Thursday, February 28, 2008

A vote for Lebo

So, who's the top college basketball coach in the state of Alabama?
According to voters on, it's Auburn's Jeff Lebo, and by a large margin. A check of the vote just minutes ago, at 1:10 a.m. central on Thursday, he had 43.9 percent of the vote.
The next-closest coach was UAB's Mike Davis, with 29.5 percent. South Alabama's Ronnie Arrow was the only other coach in double figures with 12.1 percent.
It's an interesting vote for Lebo, who has not won more than 17 games in any of his four Auburn seasons. With Auburn standing at 14-12, 4-9 SEC after losing at Mississippi State on Wednesday, the Tigers would have to win their final three regular-season games and one SEC Tournament game to best 17 victories this season.
The vote for Lebo shows a perception that he does more with less. He's dealt with injuries and unexpected personnel losses each year and eked out more wins than remaining talent justified.
Auburn entered this season with expectations of a breakthrough. The Tigers were to return their top eight players from a 17-win team.
A transfer, injuries, academics and forward Josh Dollard's unexpected medical redshirt for unspecified reasons reduced Auburn to seven available scholarship players for most of this season.
The Tigers were expected to fade in February, but they've won two of their last four games. They've continued to play hard and find ways to eke out wins here and there. They've played close against good teams like Vanderbilt.
So Lebo gets the vote this year, and he'll have a chance to breakthrough next year. Assuming everyone who could have eligibility is available ... and all four members of a top 25 recruiting class qualify ... he'll get the chance to show what he can do with a full roster of his recruits.
Then, perhaps, we can take another vote.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

An interesting night ... and day ... in the life

This is normally the place for Auburn fans to read about, well, Auburn, but an occasional shared experience can't hurt, can it?
I bet that a lot of folks around here have flu stories to tell, either from direct experience or vicariously through loved ones. I bet a lot of folks had storm stories today, too.
I have both.
My wife Rhonda has the flu, or is it the other way around? A nurse, she had heard that a flu strain was exploding around here. As soon as we realized she might have it, we quarantined my 22-month-old son Hayden at mom-in-law's.
He was down with a light strain of pneumonia just last week.
Anyhoo, my work today involved all writing, which I did on my laptop at home. In between writing sessions, I went back and forth between houses, taking care of Rhonda, playing with Hayden ... and surveying storm damage.
That sure was a wicked thunderstorm that came through here about 4:15 this morning. And I mean wicked, as in the worst thunderstorm I've experienced in recent memory.
The storm siren, which is about 50 yards from our house, roared at 4:10. I got on, because they always have details. The National Weather Service warning bulletin placed the storm east of Lincoln and heading right at us here in Oxford. It was packing 80 mph wind gusts and "destructive hail."
The storm was moving at about 70 mph, so there had to be incredible wind force pushing it.
We have tall trees across the street from our house and in the woods out back, so I was concerned. Just about the time that thought occurred, hail started pelting the roof. The house creaked so hard it cracked. The power went out.
I took my flashlight and poked my head out the front door for a second, and I've never seen trees bent so far over that close to my home. The wind howled like the devil's own voice.
It was scary, but it passed quickly. The worst passed elsewhere.
Mom-in-law's street has huge oaks uprooted and lying on the ground. You can tell straight-line winds did the damage, because all trees fell the same way.
That worked well for her street, because the trees fell sideways instead of back on the houses. A family living on a perpendicular street wasn't so lucky, and the neighborhood was abuzz with power company trucks, tree cutters, emergency management personnel and folks in my line of work.
Damage for the in-laws was light ... shingles, fallen limbs and debris. A rainbow-colored volleyball parked in the middle of the front yard, and Hayden claimed it with a happy grin.
I'm sure he's already forgotten it, so the rightful owner need only email me at
I hung out there for awhile, then came back home to write two stories and baby Rhonda.
Then it was back over to mom's to play with Hayden. I got on all fours and rode him on my back around the house. I played for him a video cell-phone message from Rhonda, which opened his lips in a wide grin around his left thumb.
When the message ended, he said, "Bye bye mommy. I wuh you."
I headed back home for the night, picking up dinner along the way. I saw what would have been a great picture ... a gaggle of cherry-picker trucks parked at Western Sizzlin. I thought, "They've had a hard day. They've earned their dinner bar."
Once back home, I helped Rhonda devour pepperoni pizza and cheese sticks. We popped a movie in the DVD player, and I got a kick out of watching four guys go all midlife in "Wild Hogs."
I related to that movie, better than I could have at any other time in my life. I don't even want to think about why.
After the movie, Rhonda went to bed, and now I'm writing this.
I never want Rhonda or Hayden to be sick, and I would never wish storm damage or injuries on anyone. On the upside, an unshaven day in sweats and fleece, spent mostly in the loving service of family, can't be all bad.
Best to all,

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Preaching to the choir, leveling with the press

AUBURN -- Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville poured it on Sunday, assuring a crowd of 10,500 at Auburn's men's basketball victory over Alabama that tales of Auburn's football decline are greatly exaggerated.
"Regardless what you read and what you hear, we will still have a football team next year," he said in a thundering voice.
Tuberville was speaking during ceremonies to mark Auburn's retention of the James Foy/ODK Sportsmanship Trophy, which goes each year to the winner of the Alabama-Auburn football game. Auburn won 17-10 on Nov. 24 2007, marking the Tigers' sixth consecutive victory over its chief rival.
However, Alabama stole Auburn's thunder on National Signing Day earlier this month. Second-year coach Nick Saban energized the Tide fan base with the nation's No. 1 recruiting class, according to most recruiting services.
Auburn's class was ranked 20th, but Alabama won all head-to-head battles with Auburn and took most of the state's top prospects.
The recruiting news caused much angst among the Auburn fan base, but Tuberville sounded a resounding and reassuring note Sunday.
"We've won six, and we're working on seven. War Eagle!" Tuberville said.
He sounded a slightly more cautious note after Sunday's opening session of spring practice.
"We've got a chance to have a good football team," he told a huddle of reporters. "I think this group has jelled to do something special, but we have to wait and tell as we go through spring.
"You never want to make any predictions until you see what this group is about, but I like the attitude, and that's where you start."
Here's what else Tuberville had to say after day one of spring practice:

--Opening comment:
"Good first day, good intensity. With this offense, you have no choice but to do that, but it was great weather, and I thought our guys came out in the right frame of mind. You've got to do two days in shorts, so we'll do this same thing very early Tuesday morning at 7 o'clock, so we'll see all of you here.
"I watched the quarterbacks today. I'm pretty impressed with all of our quarterbacks, how they're picking all of this stuff up. We only got a small portion of what we want to run in for the bowl game, so we've got a lot to do, but I like what we're doing.
"Defensively, there's not a lot you can do without pads on, but we've got good leaders this year. I think this group will be the best leadership we've had the last few years, and we've had good leadership to this point, so that will make us even better.
"We've got a chance to have a good football team. I think this group has jelled to do something special, but we have to wait and tell as we go through spring. You never want to make any predictions until you see what this group is about, but I like the attitude, and that's where you start."

--Newness create more energy?
"There's not a lot new on defense. New guys. I'll have to wait until we get in pads. Offensively, this offense still amazes me, how many reps you can get in practice, and it really keeps everybody, coaches and players, managers, everybody on their toes. When you go against your defense, it really keeps everybody concentrating. I think sometimes you need that in practice, because you can get a little bit lackadasical. With this tempo, nobody can drop their guard. You've got to be ready to go and concentrating. The new clock rules, the 40-second clock rule, I think that will help us a little bit more, so we'll see what happens."

--Anyone not here?
"Ben Tate had an award that he didn't get in high school that he want to California to pick up today. He wouldn't have practiced. He's got a thigh bruise or something, but he'll be back tomorrow. … High school award. He got the award, but he didn't go. They asked him to come and be a part of it this year. They had somebody else getting that award, but he's never attended the banquet, so that was good."

--Tyronne Green (starting offensive guard)?
"I don't know. He's got a sore thigh. He's been out for about two weeks. He's been out for about two weeks, but he'll be ready to go soon."

--Any one quarterback stick out?
"Nah. We'll hold judgment until Saturday. Saturday will be judgment day, when we scrimmage. We'll practice Tuesday and Thursday, Thursday in pads, morning again. Friday afternoon. It'll be a good practice, and then we'll flip it around and go 9:30 on Saturday morning and probably go about 170-180 plays. All of these guys will get good looks. They'll get 30-40 plays each, so it'll be a pretty good report card coming out Saturday afternoon."

--Going in the stadium?
"Going in the stadium."

--Did you watch new defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads today at all?
"I heard him a couple of times. I thought he broke down well. I thought he hollered well. He ran drills well. He's going to have to get some sun on his legs, being from Pittsburgh. It's a little bit bright. He had to wear some sunglasses early."

--Talk about induction to Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame?
"It was good. A lot of those guys like Jerry McKinnis, I grew up watching them on television. It was two days of festivities. It was to spend a lot of time with them away from the banquet and a lot of guys that I watched in football over the years play. I saw a lot of high school friends. My college coach was there. He did remember my name and number. We had a good talk. Everybody gets a little (couldn't hear). We had a lot of family, so it was a fun night. It was something I'll always remember. … My speech, I did talk about Tubby's Catfish."

--Talk about Junior Day for recruits?
"Junior day went real well. We invited 52 juniors, and 52 of them showed up, a lot of them with parents, and that's another reason we wanted to practice today is to give them the opportunity to watch these guys, but it was also a good day to start. You know, with the basketball game and be able to talk about academics a little bit with them, about the beginning of recruiting, the baseball game going on and then practice, so we had a lot of activities going on, but we had a lot of good players here. Had some interest. Hopefully, we'll have some guys make decisions early."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Auburn announces spring practice schedule

Here's the tentative spring football practice schedule announced by Auburn on Wednesday.

Feb. 24 - approx 3:15 p.m. (helmets/sweats)

Feb. 26 - 7 a.m. (helmets/sweats)

Feb. 28 - 7 a.m. (pads)

Feb. 29 - 4 p.m.

March 1 - 10 a.m.

March 2 - 4 p.m.

March 4 - 7 a.m.

March 7 - 4 p.m.

March 8 - 10 a.m.

March 11 - 7 a.m.

March 14 - 4 p.m.

March 23 - 5 p.m.

March 25 - 7 a.m.

March 28 - 4 p.m. (helmets/sweats)

March 29 - A-Day – 1 p.m.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Spring Football

For those of you wanting to keep up with the rest of the league, here's the spring football dates as released by the SEC.

Alabama (Start: March 13 / Finish: April 15 / Spring Game - April 12)
Arkansas (Start: April 3 / Finish: April 26)
Auburn (Start: Feb. 28 / Finish: March 29)
Florida (Start: March 19 / Finish: April 12)
Georgia (Start: March 3 / Finish: April 5)
Kentucky (Start: March 26 / Finish: April 19)
LSU (Start: Feb. 29 / Finish: April 5)
Ole Miss (Start: March 17 / Finish: April 12)
Mississippi State (Start: Feb. 26 / Finish: March 29)
South Carolina (Start: March 19 / Finish: April 19)
Tennessee (Start: March 11 / Finish: April 19)
Vanderbilt (Start: March 11 / Finish: April 5 / Spring Game - March 29)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tubs' Takes on signees

What Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville had to say about Auburn's 28 football signees, from Auburn athletics media relations:

Quoting Auburn Head Coach Tommy Tuberville
Auburn 2008 Signees

Darvin Adams
“Darvin Adams is an excellent outside receiver. He’s got height and speed and should be very good in this offense.”

Harry Adams
“Harry is probably the most versatile athlete that we signed. He could be a kick returner, punt returner, could also play receiver and also play some defensive back. He has outstanding speed as evident by the fact that he’s run a 10.3 100 meters.”

Ken Adams
“Ken is a big kid that can run. He’s very athletic for someone his size and he has great hands.”

Dashaun Barnes
“Dashaun comes from the tradition-rich Tallahassee Lincoln program. He’s got great quickness and speed and is very strong. He will play outside linebacker but could possibly grow up to an inside linebacker.”

T’Sharvan Bell
“T’Sharvan played quarterback in high school, and is one of thebest players in the state of Florida. He will play cornerback and is a player that reminds me a lot of Carlos Rogers.”

Drew Cole
“Drew Cole comes from an athletic family, as his brother played at LSU. Drew is an all-around athlete who could play safety or cornerback.”

Dax Dellenbach
“Dax comes from a family that has been in football a long time. His dad, Jeff, played in the NFL for many years. The only thing Dax will do for us is be a long snapper, and he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen in high school. He’s very fundamentally sound, and you can tell his father’s brought him along and done a great job with him.”

DeRon Furr
“DeRon led his team to a state championship as quarterback for Carver. He has an opportunity to be a great quarterback in the spread offense. He’s big and strong and can run and throw.”

Raven Gray
“Raven is a junior college transfer that we signed two years ago. He was the top junior college player in the country and at 6-5, 263-pounds, he’ll be a big asset to our defensive line.”

Cameron Henderson
“Cameron is a tall, rangy defensive lineman, who will play defensive end. He has a great first step and is an excellent pass rusher.”

D’Antoine Hood
“D’Antoine is the cousin of former Auburn standout Roderick Hood. He is fast, quick, and very good in man coverage as a corner. He will play nickel and dime for us while he learns the position.”

Reggie Hunt
"Reggie is one of the quickest running backs that we saw on film during the year. He has excellent football skills and can really catch and run with the football.”

Marcus Jemison
“Marcus is a defensive back that plays safety and has very good range. He has a knack for being around the football. His high school coach says he’s one of the hardest hitters he’s ever seen.”

Jermaine Johnson
“Jermaine is probably one of the better offensive linemen that we’ve signed in the long line of guys we’ve signed on the offensive line. He comes from a very good high school system at St.Thomas Aquinas and will have an excellent opportunity to start his first year.”

Neiko Lipscomb
“Neiko is a tall, rangy defensive back that can play cornerback or safety, and has lots of speed.”

Derrick Lykes
“Derrick is a big, strong defensive lineman that will have a chance to play end or tackle. He’s very athletic and he kind of reminds me of former Auburn offensive lineman Ben Grubbs.”

Onterio McCalebb
“Onterio is extremely quick and fast. He is one of the better athletes that I saw on film during the 2007 season.”

Phillip Pierre-Louis
“Phillip will be an outside receiver in the spread offense. He isvery good at carrying the football from the backfield position and also has great hands.”

Spencer Pybus
“Spencer has the potential to be a very good player at Auburn. He has a great work ethic, outstanding strength and speed and will fit inwell with our linebacker corp.”

Jomarcus Savage
“Jomarcus is one of the top defensive linemen in the south, who will end up being a 300-pounder that has great quickness.”

Eric Smith
“Eric is very similar to former Tiger running back Rudi Johnson. He’s a real quick type of running back that runs very well both inside and outside.”

Vance Smith
“Vance comes from an Auburn family and loves Auburn. His dad is the defensive coordinator at his high school, so he has very good football knowledge. He has a great opportunity to be an outstanding tight end in this offense.”

Freddie Smooth
“Freddie is 6-5, 305 pounds, but runs like a 215-pounder. He has alot of speed, quickness and determination.”

Christian Thompson
“Christian is a safety that played on a state championship team at St. Thomas Aquinas. He was the leader of their defense and their offense. He’s very athletic, and a very skilled football player.”

Chris Todd
“Chris has run the spread offense all of his life and understands it. He has a great arm and I’m looking forward to having him.”

Barrett Trotter
“Barrett is probably the best quarterback that we saw running the spread offense consistently. He can throw or run and has the opportunity to continue running the spread offense and we’re excited about it.”

Andre Wadley
“Andre is the top defensive lineman in the state of Mississippi, who reminds us of a little bit bigger Quentin Groves. He’ll play that position – linebacker/defensive end. He’s a very athletic player.”

Derek Winter
“Derek caught over 150 passes combined his junior and senior year with 40-plus touchdowns. He’s very productive with great hands. He’ll play both inside and outside receiver and we’re excited to have him, plus he’s a 4.0 student.”

Signing-day update

Auburn received national letters of intent from the following football recruits Wednesday:

WR Darvin Adams, Kennesaw, Ga.
WR Harry Adams, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
TE Ken Adams, Enterprise
LB Da'Shaun Barnes, Tallahassee, Fla. (enrolled)
CB T'Sharvan Bell, Kissimmee, Fla.
DB Drew Cole, Picayune, Miss.
DS Dax Dallenbach, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
QB DeRon Furr, Columbus, Ga. (enrolled)
DE Raven Gray, Wesson, Miss. (enrolled)
DE Cameron Henderson, Birmingham
CB D'Antoine Hood, Phenix City
RB Reggie Hunt, Daphne
DB Marcus Jemison, McCalla
OL Jermaine Johnson, Chatham, Va.
DB Neiko Lipscomb, Tucker, Ga.
DE Derrick Lykes, Clanton
RB Onterrio McCalebb, Ft. Meade, Fla.
WR Philip Pierre-Louis, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
LB Spencer Pybus, Dothan
DE Jomarcus Savage, Huntsville
RB Eric Smith, Seffner, Fla.
TE Vance Smith, Pace, Fla.
DT Freddie Smooth, Baton Rouge, La.
DB Christian Thompson, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
QB Chris Todd, Hutchinson, Kan. (enrolled)
QB Barrett Trotter, Birmingham
DE Andre Wadley, Hernando, Miss.
WR Derek Winter, Tampa, Fla.

Tuberville touts 'excellent' class, staff's evaluation of talent

From his signing-day news conference at noon today

NOTE: At the time of the news conference, Auburn had not yet received national letters of intent from four commitments: wire receivers Harry Adams and Damion Allen, all-purpose running back Onterrio McCalebb and athlete Brandon Smith.
Also, running back Enrique Davis, a 2007 Auburn signee and former Auburn commitment for 2008, had signed with Ole Miss. Defensive back George Baker, another former Auburn commitment, signed with South Florida.
High school senior Robert Quinn, a four-star defensive end who had Auburn among his finalists, signed with North Carolina.

---Opening statement:
"It’s been a good day for us. Today is an exciting day for us and all college football coaches around the country. Signing day is an accumulation of a lot of work, a lot of time and effort out of a lot of people … our coaching staff, our administration, everybody here on campus, our professors, everybody that gets involved with our student athletes when they come on campus. We’re proud of the efforts that everybody has put forth. This has been an excellent year. We’re excited about the class that we signed. We still have a couple out there that I won’t be able to say anything about because we have not received their letters. They should be on the way. You have to receive a fax before you can talk about them.
"We set out in a lot of areas in the Southeast to try to improve this football team. In terms of certain positions, we always look for defensive linemen, linemen in any area. This year we also looked for cornerbacks. We graduated three. Some of these young men that we signed this year will have the opportunity to come in and play. We also were looking for quarterbacks. Being in a new offense, we needed to broaden our horizons in terms of guys that can run this type of offense, and we were very successful in that. We also signed four wide receivers, which at times we’re going to have to be in a four- and five-wide receiver set. So it was good in those regards.
"We were very excited about the reception that we had all across the South of parents, coaches and recruits of having us in their homes and their schools, and it was an enjoyable recruiting process. Our coaches worked hard, and I think this class is an accumulation of a lot of hard work from a lot of different people, not just a few.
"Having two new coordinators, a lot of people will say, did that set you back any? I really didn’t, because recruiting basically is done in a short period of time of during the season and getting your guys lined up in terms of the guys that you want. I thought that Paul Rhoads (defense) and Tony Franklin (offense) did a good job of helping out in the end and pointing out facts of what they thought would help in terms of the guys that we need to run the positions that they’re going to coach, whether it’s on offense or defense. The big area, again, was offensively and making some changes in terms of philosophy in terms of what we’re looking for in terms of recruits.
"Unfortunately, sometimes when you do that, you have to switch gears and change some ideas of who scholarships you’re going to offer to, when you change in midstream like that, so it didn’t really hurt us. I didn’t think it affected us much. I thought that, if you look at the list that we’ve got here, we’ve got a lot of good linemen. We’ve got a lot of speed, tremendous speed, probably the fastest group that we’ve got. This is the most defensive backs that we’ve signed since we’ve been here, and that’s a very important area for us this year and the next few years.
"A lot of these guys will have the opportunity to play next year. We give them all the opportunity. Last year was the first time we ever played a significant amount of true freshmen. I think last year we played up to 15 at some point during the year. I’d look at the same … we’d like to say 15 of these are going to play, but you have to wait and see in terms of how they come in in terms of being in shape and ready to play this caliber of football.
"We signed eight linemen, six defensive backs, four wide receivers and three quarteracks, two running backs, two tight ends and two linebackers. You can’t spread it out much more than that.
"I thought our coaches did a great job in state. This is probably the most that we’ve ever signed in the stae of Alabama in one year. We signed nine players, and I think it’s an excellent group, not just of athletes but also students, guys that can come and make it academically and get a degree and also play as a member of a team, a group that wants to win and win championships. We’re going to have good football teams for the next coming years. This group will help this team become better, and that’s what you try to do every year, try to be improved in certain areas but also improve in the areas of character and attitude, and I think this group is going to be very good at that.
"It was a good year, excellent year, and we look forward, hopefully, this afternoon, to adding a couple more to this list that will even make it better. Questions:"

---Enrique Davis recruitment?
"Recruiting Enrique was one of those deals where, as I said earlier, we changed our style of offense, and I think that was the main thing. He wanted to go somewhere where he could possibly be on a two-back team, which we’re still some two-back. But, as I tell all of these young guys when we’re recruiting them, you’ve got to do what’s best for you. Don’t do what’s best for the school. You’ve got to do what’s best for you, because it’s hard I terms of academics, and when you throw the athletic part on top of that, it even makes it harder, and you want to enjoy the situation that you’re in. If it’s not a hundred percent, we don’t want them to come here, because it’s a challenge in all areas. Enrique is a good young man. We’ll get to play against him now, and we know how good he is, and we look forward to that."

---Class not ranked as high as those in couple of years?
"Yea, the last two or three years – and we don’t look at rankings, as you just said – but the last two or three years, we’ve been very high in the rankings. I look at players that can fit in what we do and how we do it. We do a tremendous amount of evaluating, and this was a year where a lot of people were desperate in recruiting, it looked like, because we got bombarded with a lot of guys that we had committed, and they come in and obviously try to take them away. Some we held onto. Some we didn’t. But it’s a challenge to fight the media hype of a lot of guys. Again, we’re not going to sign someone just because they’re ranked real high. We have signed the Sen’Derrick Markses and Courtney Taylors and Devin Aromashodus, those guys that have been great football players that were one or two stars, and we’ve got several this year we think are going to be great football players. But again, we evaluate not just on athletic ability, and that’s what most of the star rankings are. They’re not looking at character and attitude, and we put just as much an effort to judge those players on that as we do athletic ability. And I know a lot of people look at that. Last year, we had a year where again it was ranked very high and national stats. This year, we won’t be ranked as high because we don’t have as many high profile guys, but again you’ve got to take what you feel like is going to make you a better football team. I think this team can win championships, coming up. I think this group can help win championships and can be a great group at the end of their third or fourth year. That’s the thing I look for. I look in recruiting in terms of, are guys going to be with us three or four years from now, not one or two years. If they’re with us three or four years from now, they’ll be much better players and much better for their academics, and it will all work out. This is a team sport. That’s how we judge it by character and attitude. Obviously, you’ve got to have speed and athletic ability, and you have to have potential, and we’re not going to sign one unless we think they have potential, but if they don’t have those other two, they’re not going to make it here. They won’t survive. You’ve got to have that attitude, and you’ve got to have good character."

---JUCO quarterback Chris Todd?
"Chris Todd will make an immediate impact. He knows the offense. He’s a big guy. He can throw it. He’s got good touch on the football. Talking to Mike Leach at Texas Tech, he had to make a decision back when Chris was there, there was a young guy that he had to make a decision on whether Chris was going to be the starter. The other one was a year advanced and more experienced, and Chris decided at the time to try to go to a junior college and try to go to another four-year school. Fortunately for us, he came to our place. Again, he brings more experience than what we have, but we’ll have a lot of competition at quarterback this spring. We’ll have four quarterbacks that will go after it. They’ve got a lot to learn in the next three weeks, and when we start spring practice, it should be fun to watch them run this offense."

---JUCO DE Raven Gray?
"Raven Gray is as good a defensive lineman as we’ve ever signed. He was a guy that went to junior college, and even though we put him in a junior college, a lot of people continued to recruit him, and he stuck with us, and we’re proud for that. He did have a knee injury during this past season. He’s had surgery with Dr. Andrews. He’ll be fine. He won’t go through spring, but he’s got a lot of quicks, a lot of speed. He’s a guy that’s going to be an impact player for us. Sometimes you sign guys that you know are going to be good football players, but you don’t know how far they can go, but Raven is going to be an impact player. He’s a guy that can make plays, run people down from behind, bull rush offensive linemen, but he’s got a lot of speed to go along with it. He’s going to be an exciting guy to watch."

---How many players do you expect to place in junior colleges or prep schools?
"We’re going to have four or five of these that will go to junior college or prep school. You’ve got to do that. There’s not anybody on this list or anybody’s list that’s qualified because the 16 core courses (new rule) has really tested the limits of counselors and superintendents and principals and all of these kids. You know, they’re scrambling, and it’s a new rule. We don’t know what’s going to be the impact of it, but it’s out there for these players to reach. I’m not saying it’s not a fair rule, but it’s going to be a challenge. Fourteen core courses was tough. Sixteen is going to be even tougher, and I hope we stop there, but it could change in a few years. We don’t have any control over that. A lot of these guys are still working on completing their four core courses. Also, there are several that are still short on the test, but there’s several more that they can take between now and August first."

---Defensive linemen who can have an immediate impact?
"I think Freddie Smooth, I don’t like signing guys that are 300 pounds to think that they’re going to come in and play early, because I think sometimes they have a lot of work to do in terms of getting in shape. Freddie is not one of those guys. He can carry 300 pounds, actually 305. He’s got excellent quicks. Just talking to his coaches and the ones that played against him, he’s got a great first step, and that’s what you look for in a defensive tackle. So I think there’s no doubt, with us losing a Pat Sims early coming out in the draft and Josh Thompson graduating, I think he’ll have a definite chance to play early.
"Jomarcus Savage is a guy that can play inside and outside. We’re going to try to play him both. I think playing defensive end early for him is going to help him because losing a couple of guys. The way he plays with his hands, he’s got quick feet, but he’s a very good hands player. He knows how to use his hands and get off blocks. I think he can help."I think the guy that you didn’t bring up is Andre Wadley. He reminds me of a bigger Quentin Groves. He was one of the top D-linemen in Mississippi, and he’s a great young man. We’ve recruited him for two years in terms of just watching him and evaluating him and knowing the coaches that coached him. I’ve known them now for 13, 14 years. They’re really high on him. His brother was Johnny Jones, played at Mississippi State, and so he comes from a good background. He knows football, knows high school football, knows college football. He understands what he’s getting into, so we’re excited about our D-linemen.
"Cameron Henderson, too. He reminds me of a younger Raven Gray. Cameron is tall, 6-6. Those guys are hard to find. They’re hard to find in terms of being the size that you want them to be in high school that they’re going to need to be in college to play and to be beneficial in terms of playing defensive line in this league."

---Defensive backs have early impact?
"At least two of our defensive backs are going to have to play because now everybody’s playing a lot of the four- and five-wide receiver sets. Last year, there were times during the games where we played almost the entire games with five defensive backs on the field at the same time. So that was a big area of need for us. It was good to have guys that committed early for us, because we didn’t have to – we didn’t quit in the recruiting process; we just quit evaluating other guys. I think Hood, from Phenix City, Roderick Hood’s nephew, is really going to be an excellent player.
"All of these guys, defensive backs, we evaluated in our camps. I think it’s important for us in our camps, and has been for the last few years, to evaluate them and to know just exactly what kind of player that we’re getting in terms of speed, quickness. Can you play press man? Can you play zone? We really evaluate them hard in our camps, and it really helps in the evaluation process and in the recruiting process, knowing what they can do and their strengths and weaknesses and being able to sell them to the point that, hey, you can come in and play early. This is what you can do, and we need you to do it."

---Wide receivers?
"Yea. This offense, as we all saw up close and personal less than a month ago in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, we’re going to throw the ball. You still have to run the ball to win. We’re going to run it more than 50 percent of the time, but we’re going to have a lot more plays. We averaged 56-60 plays per game last season on offense. In the bowl game, we had 93, and it gives you more opportunities to get the ball to certain people. We needed to have speed in certain areas.
"Philip Pierre (Pierre-Louis) is not a big guy. He’s a guy that’s got tremendous speed, and we think he can come in and help us next year playing inside and outside receiver. It really doesn’t make a difference in this offense how big they are. It’s just, can they use their quickness to make somebody miss? It’s like a running back in the backfield. That’s a lot of what this offense is about, getting the ball to the wide receivers and short passes and making somebody miss, so Philip Pierre is one of those types of guys. We think he’s going to be a heck of a football player for us.
"The guy that we’re excited about --- and we waited late to offer him because in the past people have noticed how well we’ve done winning football games in this conference; I think people realize how well our coaches evaluate, and they do a great job of evaluating players --- and we knew that this young man could play. We waited late to offer him a scholarship, we felt like, to keep the wolves off of him, so to speak, but we offered Derek Winter less than a week ago. After that --- he had one scholarship offer; after that, he got four scholarship offers from Division I schools after we offered --- we still have to fight them off in a short period of time. But Derek Winter caught close to 170, 180 passes in two years and he was one of the best receivers that I’ve seen play in this offense, which is the spread offense, which he played in. He’s made acrobatic catches, made a lot of people miss, caught a lot of deep balls. He’s one of the few guys that we didn’t evaluate in our camps. We did evaluate him in games and off the film, but he’s a guy that I think can really come in an play early. He’s got that type of talent. Very fortunate to get him. I thought the way that our coaches handled it in terms of recruiting and waiting a little bit late I think gave us a little better opportunity to get him to come to Auburn because there would have been a lot more interest had we offered him a little bit earlier. But he is a good player."

---Recruiting in general?
"Nah, it really doesn’t make any difference. I learned a long time ago and learning under guys that I’ve worked for – Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson – winning takes care of recruiting. It really doesn’t have anything to do with how you recruit. It depends on how you play the game, the type of offense and defense. How much fun the players think they do and how much opportunities they have to come in and win but also have to play early. I think that’s a big factor. We had several players that we recruited this year that we knew we probably wouldn’t have a good chance to get them because it was going to be a couple of years before they got on the field. Having good classes the last few years, it kind of put a negative thought into a lot of players’ minds, recruits’ minds, knowing that, ‘I’ll have a better chance at another school to play earlier, but if I go to Auburn, it’s going to be a little tougher.’ But you know, that’s part of it. We had people telling recruits that, which affected it, but in the long run, you go out and recruit guys that want to come to at your place, try to get them to come and let them know what they’re getting into. Don’t sell them a dream. Sell them reality, and if you do that, I think it gives you a better chance to be successful."

---Recruiting high-profile players?
"I think a little of it had to do with what I just said. We’re going to have a pretty good team next year. We have a lot of guys coming back. A lot of the more high-profile players think, ‘I can go to this place and play sooner,’ which is fine. That’s happened for us before. Like corners for instance, we were able to get some corners pretty early to commit to us because they saw the need that we had. Next year, it’s going to be a little bit more difficult for us, because we’re going to have a lot more younger corners. You try to balance it out. You try to also go after players that you know you have a chance to get sometimes. There might be a high-profile guy that you might think you can get, but deep down, if you’re going to waste a lot of time on that guy, you can be spending it on somebody else that you might think you have a better chance to get.
"There’s a lot of cat-and-mouse games in this recruiting that you have to play. The big thing about our staff is that we’ve had a consistent staff. Recruiting is a small part of a coach’s job. The number one thing about a coach’s job is evaluating. Anybody can recruit. You’ve got to be able to evaluate and be able to pick the guys that can play, not whether you think they can play. The ones that can do that usually have more success. We’ve had pretty good success with some pretty good players and supposedly average players over the last few years that I would argue with about that.
"But again, it’s been a good day for us. We finished up. Tomorrow we’ll start on next year. It will be 364 days before the next year, and we’ll see what we do next year, but we feel like we have an excellent class. I’m looking forward to putting these guys together starting in June and start build them with the other players and getting ready for next season."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Add a commitment and signing-day thoughts

Auburn picked up its 29th commitment Tuesday, but it appears to be good news/bad news.
Dothan Northview High School linebacker Spencer Pybus picked Auburn over his only other Division I offer, Duke. He's a two-star prospect.
Auburn was expected to take only one linebacker this year, and Auburn fans hoped that it would be Gadsden City's Jerrell Harris. He's considering Auburn, Alabama and Southern Cal.
That Auburn took a commitment from Pybus likely means the coaching staff has reason to believe Harris will go elsewhere. It's also worth noting that Auburn will hold its signing-day news conference at noon Wednesday, two hours before Harris announces his choice.
On the upside for Auburn, there's a case for considering Pybus an underrated recruit. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, he reportedly can run the 40-yard dash in 4.5-4.6 seconds. He returned three interceptions for touchdowns in 2007.
Also, Auburn appears to be in good shape to bring five-star running back Enrique Davis and three-star defensive back George Baker back in the fold. Both decommitted in January.
The Tigers also appear to be in good shape for four-star defensive end Robert Quinn.


Of the potentially 30-plus signees Auburn could have today, several will be sign-and-place guys because of academics. They will end up at prep schools and junior colleges.
A small 2007 senior class means Auburn did not have the NCAA-maximum 25 scholarships to give this year, so they took a lot of sign-and-place commitments.
That and the fact that freshmen and sophomores made up 67 percent of Auburn's 2007 roster ... and many of those guys played significant time ... mean that Auburn's coaching staff could not sell early playing time f0r most positions this year.
That's why this class is a need-based class, not a top overall class. Auburn needed wide receivers, quarterbacks, defensive linemen and defensive backs, and 24 of 29 overall commitments come from players at those positions.
It's part of the natural cycle of college football in the scholarship-limit age. Teams recruit well for two or three years, then cycle down. That's because most top players want to play early.
Auburn recruited well in 2005, 2006 and 2007, and this year's top prep seniors knew that. At most positions, they would have to wait.
Auburn's class still ranks in the top 20: No. 16, according to; and No. 19, according to

Monday, February 4, 2008

Winter's day

Auburn picked up its 29th commitment Monday, this coming from Tampa (Fla.) Plant High School two-star wide receiver Derek Winter.
The 6-foot, 178-pound Winter chose Auburn over offers from Georgia Tech, Iowa, South Florida, Virginia and Army, according to
Winter caught 75 passes for 1,686 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior.
The national signing period starts Wednesday.

New commitment for AU

Auburn filled the spot vacated by the decommitment of defensive back George Baker by getting a commitment from three-star defensive back Neiko Lipscomb on Sunday, reported.
He becomes Auburn's 28th public commitment.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Lipscomb reportedly chose Auburn over offers from Alabama, Georgia, Michigan State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
The Tucker, Ga., prospect lists as the nation's No. 35 safety and Georgia's No. 28 overall prospect.
Lipscomb reportedly must improve his SAT score by about 100 points to qualify to play as a true freshman.
The national signing period begins Wednesday.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Giant case of de ja vu

Auburn watchers viewing Super Bowl XLII tonight might have seen something familiar in how the New York Giants upset the heavily favored New England Patriots.
It looked a lot like how Auburn won big games in the last two years.
The Giants did it in large part because their defensive line won the line of scrimmage. How often did Auburn watchers see the Tigers' D-line do the same, especially in 2007? The best line in Tommy Tuberville's nine years as head coach line was the biggest reason why Auburn won nine games.
Back to tonight, the Giants' offense played ball control. The first quarter played out like a high school quarter, with both teams having one possession. A Fox graphic in the second quarter showed the Giants with a huge edge in possession time.
How many times did Auburn watchers see that over the last two years? At its best, Auburn's offense was a time eater and rest giver to its strong defense.
The Giants played to keep the Patriots' record-setting offense off the field and to be in striking distance in the fourth quarter. It worked, and then the Giants' oft-maligned, unspectacular quarterback came through with a game-winning drive.
How many times did Auburn and Brandon Cox do the same in 2006 and 2007? Enough for Auburn to win 20 games.
The Giants did it tonight and won 17-14 ... a very Auburn-like score, circa 2006 and 2007. Both teams did it in an unspectacular, nerve-wracking-for-fans way, but it's tried and true.
Now, Auburn watchers have visions of the Tigers' games playing out differently. They see more points with new coordinator Tony Franklin and his spread offense.
The spread worked well enough for Auburn to pull off a mild upset of higher-ranked Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, though the Tigers scored only 17 points in regulation and still won more because of their defense. Over the long haul, will the new way be at least as effective as plodding and plugging has been for Auburn and was for the Giants tonight?
I believe Auburn does not beat Florida the last two years by engaging in a scoring match. Good old ball control, defense, a break or two and gutsy game management won those games, and the Tigers would not have won either game another way.
The Giants would not have won another way tonight. A football purist had to love watching them beat the powerful Pats with sound football.

Friday, February 1, 2008

West Virginia game moved

This from Auburn athletics media relations today:


AUBURN—The 2008 Auburn football game at West Virginia which was originally scheduled for Sept. 6 has been moved to Thursday, Oct.23, and will be televised nationally on ESPN.
“This move will give us a great opportunity to receive the national spotlight on ESPN on a Thursday night,” head coach TommyTuberville said. “We want to make our schedule as competitive as anybody, and playing an outstanding non-conference opponent like West Virginia will do just that.”
Auburn is 6-1 all-time in games played on Thursday. In Auburn's last Thursday night game, in 2006, the Tigers beat South Carolina in Columbia, 24-17.
The change will result in the Southern Mississippi home game, initially slated for Oct. 18, being moved to Sept. 6 to fill the void left by the West Virginia date change.
Auburn will open the season with five of its first seven games at home, beginning with the season opener on Aug. 30 againstLouisiana-Monroe.
The scheduling change will give Auburn an off week on Oct. 18 and an off Saturday on Oct. 25. The Tigers' remaining bye week will come on Nov. 22.
The annual Homecoming game will be Nov. 8 againstTennessee-Martin.


Sept. 13 at Mississippi State
Sept. 20 LSU
Oct. 4 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 23 at West Virginia (ESPN)
Nov. 1 at Ole Miss
Nov. 29 at Alabama
OPEN DATES: Oct. 18, Nov. 22