Monday, June 29, 2009

Back on the beat

I'm finally back and posting again after a week hiatus. I went to Vegas for the week where "Seven" was the theme of the week. Sadly, I was stuck on the pass line.

Anyway, here's a short look at what has happened since I've been gone:

The good news:
More Auburn incoming freshmen are filing into the program. This week, it was QB Tyrik Rollison, LB Dee Ford and DT Jamar Travis.
The list of other freshmen already cleared: QB Clint Moseley, ATH Robert Cooper, RB Dontae Aycock, WRs Anthony Gulley, Emory Blake, DeAngelo Benton and Travante Stallworth, TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, OLs John Sullen and Andre Harris, DLs Nosa Eguae and Nick Fairley and LBs Harris Gaston and Jonathan Evans.

ESPN will televise Auburn's 2009 game with West Virginia. Game time is set for 6:45 p.m. and will be shown on either ESPN or ESPN2. That means at least 11 Tigers games will be televised this year.

The bad news:
Three players were kicked off the team last week. S Christian Thompson, LB Marcus Jemison and DE Jomarcus Savage were all kicked off for reasons yet unspecified by Auburn. Coach Gene Chizik has not been available for comment.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Contract talk

I sat down with Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs today for an interview. Among the topics we discussed were coaching contracts.

Jacobs said today that most, if not all, the football coaching contracts have been finalized. This includes Gene Chizik. Jacobs said Chizik's contract has been finalized and, in fact, was finished a couple weeks ago.

The general terms of agreement have already been released, but the contract has not yet been made available. When it is available, you can find it here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Savage injured

The Tigers’ secondary suffered a setback when cornerback Aairon Savage suffered an undisclosed injury during a summer workout.

Auburn released a statement late Tuesday afternoon confirming the injury, but offering no details.

“Aairon Savage did suffer an injury while working out, and at this time, the extent of the injury is still being evaluated by our medical staff,” the release said.

Savage spent most of the time this spring working back into shape from knee surgery. Coaches said he was limited throughout all contract drills.

The senior defensive back tore knee ligaments last August during one of the first fall practices. At the time he was considered a co-starter with Walt McFadden.

This year Savage was expected to play a serious role in the defense either at nickelback or as a safety.

Savage was a starter at safety in 2006, but missed time with various injuries that year as a sophomore.

On a positive note, the Tigers got another pledge at a position of need for the 2010 class.

Linebacker Jessel Curry made a verbal commitment to Auburn on Tuesday, just two days after concluding his unofficial visit to the Plains.

Curry, son of former Atlanta Falcons linebacker Buddy Curry, previously gave a verbal commitment to West Virginia. The Buford, Ga. product changed his mind before his visit to Auburn.

Curry told that he plans to graduate in December so he can participate in spring practice. has not yet rated Curry. rated him as a three-star fullback.

Three linebackers have now made verbal commitments to sign with the Tigers on the 2010 signing day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sanders, Jacobs drafted

Wednesday, on the second day of the Major League Baseball draft, the Colorado Rockies selected Auburn third baseman Joseph Sanders during the fifth round.

Sanders led the Tigers in both home runs and RBIs despite missing a few weeks with a broken jaw. The third baseman enjoyed a career year in 2009.

The other Auburn news in the MLB draft came from one of its football signees, linebacker Brandon Jacobs. As a senior left fielder at Parkview (Ga.) High School, Jacobs batted over .500.

The Boston Red Sox thought highly enough of Jacobs to make him a 10th-round selection.

In a recent interview with, Jacobs said: "Looking at the slot money, most likely rounds seven and up, I'll probably go."

With Jacobs getting selected in the 10th round, must now choose whether to play football at Auburn or begin a professional baseball career.

Auburn lacks depth at linebacker, so Jacobs could help the team right away if he opts to play football.

Monday, June 8, 2009

LB White chooses Auburn

If the weeks following Auburn’s Big Cat recruiting weekend are any indication, the tactic was a success.
A second player that visited for the weekend announced he would play for Auburn.
The most recent commitment came from outside linebacker Jawara White on Monday at Charles Henderson High School. considers White, who plays for Henderson, a three-star recruit and the No. 28 outside linebacker in the nation.
White chose Auburn over offers from Alabama, Florida State, Ole Miss, Kentucky and Arkansas.
Last week receiver Jeremy Richardson, another Big Cat visitor, announced he was committing to Auburn.
White gives the Tigers six commitments

Anticipated Debuts

Yesterday afternoon I made my way over to Turner Field to watch prized prospect Tommy Hanson's Major League debut.

The Braves won 8-7 with three eighth-inning runs and five RBIs from Chipper Jones.

Though Hanson looked sharp at times -- he retired the first 10 batters he faced -- a trio of two-run home runs marred his first outing.

Hanson's debut made me think about which new players fans are most anxious to see.

Here's a rundown:

7) Dontae Aycock, RB -- The four-star tailback might have created Onterio McCalebb-like buzz had he arrived on campus this spring. Instead he'll enter the fall needing a strong first few weeks to make an impact as a true freshman. Coaches seem likely to try Aycock in the Wildcat formation.

6) Nick Fairley, DT -- Auburn needs depth at defensive tackle. Fortunately for the Tigers, Fairley, a junior college transfer, should be able to come in and play immediately. Since Fairley didn't have the grades for early enrollment, he will need to catch defensive line coach Tracy Rocker's eye early in the process.

5) Emory Blake, WR -- One of two Signing Day surprises, Blake gave Auburn fans something to cheer when he selected the Tigers over Texas Tech and Colorado. The incoming freshman certainly has the pedigree since his father is former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake. Receivers coach Trooper Taylor has made no secret of the fact that freshmen will get opportunities to win starting jobs. Blake should certainly be in the mix.

4) Onterio McCalebb, RB -- All spring, McCalebb proved to be the home-run threat Auburn's offense has lacked in recent years. McCalebb might still need some work on fundamentals at the college level, but his speed makes him an immediate game-changer. Look for the Tigers to get the ball into his hands in a variety of ways as a true freshman.

3) Tyrik Rollison, QB -- Honestly Rollison should be at the bottom of this list. However, I'm doing this list based on which players I think fans will be most eager to see. Based on two factors, I think Rollison deserves this spot: 1) Fans always look for the next great thing at the position (see: Burns, Kodi) and 2) The position is unsettled and neither Burns nor Caudle has done anything to solidify the position. As an incoming freshman, Rollison is well behind the pair in the quarterback competition. The only way I see Rollison playing a significant role in the offense is if Auburn suffers an abysmal season and runs through quarterbacks. He could, however, play a smaller role with a limited playbook.

2) Eltoro Freeman, LB -- This JUCO linebacker moves quickly and apparently hits hard. He is exactly the type of weak-side player defensive coordinator Ted Roof needs for his defense to succeed. Freeman's speed and aggressiveness make him a good fit. Now he just needs to prove he can make the reads quickly and accurately and take good angles to the football. The sophomore should make an immediate impact at Auburn.

1) DeAngelo "Voodoo" Benton, WR -- Another surprise signing in February, Benton earns his nickname from the voodoo magic he performs on opposing defenses. Benton enters with full eligibility as a true freshman. A former top receiver in the country, Taylor said he recruited Benton in 2007 when he was a high school senior. Benton didn't play football last year, instead settling his academic situation. However, Taylor and the entire Auburn message board community has astronomical expectations for Voodoo.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Four-star WR chooses Auburn

The Tigers landed a commitment from a big-name receiver for the 2010 recruiting class Friday when Jeremy Richardson announced he plans to sign with Auburn.
Richardson, a four-star receiver according to, will be a senior at Springville this fall. He made the announcement at a Friday press conference. reported he chose Auburn over Alabama, LSU and Tennessee among other schools.
Richardson finished with 1,228 receiving yards and 18 touchdown receptions as a junior.
His commitment gives Auburn five for the 2010 class.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Big Cat Weekend

Auburn recruiting coordinator Curtis Luper said Wednesday in an interview with The Star that he is excited by the Big Cat recruiting weekend's success, but knows the Tigers have work remaining if they hope to land a high-profile recruiting class.

The weekend didn't result in any commitments, but did include more than 20 elite nationwide recruits for unofficial visits.

However, potential secondary rules violations have dominated the headlines in the weekend's aftermath. They would not likely result in any punishment, but have still drawn attention. Luper said would not comment on the situation.

He did say that the weekend showed Auburn is moving in the right direction on the recruiting front. After all, 20-plus top recruits paid their own way to take unofficial visits to the Plains this weekend.

"It means you're on the right track but you better keep pushing because people are right behind you," Luper said. "Now it's camp time and players are beginning to disperse all over the country. We wanted to get them before camp and we were able to pull that off to some degree, because there were more players that we wanted to get, but you don't always get it exactly like you want it.

"It doesn't say very much to us. It just means you're headed in the right direction and there are a lot of people headed in the right direction."

Luper said the biggest thing right now in recruiting is coming up with plans that are different and new. He and the coaching staff want the recruits to leave campus having seen something they haven't seen before.

"Our objective was just to be very different and unique and just to really have a good time and have it as a care-free environment," Luper said.

Now the real work kicks in. Auburn starts hosting its summer camps this weekend. Traditionally those have been huge recruiting tools for the Tigers and the current coaching staff have said they expect it to continue to be critical under the new regime.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Big Cat Weekend

By now, everyone has read about Auburn's Big Cat recruiting weekend.

You know Auburn hosted 20-some of its highest-prioritized recruits. You know the weekend resulted with many of those same recruits excited about Auburn. You also know Auburn possibly committed a few NCAA secondary violations, detailed here yesterday.

Here's what should be considered: If Auburn is guilty of secondary violations, so what?

This isn't the Ivy League where sportsmanship is as important as the results. This is the SEC, where coaches are fired for only winning 152 of his total 204 career games. (See: Fulmer, Phillip -- fired after missing a bowl game for just the second time in 16-plus years).

There aren't long leashes in the SEC. Ask Mike Shula, Ron Zook and Ed Orgeron. Fans want their teams to win. Now.

What does that mean? It means Auburn's coaching staff needs to get enough talent to win and it needs it immediately. Gene Chizik will likely get one free pass in 2009. It would be extremely difficult to fire him after one season. Year two, though, could bring with it a hot seat if the first year goes awry.

So Auburn is hitting the recruiting trail hard, as it has done since most of the coaching staff has arrived. The staff has been innovative and has done something not seen at Auburn in some time -- pushed the envelope.

Most of it -- like the Tiger Prowl -- has been within the rules, though this latest case might require the Tigers to self-report violations.

Consider this, though: If pushing the envelope results in getting three or four prized recruits -- like RBs Lache Seastrunk and Marcus Lattimore and LB Khairi Fortt -- but also ends in the Tigers getting a slap in the wrist for secondary violations, is it worth it?

Auburn made its impression on the recruits. If rules were committed but the NCAA finds no intent, there would be no consequence.

So, let's say, hypothetically, there were infractions. Auburn self-reports itself for two secondary violations. The Tigers also sign four of the visitors on the first week of February. Those four players cost Auburn nothing in terms of penalties. More importantly, perhaps it was Toomer's Corner that persuaded the recruits to come to Auburn.

I'm not sanctioning breaking the rules. I'm just saying if the NCAA had a problem with schools violating these rules it would constitute tougher penalties. Or any penalties. So far, the NCAA hasn't.

Whether or not people agree with Auburn's tactics, it's difficult to argue that the Tigers have put themselves back on the recruiting map in a big way.

Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin was charged with the same task. Since taking the position at Tennessee, the program has self-reported four rules violations. All have been secondary. The Volunteers have not been punished, nor are they likely to receive any punishment.

At the annual SEC coaches' meeting in Destin, Fla., Kiffin told reporters:

"Do I love everything I had to do to get us to this point? No, I don't. But we had to make an immediate impact. We couldn't have sat back in the weeds and hoped we signed a top 10 class in a couple of years.

"I don't think if we took a conservative approach there's no way we would have signed that class and the No. 1 player [running back Bryce Brown] in the country. Kids we're recruiting have responded to the confidence our staff has shown."

Auburn coaches haven't come out with similar comments. Still, the Toomer's Corner rally seems to play into the same approach.

It might technically be against the rules, but if there are no repercussions, does it really matter?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fall out from "Big Cat Weekend"

As reported in Evan Woodbery's story in this morning's Mobile Press-Register, Auburn is reviewing whether or not secondary violations were committed Saturday night at Toomer's Corner.

An Auburn spokesperson confirmed the review Monday evening. None of the potential violations are considered serious and would almost certainly result in no punishment.

It sparks from last weekend when Auburn hosted 20-plus of the nation's top recruits on unofficial visits during its "Big Cat Weekend."

Many of the nation's top recruits were present, including the nation's top two running backs -- Lache Seastrunk and Marcus Lattimore. Various recruiting services list other recruits LB Khairi Fortt, WR Trovon Reed, OT James Stone and OG Eric Mack as top-five players nationally at their positions.

The potential violations stem from the 9 p.m. gathering at Toomer's Corner. There, a couple hundred excited Auburn fans awaited the recruits. Seven police officers were also on hand to ensure order. All staff members for Auburn recruiting web sites Inside The Auburn Tigers, and Auburn Undercover were also at the event, as was a videographer for The Opelika-Auburn News. I knew of the event as well and at the time I was across the street with a few colleagues.

By the time coaches Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper (and perhaps more that didn't wind up in videos) made their way over with the recruits, fans had packed Toomer's Corner in anticipation. The crowd then proceeded to roll Toomer's Corner as done after football home victories.

The important question here is how did they all know to be there at 9 p.m. on Saturday night?

All three recruiting web sites posted the time and date of the Toomer's gathering on their message boards on Saturday. Local restaurant Niffer's also advertised the event on its sign.

That the sites and restaurant posted this information isn't the problem, rather how they obtained the information. Under NCAA guidelines, that information cannot be publicized by the coaching staff to the media.

Here's a look at the potential rules violations:
A member institution shall not permit a media entity to be present during any recruiting contact made by an institution’s coaching staff member. Violations of this bylaw do not affect a prospective student-athlete’s eligibility and are considered institutional violations per Constitution 2.8.1.

A member institution shall not publicize (or arrange for publicity of) a prospective student-athlete’s visit to the institution’s campus. Further, a prospective student-athlete may not participate in team activities that would make the public or media aware of the prospective student-athlete’s visit to the institution (e.g., running out of the tunnel with team, celebratory walks to or around the stadium/arena, on-field pregame celebrations). Violations of this bylaw do not affect a prospective student-athlete’s eligibility and are considered institutional violations per Constitution 2.8.1.

An institution may not introduce a visiting prospective student-athlete at a function (e.g., the institution’s sports award banquet or an intercollegiate athletics contest) that is attended by media representatives or open to the general public. Violations of this bylaw do not affect a prospective student-athlete’s eligibility and are considered institutional violations per Constitution 2.8.1.

First, it should be noted that these violations would be considered minor and would likely come with no punishment.

Of the potential violations, the first one seems to be the most likely to get reported. As mentioned earlier, all three web sites had their entire staffs at Toomer's Corner. All three posted pictures. and Auburn Undercover both posted video of the event as well, though the videos can no longer be found on either site. The OA News' video is still available on its web site.

Rule 13.10.5 must be proven -- something that would be difficult to do unless one of the recruiting web sites acknowledges where it obtained the information. Rule 13.10.6 can be interpreted in different ways, but my guess is since the person introducing the recruits at the pep rally event was not a member of the coaching staff, Auburn is not in violation of the rule.

Even if Auburn self-reports some violations -- which is still up in the air -- it would not result in any significant sanctions. All the potential violations would be considered secondary violations. Tennessee has self-reported four secondary violations since Lane Kiffin's arrival and has not received any punishment.

On another note, the fact that all the visits were unofficial means all players and any accompanying persons had to pay for the visit themselves. That should be viewed as a significant win for Auburn -- that 20-plus of the nation's top recruits wanted to visit Auburn even if it meant doing so on their own dime.

What that means is Auburn has become relevant again to the top prospects. These players want to check out Auburn for themselves and then decide if it's the place for them. As Taylor and Luper said upon getting to Auburn, that's the first step.

There's no doubt Auburn's new staff has made a name for itself on the recruiting trail. The next step is getting the targetted players to commit. Currently, the Tigers have four commitments for the 2010 class. reported that the weekend left favorable impressions on many of the visitors.