rotation next season.

Barring a massive change defensively, the Tigers should enter next season with a chance at another very good defense. I'll explore that aspect of our team in another post. 

Here's hoping all of our players remain healthy, and safe during the next year.

War Eagle!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Going Out In Style

It's the last game of the college football season. The last one I'll watch in its entirety, anyhow.  The Auburn Tigers dismantled a chatty Purdue Boilermaker team by the score of 63-14.

For the first time all season the Tigers offense kept the momentum going on consecutive possessions with TD drives of 75 yards, 87 yards, 18 yards, 75 yards, 44 yards, 65 yards, and 49 yards. All in the first half.  Add to that a pick six on a batted pass attempt  by Tyrone Trusdale returned for a TD by Big Kat Bryant. 

The Auburn defense delivered a gem. Keeping the lid on the Boilermaker offense that had averaged over 30 points per game. Two interceptions, one of which was returned for six points, and holding the All-American Rondale Moore to 104 total yards, and one TD were key. 

With Gus Malzahn taking full control of the offense for the first time in two seasons, the potent Auburn offense blossomed into the monster we had hoped it could become. 

The exclamation point came on the first drive of the second half when Auburn drove the ball 78 yards on 12 plays to go up 63-7. Gus then put the brakes on, and ran as much clock on every ensuing possession. The game ended with Joey Gatewood taking a knee inside the Purdue 5 yard line twice.  

War Eagle!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Plains Football: A Difficult Life

"Difficult" is the word I use when asked about Auburn football.

Life in the Southeastern Conference West division is difficult.

Recruiting against the likes of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, all state named schools, has always been difficult. Can't see that changing anytime soon.

Consistently playing one of the country's most difficult schedules year-in and year-out has proven difficult. A+ for trying though.

Lately however, the difficulty has come from those we thought were close with us. Without denying the disappointing way the season has played out, rumors, and hearsay printed by media outlets close to, but not directly related with the football program.

"Unnamed sources" became the buzzword to create site visits, and spread panic among the Auburn faithful. Needless to say, I dislike these attempts to create viewership, and with some, membership.

Headlines from the Birmingham media have always been slanted to slight Auburn. It's been this way my entire life. 

The problems recently have been from media outlets closer to home.

From reports of renegotiated contracts, to tying the hands of head football coach Gus Malzahn hiring a replacement offensive coordinator, and limiting what Gus could offer, all seem like stories built to destroy any chance Auburn may have had, to remain competitive on the recruiting trail. Much less the direct effect this could have on wins and losses next season.

 If you provide an employee with every tool possible to be productive, and they don't perform, it's time to look for another employee. If you tie their hands, so to speak, that's on you. 

If any of these story lines were, or are true, the problem isn't within the Athletic Department, it's an Administration problem. That's how I see it.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Auburn's Quarterback Room

Image result for 2018 auburn qb's
photo courtesy of Montgomery Advertiser
We will never know what Kelly Bryant could have accomplished in a Gus Malzahn offense. We do know Gus wanted Bryant at Auburn, after reports surfaced Malzahn visited Bryant hours before his ultimate decision. 

Is Bryant that "game changer" type QB? Could he have lifted the Auburn football team the way Cam Newton did? 

As unfair as those questions are, it's not difficult to decipher the desire Malzahn had for Bryant to come to Auburn. That won't happen, as Bryant chose Missouri as his final college stopping place.

Let's take a quick look at our current QB roster. The most experienced player is Malik Willis. A Sophomore out of  Roswell High in Roswell, GA Willis was a a 3 star Athlete. A QB project that could run and throw. Everyone thought he would be a fill in type player, and few gave him credit to be a starter at Auburn. How could they? With Jarrett Stidham, and Woody Barrett, the QB Gus had tabbed as his "guy" ahead of him. 

Next we look at Joey Gatewood. Gatewood has spent his brief time at Auburn on "Muscle Beach."***  Recovering from undisclosed injuries during his first campaign as an Auburn Tiger.

Highly touted as a Dual Threat QB, The 24/7 Composite Index has him listed as an Athlete. This begs the question as to whether Gatewood has the qualities to lead the Auburn football team as a starter. Some sports writers think Gatewood is the best QB Auburn has signed in years. 

"He'll be in the running to be the quarterback of the future, which could begin as soon as 2019."

The title of Most Interesting goes to Cord Sandberg. The Bradenton, FL prospect spent six years as a professional baseball player, in the minor leagues, before the former 4 star QB chose Auburn. Out of high school, Sandberg was listed as the 8th highest rated Dual Threat QB in the country, and signed with Mississippi State.  

With Bo Nix, the son of Auburn's Patrick Nix, Auburn will have depth, talent, and maturity in it's QB room. Except there isn't a QB's coach as of this writing. Neither is there an Offensive Coordinator. 

How all this plays out, is up to a beleaguered Gus Malzahn. Who does Gus trust to develop quality depth, and a winning group of leaders at this position? 

Auburn needs a coach that can bring out the best in the guys at this position and run an offense that can score lots of points. 


Monday, December 3, 2018

Good News & Bowl Games

Image result for music city bowl logo
The Auburn football program received the best news possible Sunday. They are headed to Nashville, TN to play in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on Friday December 28th.

Kickoff will be at 12:30 pm Central Time

Auburn and Purdue each have a long history of football. The Boilermakers have played football since 1887 and are ranked 48th among F.B.S. schools in victories. 

The Tigers have been playing football officially since 1892. This will be the first ever meeting between these two schools on the gridiron. 

The best news to surface over the weekend however, came in the form of a news flash. Gus Malzahn told his staff that he would be returning next season. 

"Malzahn told his assistants at a Sunday morning staff meeting he was not going anywhere. Other sources confirmed that president Steven Leath and trustee Raymond Harbert, who represented Leath in negotiations with Malzahn, will move forward with Malzahn."