Tag Archives: Sean White

Auburn – Tiger Bites: Spring Has Sprung

Spring has sprung here in the Deep South, at least by temperatures and pollen counts, but I would certainly expect another cold snap or two before she gets here full throttle.

But spring is definitely here to stay by one standard that those of us who follow college football depend on. Spring practice.

Down on the Plains of East Alabama the Auburn Tigers have taken to the practice field. Tuesday, February 28th was the Tigers’ first day on the gridiron to begin preparations for the upcoming 2017 season.

Of note on that first day of practice, Sean White is not ready to practice yet due to the injury he suffered in the Sugar Bowl, a broken arm.

Head coach Gus Malzahn has turned over the reigns of the offense to new coordinator Chip Lindsey. I am of the opinion, and I am not alone on this, that Gus must follow through completely on that plan for Auburn to achieve its maximum potential. SEC Country’s Justin Ferguson reports on the matter.

That brings us to the player who will be the front and center of attention during spring drills, Jarrett Stidham. There will be enormous pressure on the signal caller to perform at a high level, a really high level, for the Tigers. As I stated on a recent SEC 411 podcast, harkening back to an old Reggie Jackson quote, “He will be the straw that stirs the drink.”

Here is what Kevin Scarbinsky, of AL.com had to say about that matter.

Scarbo is on point with that one. Sridham’s upside is tremendous and he has all-star potential, but… we shall see.

Yes, having a standout quarterback is the key to turning the engine of an offense but he has to have other skill players to which to distribute the ball.

Injuries have thrown a bit of a crimp into the talented young corps of wide receivers, this spring, and these young players will be needed in order for the passing game to hit on all eight. More form AL.com.

Talented players abound at the running back position. Brandon Marcello, of 247sports, gives us a quick preview of this position. What he does not mention, in this snippet, is the two very talented running backs Auburn signed in its 2017 class.

Both Devan Barrett and Alaric Williams are very talented and highly versatile athletes who could be a huge boost to the Tigers future fortunes.

Barrett played both ways for Tampa Catholic High School but will most likely shine, ultimately, as a running back. He’s a burner who can take it to the house in a heartbeat. Barrett averaged over 10 yards per carry and can take it both inside and outside.

Williams hails from Southside-Gadsden in Alabama. He is more of a bruiser and complements Barrett’s ability to pop the home run. Running back coach, Tim Horton, thinks he might be the strongest guy in auburn’s 2017 class.

The trenches and the defense? There’ll be time aplenty to talk about all of this throughout the spring, into the summer, and during the final countdown to fall camp.

Let’s shift gears.

As many Auburn fans know, the new oaks that were planted in February of 2015 have, unfortunately, had to be replaced again due to a fire set to one of them last fall after the LSU game. The official word from Auburn.

Another small bite. A-Day will take place on April 8th and the Tiger faithful will have an opportunity to get a look at the 2017 newcomers, the veterans, and yes, the new oaks.

Like I said in my last installment of Tiger Bites, “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.”

E-mail Bird at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

SEC’s First Spring Practices Headlined by Quarterback Questions

For each of the first five SEC football teams to start spring practice, one of the most interesting storylines is at quarterback. Maybe it’s a wide-open battle for the starting position or maybe it’s seeing how one player has progressed since last season.

In an attempt to finally truly embrace spring practice for the drama it can bring, I’m going to discuss the SEC quarterbacks we’ve already got our eyes on in spring practices. SEC quarterbacks haven’t been known to impress much lately (Dak Prescott aside). Hopefully this spring will help get our SEC quarterbacks off to a much better start for the 2017 season.

And let me be clear: These are not the only five SEC schools with intriguing quarterback predicaments. But all of these five schools that started practice before the beginning of March definitely do have this much in common.

South Carolina was the first team to commence its spring practices. To most, the question of who will start at quarterback had already been answered. Brandon McIlwain may have started the first few games last season, but Jake Bentley took over soon after. Bentley finished the season on a high note with his Birmingham Bowl performance.

Bentley’s hard work in the offseason has impressed head coach Will Muschamp. But in true Muschamp fashion, the coach had been saying Brandon McIlwain was still battling with Bentley for that starting position. As of March 1st, though, McIlwain has decided to transfer from South Carolina. That means that, barring injury or suspension, Bentley will be the starting quarterback for the Gamecocks. Bentley’s progression will still be something to watch this spring, though.

Vanderbilt was the next team to begin its spring practices. Vanderbilt, like South Carolina, doesn’t have a true quarterback battle. In fact, one of Vanderbilt’s quarterbacks won’t even be returning this season. Wade Freebeck, who occasionally started for the Commodores, has chosen to pursue the option to transfer to another school.

The starting job is then almost definitely left to Kyle Shurmur. To say the least, Shurmur was inconsistent last season. He’ll have a lot of work to do to cement his starting role with a few other quarterbacks waiting in the wings, especially freshman Deuce Wallace. Head coach Derek Mason seemed very excited about signing Wallace, and that may not bode well in the long run for Shurmur.

Auburn began its spring practice on the last day of February. Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham took reps with the first-team offense, which is an early indication that Auburn coaches have really opened up the quarterback competition. Sean White, the incumbent starter, had to sit out due to injury. Redshirt freshman Woody Barrett led the second-team offense. Last season’s backup, John Franklin III split reps between special teams and quarterback.

The biggest question remaining seems to be where Sean White will fit into this competition when he returns from his injury. Will he bump Jarrett Stidham to the second-team offense and retake his starting job? Or will Jarrett Stidham impress enough in spring practices to keep the starting job for now? And what about Barrett and Franklin? Will all four guys stick around for the season with so much competition for that starting position? This will easily be one of the most interesting quarterback races to watch this offseason.

Florida also began its spring practices on the 28th of February. And once again, the Gators are looking for someone to step up and claim the starting quarterback job. This seems to be a common theme for Florida lately. And heading into spring practice, the theme looks to be holding strong for yet another season.

The starting quarterback from the beginning of last season, Luke Del Rio, is sidelined after a shoulder surgery. That means redshirt freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask have a great opportunity to take the lead in the quarterback competition this spring. On Tuesday, Franks took snaps as the first-team quarterback. Many of those present commented on how improved his throwing motion was. Kyle Trask also took snaps at quarterback along with early enrollee “athlete” Kadarius Toney. Even after his injury is healed, I definitely don’t see Del Rio beating out all three players to regain his starting position. But Gator fans will undoubtedly be watching the quarterback competition closely this spring.

Ole Miss began its spring practices on Tuesday as well. The Rebels have their starting quarterback all but chosen for next season already. But there are still questions that Ole Miss fans will have about their quarterback this spring. Shea Patterson was originally going to observe Chad Kelly in all his glory last season but got thrown into the mix when Kelly tore his ACL. Patterson debuted well but the offense was inconsistent under his lead and the season went down the drain.

Patterson had taken very limited reps before being thrown into the game so the inconsistency is somewhat understandable. But will he become more consistent as he takes more reps with the team? And better yet, how will he respond to Coach Longo’s fast-paced offense? Patterson already had a lot to learn but will learning a new coach’s system prove to be too much? I don’t have the answers to any of these questions yet, but I suspect Ole Miss fans will be watching Patterson very closely through spring practices. After all, how can he live up to THE “Swag” Kelly?

E-mail Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.

Featured photo courtesy of Gainesville Apartments.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma’s Offense vs. Auburn’s Defense

The Auburn Tigers and Oklahoma Sooners will do battle in the 83rd annual Allstate Sugar Bowl on Monday, January 2nd, 2017, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. Kickoff is set for 7:30 local time (CT).

The seventh ranked Sooners (10-2, 9-0 Big 12) are Big 12 Champions and winners of nine games in-a-row.

The Tigers (8-4, 5-3 SEC) finished the 2016 campaign ranked 17th in the College Football Playoff Poll. That was good enough for second place in the SEC and a spot in a New Year’s Six  bowl game.

This will be only the second time these two college football powers have met on the gridiron. The first encounter came in the Sugar Bowl, oddly enough, following the 1971 season. In that game, Oklahoma jumped out to a 34-0 lead and never looked back, winning 40-22.

Auburn will be making its sixth (2-2-1) appearance in the Sugar Bowl while the Sooners have played in seven (5-2) of these events.

Oklahoma has a high octane offense which scores at a 44.7 (third in the nation) points per game clip. Its total yardage is 557 yards per game (third in the nation), with 319.8 (12th in the nation) of that coming through the air and 237.5 (21st in the nation) on the ground.

Auburn’s strength is its rushing attack, averaging 278.5 yards per game (sixth in the nation and first in the SEC). The Tigers pass for 170.8 yards per game (112th in the nation) and score an average of 32.3 points per game (47th in the nation).

From these statistics, it is clear that Oklahoma is capable of scoring a lot of points and piling up a great deal of yardage. Auburn has a good offense and can run the ball extremely well.

This is where it gets interesting. Auburn is very stingy in points allowed. It only gives up an average of 15.6 points per game. That is fifth in the nation. And total yardage? The Tigers allow 348 yards per game and that is 20th in the nation.

Oklahoma? It gives up 29.7 points per game and allows 440 yards per game.

Auburn gave up as much as 30 points in only one game this season. That came in a 30-12 loss to SEC Champion and College Football Playoff bound Alabama.

Oklahoma, on the other hand, allowed 59 points to Texas Tech, 46 to TCU, 45 to Ohio State, and 40 to Texas.

It all boils down to Oklahoma’s superb offense vs. Auburn’s stellar defense. And I think the game’s key matchup, within this context, is the Tigers’ defensive line versus the Sooners’ offensive line.

Baker Mayfield is an excellent quarterback and Dede Westbrook is as good as it gets at wide receiver. When you combine those two with the running back tandem of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine you begin to get an idea of just why the Sooners vaunted offense is, indeed, so lethal.

Mayfield completed 235 out of 330 pass attempts for 3,669 yards (71.2%) and 38 touchdowns with only eight interceptions.

Westbrook caught 74 passes for 1,465 yards. 16 of those receptions went for touchdowns. He averaged 19.8 yards per catch.

Mixon ran for 1,183 yards on 168 tries for 7.0 yards per carry. Perine ran the ball 179 times for 974 yards and 5.4 yards per carry.

But back to the battle of the trenches. I like Auburn’s d-line to handle Oklahoma’s o-line. And I like Auburn’s o-line to fare well against Oklahoma’s d-line.

Auburn should be able to establish the run with Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson each at full speed. Stanton Truitt and Kam Martin should contribute, as well.

Also, Gus Malzahn says Sean White is well and will not be limited in anyway. That is big news for the Tiger faithful.

One more key is motivation. The news from the Plains is that Auburn is fresh, explosive, highly motivated, and are chomping at the bit to pick up a big win versus a high profile opponent, The Big 12 Champion.

I certainly don’t think Oklahoma will come out flat or listless, but I do think it is disappointed in not making the playoff, and I believe that Auburn wants this one more.

The Sooners are a three-point favorite.

I can see a three-point win, but with the victory going to the Tigers of the SEC.

Auburn 31, Oklahoma 28

Here is some more excellent info, with predictions, on this big game:

http://www.espn.com/blog/ncfnation/post/_/id/134103/sugar-bowl-auburn-tigers-vs-oklahoma-sooners

http://collegefootballnews.com/2016/allstate-sugar-bowl-prediction-game-preview-history-scores

 

E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Auburn Football 2016: From Confusion to Clarity

Confusion

I woke up on the morning of September 15th without a clue as to what my reality was. (Insert Bird without a clue joke here).

Ok. Yes. It has happened before, but not under the condition that I found myself in on this particular Thursday morning.

No, this time my total confusion was brought on by a case of Transient Global Amnesia, or TGA. That sounds like some soap opera storyline doesn’t it?

Evidently I wandered about the house, for seven or eight hours, searching for some touchstone to trigger my memory.

I called my wife numerous times, but she is a school teacher and had shut down her phone and put it away somewhere for the entirety of the day.

She picked her phone back up at 4:15 and saw six missed calls from her lost husband. She then listened to those bizarre messages and quickly presumed, “Houston, we have a problem,” as most of them began with the statement, “I’m confused.”

Long story short. Early Friday evening I was released from the hospital with a clean bill of health with Auburn and Texas A&M scheduled to kick it off in approximately 24 hours.

Kick it off they did, and you know the result. The Aggies defeated my Tigers by a score of 29-16.

As we, along with thousands of Auburn fans, dejectedly made the walk back to our respective vehicles, we were collectively clueless as to where our Auburn Tigers would find themselves six weeks later.

Clarity

The walk back to our vehicle, in Oxford, MS on October 29th, was the polar opposite of that terribly disappointing hike just 42 days prior.

After the A&M game we could hardly see our way clear to a winning season. And now? Today? The first College Football Playoff poll was just released and the Auburn Tigers find themselves located in the, gulp, No. 9 spot.

And now a nod to Harry Caray, who smiles down, broadly, from heaven today. “Holy Cow!”

No. 9! No. 9 with a bullet! Is there anyone playing better football than the Auburn Tigers at present? I doubt it.

But there’s more! If, if Auburn wins out, and that would include wins in Tuscaloosa and Atlanta, it could find itself in the aforementioned College Football Playoff.

Texas A&M is also ranked at a lofty level in said poll. The Aggies stand at No. 4. They would have to lose a game for that scenario to transpire. It has conference games remaining at Starkville and in College Station against, first, Ole Miss and, second, LSU.

That little doozy with the Bayou Bengals is slated for Thanksgiving Day.

Oh yeah!

But hold on a minute sports fans. First things first. There is the small matter of a game tomorrow at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It will pit the hometown Tigers against a group of visitors from Music City, USA.

Auburn vs. Vanderbilt

This Commodore team must not be overlooked.

Justin Ferguson, of SEC Country, offers five key things to know about this matchup.

The Dores are a salty bunch and play very tough on defense. But, as Ferguson pointed out, it is 84th in the country in run defense. And what does Auburn do better than anyone else in the SEC? It runs the football. And to the tune of 303.4 yards per game.

Here’s how I see it.

Auburn will run the football and will run it well, possibly for its current average per game.

Also, Sean White will pass the ball well. That’s what he does. He can also pick up some much needed yardage on the ground.

Josh Vitale, of the Opelika-Auburn News, expounds on White and his impressive skills.

And then there’s that wicked Tiger defense. Auburn is fifth in the SEC in total defense allowing 358.3 yards per game. Vandy won’t get that. Look for Auburn to hold the Dores to less than 300 yards per game.

Auburn is fourth in the conference in points allowed. Its stingy D is giving up only 16.0 points per game.

Ralph Webb is a very good running back but he will find the going quite tough on Saturday. Webb has rushed for 855 total yards at a 5.21 yards per carry clip, but I expect Auburn to contain him very well.

As far as special teams go, I hope Daniel Carlson won’t be needed for anything but kicking extra points and kicking off.

By the way, Carlson was just name as a Lou Groza Award semifinalist.

Auburn has been established as a 25.5 point favorite in this game. That might sound like a lot of points to be giving to the upstart Vanderbilt football team, but in the final analysis it will happen.

Auburn 38, Vanderbilt 6

Ah! Clarity! And goodbye TGA!

 

E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

SEC Quarterbacks Are Downright Unimpressive

Anybody who knows me at all knows that I have a special place in my heart for SEC football. I really do. But I can’t sit by and be silent about this. The SEC quarterbacks, once again, look overwhelmingly bad. At the risk of sounding cliché, watching the SEC quarterback play so far this year is like watching paint dry.

I can’t think of a single SEC quarterback who actually excites me right now. Meanwhile, I can think of four or five ACC quarterbacks that do. This is madness. How does the conference with the most ranked teams have the worst quarterbacks? I just don’t get it.

Usually, the SEC East is a mess and the SEC West is great. This year, everybody except for Alabama (and maybe Texas A&M) is a mess. Yet somehow there are still eight teams ranked in the AP top 25 at the moment. I’ll let you in on a little something, though—they definitely aren’t ranked because of their quarterbacks.

So here is where I go through every SEC team, by division and in alphabetical order, to prove a point. I’ll keep the assessment for each team brief.

The Florida Gators have been starting Luke Del Rio at quarterback. On the season so far he has 762 passing yards, 6 touchdowns, and two interceptions. But unfortunately for the Gators, he’s sidelined due to a knee injury and they’ll have to rely on Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby for now. Just when they were getting some momentum…

The Georgia Bulldogs seemed pretty well-off as far as quarterbacks go when the season started. Both Greyson Lambert (who was solid last year) and Jacob Eason (who’s a true freshman) have taken snaps for the Dawgs, with Eason taking the majority of the snaps. Eason has racked up 643 yards passing, five touchdowns, and two interceptions. Not bad…and also not fantastic.

The Kentucky Wildcats have played both Drew Barker and Stephen Johnson at quarterback, but Barker went down against New Mexico State and Kentucky has had more success with Johnson now anyways. He has 355 yards passing, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. In the second week at Florida, Drew Barker actually threw three interceptions to the Florida defense and only completed two passes to his own players. Oops!

The Missouri Tigers have mostly stuck with quarterback Drew Lock so far this season. A bright spot in the East, he has 1106 passing yards, nine touchdowns, and three interceptions. But, the Tigers are still struggling, only managing to win one of their first three games this season.

The South Carolina Gamecocks haven’t had all that much luck at quarterback between Brandon McIlwain and Perry Orth. McIlwain has been slightly better than his competition, with 356 yards passing, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also added 80 yards rushing and two more touchdowns on the ground. But with Muschamp at the helm, I don’t know if they’ll ever have great quarterback play.

The Tennessee Volunteers have had pretty much the same Josh Dobbs they’ve been behind for a couple years now. So far his passing game leaves a lot to be desired with 486 passing yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions. On the bright side, he has added 161 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the ground. He’s also been a great leader despite being behind a shaky offensive line.

The Vanderbilt Commodores have struggled offensively (as always) behind Kyle Shurmur so far this year. He’s had 335 yards passing for two touchdowns and one interception. If Shurmur could get it together, maybe they could actually win a couple conference games this season.

But wait…there’s more! We still have another division full of mediocre quarterbacks to go.

The Alabama Crimson Tide have had Jalen Hurts take the majority of their snaps at quarterback this year. He has 563 passing yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. He’s also added 197 rushing yards and two more touchdowns on the ground. Plus, they’re Alabama. Their quarterback play won’t make or break their season.

The Arkansas Razorbacks have stuck with Austin Allen as their quarterback so far this season. Allen has 655 yards passing, seven touchdowns, and two interceptions. He’s been good so far; he just hasn’t been outstanding.

The Auburn Tigers had some fun at quarterback against Clemson to open the season, but Sean White is now taking the snaps. He has 510 passing yards, three touchdowns, and one interception so far. Meh.

The LSU Tigers started off the season behind Brandon Harris at quarterback but have since given the nod to Danny Etling. Etling has 315 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also does have one rushing touchdown. He may not be great, but I think he’s better than Harris.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs have played both Nick Fitzgerald and Damian Williams at quarterback so far this year. Fitzgerald has edged out Williams with 298 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one interception to Williams’ 237 passing yards and two touchdowns. Additionally, Fitzgerald has 219 yards on the ground and Williams has 88 yards as well as a touchdown. While they seem fairly evenly matched, neither is too exciting at this point.

The Ole Miss Rebels have Chad “Swag” Kelly, who was supposed to be the best quarterback in the nation. Kelly does have 953 passing yards and ten touchdowns, but he also has four interceptions. The Rebels will live and die by Kelly this season so those mistakes are costly.

The Texas A&M Aggies have Trevor Knight at quarterback. Knight has 830 passing yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also has 151 rushing yards and three more touchdowns on the ground. He’s no Lamar Jackson, but he’s better than most SEC quarterbacks.

Now that you’ve made it through that, maybe you can understand why I’m just unimpressed with the SEC quarterbacks at this point. You know things are rough when Missouri arguably has the best quarterback at the moment. Missouri…a team that has lost two of their first three games. I guess you could argue that Trevor Knight is just as good since he’s more of a dual-threat quarterback. But either way, those two are the best the SEC has to offer right now and that’s not good.

Now, I understand that just looking at these stats isn’t really fair in a lot of ways. Offensive lines not giving time to throw or space to run can be absolutely devastating for quarterbacks. Receivers dropping passes can be just as bad. And facing good secondary units can also be incredibly tough for a quarterback. But even with those things in mind, there isn’t a single quarterback in the SEC that has really impressed me or excited me the way quarterbacks in other conferences have. I didn’t expect there to be a Heisman trophy-winning quarterback from the SEC, but I also didn’t expect the performances to be this lackluster.

Fortunately for SEC fans and our quarterbacks, football isn’t just about that one player taking the snaps. In the SEC it tends to be more about running backs and defenses. That’s probably why there’s still a whopping eight SEC football teams ranked in the AP Top 25, like I mentioned before. And as much as quarterback play can be fun to watch, I prefer watching some hard-hitting SEC defense anyways. So maybe I should save my complaining for the day the defenses are weak.

Here’s the big question for this year will SEC teams be able to compete in the postseason when these SEC quarterbacks are playing like this? If you ask me, it depends on the team. If you have a great defense, a solid offensive line, and a good back or two, then you can compete with anyone. That’s why Alabama is virtually unstoppable. But otherwise, you’ll just become another overrated SEC team. And nobody wants that.

And then there’s the other big question. Why is this such a problem for the SEC and will it continue next year? In all honesty, I still haven’t figured out why the SEC doesn’t have the same quarterback depth that the other major conferences do. But this isn’t something new by any means. And while it may get a little better next season as some of the guys mentioned above take more snaps and gain experience, I don’t expect the SEC to have phenomenal quarterback play anytime soon. I’ll leave that to the ACC for now.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Image courtesy of Ken Lund.

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Birmingham Bowl: Auburn vs. Memphis

Paxton Lynch

Do you know who that is? It is the name of the player you will be hearing the most about coming into this game. He is the quarterback for Memphis and he could be the best QB in college football. He will, most assuredly, be the first signal caller taken in the NFL Draft this spring.

Let’s love him a bit more.

Lynch has completed 280 of 407 pass attempts this season, for 3,670 yards and 28 touchdowns. He has thrown only 3 interceptions. Lynch has a 166.8 efficiency rating and his completion percentage is 69%. And get this, he is 6’7” and 245 pounds.

Thus, here is Bird’s strategy for Auburn to win the football game. KEEP THE BALL AWAY FROM PAXTON LYNCH! Brilliant, huh?

And how does one keep the ball away from Memphis and Lynch? By running the heck out of it.

Now here is where that proposition gets dicey. The strength of the Memphis defense is stopping the run. They allow only 137.8 rushing yards per game. Auburn runs the ball for 191.8 yards per game. Mark this as a critical matchup. The Memphis D-line vs. the Auburn O-line. Something’s gotta give. Or not.

Memphis Tigers

These two sets of felines have met only twice on the gridiron. Who do you think leads the series? If you said Auburn, you were wrong. Memphis beat Auburn both times they faced off. In 1975 Memphis State, as she was called back then, beat Auburn, 31-20, at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The following year Auburn fell 28-27 at the Liberty Bowl in the Bluff City.

Memphis is a member of the American Athletic Conference. These Tigers finished the 2015 regular season with a 9-3 record and they were 5-2 (third) in conference play.

Their interim head coach is Darrell Dickey. Also, a new head coach has been hired. Waiting in the wings is Mike Norvell, who was previously the offensive coordinator and Deputy Head Coach at Arizona State. That’s what they call them out there. Deputies. It’s the west. Norvell will be the youngest head coach in FBS football. He is 34 years old. I have a son older than that. When I was 34, number 34 was winning a Heisman Trophy at Auburn. You know who that was.

Now back to Memphis. There are a lot of great songs about Memphis. No, the football team. Short-term memory.

Pass the Geritol, please.

Offense? They average 510.4 yards per game and 42.7 points per game. Like I said, keep the ball away from Paxton Lynch and that juggernaut of an offense! Covering Mose Frazier would be a good place to start. Frazier nabbed 66 passes for 750 yards and 4 TD’s.

When Memphis runs the ball, Doroland Dorceus is their ‘go-to’ guy. He ran for 613 yards at 4.3 yards per rush.

And, by the way, Lynch is very good at extending plays with his legs. Keep the ball away from Paxton Lynch!

Auburn Tigers

We’re not going to say, keep the ball away from Jeremy Johnson or Sean White. We don’t know, just yet, who the starting quarterback will be for Auburn, but, suffice it to say that neither will strike fear in the hearts of the Memphis faithful the way Lynch will in Auburn Tiger fans.

But…BUT… whichever of those two guys Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee starts, he better manage a good game, not turn it over, and make good decisions. If the Auburn QB does not do these things, then the burnt orange and navy blue will, likely, suffer through a long afternoon at 400 Graymont Ave W, Legion Field.

Auburn’s QB numbers are pedestrian. Johnson is 94 of 156 (60.3%) for 1,043 yards. White has thrown 130 times and completed 75 (57.7%) of those for 1,064 yards.

What MUST Auburn do to be successful on offense? That’s right! They MUST run the football and run it well. The guys who can get that done? Peyton Barber and Jovon Robinson. Barber has run the ball for 976 yards at 4.3 yards per carry. Robinson, who hails from Memphis, is averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He has 513 rushing yards.

When Auburn does throw, their most popular target is Ricardo (The Prayer at Jordan-Hare) Louis. Louis has hauled in 45 passes for 699 yards. He is averaging 15.5 yards per catch.

The AU Tigers’ D has been a bit porous but they had begun to gel, somewhat, as the regular season came to an end. They allowed 421.8 yards per game. Opponents rushed for 189.7 per contest (WAAAAAY TOO MUCH) and passed for a 232.2 yard average in each game (WAAAAAY TOO MUCH).

Johnathan “Rudy” Ford lead all Tiger tacklers with 113. That was also good for second place in the SEC.

Placekickers

Daniel Carlson (Auburn) and Jake Elliott (Memphis) are excellent placekickers. Oddly enough, they both hit 22 of their 26 field goal attempts. If it comes down to a last second field goal both schools are, obviously, in great shape there.

What To Expect

A shootout? Possibly. But nothing like the 55-52 pinball game that Virginia Tech and Tulsa found themselves embroiled in recently. It should be something more like the 37-29 Nebraska win over UCLA.

Memphis is going to get some passing yards. Auburn is going to get some rushing yards.

Both sets of Tigers will score some points. The question is, who gets the most points? That is who always wins the football game. Every time. Book it. Done deal.

In the end, Auburn (6-6, 2-6 SEC) has more talent, SEC talent at that, and really wants to send this group of seniors, who have NEVER won a bowl game, out with a win. I like what I’m hearing from the practice filed concerning Auburn’s work ethic, attitude, and effort.

The Tigers of Lee County Alabama subdue the Tigers of Shelby County Tennessee.

Prediction. Auburn 34, Memphis 24.

Here is the link to the Birmingham Bowl website.

http://www.birminghambowl.com

Auburn vs. Ole Miss: Glancing Back and Peering Forward

My first recollection of an Auburn vs. Ole Miss game is the Liberty Bowl of 1965. The two teams had not met since 1953. This was the first time the Liberty Bowl was played in Memphis. It was held in Philadelphia from it’s inception in 1959 through the 1963 season. In 1964 the game was played in Atlantic City.

Ole Miss escaped that 1965 game with a 13-7 win. Tailback Tom Bryan scored Auburn’s only touchdown on a 44-yard scamper. He was named the game’s Most Valuable Player and its Outstanding Offensive Back. The Tigers’ Robert Fulghum was selected as the Outstanding Defensive Back.

IMG_23831973 was the season that I attended my initial Auburn-Ole Miss brawl. And that it was, a defensive battle.

The game took place on October 6th of that year. That was the day old Cliff Hare Stadium was dedicated as Jordan- Hare Stadium.

Coach Jordan was, of course, humble in his receiving this honor and his Tigers responded with a 14-7 victory.

Halfback Rick Neel broke a 7-7 tie with a 33-yard touchdown burst with just over one minute remaining in the game.

One of the most exciting games of the series occurred on January 2, 1971 in the Gator Bowl. Auburn was led by junior quarterback, Pat Sullivan. Ole Miss also had a decent signal caller heading up their offense that day. His name was Archie Manning.

Auburn broke out of the gates with a vengeance by rolling to a 21-0 lead before the Rebels roared back to cut the lead to 21-14 at halftime.

The teams battled fiercely for the remainder of the game, several Gator Bowl stats were broken, with Auburn finally securing a 35-28 win.

And, probably, THE most exciting game of the series took place in Oxford in 2014. Click below:

Now, for those of you who love numbers and history, here are some more. The last six Auburn coaches’ records versus Ole Miss:

Shug Jordan, 4-3

Doug Barfield, 2-0

Pat Dye, 4-1

Terry Bowden, 6-0

Tommy Tuberville, 7-3

Gene Chizik, 3-1

Gus Malzahn, 2-0

The meetings between the two schools had been sporadic until divisions were created in 1992. Auburn leads the series with a 29-10-0 record against the Rebels.

The first time the schools met on the gridiron was in Birmingham in 1928 with the Tigers taking the win, 19-0.

The largest margin of victory came in 1985 when Bo Jackson ran for 240 yards on 38 carries to lead Auburn to a 41-0 victory.

The longest winning streak stands at nine, with Auburn taking games interspersed between 1971-1991.

Auburn vs. Ole Miss 2015

Last year’s contest was an elimination game, of sorts, and the same holds true for Ole Miss this year. The Rebs control their own destiny but if they lose they can more-than-likely kiss any chance to win the SEC West goodbye.

The 2015 Auburn Tiger football season is at a critical juncture. The same could have been, and probably was, said about last Saturday’s tough loss in Fayetteville. It rings ever more true with each succeeding game.

If Auburn fails to win, then any chance of a very good bowl game will disappear with the breeze which will waft away from Jordan-Hare Stadium around mid-afternoon this coming Saturday.

IMG_2329The Rebels had an impressive, 23-3, win against Texas A&M last Saturday night at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Quarterback Chad Kelly had a big night throwing for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Laquon Treadwell was on the receiving end of five of those passes. They totaled 102 yards.

Laremy Tunsil, star left tackle on the Ole Miss O line, returned to the lineup after completing a seven-game NCAA suspension for receiving illegal benefits. It appeared to have rejuvenated their ground attack as they rushed for 230 yards. They only ran for 40 yards the week before at Memphis.

I’m not going to rehash the details of Auburn’s excruciating loss, in four overtimes, at Arkansas last week. If the Tigers hadn’t dropped eight passes and two interceptions it would have been, truly, a different story. Hey! It would have been a different story if Tiger receivers had caught only HALF of those whiffs. SIGH.

But take heart Auburn fans! Redshirt freshman quarterback, Sean White, is getting better each week and it appears he could be a star for the Tigers sooner than later.

Here is a look at some of his numbers.

White completed 19 of 32 passes, in the Arkansas game, for 254 yards and zero interceptions. Add back only half of the eight drops and you have a completion percentage of .719, and many, many more yards. Probably well over 300 and, possibly near 400.

On the season he has thrown 97 passes and completed 62 for 805 yards. That’s over 200 yards per game. He has one interception. That came in the Miss State game.

And  hopefully it’s going to get even better for the young QB.

Now, forget the numbers. The thing that impresses me most about Sean is his competitive spirit, his confidence, and his leadership. The kid LOVES to play and he gives it 110%.

He comin’!

Peyton Barber. Another baller. The guy really has a nose for the end zone. He found it four times against the Razorbacks. And he’s rushing for 110 yards per game.

And… AND… Carl Lawson practiced for the first time Tuesday! Will he play Saturday? We don’t know yet, but that is very encouraging!

Also, Auburn’s defense played better. After garnering 14 first quarter points, Arkansas scored only 10 points in the last three quarters of regulation play.

If defensive coordinator, Will Muschamp, can get similar results as those this Saturday, the Tigers will have a solid chance at winning the football game.

So, Auburn is playing to get better. They’re playing for pride. They’re playing for the opportunity to continue toward a 9-3 regular season record and a very good bowl game.

Ole Miss is playing for an opportunity to continue toward an SEC West Championship and, potentially, a College Football Playoff berth.

This is a HUGE game for both teams. A loss, for either squad, effectively ends the realization of lofty post-season goals.

Auburn has not committed a turnover in its past three games. That is a very good thing. If the Tigers can again protect the football, improve on both offense and defense, and get its expected high level of play from special teams, they have a good chance to win.

This game should be a Battle Royale. I expect Auburn and Ole Miss to come out breathing fire and leave everything on the field.IMG_0546

It should come down to the fourth quarter and whoever wants it most should win.

Here’s how I see it.

Ole Miss, trailing 21-20 late, gets a long TD pass from Kelly to Treadwell. 27-21, Black Bears.

Auburn, in an effort to salvage its season, gets a kickoff return of 87 yards from Rudy Ford. This puts the ball at the Rebel 13.

White hits Kamryn Pettway, coming out of the backfield, for a 12-yard gain.

Peyton Barber hammers it in from the one. The PAT is good. Auburn up.

Blake Countess then intercepts a late pass from Kelly and Auburn holds on for a 28-27 win!

You heard it here first!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Damn It Anyway

Coach Bruce Pearl’s Auburn Tigers will open the 2015-16 men’s basketball season on November 13th versus the UAB Blazers at Auburn Arena.

Here is a projected look at the starting five which includes four who did not start last season for the Tigers:

1. Kareem Canty  2. T.J. Dunans  3. Danjel Purifoy  4. Cinmeon Bowers  5. Tyler Harris

OH WAIT!!! It’s not basketball season just yet, DANGIT!!!

Ok folks, just a feeble attempt at humor during a time when it is much needed, especially with the position the football team has now found itself in.

Now, let me pose a few questions to you. What if you knew, before the season began, that neither Carl Lawson nor Jeremy Johnson would be in the starting lineup? What would you have thought? What would your projection be as far as wins and losses after five games?

And how about these stats?

*After five games last season the Tigers were averaging 268.0 rushing yards per game and 229.2 passing yards while posting a 5-0 record. This season the numbers are 190.0 rushing yards per game with 153.8 passing.
Defensively, after five games last season the Tigers were allowing 100.2 rushing yards per game and 206.4 passing yards. This season the averages are 209.6 rushing yards allowed per game and 202.4 passing.
Last season through five games the offense made 21 trips into the red zone and scored every time with 17 of those touchdowns. This season the Tigers have scored on 13 of 17 red zone trips with 10 touchdowns.

*Taken from Inside The Auburn Tigers at Auburn.scout.com

Chew on this for a bit:

SportSourceAnalytics ‏@SportSourceA
With Duke Williams’ dismissal, @FootballAU now only has 16.6% of their offensive production back from 2014. Lowest in #FBS. #Auburn

“Sobering is probably not the right word, because alcohol may be the only solution for remainder of season.” (Author’s comment from the above which was taken from Twitter.)

And my reply which is taken from Willie Nelson:

“Well I gotta get drunk and I sure do dread it, ‘Cause I know just what I’m gonna do, I’ll start to spend my money callin’ everybody honey and wind up singin’ the blues, I’ll spend my whole paycheck on some old wreck, And brother I can name you a few, Well I gotta get drunk and I sure do dread it, ‘Cause I know just what I’m gonna do…”

Well there you have it. Thank you for reading the the column! Tip your waitresses! See you next week! Drive safely! We love you!

Noooooooo… but LAWD, ain’t it tempting?

Auburn now stands at 3-2 and 0-2 in the SEC.

That’s where we are. Where do we go from here? Will the Tigers win even ONE conference game? Will they make a bowl? Can they right the ship?

Here is the ONLY thing that I know for sure. And this is guaranteed. AUBURN WILL NOT LOSE SATURDAY. It will not happen. Bet the farm on it.

And most of you are already quick onto this ruse. Auburn cannot lose Saturday because they have an open date.

Ok! Let’s dig for that silver lining I mentioned in a previous column.

In spite of what you’ve heard, Auburn won last Saturday. Yes, the opponent was San Jose State but I will sure as heck take it. SJS had more first downs, more yards rushing, and more yards passing; but Auburn had more points. It’s a place to start. It’s something to build on. The Tigers also ran the ball well, with Peyton Barber doing the most damage. It’s something to build on.

Sean White didn’t exactly air the ball out, he was 6 for 10, but he had ZERO interceptions. He made some good decisions and he seemed to provide some spark and leadership. It’s something to build on.

Also, Auburn gathered four turnovers and had ZERO themselves. Yes, they put the ball on the ground but they did not LOSE a fumble. It’s something to build on.

Auburn may not have looked like the Packers of the 60’s but they WERE opportunistic. It’s something to build on.

Now, back to the present and the immediate future. Auburn, mercifully, finds itself with that open date. Talk about something that was needed. Hallelujah!

In practice the team has gone back to the basics. They are working on fundamentals. They are doing some one on one work. It appears that the coaches and players have turned up the intensity and focus. That is what they’d better be doing because, if they don’t go all in and improve from week to week, then we’re all looking at a record of 4-8, most likely.

People, Gus Malzahn, Will Muschamp and the rest of the coaching staff did not suddenly turn stump dumb. They did not forget how to coach. There have been circumstances, both within, and without, and beyond their control, that have brought them to this point. They are doing everything possible to get this thing turned around. You can bet on that.

Earl Brown was the head football coach from 1948-1950, just prior to Shug Jordan’s hiring. He won a total of three games in those three years. His final season saw the Tigers go OH and TEN. OH yeah. he was quoted as saying Auburn was, “a graveyard for coaches.”

And then along came Ralph “Shug” Jordan.

Shug, himself, was quoted as saying something to the effect of, “Auburn’s worst enemy is Auburn.”

I couldn’t agree more.

AND the ONE thing that the Auburn Family does not need to do is become fractured, frustrated and forlorn. There does not need to be in-fighting. Or people screaming for the coaches heads (and I have heard some of this already).

Auburn, and her Family, don’t need to be thinking about their final record and what bowl they, may or may not, go to. They need to be focusing on the here and now and getting better. The Auburn Family needs to unite and get behind these coaches and this football team.

This football team will, hopefully, harken back to the aforementioned Shug Jordan’s Seven D’s of Success:

1. Discipline  2. Desire to Excel  3. Determination  4. Dedication  5. Dependability  6. Desperation  7. Damn it Anyway

And I will quote coach Jordan’s elaboration on point number seven.

“When you have done everything you can do and things still seem to be going against you, you have to reach down, get something extra from your innerself, forget the adverse circumstances and do something anyway. Someone once put it, ‘Do something–right or wrong–just do something.’ One thing for certain. You are not going to win by accepting the overwhelming odds.”

Amen.

Auburn Tigers 2015: Whispering Hope

When I sat down at my computer to do this column, I began the process of doing some last second research to help firm up my ideas. I am THE Eternal Optimist and I can spot a silver lining in a dark cloud quicker than you can say, “Damnit! Another interception!”  #[email protected]#*!%!

I was prepared to do the ultimate Realist piece and just get right down to the nitty-gritty of how this Gus Bus ran off in a ditch, and Auburn’s call to AAA to pull her out. It was not a column I was looking forward to putting together. I was going to throw my sunshine pump deep into the woods behind our house and muse upon what I perceived to be the, seemingly, fatal flaws that exist within the 2015 edition of the Auburn Tigers football team.

I was going to re-live bits of the 1975 and 2012 seasons, as bad as I hated to.

The 1975 Tigers opened to much fanfare with another group of Tigers, these from Memphis. Phil Gargis, Mitzi Jackson, Secedrick McIntyre and company were picked to finish near the top of the polls en route to a magical season, Shug Jordan’s last… no dice.

Memphis 31, Auburn 20 (and it wasn’t that close).

Game two… Baylor 10, Auburn 10.

Game three… Tennessee 21, Auburn 17

Game four… Virginia Tech 23, Auburn 17 (and this was a mostly inept gang of Gobblers. No Beamer Ball here.)

Auburn wound up with a 3-6-2 record, that year, and ended Coach Jordan’s tenure on a very sour note.

And the 2012 campaign? My intention was to focus on the Texas A&M debacle as an example of the agony suffered those three short years ago, a 63-21 total embarrassment. A microcosm of the season. My wife and I left that no-contest with 1:51 seconds remaining in the FIRST QUARTER, and Auburn trailing 21-0. And it’s not that it was 21-0. The problem is WE HAD NO HOPE. We were beaten. We knew it. And we, simply, could no longer bear it.

NCAA Football: Rice at Texas A&M

This past Saturday afternoon I was having flashbacks, as I cringed, while watching Auburn being manhandled in Baton Rouge. No, not the residual psychedelic kind of flashbacks from the years of 1973-1975. I was having a much more painful, and much less enjoyable, type.

My mind was swirling with the tattered and broken images of the 1975 and 2012 (3-9, 0-8 in the SEC) Auburn Football seasons. It hurt. It was hellish.

“How can this be?” I thought. I am no coach and I certainly am no expert. I have no earthly idea how one could fix the problems that had beset the 2015 Auburn Tigers, but I had a great many questions. I’m sure most of you had, or are still having, similar questions.

We now fast forward back to me at the computer. Today.

A “twitter” notification appeared to me in the top right hand corner of the screen of our iMac as I prepared to type. It was from our executive editor at Campus Pressbox, Damien Bowman.

“auburn going with Sean White this week. wow.”

I happened to be on the auburn.scout.com site at the time. I had actually begun to read the beginning of notes from Coach Malzahn’s presser this morning. I went back to the master board of topics and found it. Redshirt freshman, Sean White, was to start Saturday.

Now, hear me on this. I have nothing against Jeremy Johnson. I love him as I do all of the Auburn team. I think he is a tremendous talent but, for some reason, that talent has not been in evidence thus far during the 2015 football season. It has been quite the opposite. He and the entire team have, collectively, performed abysmally. And I had begun to lose hope… rapidly.

No “joy in Mudville.” Casey had whiffed, big time, down in Death Valley. And not only that, things had been looking grim since the second half of the Louisville game.

But now… HOPE. Maybe just a glimmer but, nonetheless, HOPE.

Just that one sliver of information changed my perspective on Saturday’s upcoming game vs. Miss State.

Maybe Auburn is righting the ship! HOPEfully they are piecing this thing back together!

Somehow, Auburn had been installed as a 4 point favorite over the Bulldogs. Now, mind you, that only means that the odds-makers had come up with a number to induce betting on BOTH Auburn and Miss State. It doesn’t mean that Vegas thinks Auburn is 4 points better than State. And if the betting goes heavily on the boys from STARK-Vegas then that line will drop to reflect so, and to create more wagering on Auburn. State would then become only a 3 or a 2 point underdog. Or it could have gone all the way to a “pick ’em.”

(Photo Credit: Rogelio V. Solis — AP Photo)
(Photo Credit: Rogelio V. Solis — AP Photo)

Bird-Vegas had made State anywhere from a 7 to 10 point favorite. I didn’t see how Auburn could contain Dak Prescott, play hard-nosed on BOTH sides of the ball, and triumph in the end. Based on what we had seen so far in the season I could not see Auburn prevailing. I said as much during our current SEC 411 podcast. I picked Mississippi State to win.

How was I to write this, put it in black and white? I would rather have a root canal than to pick against Auburn in my weekly column.

That is no longer an issue because of… HOPE.

Yes! It springs eternal!

 

Whispering Hope

Soft as the voice of an angel, breathing a lesson unheard.

Hope with a gentle persuasion whispers her comforting word

Wait till the darkness is over, wait till the tempest is gone

Hope for the sunshine tomorrow, after the shower is gone.

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

If, in the dusk of the twilight, dim be the region afar

Will not the deepening darkness brighten the glimmering star?

Then when the night is upon us, why should the heart sink away?

When the dark midnight is over, watch for the breaking of day.

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

Hope as an anchor so steadfast, rends the dark veil for the soul

Whither the Master has entered, robbing the grave of its goal

Come then, oh come, glad fruition, come to my sad weary heart

Come, O thou blest hope of glory, never, oh never depart.

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

The words from that old hymn now resonated in my heart.

Why do I have now have more HOPE in Auburn’s chances under the lights of Jordan-Hare Saturday night?

For one, I have heard there have been some serious “come to Jesus” meetings in the Auburn Athletic Complex, and on the practice fields, this week. I have also heard that if you were a defensive player and sat in defensive coordinator Coach Will Muschamp’s meetings this week, that your young ears have been permanently blistered.

This man is a college head coach. Seriously.

But that happens often in football complexes across the country each and every week.

I also think that, as a result of these meetings and practices, that the AU coaching staff will find 22 players who really want to lay it all on the line Saturday.

Furthermore, I DO think that Sean White will provide the spark that the Tigers have been needing, desperately, in this, still young, 2015 season.

[Ostendorf: Auburn to start Sean White over Jeremy Johnson at QB]

So what does this all mean?

This means that Auburn will start playing AUBURN football at 6:30 PM CDT on Saturday. They will play with promise, passion and precision.

AND…

They will win.

Auburn 31, Miss State 24

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

E-mail Bird at [email protected], follow him on Twitter @Autull or visit his personal website at BirdLeCroy.com.