Saturday, March 29, 2008

A-Day fourth-quarter notes

AUBURN -- Neil Caudle got the bad news last week that he's no longer in the race to win the starting quarterback job, and he got more bad news at 10:36 of the quarter.

Caudle threw a pass just to his right, and linebacker Josh Bynes stepped in front of it on a dead run. Bynes went unchallenged 48 yards and dove over the goal line.

The good news for Caudle? The points counted for White, which closed to within 30-14.

... True freshman quarterback DeRon Furr got in for an uneventful drive before Caudle's interception.

... I'll be heading down for postgame interviews shortly. See ya when I get back up to the box.

... Wait a minute! They just called the first penalty of the game, an illegal shift, with about eight minutes to play. And yes, Caudle was at the helm. Now I'm really going down for interviews.

A-Day third-quarter notes

AUBURN -- Chris Todd just looked good in leading a 68-yard, 10-play drive, culminating in his 3-yard touchdown pass to Robert Dunn on a fade.

Todd actually tried the same pass earlier in the drive and led Dunn perfectly, but safety Zac Etheridge got a hand in at the last second and knocked the ball out of Dunn's grasp in the end zone.

Todd led Dunn perfectly the second time, and Dunn won the battle with Etheridge.

On the drive, Todd did a good job of looking off to secondary receivers and anticipating receivers coming open. He made accurate dump-offs on the move in the pocket.

It's 30-0 Blue, and Kodi Burns is seeing his first action of the second half. Stay tuned.

... Uneventful drive for Burns, but Neil Caudle just hit Chris Slaughter for a touchdown pass, finishing off a 47-yard, 8-play drive. It's 30-7, Blue.

... Punter Ryan "Shoeshanker" Shoemaker is living up to his nickname. He just ended the third quarter with another duck that fell just by Auburn coaches on the Blue sideline. Clinton Durst (who?) has had the best day punting.

A-Day second-quarter notes

AUBURN -- Make that two Ben Tate touchdowns, eight and 10 yards, and Kodi Burns just struck with a 28-yard touchdown lead to Robert Dunn.

And who is this Anthony Jemison kid? The walk-on running back looks pretty good for a walk-on running back who's not even on the roster.

Maybe it's because the McCalla product is wearing former Tiger Carnell Williams' No. 24. Or maybe it's because he just spun away from starting linebacker Craig Stevens.

Don't look now, but Neil Caudle is finally seeing action. It's 23-0, Blue.

Make it halftime, and it's 23-0, Blue. Caudle did some nice things running out of the pocket and threw a couple of nice balls.

According to halftime stats, Burns and Chris Todd have combined to complete 19 of 24 passes for 249 yards and one touchdown. They're considered co-first-team quarterbacks, so their stats count for Blue.

Caudle counts for White, and he's 5-for-11 for 26 yards. Perhaps it's unfair that the coaches didn't let White have the ball until late in the second quarter.

... We just got more detailed halftime stats. Burns was 10-for-12 for 111 yards and a touchdown, and Todd was 9-for-12 for 115 yards. Of 318 total yards, 253 came through the air. Dunn, who missed a lot of practice time because of morning classes, had three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown at the half.

A-Day first-quarter notes

AUBURN -- Nothing overwhelming so far. Quarterbacks Kodi Burns and Chris Todd have thrown some nice balls, but neither has sustained a long drive.

A Wes Byrum field goal and a short Ben Tate touchdown run account for all of the scoring so far.

One interesting note: Tristan Davis saw his first game action at running back after switching from safety permanently last season. Toe and foot injuries kept him out of all but three games last season, and all of his action came on kickoff returns.

A-Day notes

SPRING AWARDS: Wadley product Terrell Zachery, a sophomore wide receiver, picked up a major spring practice award as the most improved offensive skill player.

Zachery caught 13 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns in Auburn’s first two scrimmages. This after he saw out last season while working to restore his academic eligibility.

Zachery signed with Auburn in 2006, after setting the state record with 4,410 career receiving yards at Wadley High School.

Other award winners included guard Byron Isom (most improved offensive lineman), defensive end Michael Goggans (most improved defensive lineman), Chris Evans (most improved linebacker), cornerack Walter McFadden (most improved defensive back), defensive end Antonio Coleman (offseason conditioning), center Jason Bosley (leadership; top GPA), tight end Tommy Trott (attitude and effort, offense; most improved GPA), defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks (attitude and effort), linebacker Wade Christopher (top freshman GPA).

SEASON AWARDS: Auburn announced individual award winners from the 2007 season. They were tight end Cole Bennett (Shug Jordan Award), defensive tackle Josh Thompson (Mike Kolen Award), cornerback Jerraud Powers (Zeke Smith Defensive Player of the Year), guard Tyronne Green (Ken Rice Best Blocking Lineman) and quarterback Brandon Cox (Pat Sullivan Offensive Player of the Year).

INJURY REPORT: Eight players sat out of Saturday’s A-Day, including defensive tackle Mike Blanc (concussion), defensive end Antonio Coleman (neck), receiver/running back Mario Fannin (separated shoulder), defensive end Raven Gray (knee), wide receiver Tim Hawthorne (broken arm), offensive guard Chaz Ramsey (sore back), defensive tackle Jake Ricks (broken hand) and defensive end Darrell Roseman (shin splits).

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A-Day activities schedule announced

This from Auburn athletics media relations:


AUBURN—Auburn’s annual spring football game, A-Day, will be held this Saturday, March 29 at 1 p.m. CT at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Tickets for Saturday’s game are $5 and will be available for purchase at the west will-call booth on the west side of Jordan-Hare Stadium and at the southeast ticket booth on the east side of the stadium. The Lettermen’s Club will also be selling tickets at stations outside the east and west open gates.

Auburn University students presenting a valid ID will receive free admission and will enter at the student gates on the stadium’s east side.

Tickets may be purchased at the Auburn Ticket Office located at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum this week from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tickets are also available at the Auburn University Bookstore, Anders Bookstore, Big Blue Bookstore and both J&M Bookstore locations.

Gates will open at 11 a.m. on both the west and east sides ofthe stadium. On the west side, Gates 12, 13, 15 and 16 will be open, while on the east side, Gates 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 will be open.

General public seating inside the stadium will be available in the lower bowl of Jordan-Hare Stadium, with the exception of sections 37-44 (north end zone). Also, both upper decks will be closed.

The game will feature four 12-minute quarters. The first-team offense will represent the blue team, while the second-team offense will score points for the white team.

The game will be televised on tape delay by Comcast Sports Southeast. Re-air dates are scheduled for March 29 at 6 p.m. CT and April 3 at 6 p.m.

On the air waves, fans can listen to the game locally on WKKR97.7 FM beginning at 1 p.m.

The Tiger Team Village featuring interactive games, and other activities will be open on the coliseum lawn from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. TheTiger Team Village is free and open to the public.

The Auburn baseball, softball and men’s tennis teams will all be in action at home during A-Day weekend.

The baseball team will host Tennessee for a three game series at Plainsman Park. Friday’s game starts at 6 p.m., with Saturday’s contest beginning at 3 p.m. Sunday’s series finale is slated for a 2 p.m. first pitch. Single-game tickets are available for $10.

The Tigers’ softball team also hosts Tennessee with the series starting Saturday with a doubleheader at 4 p.m. Sunday’s game at Jane B. Moore Field begins at 1 p.m.

Auburn’s men’s tennis team will host Tennessee on Friday at 5 p.m. and Georgia on Sunday at 2 p.m. All matches will be played at the Yarbrough Tennis Center.

Admission to Auburn softball and tennis events are free.


Will Call/Media Will Call West Will Call Booth: 10 a.m.

Media Entrance: Gate 20 (Northwest corner)

Public Entrance: West side, Gates 12, 13, 15, 16 and East side, Gates 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Gate Opens: 11 a.m.

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

Game Format: Four, 12-minute quarters

Public Seating: Lower bowl of Jordan-Hare Stadium with exception of gates 37-44 (north end zone); Upper decks will be closed

Tickets: General Public, $5. AU Students, Free with valid ID (enter at student gates)

Television: CSS (Comcast Sports Southeast), Tape Delay. CSS Re-airs Sat., March 29 at 6 p.m. CT and Thur., April 3 at 6 p.m. CT

Radio: Abbeville, WESZ, 98.7-FM; Auburn-Opelika, WKKR 97.7-FM; Birmingham, WJOX 100.5-FM; Fairhope, WABF 1220-AM; Foley, WHEP 1310-AM; Fort Payne, WZOB 1250-AM; Gadsden, WGAD 930-AM; Guntersville, WTWX 95.9-FM; Roanke/LaGrange, Ga. WELR 102.3-FM; Selma, WDXX 100.1-FM; Talladega/Anniston, WTDR 92.7-FM.

Tiger Team Village: 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Coliseum Lawn

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lineup moves for Savage, offensive linemen

AUBURN -- News and notes from Auburn's Tuesday morning football practice, the team's first after a 12-day break for spring break:

-- CB Aairon Savage moved to the first-team defense. A former starter at safety, he changed positions at the start of spring practice and has adjusted well enough to move to No. 1, ahead of Walter McFadden.

-- On the offensive line, coach Hugh Nall made temporary moves to work players at different positions. He moved starting right tackle Ryan Pugh to backup center and moved backup center Mike Berry out to right tackle, behind Andrew McCain. Nall said Berry has had enough work at center, and all wants to get Pugh time there. Nall wants to have three good options at center. Veteran Jason Bosley remains the No. 1 center, and Pugh will be the No. 1 right tackle.

-- Running backs Ben Tate and Brad Lester practiced Tuesday after missing all or part of spring practice. Tate was back after battling ankle and hamstring injuries. Lester was held out of the last scrimmage because the coaching staff wanted to look more at the passing game. Both running backs are expected to play in Saturday's A-Day game.

-- Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said sophomore Kodi Burns and junior-college transfer Chris Todd are rotating as the No. 1 quarterback, and that he considers the two co-starters. Franklin said that's how things will work in Saturday's A-Day game and that competition will carry into the summer. Neil Caudle is a backup for the two, and true freshman DeRon Furr has "a long way to go" to be ready.

-- Defensive end Antonio Coleman will undergo an examination on his neck later this week. Pending results, he could play in Saturday's A-Day game. He's been out since sustaining a cervical sprain in Auburn's March 1 scrimmage.

More in Wednesday's Star.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A better day for Slater, Auburn baseball

Though Auburn lost Sunday's baseball series finale against No. 2 Kentucky, the Tigers won two of three games in the series.

It came at a good time for fourth-year head coach Tom Slater, who needs a breakthrough season after needing a vote of confidence from his boss late last season.

Though I don't put too much stock in message-board chatter, it can give you an idea of where the most ardent members of a fan base stand. A week ago this time, some posters on and stood beyond Slater. They weren't asking IF he should be fired; they were listing possible replacements.

That after Auburn suffered a sweep at Florida. A week ago this time, Auburn was 0-7 against SEC-caliber competition, including a four-game sweep at the hands of non-conference power Florida State.

Now, Auburn fans have something else to ponder. Auburn won a series against a previously unbeaten SEC team. Kentucky was ranked between No. 2 and the teens in various college baseball polls.

A quick Sunday check of message boards shows comments like this: "Sounds like Slater has righted the ship, congrats to staff and players."

Other posts included "Not so fast on Slater" and "I say he has to have a winning SEC record and get to the SEC tourney."

Slater is out of the woods. Last week was too early in the season to declare him outta here, and this week is too early to declare him rehabilitated.

Auburn is 14-9 overall, 2-4 SEC. With 24 regular-season SEC games ahead, the season can still go either way.

But it appears the Kentucky series left more open minds that were closing.

One encouraging sign for Auburn was the success of the Tigers' starting pitchers on Friday and Saturday. Playing a team that was leading the SEC in nearly every significant statistical category, Auburn won Friday's opener 2-0 thanks in part to Grant Dayton's six-inning outing. The Tigers won the Saturday game 7-5 thanks in part to Cory Luckie's an eight-inning outing.

Luke Greinke didn't fare so well Sunday, but Auburn rallied from a 9-2 hole and had the tying run on base in the eighth and ninth innings.

All in all, it was a good weekend for Auburn baseball and its coach.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Talkin' Toppers

Well, if you've read this blog for a while (or just seen my bio on The Star's home page) you know I'm a proud Western Kentucky grad ... prouder today than on most days.

It's interesting for me because I covered Western head coach Darrin Horn and assistant Cypheus Bunton as players at Western ... and it's precisely because of them that I think WKU could move deeper into the tournament.

Horn and Bunton are young, but they've been there. They played on Western teams that advance to the 1993 NCAA Sweet 16 and won in the first round in 1995 before putting a scare into Kansas.

In 1993, Western opened the tournament by eliminating Memphis and Penny Hardaway in Orlando. It was Hardaway's final college game.

The next victim was No. 2 seed Seton Hall, coached by P.J. Carlisemo. The Pirates had Danny Hurley (Bobby's brother), Terry Dehere and 7-foot-2 Luther Wright.

Those wins got Western to Charlotte, where the Tops took Florida State into overtime. That FSU team had future NBA players Charlie Ward, Bob Sura and Sam Cassell.

Western caught a tough break when point guard Mark Bell fouled out on a charge in overtime, giving way to freshman Michael Fraliex. Still, Bunton had a 3-point try to tie, and it bounced twice on the rim before falling off.

FSU won, 81-78.

In 1995, Fraliex hit a shot to force overtime against Michigan in Dayton. Western controlled the overtime and ended the college careers of the final two Fab Fivers ... Jimmy King and Ray Jackson.

Heavily favored Kansas won in the second round, 75-70.

I tell you all of this to make the point that Horn and Bunton have been there, and Western has been there. That and the fact that UConn lost in the first round makes Western more likely to get to the Sweet 16.

Just my humble opinion, and a disclaimer: The Star and I are not responsible for money wagered and lost.

Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, I was at the helm of the sports section Friday night. Western got the big play on the front page, but will anyone argue that the Tops' upset of Drake was the biggest and most dramatic game of the day?

It led ESPN SportsCenter's NCAA coverage for a reason, and it just so happened that the game fell on my watch.

It was nice, though. It also took me back to memories from my time covering my alma mater as the sports editor of the Bowling Green Daily News.

And while I'm at it, a special shout out to two former assistant coaches from those 90s Western teams. Marquette head coach Tom Crean and Kent State's Jimmy Christian got there teams into the tournament this year, and Crean's Warriors advanced.

Happy tournament watching, and happy Easter.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Not the start Slater needed

Tom Slater came into this season facing a likely make-or-break season as Auburn's baseball coach, and it's breaking the wrong way.

Auburn is 11-8, having suffered a four-game sweep against Florida State earlier this season and a three-game sweep at Florida over the weekend. That covers the seven games Auburn has played against SEC-level competition.

This despite three straight top-20 recruiting classes and a revamping of Slater's staff that brought former New York Yankees farm boss Bill Mosiello to campus.

Slater is in his fourth season as Auburn's head coach. He presided over Auburn's last postseason appearance in the 2005 NCAA Tallahassee Regional, but Auburn has not qualified for the SEC Tournament since 2003.

Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs felt the need to offer Slater a vote of confidence last season. This as Auburn faltered in SEC play after and 18-3 preconference run.

The Tigers started 0-8 in conference play last year, and they're 0-3 this year with undefeated Kentucky coming to Plainsman Park this weekend.

Slater needs something positive to happen, and the sooner the better, but a once-promising team is starting to look flawed.

-- The starting rotation, minus injured Paul Burnside, has gone through an almost total turnover since the start of the season. The starters lasted 10 1/3 total innings in three games at Florida.

-- Auburn starts five freshmen ... talented freshmen, but freshmen.

-- Auburn averaged 3.7 runs in its seven losses to Florida State and Florida, and the Tigers' .300 team batting average ranks next to last in the SEC.

-- Auburn has stranded 153 base runners this season (8.1 a game), more than half of the team's 295 total base runners.

A lot of games remain, and Slater can show progress with an SEC tourney and/or NCAA berth. Middle-of-the-road SEC teams usually get both.

We shall see.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sunrise and shine (or not)

I discovered just what Tommy Tuberville meant by "Sunrise Scrimmage" when I rolled into Auburn so very, very early Thursday morning.

I've been in Auburn way after dark. I can think of a couple of 8 p.m. football games that went into overtime ... one that went into three overtimes.

I've also been in Auburn during many sunrises ... just none that I saw before Thursday.

I left for Auburn at 4:30 a.m., and special thanks to Led Zeppelin for keeping me awake while en route. There's no cure for heavy eyes quite like the Immigrant Song. Kashmir works, too.

Following Kashmir on my compilation CD is Ten Years Gone, which launched me deep into reflection. A working mind keeps the eyes open, and the lyrics work the mind:

Blind stars of fortune, each have several rays
On the wings of maybe, down in birds of prey
Kind of makes me feel sometimes, didn't have to grow
But as the eagle leaves the nest, it's got so far to go

I never get tired of hearing it, but I digress.

I rolled into town about 6:30 and was heartened to see that Auburn University had left a light on for me. The lights of Jordan-Hare Stadium illuminated an otherwise dark sky.

I was also heartened to find lots of available parking spaces at the Athletics Complex, but a worrisome thought occurred. What if the complex is locked?

I wanted to set up in the media workroom before going to the stadium, after all.

Worry solved! I saw kicker Wes Byrum walking toward the complex, and he showed me an unlocked door. All's good.

There was no receptionist in the lobby. Brenda probably wasn't even awake yet, let alone at work.

I passed lots of darkened offices and hoofed it down the long, dark hallway to the media workroom (which doubles as the staff break room) and set up.

On the way back out, I saw Sports Info Director Kirk Sampson in his office. I sat down and chatted with him while he worked. We talked Auburn stuff, dad stuff and just general stuff before heading off to the stadium together.

The sky had lightened by the time we got into Jordan-Hare. Once the scrimmage started, the sun was peaking over the East-side second deck.

Therein was the advantage to covering a scrimmage so early in the day. We got direct sunlight on the perch from which scribes and sports-info folks normally watch these things. It warmed us on an otherwise chilly morning.

From there, I had Tony Franklin's no-huddle offense to keep me awake while I kept play-by-play.

After a 100-play scrimmage, I did on-field interviews, blogged, wrote for the paper and had lunch with my buds. Then I was on my way home ... which brings up another advantage to Sunrise Scrimmages. Once back in Oxford, I had lots of day left.

My wife and near-2-year-old son appreciated that, though I'm still trying to figure out how it was that SHE got to take the nap.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stats from Auburn's Thursday football scrimmage

RUSHING (Att.-Yds.-TDs): FB Mike Gibson (5-19-0), QB Neil Caudle (9-9-0), RB Davis Hooper (6-8-1), FB Ryan Hastie (2-1-0), QB Kodi Burns (9--3-1), QB Chris Todd (7--57-0).

PASSING (Comp.-Att.-Yds.-TDs-Int.): QB Chris Todd (17-25-168-3-0), QB Neil Caudle (10-14-142-3-0), QB Kodi Burns (7-19-122-2-1).

RECEIVING (Rec.-Yds-TDs): WR Charles Olatunji (5-79-0), WR Montez Billings (5-42-1), TE Tommy Trott (4-90-2), SR Terrell Zachery (4-46-2), WR Rod Smith (3-29-0), WR Chris Slaughter (2-27-1), FB Mike Gibson (2-25-0), WR Quindarius Carr (2-22-1), WR James Swinton (2-16-0), RB Davis Hooper (1-30-1), TE Gabe McKenzie (1-28-0), WR John Cubelic (1-5-0), FB Ryan Hastie (1-0-0).

TACKLES: LB Chris Evans 11, LB Josh Bynes 10, LB Courtney Harden 8, DT Sen'Derrick Marks 6, CB Aairon Savage 5, CB Ryan Williams 4, S Zac Etheridge 4, S Jonathan Vickers 4, DL Ryan Burse 4, DE A.J. Greene 4, DT Mike Blanc 3, LB Craig Stevens 3, DE Michael Goggans 3, LB Tray Blackmon 3, LB Merrill Johnson 3, CB Walter McFadden 3, S Mike Slade 3, DE Luke Farmer 3, DE Antoine Carter 2, CB Jerraud Powers 1, DT Zach Clayton 1, S Michael McNeil 1

Passing, passing and more passing

AUBURN -- With all of its name-brand running backs sitting out, Auburn had a 100-play passing scrimmage Thursday morning in Jordan-Hare Stadium, featuring Chris Todd's first scrimmage action at quarterback.

Todd, who has missed most of spring practice because of weakness in his right (throwing) shoulder, was the third quarterback in the game but looked capable of challenging for the starting job. He threw touchdown passes of 10 yards to Chris Slaughter, 10 yards to Tommy Trott and three yards to Montez Billings.

Todd had team-highs of 17 completions, 25 attempts and 168 yards. He tied Neil Caudle's thre touchdown passes and had no interceptions.

Caudle was 10-for-14 for 142 yards and three scores with no interceptions.

Kodi Burns dropped off from his first-scrimmage showing, going 7-for-19 for 122 yards and two scores and one interception.

In other quick notes of interest:

-- Former Wadley wide receiver Terrell Zachery caught touchdown passes of eight yards from Burns and 25 yards from Caudle. Zachery caught four passes for 46 yards.

-- Trott caught two touchdown passes, including a 40-yarder from Caudle. Trott had four catches for a team-high 90 yards.

-- Starting running backs Brad Lester and Ben Tate sat out of the scrimmage. Lester is not injured, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said; the coaches just wanted to emphasize the quarterbacks. Tate (hamstring) worked out on the stadium steps.

-- Running back/receiver Mario Fannin will undergo surgery on his dislocated left shoulder Tuesday, Tuberville said. Fannin hurt the shoulder in Auburn's March 1 scrimmage and will miss the rest of spring practice.

-- Starting offensive guard Chaz Ramsey (back) sat out of the scrimmage. He had an epidural to curtail inflammation.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Auburn pro day numbers

Monday marked Auburn’s Pro Day, with NFL scouts putting Auburn’s NFL hopefuls through their paces. Some players who participated in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis stood on their combine numbers in some categories.
Here’s how Auburn players who participated in Monday’s Pro Day fared:

TE Cole Bennett (6-4 ¾, 255 pounds)
Vertical leap: 29.5 feet
Long jumps: 9 feet, 11 inches and 10-2
Bench press: 225 pounds at 23 reps
40-yard dash times: 4.77 and 4.54 seconds
Short-shuttle 3-cone time: 7.46 seconds.

S Eric Brock (6-0 204)
Vertical leap: 36 and 37 inches
Long jump: 9 feet, 7 inches
Bench press: 225 pounds at 13 reps
40-yard dash times: 4.70 and 4.63 seconds
Short-shuttle 3-cone time: 7.43 seconds

OT King Dunlap (6-8 ¼, 311)
Vertical leap: 30 inches
Long jump: N/A
Bench press: 225 pounds at 20 reps
40-yard dash times: 5.26 and 5.00 seconds
Short-shuttle 3-cone time: 8.05 seconds

CB Zack Gilbert (5-9 187)
Vertical leap: 34 and 36.5 inches
Long jump: 9 feet, 11 inches and 10-1.5
Bench press: 225 pounds at 17 reps
40-yard dash times: 4.57 and 4.39 seconds
Short-shuttle 3-cone time: 6.90 seconds

DE/LB Quentin Groves (249 pounds)
Vertical leap: 34.5 and 35 inches
Note: Groves stood mainly on combine numbers.

CB Patrick Lee (196 pounds)
Vertical leap: 35 inches
Long jump: 9 feet, 8 inches; 9 feet, 9 inches
40-yard dash times: 4.51 and 4.42 seconds
Short-shuttle 3-cone time: 6.88 seconds

WR Prechae Rodgriquez (6-4, 207)
Vertical leap: 35 inches
Bench press: 225 pounds at 8 reps
40-yard dash times: 4.64 and 4.44 seconds
Short-shuttle 3-cone time: 7.16 seconds

DT, Pat Sims (305 pounds)
Vertical leap: 29.5 and 30.5 inches
Long jump: 7 feet, 9 inches; 7-11
40-yard dash time: 4.80 seconds
Short-shuttle 3-cone time: 7.67 seconds

FB Carl Stewart (6-1 1/8, 231)
Vertical leap: 38 and 39.5 inchesLong jump: 10 feet, 1 inch
Bench press: 225 pounds at 24 reps
40-yard dash times: 4.69 and 4.54 seconds
Short-shuttle 3-cone time: 7.40 seconds

DT Josh Thompson (5-11 ¼, 304)
Vertical leap: 28 and 28.5 inches
Long jump: 7 feet, 9 inches
40-yard dash times: 5.34 and 4.72 seconds
Short-shuttle 3-cone time: 7.76 seconds

CB Jonathan Wilhite (187 pounds)
Vertcial leap: 35 inches
Long jump: 9 feet, 9.5 inches; 10-0
40-yard dash: 4.42 seconds
Short-shuttle 3-cone: 7.17 seconds

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Arrest in Burk case

For those who have followed developments in the Tuesday murder of 18-year-old Auburn student Lauren Burk, this from Auburn Police today:

For Immediate Release Date of Release: March 8, 2008

Contact: Auburn Police Division Phone: (334) 501-3110

Suspect Arrested in Lauren Burk Case

The Auburn Police Division once again recognizes and wishes to thank each of the following agencies participating in the join task force: the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, and Firearms; the US Marshal's Service; the Alabama Bureau of Investigation; the Alabama Department of Forensic Science; the Alabama State Fire Marshal's Office; the Lee County District Attorney's Office; the Lee County Sheriff's Office; the Lee County Coroner's Office; the Opelika Police Department; and the Auburn University Public Safety and Security Division.

In addition to the above-mentioned agencies, we would like to thank Chief Brian McGarr and the Phenix City, AL Police Department for their fine work and assistance.

Thank you also to the countless agencies across the nation, state, and City who have offered their assistance.

Today, we are pleased to announce that a suspect in the murder case of Lauren Burk, an 18 year old Auburn University freshman student, was taken into custody yesterday by the Phenix City Police Department. He is identified as Courtney Larrell Lockhart, age 23, of Smiths, AL. He is charged with capital murder during a kidnapping; capital murder during a robbery; and capital murder during an attempted rape.

Task force members had developed Lockhart as a suspect and were attempting to establish his identity when Phenix City Police took him into custody on an unrelated offense. A great deal of work remains in this tragic case. With that in mind, many of the details will continue to be closely safeguarded.

A final thank you today to Governor Bob Riley's Office for immediately posting a $10,000 reward in this case and to each of the businesses and private citizens who added to the fund. A special thanks goes to the local community, Auburn University, and the Auburn Chamber of Commerce for their support throughout the investigation.

In closing, we again extend our heartfelt sympathy to all of the family and friends of Miss Burk who, along with the Auburn family, have suffered a great loss.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Auburn hitting wall; fans seem to be, too

Perhaps my voice-of-reason tendencies are talking here, but why have some Auburn fans turned on Jeff Lebo in the last week?

Yes, Auburn lost to Georgia and South Carolina in consecutive games. Yes, Georgia and South Carolina were two of the more beatable SEC opponents on Auburn's schedule.

Auburn played both teams at home, and their SEC records were on a par with Auburn's.

That said, South Carolina and Georgia were more beatable simply because the odds were more even. The Auburn team as constituted for most of this season is superior to neither Georgia nor South Carolina, just closer to even with both.

"Closer to even" does not necessarily equal "even."

South Carolina is small like Auburn, a four-guard-one-forward team. Still, the Gamecocks have more scholarship players available; Auburn has had seven for weeks.

The South Carolina game was March 1. That's well past time for an SEC team that essentially plays six players to go leg-dead, and that's what happened. A team with fresh legs doesn't miss jump shots that badly.

Georgia, like Auburn, has personnel issues. The Bulldogs have lost two to injuries and two to discipline, and another quit the team this season.

By my count, Georgia lost five players. Auburn lost seven for all or part of the season (I'll give a rundown shortly).

Georgia also plays a extremely physical game. For all of their years under Dennis Felton, the Bulldogs have made it their business to make opponents play ugly.

The game was played on March 5. Elbows, bumps and bangs weigh more on a leg-dead team.

It's not so amazing to me that Auburn lost both games. It's more amazing that Auburn waited until early March to crash.

It all leaves Auburn in an all-too-familiar place. With a likely loss at Arkansas on Saturday, Auburn will once again finish 4-12 in the SEC.

Four years seems like long enough for any coach to make more progress, but Lebo inherited NCAA sanctions. He has dealt with yearly transfers ... many for reasons not of his making ... and injuries.

Auburn has had personnel setbacks above normal attrition every year under Lebo.

This year's setbacks were the worst since Marco Killingsworth, Lewis Monroe, DeWayne Curtis and Brandon Robinson departed shortly after Auburn's 2004 coaching change. For those who forget what happened in the last year, a refresher course:

-- Promising sophomore guard Kelvin Lewis transferred after last season because his dad got a coaching gig at Houston.

-- Guard Archie Miaway didn't get it done in the classroom and did not play this season.

-- Signee Tyrell Lynch, a 6-9 forward, did not qualify.

-- An undisclosed medical issue prompted forward Josh Dollard, Auburn's leading scorer and rebounder, to take a medical redshirt before the season started.

-- A broken hand on Dec. 29 claimed forward Korvotney Barber for the season. He was leading the nation in shooting percentage.

-- Freshman center Boubacar Sylla sustained a stress reaction while trying to dunk in the home opener against Kennesaw State. He was lost for the season.

-- Guard Lucas Hargrove missed part of the season with a broken hand.

It's easy to forget all that's happened, especially when much of Auburn's fan base pays only passing or spotty attention to basketball.

Also, personnel losses Lebo faced this season didn't lose significance merely because some who paid attention grew tired of hearing about them. Those losses grew more significant as the season wore on, which is why Auburn hit the wall lately.

Again, more amazing to me is that it didn't happen sooner.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Frank never tanked

AUBURN -- Give Frank Tolbert credit.

Teammates transferred, but "Floor-Burn Frank" kept diving on the floor.

Teammates stumbled academically, but Floor-Burn Frank kept hitting the floor.
Teammates got injured, and so did Tolbert, but Floor-Burn Frank?

Tonight, the Auburn senior guard -- playing his power-forward role for the shorthanded Tigers -- takes the Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum floor for the final time. This as Auburn (14-13, 4-10 SEC) plays host to Georgia (12-15, 3-11).

Forgive him if he has a moment or two tonight to think about what could have been.

“It was tough as far as getting in the win column, but I wouldn't change it for anything," he said. "I had a lot of great experiences here. The coaches were great, and I met a lot of great guys with my teammates.

"Even though it was tough out on the court, it is getting better."
Tolbert arrived in the fall of 2004. He might have been a part of a competitive team that season, but Marco Killingsworth, Lewis Monroe and DeWayne Curtis had transferred after a coaching change, and Brandon Robinson left the program before his senior year.

That left Tolbert with a 6-foot-6-and-under team that had to scrap for most of its wins during Tolbert's freshman season.

After Tolbert's first season, leading scorer Toney Douglas transferred. Tolbert remained with a freshman-heavy team that took its lumps during his sophomore year.

Then came Tolbert's junior season. Freshmen like Korvotney Barber, Quantez Robertson and Josh Dollard became sophomores, and Auburn jelled for a late surge.

The Tigers went into their final regular-season game at Ole Miss in a four-way tie for the SEC West Division lead. They lost, but things looked up for a team that won 17 games and was to return its top eight players.

Even after guard Kelvin Lewis transferred and signee Tyrell Lynch failed to qualify, Auburn had a core that entered preseason practice with expectations of 20 wins and an NCAA Tournament berth.

Dollard took a medical redshirt for undisclosed reasons. Archie Miaway slipped up academically. Barber broke a hand in December and was lost for the season. Freshman center Boubacar Sylla sustained a season-ending injury in the first home game.

Tolbert found himself playing for a senior-year team that resembled his freshman-year team ... undermanned and undersized. He has had to play like a power forward on defense, guarding the likes of Mississippi State big man Charles Rhodes.

“I think I want to be the four man whenever I go to the pros," he joked this week. "No, I would like to play the one or the two and get back to my natural position."

Even playing out of position, Tolbert has gotten it done. He enters tonight's game just shy of 1,200 career points and the respect of his coach.

Auburn coach Jeff Lebo saw Tolbert shed 40 points after the player's initial weigh-in at Auburn. He saw Tolbert hustle fanatically, ultimately learning how to do it while playing under control.
More than anything, Tolbert stayed.

"I have a lot of respect for Frank because he chose to stay here," Lebo said. "He didn't have to. A lot of kids were leaving. This is where he wanted to be and where he wanted to play. He has had a very good career for us. I am sad to see him go."

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Injury update

Besides defensive end Antonio Coleman (See blog below), Auburn had nine other scholarship players either sit out of Saturday's scrimmage or get hurt during the scrimmage. Here's where they stand, according to reports from Sunday's practice:

--RB/KR Tristan Davis (toe) is day to day.

--WR Robert Dunn (unknown) is day to day.

--RB/WR Mario Fannin (dislocated shoulder) is day to day.

--QB DeRon Furr (shoulder) is day to day.

--LB Bo Harris, who underwent offseason shoulder surgery, did non-contact drills Sunday.

-- WR Tim Hawthorne (broken arm) will undergo surgery and miss spring practice for the second year in a row.

--OG Chaz Ramsey (back) is day to day.

--WR Chris Slaughter (hamtring) is day to day.

--RB Ben Tate (hamstring) is day to day.

--QB Chris Todd (sore shoulder) did not practice Sunday and is day to day.

Coleman back at practice

Auburn junior defensive end Antonio Coleman was present at Sunday's practice, a day after sustaining a cervical sprain on the last play of Auburn's first scrimmage of spring practice.

Coleman was reportedly wearing street clothes and a neck brace. He is expected to make a full recovery, but it's uncertain when he will return to action.

Coleman will speak to media later this week, according to an Auburn spokesman.

Offensive tackle Lee Ziemba, who was involved in the play in which Coleman was hurt, was also off limits to media Sunday. It's unclear when he will be made available again.

Offenisve line coach Hugh Nall, who said Saturday that he had to watch film of the play, also did not speak to reporters Sunday.

Coleman and Ziemba were locked up on a pass play, the final play of a 126-play scrimmage. Some reports say action continued after the play.

Nall sent Ziemba to the bench immediately.

Ziemba will not be punished, Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville told reporters present at Sunday's evening practice.

"Anytime somebody gets hurt when you're trying to block them you kind of feel responsible," Tuberville said. "But there was zero intention.

"It was both guys competing all day. Each was punching each other right and left. That's football. You just hate something like that ever happens."

Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, one of Coleman's close friends on the team, said Ziemba apologized to Coleman after Coleman was released from East Alabama Regional Medical Center on Saturday.

Ziemba also planned to visit Coleman at Coleman's home Sunday night.

"There aren't any bad feelings against Lee," Marks said. "Everyone knows Lee goes one speed. He goes full speed. Walk-through, practice, game, that's just the speed he goes. He's always trying to do everything right."

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Coleman expected to recover fully

This from Auburn University athletics media relations:

AUBURN -- Auburn junior defensive end Antonio Coleman has full mobility to all of his extremities after suffering a cervical sprain during Saturday's scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Coleman is expected to make a full recovery.

Coleman, a native of Mobile, Ala., was taken via ambulance to East Alabama Medical Center for evaluative purposes, where he was treated and released. EAMC personnel were on site within five minutes of the injury.

Coleman update: 'It's really tough to see'

AUBURN -- Still no word on the condition of Auburn junior defensive end Antonio Coleman, who was immobilized and taken from Jordan-Hare Stadium in an ambulance after the final play of Auburn's spring scrimmage Saturday.

He did not appear to move as he lie face-down on the field for 10-15 minutes, nor did he gesture as paramedics rolled him on a stretcher to the back of the ambulance.

Coleman was taken to East Alabama Regional Medical Center in Opelika.

"He doesn't have a lot of feeling right now, but it's starting to come back," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said immediately after the scrimmage.

He said Coleman was conscious and talking to team medical staff and paramedics.

"It was kinda like getting a stinger," Tuberville said. "You get froze up there for a while, but everything was coming back."

Coleman went down after battling sophomore left tackle Lee Ziemba on a pass play. Auburn offensive line coach Hugh Nall said he didn’t see what transpired between Ziemba and Coleman.
Nall signaled for Ziemba to leave the field immediately after the play.

"Any time something like that happens, you worry about the kid getting upset or whatever, so we just took him out," Nall said. "That's hard to deal with sometimes. That shook everybody up."

Apparently anticipating a new play, Nall called Andrew McCain onto the field.

As the nature of Coleman's injury became apparent, Auburn's coaching staff called the end of a 126-play scrimmage. Ziemba stood on the field with the rest of the offensive players, watching as paramedics tended to Coleman.

A trainer patted Ziemba on the back as Coleman was rolled to the ambulance. Ziemba did not speak to media after the scrimmage.

"It's really tough," Auburn offensive guard Byron Isom said. "It's really unfortunate. He's a strong guy. It's really tough to see."

Scrimmage statistics, injury notes

Quickie stats from Auburn's scrimmage Saturday:

RUSHING (Att.-Yds.-TDs): QB DeRon Furr 10-57-0, RB Brad Lester 12-44-1, RB Anthony Jemison 6-35-0, RB Mario Fannin 3-12-0, RB Jason King 2-9-0, QB Kodi Burns 5-9-0, FB Ryan Hastie 4-7-0, QB Neil Caudle 4-(-2)-0.

PASSING (Comp.-Att.-Yds.-TDs-Int.): Neil Caudle 22-33-243-3-2, Kodi Burns 22-37-162-1-1, DeRon Furr 3-5-26-0-0.

RECEIVING (Rec.-Yds-TDs): SR Terrell Zachery 9-84-1, SR Robert Dunn 8-63-1, WR Montez Billings 6-57-0, TE Tommy Trott 5-33-0, WR Charles Olatunji 4-34-0, WR Quindarius Carr 2-59-1, RB Brad Lester 2-31-1, FB John Douglas 2-21-0, TE Brent Slusher 2-7-0, RB Anthony Jemison 2-4-0, WR James Swinton 1-20-0, WR Zack Shaw 1-12-0, TE Gabe McKenzie 1-5-0, WR Rod Smith 1-4-0, FB Jeffrey Tarver 1-(-3)-0, FB Ryan Hastie 1-(-2)-0.

TACKLES: S Zac Etheridge 8, S Mike Slade 8, LB Josh Bynes 8, LB Craig Stevens 8, LB Merrill Johnson 7, LB Courtney Harden 7, LB Tray Blackmon 6, CB Aairon Savage 5, DT Jake Ricks 5, LB Wade Christopher 5, DE Antonio Coleman 5, DT Mike Blanc 4, DE Sen'Derrick Marks 4, CB Walter McFadden 4, DT Zach Clayton 3, CB Jerraud Powers 3, CB Ryan Williams 3, S Mike McNeil 3, DE Antoine Carter 3, DE Michael Goggans 3, DE A.J. Greene 3, S Brian Anyadike 2, S Jeremy Flowers 2, LB Jacob Shirey 2, S Jonathan Vickers 1, LB Da'Shaun Barnes 1.

SACKS: DE Antonio Coleman 1, DT Mike Blanc 1, DE Sen'Derrick Marks 1.

INTERCEPTIONS (No.-Yds.-TD): DT Jake Ricks 1-0-1, LB Wade Christopher 1-6-0, S Jonathan Vickers 1-36-1.

INJURY NOTES: Besides Antonio Coleman's cervical sprain (see other blog entries), running back/slot receiver Mario Fannin left Saturday's scrimmage with an apparent separated left shoulder. ... Wide receiver Tim Hawthorne sat out of the scrimmage with a broken arm and will miss the rest of spring practice; he missed spring practice last year after injuries sustained in an automobile accident. ... Running back Ben Tate (hamstring) also sat out of Saturday's scrimmage. ... Same for starting guard Chaz Ramsey, though Nall offered said he didn't know the nature of the injury. Ramsey was in uniform but did not play. ... Quarterback Chris Todd (shoulder) suited up and took "mental reps," taking signals from the sideline while true freshman DeRon Furr took snaps, but did not participate in plays. Tuberville said Todd should be back in action soon. ... Furr sustained what offensive coordinator Tony Franklin called a sprained AC joint in his right shoudler but could be back within a week, Franklin said. ... Running back/kick returner Tristan Davis (toe) sat out of the scrimmage but is expected back in action soon.

Scary injury in Auburn scrimmage

AUBURN -- Auburn junior defensive end Antonio Coleman was immobilized and taken from Jordan-Hare Stadium in an ambulance after the final play of Auburn's spring-practice scrimmage Saturday.
He did not appear to move during his 10-15 minutes on the field, nor did he gesture in response to fans applauding and calling his name as paramedics rolled him on a stretcher to the back of the ambulance.
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said Coleman was conscious and talking but did not have much feeling. Tuberville said Coleman started to get more feeling while down on the field.
Coleman was taken to East Alabama Regional Medical Center in Opelika. Auburn athletics spokesman Kirk Sampson anticipates releasing a statement later this afternoon.
Coleman went down after battling sophomore left tackle Lee Ziemba on a pass play.
Auburn offensive line coach Hugh Nall signalled for Ziemba to leave the field immediately after the play. Apparently anticipating a new play, Nall called Andrew McCain onto the field.
As the nature of Coleman's injury became apparent, Auburn's coaching staff called the end of a long scrimmage. Ziemba stood on the field with the rest of the offense, watching as team medical personnel and paramedics tended to Coleman.
A trainer patted Ziemba on the back as Coleman was rolled to the ambulance.
Updates coming as soon as more information can be obtained.