Thursday, October 28, 2010

Brewin’ the ‘do’

In a recent post-practice media session, Auburn tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen was asked about what appeared to be a new hairstyle.
He was very candid in his response.
“I worked out, went home, didn’t shower, practiced, still didn’t shower,” he said. “That’s the deal I’m working with right now. All grease.”

Hard to get to
The Rebels do a good job of protecting the quarterback.
Ole Miss leads the SEC and ranks first in the SEC and 17th nationally in fewest sacks allowed with seven.
Looking for omens
Ole Miss is 3-4, and the last time the Rebels started 3-4, they finished strong.
In 2008, Nutt’s first season at Ole Miss, the Rebels started 3-4 but won their last six games to finish 9-4.

Close to home
The Rebels will play all of their games in Mississippi this season or in a state that borders Mississippi.
Their four road games this season are at Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Tulane (Louisiana).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Power of the polls

Auburn ranks third in this week’s Associated Press top 25 and has beaten four teams currently ranked in this week’s poll.
Only one other ranked team (Wisconsin) has beaten as many as two.

What a rush
Auburn is averaging 321 yards rushing against SEC competition and has rushed for at least 300 yards against four consecutive SEC teams, the first time that has happened since available data in 1967.
Newton leads the nation with 14 rushing touchdowns and 27 combined touchdowns rushing and passing. He’s only player in the nation who has rushed for 170 or more yards five times this season.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Worth watching

Dyer on the mend

Freshman tailback Mike Dyer has been bothered by a sore knee, and even though he showed up for post-practice media interviews with his right knee incased in ice, he say’s he’s fine.
“It’s better,” Dyer said. “I’ll be ready to go on Saturday.”

Tale of the Tigers
Auburn and LSU have been two of the most successful teams in the SEC during the past decade.
Since 2000, the winner of the LSU-Auburn game has represented the SEC West in the league title game six times.
LSU won national championships in 2003 and 2007, while Auburn went undefeated in 2004.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In good hands with Cam

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton ranks second in the nation in “touchdown responsibility” with 21 points per game.
Newton has had a hand in 21 of the Tigers’ 28 touchdowns this season and the 21 combined rushing and passing touchdown are eighth most in a single season at Auburn.

Revenge no factor
Arkansas has beaten the Tigers each of the last two seasons, including 44-23 last season in coach Gene Chizik’s first season at Auburn.
Chizik says he never preaches the revenge angle.
“No, we don’t operate off the word ‘revenge,’” he said. “2009 is 2009 and 2010 is a different year. This is a very important game to us, obviously. Any one of our players would tell you that. It is as important as last week’s conference game and two weeks ago our conference game. They’re all extremely important and it’s another Tuesday. We have to get better and we have to prepare and we know that,
again, this is a very good football team. For us to be able to win, we have to be better than we were the week before. That’s really the way we approach it, it’s not anything about the year before or whatnot.”

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Newton keeps avoiding tacklers, Heisman talk

AUBURN – Auburn quarterback Cam Newton continues to play well for the Tigers, and he also continues to deflect questions about being a Heisman Trophy candidate.
The question surfaced once again Sunday, with No. 7 Auburn preparing to play 12th-ranked Arkansas, led by quarterback Ryan Mallett, another Heisman contender.
“I can't just say that I'm going to embrace the Heisman talk because I really don't like me being singled out in front of everybody,” Newton said. “As far as this team, we have some warriors on this team that I would be willing to die for. We've got the defenders on defense that don't get the recognition.
"...For me to just say, 'I'm just going to be selfish this week' or be selfish this day and say, 'I'm the Heisman' or I'm being noticed as the Heisman Trophy winner, that's not fair to everybody else that's doing the same thing that I'm doing and not getting credit for it.”
Newton isn’t buying any “Newton vs. Mallett” hype either.
“No, it's just do your job and win the football game,” Newton said. “That's it.”

Light fuse, clear area
Saturday’s game between the Razorbacks and the Tigers will match two of the nation’s most prolific offenses.
Arkansas is ranked No. 1 in the SEC and third nationally in passing offense, averaging 354 yards per game.Auburn ranks No. 1 in the SEC and eighth nationally in rushing offense, averaging 276 yards per game.
In total offense, Arkansas ranks No. 1 in the SEC and 10th nationally with 483 yards per game, while Auburn is No. 2 in the SEC and 19th in the nation at 462.8 yards per game.

Highs and lows of the AP poll
Auburn’s ranking of seventh in the latest Associated Press poll is far too low according to at least one voter, and far too high according to another.
Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review Journal has the Tigers ranked at No. 3, the highest ranking Auburn received in the poll.
Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times has the Tigers ranked 14th, the lowest ranking among the voters in this week’s poll.
Condotta actually had the Tigers ranked 12th heading into the weekend, but dropped them two spots after their 37-34 victory on the road against Kentucky.

Changing of the guard
Auburn made a change of punters against Kentucky.The Tigers went with freshman Steven Clark in place of senior Ryan Shoemaker.
Clark punted twice for a 34-yard average with a long punt of 36 yards.
Shoemaker has punted 16 times this season for an average of 38.9 yards per kick.
“We're going to go with who we think is the best guy,” said Auburn coach Gene Chizik. “And we just felt like he's been making a lot of progress in practice, and we felt like it was time. And we want a guy who's going to be able to get some better distance and hang time and things of that nature.”

CBS picks Auburn-Arkansas game
Auburn’s game against Arkansas will kick off at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium and will be televised by CBS.
It will mark Auburn’s first appearance on CBS this season, and will
be the first Auburn-Arkansas game to be televised by CBS since 2006.
The contest will also mark the first time in the history of the Auburn-Arkansas series that both teams will be nationally-ranked entering the game.
Auburn (6-0, 3-0 SEC) is ranked seventh in the Oct. 10 USA Today Coaches Poll, while Arkansas (4-1, 1-1 SEC) is ranked 12th.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hit ‘em where it hurts

Kentucky has passed for more than 200 yards in all five games this season, and although the Wildcats have the most passing attempts in the SEC (168) the Wildcats are tied for the fewest interceptions (3).
Auburn is 11th in the SEC in pass defense.
Conversely, Auburn leads the SEC in rushing offense, while Kentucky is 11th in run defense.

Not easy to forget
Even though quarterback Cam Newton wasn’t here last year, he says it’s not hard to pick up on the fact that Auburn would like to erase the memory of last year’s 21-14 loss to Kentucky at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“You feel everybody's energy on the football field,” Newton said. “It's kind of personal for all those guys who were here last year. Looking at the film — it's disgusting to look at. When we watch film from last year, we usually go play after play after play.
"This past week, we've been skipping plays because it's so hard for (offensive coordinator Gust Malzahn) to even look at it. He mentions the bad stuff about it. Just seeing him like that – I don't like that. A lot of guys are taking it personally this week.”

Trotter still on the mend and other stuff

The status of backup quarterback Barrett Trotter for Saturday’s game at Kentucky remains unknown.
“I’d like to say it’s all great, but it’s going to be a day-by-day thing still,” Chizik said. “Hopefully, he’ll be ready, but the evaluation process will continue for the next week.”

Numbers worth noting
Auburn is ranked eighth nationally in rushing offense (269 yards per game), 11th in total offense (475.4 yards per game) and 20th in scoring offense (36.6 points per game).
Auburn’s 24 touchdown plays this season have averaged 25.7 yards, including nine plays of 35 or more yards.

Long off the tee
Freshman Joe Mansour has handled most of the kickoffs for Kentucky and has a league-leading 12 touchbacks this season.
Even so, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips has concerns about Mansour’s accuracy.
“We’ve got John Daly kicking off for us,” Phillips said. “He’s got a strong leg, but you don’t know where it’s going to go. But some day he’ll be Greg Norman. He’ll be a guy who can hit it a long way and keep it in play. He was telling me he’s second in the country in kickoffs in the end zone. But he’s first in the country in out of bounds and that’s the thing we can’t do.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Goodbye, good luck

AUBURN – Auburn wide receiver Jay Wisner has left the team for personal reasons.
“He is a great young man and he has done everything we've asked him to do," Chizik said. "And we're going to try to help him in any way, and we wish him well. But last week he decided to leave the team.”
Wisner, a senior walk-on, caught three passes for 56 yards during his Auburn career, but was considered a solid blocker.
In Auburn’s game against South Carolina, he threw a block on a bubble screen that proved instrumental in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Emory Blake in the Tigers’ 35-27 victory.

Fairley a one-man sack attack
Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley continues to lead the SEC in sacks (five) and tackles for loss (11.5).
He was asked Sunday about the importance of playing tough up front.
“You've got to be angry,” Fairley said. “You can't be nice playing in the trenches. If you come up being nice, they're going to bully you around. I just think about something to motivate you. Just what I'm doing this for, something like that.”
Fairley also says the players take note when an offensive player is slow to get up after a hit.
“Oh yeah, when you see them getting up real slow, you're like, 'We've got them right where we want 'em,' he said. “Just keep on tackling him. It won't be long before he gets out of there.”

At home at Kentucky
Although Kentucky won 21-14 last year at Auburn, the Tigers have a 7-0 streak going in games played at Kentucky.
Auburn hasn’t lost at Kentucky since 1966.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

This one's for the ladies

Thursday's This and That

Making big plays
Auburn has run 10 plays this season that gained at least 35 yards, including six that went for touchdowns.
The Tigers’ 13 touchdown plays this season have averaged 26.8 yards.

Lattimore fallout
With freshman Marcus Lattimore fully entrenched as South Carolina’s starting tailback, sophomore Jarvis Giles has decided to transfer.
"We certainly wish Jarvis the best and he'll have a release to go where he wants to,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said following Wednesday’s practice. “Jarvis is a fine young man. We understand sometimes you get in situations where the opportunity to play doesn't look all that good.”

Honoring McKinley

Spurrier also confirmed that the team will wear a number 11 decal on their helmets this week in remembrance of former Gamecock wide receiver Kenny McKinley, who died on Monday.

Gamecocks batting .500
After beating Furman last week, South Carolina’s all-time football record is back above .500.
The Gamecocks are 537-536-44 in their 117th season of playing college football.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Gamecocks will play two ... among other stuff

Stephen Garcia remains South Carolina’s starting quarterback, but Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday he expects freshman Connor Shaw to also play against Auburn on Saturday.
“I would say Connor will play some this week,” Spurrier said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “I thought he might play against Georgia, but we
got into sort of a running game handing it and off. We have both of them ready to play. Connor will probably get some action somewhere.”

Tigers practice tough
Auburn practiced Tuesday with an emphasis on getting physical.
Afterward, offensive coordinator Guz Malzahn was asked how that was achieved.
“We got after it,” he said.
Malzahn also said that Mario Fannin (shoulder) was able to practice and should be in the rotation at tailback for Saturday’s game.

Gamecocks look to snap streak
South Carolina is on a five-game losing streak in SEC road games.
The Gamecocks have not won an SEC game on the road since beating Kentucky in 2008.

Striking quickly
Of Auburn’s 15 scoring drives in regulation, eight have taken less than two minutes and only one has taken more than four minutes.
Six of the 15 have used four plays or fewer.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Newton named QB1

They were the question Auburn coach Gene Chizik fielded more than any other this spring: Who would be his starting quarterback? When would he be named?

Every time, the second-year coach answered the questions with the same, tired, rehearsed lines like a broken record. The coaching staff would evaluate at the end of spring. The sooner the better but he didn’t to rush into a commitment. The race was too close to call.

About that…

Chizik and the coaching staff pulled a misdirection play worthy of Gus Malzahn’s offense when they announced Wednesday that Cam Newton is the No. 1 quarterback.

“After thoroughly evaluating our quarterbacks during spring practice and over the last week, Cam has emerged as our post-spring No. 1 quarterback,” Chizik said. “Obviously, he will have a lot of work to do over the summer and during two-a-days to continue along this path. We fully expect our other quarterbacks to continue to work hard and compete with Cam during the off-season and into fall camp.”

For more, read tomorrow's Anniston Star.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Luper: Fannin will have huge year

Running backs coach Curtis Luper isn’t one to back away from making bold predictions.

Now that he thinks he has found his next workhorse tailback, the second-year Auburn assistant offered steep praise for apparent starter Mario Fannin.

“It's obvious to me that Mario can do what Ben (Tate) did for this offense, after being with him for a month,” Luper said after Auburn finished its final spring practice on Monday. “That's what we expect.”

Luper correctly forecasted Tate to rush for more than 1,200 yards last year and offered a similar projection for Fannin.

“Mario will run for 1,000 yards if he stays healthy. No question. Write it down. Bold letters,” Luper said. “It's a combination of things. The offense lends itself to it. He has everything that you need to get that done. But I have to say, ‘If he stays healthy…’ because he has a propensity to get banged up every now and then.”

That’s a bold statement considering Fannin will enter his senior year having rushed for 971 career yards and having a career-high of 448 rushing yards.

It hasn’t just been Fannin’s running ability that has given Luper so much confidence in him. Fannin’s performance in pass protection has also drawn praise.

“He's had a history of some shoulder ailments, so we were concerned of him stepping up and hitting a Josh Bynes in the mouth or something like that,” Luper said. “But he doesn't shy away from it all. He did a really good in pass pro this spring. He's a complete back. He can do it all, and expectations are going to be high for him.”

Still, Fannin might have a significant problem in compiling the 1,000 yards Luper predicted.
In addition to injuries, Fannin faces another potential setback that Tate didn’t have to worry about – losing snaps to a freshman.

Onterio McCalebb got a number of carries especially early last season, but essentially played a different position than Tate. That allowed them to be on the field at the same time.

The same might not be true for Fannin when highly anticipated freshman Michael Dyer arrives on campus.

Luper also offered a steep prediction for Dyer.

“He'll get 1,000 too,” Luper said.

Asked if he would guarantee it, Luper backed off some.

“You better put that one in small print,” he said. “Until I at least work with him in practice.”

DEFERRED DECISION: In what came as a surprise to nobody who has paid attention this spring, Auburn coach Gene Chizik confirmed Monday that he wouldn’t name a starting quarterback this spring.

He also said the competition is more likely to carry over into the summer than it is to be settled within the next few weeks.

Right now, Chizik said, all four quarterbacks are still on an even playing field, but added “Now that we've reached the end of spring, what are we feeling? I mean, there's got to be an order somewhere.”

Chizik and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn aren’t divulging what that order might be.

While the coaches haven’t said anything, Clint Moseley thinks he is at the back of the pack, though he added that he hasn’t been told anything for certain.

Cam Newton, considered the favorite by many, said he doesn’t have a feel as to who leads the competition.

“We’ll meet with coach Malzahn someday this week, and I’m pretty sure he’ll go over that with us,” Newton said. “But it’s really not important right now.”

ROLLISON UPDATE: Whether or not the four-man quarterback race could become five when preseason camp begins still remains to be seen.

Chizik still has not ruled QB Tyrik Rollison out despite the fact that his father, Michael Kelly, told reporters a few months ago that Rollison planned to transfer to Sam Houston State. Rollison is still currently enrolled at Auburn, but did not participate in spring practice.

“I will touch base again here before school ends,” Chizik said. “I can't give you any positives one way or the other, but I will assure you that when we know, we will get it out there and it will be clear-cut.”

Rollison redshirted last year and was suspended for the Outback Bowl for a violation of team rules.

POSITIVE STEPS FOR COLEMAN: There is no timetable for OL Shon Coleman to join Auburn’s football program.

The incoming freshman underwent chemotherapy in March for an unspecified illness. His mother, De Keisha Tunstall, said last week via her Facebook page that Coleman is now cancer-free. On Friday, she wrote that Coleman was back in the hospital because of low-sodium levels.

Chizik said earlier this spring that he’s not even thinking about football with Coleman at the current time. Now he hopes Coleman can be around the team even if he can’t play.

“If he can be here with everybody else, whether he plays football or not, we want him here with everybody else,” Chizik said. “Obviously that's going to be up to the people that are taking care of him. We would love to have him be around his teammates whether football's involved or not involved. That's really insignificant at this point. We'll play the rest of that by ear.”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Newton shines in scrimmage

Through two drives of Auburn’s half-scrimmage Wednesday, it looked like the offense might again dominate its defensive counterpart at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Then the turnovers starting mounting. The offense threw at least two interceptions and fumbled three times, allowing the defense to avenge its loss in Saturday’s scrimmage.

“We pride ourselves on taking care of the football, and we turned it over,” receivers coach Trooper Taylor said. “You’ve got to give credit to the defense. We need to take better care of the football.”

Though the defense won the scrimmage, the real winner might have been QB Cam Newton.

No, there is still no news in the quarterback race. As details continue to emerge about the four-man competition, Newton only seems to help his cause. The junior-college transfer threw a pair of touchdowns Wednesday – one to DeAngelo Benton and another to Kodi Burns.

The throw to Benton, especially, served as apparently an impressive display of Newton’s accuracy.

“Cam let it go perfectly where only he could catch it,” Taylor said. “The DB was in good position, but D’Lo went up and made a nice play. The ball placement was unbelievable. If he had missed it, it would have gone out of bounds. That’s what you’re looking for. We talk about catching balls in windows, and that was a peephole. He put it in there.

“He made a nice throw to Kodi Burns, too. It was a frozen rope between two defenders.”

Nobody has said definitively that there has been any decision on the quarterbacks, but it seems Newton has put himself in position to win the starting position.

Players and coaches couldn’t seem to remember which quarterbacks threw the interceptions, nor could they recall who threw the third touchdown.

Defensively, Ikeem Means and Drew Cole turned in interceptions. Though the defense forced three fumbles – two by walk-on Davis Hooper and another by walk-on receiver Ralph Spry Jr. – it didn’t recover any.

In addition to the turnovers, LB Craig Stevens said the defense also earned a couple three-and-outs to help establish the win.

A-DAY FORMAT: Taylor said Auburn will change up the format from last year’s spring game.
Saturday’s exhibition won’t feature starters against starters or starters against scout team, but rather a combination of players on two different teams.

Those teams, however, are yet to be determined.

“We’re trying to make it as competitive as we can,” Taylor said. “The problem that you have is guys crossing over on special teams. That’s what we’re trying to iron out. But we’re going to make it competitive.”

CHANGING LANES: Stevens hasn’t been spectacular during his Auburn career, but he has always been a steady producer.

Now, as a senior, he has moved from his traditional strong-side linebacker position to the weak-side. He thinks the position change gives him an opportunity to make more plays.

“(Weak-side), you've got to make a lot more back-side plays,” Stevens said. “I'm in the box more and I have a chance to make a lot more plays in the run game than I would at (strong-side).”

The new position doesn’t only spell new chances for Stevens.

Sophomore Jonathan Evans has worked his way onto the starting defense at strong-side linebacker.

Evans played significant minutes in just two games last year – after Eltoro Freeman went down with an injury in the Georgia game. Evans said the experience at the end of the Georgia game and his start against Alabama has benefitted him.

“That helped me a lot, just getting the tempo of the game, the speed, all that,” Evans said. “Just getting used to all that noise and how the games are going to be. That was a good start for me. I feel like it's really going to help me.”

The coaches have been hesitant to say Evans has put himself in line for playing time, but seem down on Freeman, who is now working behind Josh Bynes at middle linebacker.

Freeman could especially find playing time hard to find if Daren Bates plays linebacker when he returns from off-season shoulder surgery.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof remained non-committal on Bates’ position status Wednesday, but did say Bates is spending more time in linebacker meetings than safety meetings.

Aairon Savage, Zac Etheridge and Mike McNeil are all expected to be back in 2010 despite all suffering significant injuries in 2009. However, Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Monday that McNeil “needs to step it up” when asked if reporters should look into the fact that the junior has not been made available to the media this spring.

Bates started all 13 games at safety last year, but Auburn has seriously looked at moving him permanently to linebacker. Roof said he doesn’t want to shuffle the sophomore between the positions.

QUICK OUTS: K Wes Byrum said QB Neil Caudle is currently the frontrunner in the holder competition. Caudle has been a backup holder for the last couple seasons. The senior is also still part of the ongoing quarterback competition… Byrum also said he sat out a few practices last week because of soreness in his right knee. The senior kicker said there is no significant injury, but wanted to be right for A-Day week… WR Darvin Adams didn’t participate in Wednesday’s scrimmage. Adams has a slight shoulder injury, but was held out largely to get other receivers – like Benton and Emory Blake – more reps.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lutzenkirchen becoming versatile

Playing in space has never been a question for TE Philip Lutzenkirchen.

The sophomore came to Auburn as a pass-catching presence hoping to make a big impact early in his career.

He is still confident he can be a big part of the passing game, but is currently focusing on his blocking ability.

“You can see him getting confidence and getting more physical,” offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. “We know he can catch the football, but we're asking him to do more dirty work and he's starting to really get confidence and do a better job each practice.”

Malzahn hopes to run his offense at a faster pace on a regular basis. Doing so hinges on his ability to substitute less regardless of down and distance. Lutzenkirchen’s newfound versatility, then, could mean additional playing time.

Not only is Lutzenkirchen working in the traditional tight end spot, he is also learning the H-back/fullback position. Playing both positions would keep Auburn from changing personnel when it previously needed to switch from tight end to fullback.

“I think one of the reasons I didn’t play a lot last year is because I wasn’t comfortable playing on the ground,” Lutzenkirchen said. “All last year and all this spring we’ve been working with my hand on the ground a whole lot more and I feel a lot more comfortable with that. I feel pretty even with both of them.”

Lutzenkirchen thinks he will have a bigger role in the offense in 2010, but he also faces some competition. H-back Eric Smith returns and Robert Cooper is pushing Lutzenkirchen at the tight end spot.

That’s why it was so important for Lutzenkirchen to get back from an injury he sustained earlier this spring. During a full-contact team drill, Lutzenkirchen took a hit from S Drew Cole and LB Eltoro Freeman that sent his head into the ground. He missed a few practices for precautionary reasons, but has returned for the last two sessions.

Now he’s back and fighting for a starting position.

“It’s sparking me to get better overall,” Lutzenkirchen said.

DEFENSIVE STAND: Auburn split Wednesday’s practice between individual workouts and a half-scrimmage.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof didn’t offer details, but seemed happier with his unit’s performance than he was after Saturday’s scrimmage.

“I thought the contact speed was a little bit better than it was the other day,” Roof said. “I thought that improved and certainly it's not to be confused with where we need it to be, but I thought that the overall contact speed and I thought that the procedure was better.”

LB Craig Stevens offered up little more, though he did say the defense came up with a few stops. He said the unit never forced the offense into a three-and-out, but only allowed one touchdown – a Cam Newton touchdown pass to WR DeAngelo Benton.

BULL FIGHT: Just because Freeman returns as an incumbent starter this year doesn’t mean he already has a starting spot secured.

Roof said Wednesday that he is still searching for a regular starting linebacker to team with Josh Bynes and Stevens. Freeman is among a group that includes Jonathan Evans and Jessel Curry currently competing for the third spot. Sophomore Daren Bates, who started all 13 games at safety last season, will also enter the mix when he gets fully healthy this fall.

Stevens thinks Freeman has made definite progress so far this spring.

“He's kind of calmed down a little bit and trying to actually get into the playbook a little bit more,” Stevens said. “I think we're going to see that by the time the season comes around and see his change in play.”

Though Auburn will have improved depth at linebacker, it still isn’t a strength. Therefore, the biggest theme right now comes from crosstraining the other linebackers at all three linebacker positions.

Stevens said Freeman worked behind Bynes at middle linebacker on Wednesday.

NO MOVEMENT: After two weeks of spring practice, Wednesday finally provided some quarterback news for Auburn.

Christian LeMay, one of the most highly sought quarterback prospects, visited Auburn from North Carolina during practice.

As for the four-man quarterback competition, Malzahn said there is no news on that front. Newton is still thought to be a heavy favorite, but Auburn’s coaches haven’t said anything about the race.

“Common sense would tell you you'd like to do that as soon as you can just for your team's sake, but at the same time we have the luxury of the spring,” Malzahn said. “I just want to make sure and coach (Gene Chizik) just wants to make sure that we get the right guy and give everybody equal chance.”

FANNIN IN FRONT: Malzahn said Mario Fannin got an extended workload during Wednesday’s scrimmage.

The second-year offensive coordinator hopes his senior tailback is now jumping to the front of the pack.

“We definitely would like him to,” Malzahn said. “He was kind of battling some injuries coming up to spring, so now he's getting healthy enough to really show what he can do.”

Onterio McCalebb and Dontae Aycock are challenging Fannin for the starting spot. Incoming freshman Michael Dyer is also expected to push for immediate playing time once he steps on campus.

McCalebb is thought of more as a speed back, but has added weight in hoping to prove he can be an every down back.

Fannin, a senior, has sometimes been in the starting tailback role and has enjoyed modest success.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Coaches: AU making good progress

A week into spring practice, it’s all but impossible to find a coach who will say his team is ready to win a championship.

It’s no different at Auburn, where coaches have maintained their stance throughout the first eight days that their team is improving but still has a long way to go.

Both coordinators, however, found a silver lining with their units’ performances – significant improvement from where the groups were at this time last year.

“I think it’s the continuity with the staff, it’s the second year in the system with the players,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. “We’re working to get it better now that they’ve heard it and the newness of things has worn off.”

Roof finally has additional depth he desperately missed last year, especially at linebacker. He said true freshmen LB Jessel Curry and DE Craig Sanders will have every opportunity to work their way into the playing rotation, as will every other player in the defensive white jerseys.

On offense, there are only a few positions to fill, but they are vital roles. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is searching for a new starting quarterback and tailback as well as a new right tackle.

Still, he’s convinced his group has made more progress in the first week than it made last March.
“The veterans definitely have a better understanding, as they should,” Malzahn said. “Our expectations are a lot higher, though. We’re just trying to focus on the little things. We’re trying to be demanding on the guys and strain them so they can be as good as they can be.”

ARMS RACE: Malzahn said he hasn’t trimmed the quarterback field down.


Sticking with his original timeline, Malzahn said Wednesday that could change in a matter of days.

“We’ve been evaluating each possession. We’re to a point now we can start working on narrowing things down,” Malzahn said. “Obviously, you can’t rotate four quarterbacks equally all spring. I’ve told our guys it’s getting to the point where we need to start making some decisions.”

Malzahn said he has installed as much of the offense as he plans to at this point in the spring, so he can start evaluating the players on their abilities instead of how well they learn on the fly.

He didn’t limit himself to a certain number, saying he wasn’t sure if he would cut the process down to two or three. He did, however, recommit to whittling the number down as quickly as possible.

Deciding who will be left behind, it seems, is the toughest part of the equation right now for Malzahn.

“That’s a good thing,” he said. “That’s a really good thing. We feel like we have four quality quarterbacks and we’ll be in better shape depth-wise going into this season than we were last season.”

CATCHING ON: One of the offensive themes this spring has centered around the coaching staff finding a reliable third receiver.

The most prominent and consistent names to come forward have been Emory Blake and DeAngelo Benton. Now another name might be surfacing toward the forefront – walk-on Ralph Spry, Jr.

“I think he feels like he can play now where before he knew he was going to be scout team and there was no light at the end of the tunnel,” receivers coach Trooper Taylor said. “It’s hard to get kids to see that he should be getting himself better whether or not he’s playing. That would have put him ahead. Now that he’s doing that he really looks good. He’s fast. He can run.”

Spry is the son of Auburn track and field coach Ralph Spry and went to Auburn High School.
He ultimately decided to sign well away from home – with Minnesota.

There, Spry started six games and played in 12 contests as a freshman, catching 23 passes for 226 yards. He was suspended for a violation of team rules, though, and couldn’t regain his starting position.

He decided to transfer back home in January 2009 and went through spring practice with the team last season.

After sitting out the 2009 season because of NCAA transfer rules, Spry now has a chance to work his way into the playing rotation.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Barbee will be next coach at AU

Tony Barbee will take over as Auburn’s new men’s basketball coach, a source close to the situation confirmed.

Barbee, a former assistant to Kentucky coach John Calipari, recently concluded his fourth season as head coach at Texas-El Paso. He led the Miners to a 26-7 record and the NCAA Tournament this year.

An official release is expected shortly.

Former Auburn star Chuck Person also interviewed for the program’s vacant coaching position Wednesday, a source close to the situation confirmed.

More to come…

Wednesday notes: Rollison's status unclear

QB Tyrik Rollison was nowhere to be seen on Auburn’s practice field or on the spring roster when the Tigers opened spring practice Wednesday.

That, coach Gene Chizik said, is not an indication that he is done with Auburn.

“He's still on our football team and he's still in school,” Chizik said. “As the end of the semester unfolds, obviously we'll know more but academically, that's the nature of our focus right now.”

Chizik said Rollison is academically eligible, but will not participate in spring practice.

Rollison created a stir in February by posting on Facebook that he was leaving Auburn. His father, Michael Kelly, told a few reporters that Rollison planned to transfer to Sam Houston State.

Reached later in the day by The Star, Kelly said he didn’t want to talk “until things blow over.” He also said, “I’ve got to talk to Ty,” and did not confirm the reports.

Auburn had not acknowledged the reports that Rollison would transfer until Wednesday.

“We're going to play it by ear,” Chizik said. “I don't pay any attention to any of the external hearsay. He's in school at Auburn, he's focusing on his academics, and that's what I know.”

OUT THE DOOR: While Rollison’s status remains unclear, five Auburn players are no longer with the program.

FB John Douglas and TE Bailey Woods elected to transfer – Woods to Georgia State and Douglas to a school to be determined. Darrell Roseman, a career reserve offensive lineman, chose to pursue his career rather than a redshirt senior season.

Walk-on H-back Jason King “is no longer on our football team,” Chizik said.

Chizik also said walk-on K Morgan Hull decided to leave the team.

INJURY UPDATE: A few players were held out or limited in practice on Wednesday.

Among them was starting G Mike Berry, who Chizik said was one of several players “somewhat limited” this spring.

Zac Etheridge, Daren Bates and Harris Gaston are the other players not expected to fully participate this spring.

Safeties Aairon Savage and Mike McNeil are also coming back from injuries, but were in white jerseys instead of the orange non-contact jerseys Wednesday.

Chizik still didn’t want to commit to them in a full-contact capacity.

“I think they fall into the category that we've got to be smart with them as we go along,” Chizik said. “To say that they were full-speed right now, I don't think that's necessarily accurate, but they've come a long way.”

ARMS RACE: Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is no stranger to quarterback competitions at this point in his career.

Whoever gets the starting nod at Auburn this season will be Malzahn’s fifth starter in five years as a college coach.

For that reason, Malzahn knows the timeline he wants to follow in accepting a starter.

“I told our guys, we're rotating four guys. You can't do that long,” he said. “Hopefully we'll in a short period of time be able to narrow it down to possibly three and then two.”

Malzahn said the ultimate goal is to determine a starter by the end of spring, but said he wanted to be “110 percent positive” before doing so.

Junior-college transfer Cam Newton, senior Neil Caudle, sophomore Barrett Trotter and redshirt freshman Clint Moseley are currently competing for the starting spot.

QUICK OUTS: Chizik confirmed Wednesday that Bates has moved from safety to linebacker. He said Bates’ position change is part of Auburn’s effort to get more speed on the field. Bates started all 13 games last year at safety… Anthony Gulley legally changed his name during the offseason to Anthony Morgan. He is listed on the roster as a receiver but worked at cornerback on Wednesday.

Early notes from Wednesday's practice

There were a few absences in this morning's practice: QB Tyrik Rollison and FBs John Douglas and Jason King. All three players were suspended from the Outback Bowl, Douglas and King for separate DUIs and Rollison for a violation of team rules.

We will ask Gene Chizik about all three when we speak with him in a few hours.

Rollison, a highly touted quarterback coming out of high school last year, draws the most interest. A few weeks ago, he posted on Facebook that he was moving on from Auburn. His father, Michael Kelly, told a few media outlets that Rollison was headed to Sam Houston State where he could play immediately. However, Kelly changed his story later in the day, ultimately deciding to stop talking about it altogether.

Auburn has yet to release a statement about the situation and Auburn sports information said Rollison is still on the official roster.

OL Darrell Roseman, a career reserve, was also not listed on the roster. He has been plagued with injuries throughout his career. Chizik hasn't talked about Roseman no longer being a part of the team.

If all four are officially off the team, Auburn can bring in all 25 players every SEC school can add according to NCAA rules.

New Players, New Numbers, One New Name
Anthony Gulley is no longer Anthony Gulley. His new name is Anthony Morgan. He's also apparently no longer an offensive player, wearing a white jersey and working with defensive backs.

As for the new players:
QB Cam Newton is wearing No. 2
DE Craig Sanders - 13
LB Jessel Curry - 33
OT Brandon Mosley - 75
OT Roszell Gayden - 78

By the way, for what it's worth: Mosley worked with the starting offensive line today, Gayden with the second-team line.

OG Mike Berry and Ss Zac Etheridge and Daren Bates did not practice during the portion open to the media. LB Harris Gaston is currently wearing an orange non-contact jersey.

OGs Jorrell Bostrom and Bart Eddins subbed in for Berry with the first-team line.

No Drops
Auburn's punt returners didn't have an opportunity to muff any punts during an early practice drill. They were instead trying to have the ball bounce off the tops of their helmets -- with varying degrees of success.

Not really sure what the drill does, but it was fun to watch.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Report: Woods transferring to Georgia State

Backup TE Bailey Woods will reportedly not be with Auburn when the team opens spring practice Wednesday.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday that Woods has left the program for Georgia State, a Football Championship Subdivision team in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Woods played in 11 games last year. In addition to his tight end responsibilities, he was also the team's backup long snapper. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

IN OTHER NEWS: The Denton Record-Chronicle is reporting that North Texas coach Johnny Jones will interview with Auburn for its vacant head-coaching position sometime this week.

Reports: Lebo to ECU

Ten days after getting fired at Auburn, Jeff Lebo has apparently found work again.

East Carolina will reportedly hire the former Tigers coach, pending approval from the school’s trustees. As long as the trustees agree with the hire, Lebo will likely be in place within the next two days.

Lebo coached at Auburn for six years. He went 96-93 during that time. His downfall came in the Tigers’ inability to reach the postseason. During those six years he reached the NIT once and never made the NCAA Tournament.

Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs announced on March 12 that Lebo would not be retained as coach.

Auburn has still not yet found a coach for its vacant position.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lebo out as AU coach

Auburn has confirmed that Jeff Lebo is out as head coach.

Auburn announced the university’s decision to dismiss Lebo in a late-afternoon press release Friday.

“I want to thank coach Lebo for all that he has done for Auburn University over the past six years,” Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs said in the release. “Coach Lebo has worked hard and has always represented Auburn with character, class and integrity. However, we feel like the time has come for Auburn basketball to move in a new direction. We deeply appreciate all that he and his staff have done for Auburn, and we wish each of them and their families nothing but the best.”

Lebo’s contract still had three years remaining. If fired, he is due a $1.5 million buyout.

Lebo came to Auburn in 2004 with the program under NCAA sanctions. Several of former coach Cliff Ellis’ top players left when Ellis did, creating early struggles for Lebo.

During his six years, Lebo went 96-93 as the Auburn coach. He went 35-61 in SEC play, including three seasons with 4-12 conference records.

The Tigers also managed just a 2-6 mark in SEC Tournament games under Lebo.

Auburn missed the NCAA Tournament every year with Lebo at the helm and made the postseason only once – the 2009 NIT. The Tigers won 24 games that year, matching the second-most in a season.

The 2008-09 season was the highlight of a six-year stint that included just one other winning year.

This year, though, Auburn fell back toward the back of the SEC West, finishing in a fourth-place tie with Alabama. Perhaps more troublesome is the fact that of the Tigers’ top six players, only one – Frankie Sullivan – was a non-senior and they still fell back in the conference.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ten to Remember: No. 3

Spring ball is little more than a month away. With so many players returning from last year’s team, the faces and names will largely remain the same. Here is a look at the 10 under-the-radar players fans should know/remember going into spring practice.

No. 10
LB Jessel Curry

No. 9
RB Dontae Aycock

No. 8
DE Craig Sanders

No. 7
QBs Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley

No. 6
TE Philip Lutzenkirchen

No. 5
DE Nosa Eguae

No. 4
S Mike McNeil & Aairon Savage

No. 3
DT Nick Fairley

Auburn fans should already have an idea of Fairley’s capability. The top reserve defensive tackle last year had 28 tackles including 3.5 for loss. He also showed a pass-rush ability that topped starting tackle Jake Ricks – the two had the same number of sacks, 1.5, and Fairley had more quarterback hurries, seven to six, despite Ricks playing significantly more.

What is yet to be seen is how good the former junior-college player can be as a full-time starter. If Auburn stays in a 4-3 defense – which right now is an if – Fairley is the strongest candidate to assume Ricks’ starting spot next to Mike Blanc.

However, Daren Bates’ apparent move from safety to linebacker has some wondering if Auburn is contemplating a switch to a 3-4 defense. The Tigers already have Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens returning as seniors and Eltoro Freeman improved dramatically toward the end of the season. If the Tigers do stay in the 4-3, Freeman and Bates would compete for playing time – a curious decision considering both showed the potential during their first seasons at Auburn to be very good players at the SEC level last season.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof said during an interview with The Star this week that he would not comment on Bates’ status or position, referring to it as “a (Gene) Chizik question).”

Fairley is a strong enough presence that he could man the nose position if called upon. His size – 6-foot-5, 293 pounds – doesn’t put him in the Terrence Cody class of mammoth-sized human beings, but it certainly isn’t bad either.

If Auburn does move to a 3-4, Fairley and Blanc would likely split the role.

Regardless of what defense Auburn aligns itself with this season, the unit must find ways to improve its run defense. That has been the constant, nagging question Roof seeks to answer first and foremost this season. Whether Auburn is in a 4-3 or a 3-4, that starts up front.

Someone, Blanc or Fairley, must do a better job dominating the line of scrimmage to improve the rush defense. That, more than anything, might determine how good Auburn’s defense can be in 2010.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Q&A with Trooper Taylor

Here is the bulk of an interview I had with receivers coach Trooper Taylor about the recently announced Big Cat Weekend:

The Star: What was the impact of Big Cat Weekend, 2009?
TT: I think what it did is it kind of carried over momentum-wise because it was something different. It was something where we weren’t testing them in the 40, we weren’t asking them their vertical and all that stuff. We want them to come and build relationships because we really emphasize the family side of it and the people part of it. All those things are important for us.

Now we’ve got kids asking ‘When is it?’ and ‘Am I invited?’ and ‘Can I get there?’ and all that kind of stuff. It’s still carrying over into this year.

The Star: What does that say about last year’s player response?
TT: That they had a great time. The great ones want to be around other great ones. This guy wants to know what that guy’s thinking. If you think that those guys don’t read the internet and check the web sites, they’re all over all those things. The best way for them to communicate is through those things.

Then they start asking each other, ‘Well, are you going to Big Cat Weekend?’ ‘I’m going to Big Cat.’ When that spreads throughout the top players, it just grows. It lets you know that: 1) They had a good time and 2) They were excited about what they saw and they enjoyed it enough to where they wanted to tell more people about it. The best advertisement you can get as a coach or a school or a place is word of mouth. It’s not the billboards. It’s not the emails. It’s the word of mouth from other players because they respect that – because here’s a five-star talking to another five-star or a three-star talking to a five-star. We think that’s the biggest advertisement they can get.

The Star: How important is it for the big prospects to get to know each other at Auburn as opposed to elsewhere?
TT: The more the better. The reason why is we want them to see what we have to offer. We want them to understand that Auburn’s more than just the verticals and the 40-yards dashes and the football side of it. Come see us as people, not just as coaches, and develop relationships.

Then, if it doesn’t work for you, that’s OK. We also want you to come here and be able to leave with that ability to make that judgment on Auburn based on the things that you saw – not the things that you heard from someone else or, in the recruiting battles, all this negative stuff.

That’s one thing we pride ourselves on: We’re never going to go into a home and bash another school. That’s not our deal. Our deal is to go into a home and sell what we’ve got because that’s what we know and that’s what we’re trying to do.

The Star: How do you mix keeping the prestige of a Big Cat Weekend invitation for highly rated prospects with not offending other prospects?
TT: It’s not really an invite when we say it’s select. It’s the top guys start talking and they want to come. We don’t turn anybody away. We don’t take a guy and say, ‘No, you’re not allowed to come to Big Cat Weekend,’ because, say he’s a two-star but we’ve looked at him on tape and think he can play. It doesn’t matter to us. If we think he can play, we’re going to go after him.

You look at Shaun Kitchens. He was one of our earlier commitments and he was just a two- or three-star at the time and then he kept on going. Shon Coleman: His teammate was a five-star and we recruited Shon based on tape and we wanted him here.

We don’t give out a select deal where we say, ‘You’re the only one that can come.’ We evaluate you on tape and if we think you are what we’re looking for, we’re going to bring you. Most of them that are on the fence and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know about that,’ or ‘I didn’t get that,’ – we’re always going to have our doors open.

They kind of invite each other. We put the dates out there and then they start snowballing. ‘I heard about Big Cat last year and I’m not missing it.’ I’ve got kids that are calling me already and saying, ‘Hey coach, I’m coming to Big Cat Weekend.’ I’ve got coaches across Florida, Georgia, even Louisiana that are calling about Big Cat Weekend. I think that’s big. Obviously those things do nothing but open up doors for us.

The Star: With so many players interested, how do you keep it at a personal level?
TT: Even if 200 came, we make sure that we break the groups up into small enough groups. If it takes 10 groups or 20 groups, whatever it takes, we do that. Here’s what we’re not afraid of – spending time. We’ll go from 7 in the morning until midnight. That’s the thing you’d be amazed at is that we’ll work all the way up until that fine line where it says we can’t go any more.

To get it done, we’ll make sure that we do that. We don’t put a time limit on it. We say recruiting’s like shaving – if you don’t do it every day, it will show. We want to make sure that not only are we doing it, but we’re doing it right.

The Star: How do you stay cutting-edge without pushing the envelope?
Intentions. If you go out and say, ‘I know this rule is this way,’ and try to break that rule, that’s when you’re wrong. If you’re going out there and you’re not intentionally trying to break a rule or you’re just trying to get outside your box, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

I think there are a lot of companies out there doing that right now – that are brainstorming and trying to do things different because it’s really marketing. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to market the product that we have, which is Auburn. The good thing about it is it’s not something that’s hard to sell.

We love it. We all believe in it. We believe in the people that are here. That’s not a hard thing for us to do – go out and sell Auburn.

The Star: Based on last year, do you guys have to be more cognizant of the rules during Big Cat Weekend?
No, what we have to do is – now we understand the parameters. Those are the ones that we will work with because there’s a precedent that’s been set that these things can happen, these things can’t and that’s what we’ll abide by.

Before there wasn’t a precedent (referring to Toomer’s Corner).

Taylor: QB Rollison has not reached a final decision

Trooper Taylor said Tuesday during an interview with The Star that redshirt freshman QB Tyrik Rollison has not made a final decision on whether or not to transfer to Sam Houston State, as has been widely reported.

Rollison's father, Michael Kelly, told a few media outlets last week that Rollison would transfer to Sam Houston State, but declined comment when reached by The Star. Auburn has not released an official statement about Rollison.

Though Taylor said Rollison has not yet made up his mind, he did say that Rollison's status for spring football remains uncertain. It will continue to be unclear until Rollison reaches a decision.

Taylor also said he understands players can get homesick and have to do what's best for themselves. He said Auburn will support Rollison either way.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Big Cat is Back

Auburn coaches have talked about wanting to build on this year's recruiting success.

Part of that process, apparently, will include repeating some of the more successful methods. Jeffrey Lee of reported today that Auburn is bringing back Big Cat Weekend -- an unofficial visit weekend intended for Auburn coaches to get to know the biggest targets on Auburn's board.

Auburn landed 10 prospects that visited during Big Cat Weekend last year. That list included high-profile recruits such as RB Michael Dyer and LB LaDarius Owens.

The weekend did have its drawbacks, though. A portion of the weekend led to some well-documented rules violations and cost Auburn in recruiting -- specifically with specific players and with Trooper Taylor's punishment that prevented him from off-campus recruiting for a few months.

Jay G. Tate of The Montgomery Advertiser had an interesting interview with Taylor today. In that interview, Taylor said Auburn needs to find a balance between obeying the rules and remaining cutting-edge.

This year's Big Cat Weekend will begin May 28.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ten to Remember: No. 4

Spring ball is little more than a month away. With so many players returning from last year’s team, the faces and names will largely remain the same. Here is a look at the 10 under-the-radar players fans should know/remember going into spring practice.

No. 10
LB Jessel Curry

No. 9
RB Dontae Aycock

No. 8
DE Craig Sanders

No. 7
QBs Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley

No. 6
TE Philip Lutzenkirchen

No. 5
DE Nosa Eguae

No. 4
S Mike McNeil & Aairon Savage

Both of these should be names Auburn fans already know. However, McNeil hasn’t played since breaking his leg during a spring scrimmage last year. Savage hasn’t seen full-contact action since tearing knee ligaments early in preseason camp in 2008.

This year, they could be full-time starters.

The coaching staff expects S Zac Etheridge to be able to resume his football career, but Auburn coach Gene Chizik said contact drills are almost certainly not in the cards. With Daren Bates moving to strong-side linebacker to compete with LB Eltoro Freeman, that leaves McNeil and Savage as the likely starters heading into spring.

Safeties Mike Slade, Drew Cole and T’Sharvan Bell provide depth, but look for McNeil and Savage to get the first cracks at the safety spots.

Savage was a two-year starter before then-coach Tommy Tuberville moved him to cornerback in hopes of keeping him on the field more. The move backfired when Savage tore up his knee, costing him his junior season. Savage returned last year only to tear his Achilles heel during summer workouts. The day after National Signing Day, Auburn announced that the NCAA granted Savage a sixth-year of eligibility.

McNeil missed all last year with a broken leg despite coaches originally saying he could be back early in the season. He instead wasn’t ready for practice again until November, at which point the coaches decided to keep him on the sideline and use his redshirt season.

McNeil started at free safety the previous season, playing opposite Etheridge.

Regardless of who mans the safety spots, it is imperative that they start creating more turnovers for a defense that thrives off the takeaways. The position has had its hand in just seven total takeaways over the last three seasons combined – three in 2009, two in ’08 and two in ’07. Remember that Junior Rosegreen had four interceptions by himself during the regular season Tennessee game in 2004.

For Auburn’s attacking defense to be its best, the safeties need to make the most of turnover opportunities. Savage and McNeil will get first crack at showing the unit has the game-changing abilities necessary.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ten to Remember: No. 5

Spring ball is little more than a month away. With so many players returning from last year’s team, the faces and names will largely remain the same. Here is a look at the 10 under-the-radar players fans should know/remember going into spring practice.

No. 10
LB Jessel Curry

No. 9
RB Dontae Aycock

No. 8
DE Craig Sanders

No. 7
QBs Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley

No. 6
TE Philip Lutzenkirchen

No. 5
DE Nosa Eguae

Were it not for an unfortunate injury just days before the start of the season, Eguae’s name would be one already familiar with Auburn fans. He had done enough as a true freshman to impress the coaches enough to put him in the rotation.

That injury, though, sidelined him for several weeks – enough to convince the coaches just to give him a redshirt.

Size isn’t an issue for Eguae at defensive end. He was listed last year at 6-foot-2, 244 pounds, but seemed to be bigger than that when he spoke with reporters in December. His frame seems big enough that he could potentially be a ‘tweener ala former Auburn lineman Sen’Derrick Marks.

For now, Eguae will pursue the starting strong-side defensive end spot, where he could start opposite Antoine Carter. If Eguae wins the position, it would show that he’s ready to be a factor at the collegiate level. That’s because two-year starter Michael Goggans is Eguae’s biggest competition entering the spring.

Even if Eguae doesn’t win the job, he will still probably be a primary player in the rotation. His spring will be important simply to confirm to coaches that he is as good as they thought he was after four weeks of practice.

If he does, look for Eguae to be a big part of the Auburn defense in 2010.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

ESPNU to televise A-Day

Auburn announced today that ESPNU has chosen to televise the Tigers' annual spring game.

The game will be played at 1 p.m. on April 17 in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rollison reportedly transferring out of AU

Auburn QB Tyrik Rollison is reportedly leaving the program. Several media outlets are confirming that Rollison's father, Michael Kelly, is saying his son will leave Auburn for Sam Houston State.

In an interview with, Kelly said Rollison made his decision to be closer to home.

Rollison was considered one of Auburn's biggest signees during Auburn coach Gene Chizik's first recruiting class. He competed for the backup quarterback job well into August before ultimately losing the battle to Neil Caudle. Rollison still worked with the varsity offense all year instead of practicing with the scout team, as most redshirt players do.

He had a misstep in December when Chizik suspended him for the Outback Bowl because of an unspecified violation of team rules. That move immediately preceded Auburn's decision to recruit and ultimately sign JUCO QB Cam Newton, who is largely considered the favorite to win the starting job.

Kelly did not mention Newton or the quarterback race during his interview with, nor did he say anything about it to ESPN's Joe Schad.

Auburn has not yet confirmed that Rollison has or will leave the program.

EDIT (2:59 p.m.): I finally reached Kelly myself. He said he didn't wish to comment on Rollison's situation at the current time, instead saying he wanted to wait "until things blow over." He also said, "I've got to talk to Ty." That is a sudden change of tune from the interview he did with on Wednesday night.

Auburn sports information director Kirk Sampson said he can not confirm that Rollison has left the team.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ten to Remember: No. 6

Spring ball is little more than a month away. With so many players returning from last year’s team, the faces and names will largely remain the same. Here is a look at the 10 under-the-radar players fans should know/remember going into spring practice.

No. 10
LB Jessel Curry

No. 9
RB Dontae Aycock

No. 8
DE Craig Sanders

No. 7
QBs Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley

No. 6
TE Philip Lutzenkirchen

Despite coming to Auburn with lofty expectations, it would be easy to overlook Lutzenkirchen right now. Like receivers Emory Blake and DeAngelo Benton, Lutzenkirchen drew plenty of press, but played just a minimal role in the offense as a true freshman.

Lutzenkirchen is the favor to replace Tommy Trott as the tight end/slot receiver. Auburn fans have waited for someone to break out in that position for a long, long time. Trott never turned in the all-SEC-type season some expected from him. Cole Bennett was underappreciated because of his blocking ability, but offered little in the passing game.

Cooper Wallace had a consistent career, but never tallied more than 20 receptions in a season. Robert Johnson might have been the last major pass-catching threat for Auburn. Johnson had 30 catches for 365 yards and four touchdowns in 2002 – his final year at Auburn.

Though high-school tape doesn’t often translate well into the college level, Lutzenkirchen certainly showed he is capable of the spectacular.

Still, there are some concerns. Coaches – particularly Trooper Taylor – sometimes grumbled a bit about Lutzenkirchen’s size, hoping he would shed some weight. Taylor once joked Lutzenkirchen was a few meals away from joining offensive line coach Jeff Grimes’ position meetings, implying Lutzenkirchen could move to tackle.

It should also be noted that coaches apparently felt more comfortable with Trott – and the bad penalties and occasional drops that came with him – than Lutzenkirchen. He was also supposed to be in the mix for the H-back position when Eric Smith was suspended for the Outback Bowl. The position instead largely vanished during the game.

Not many people doubt Lutzenkirchen’s ability, but with an open position, this is the time he needs to make his move and prove capable of a breakout year. That process begins this spring.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Chizik meets with the media

We'll get back to the Ten to Remember series tomorrow. For today, here is what Auburn coach Gene Chizik had to say when meeting with reporters earlier this afternoon:

(Spring practice plans)
Right now, the tentative plan, and as we get closer we’re going to solidify everything. But the tentative plan is to go the first Wednesday after spring break. Typically, I’d like to make it a Monday, Wednesday, Friday during the week practice schedule and Saturday being, if we’re ready, being a scrimmage day. That’s always subject to change with weather and other issues. That’s how we want to start it and as we get moving through it just go from there.

(Any difference between first and second spring?)
It’s much easier at this point in time. Don’t try to read into that. It’s just easier for everybody. There’s a lot of variables in there that a year ago we didn’t know. Personalities of players and players trying to figure out the personalities of coaches. The new terminology of offense and defense, you’re second go-around is so much easier for everybody.

I think it’s been smooth since we’ve come back from the bowl game. They’ve done a great job. We’re going into our seventh or eighth week since they’ve come back. It’s been smooth and it’s been much easier for everybody.

(What's different from last year?)
Really, nothing new in terms of what we’re doing with coach (Kevin Yoxall) in the weight room. They’re doing their semester pretty much like they did last year. The difference is we went to a bowl game this year and when we came back there’s discretionary periods in there you have to adhere to.

The other thing that’s been really different in a good way is their class schedules are a little different this semester than they’ve been, which is going to allow us to, as we talk about spring practice, allow us to practice in the mornings.

It’s been a different schedule. They get over here in the morning and get everything knocked out early. Then they have the rest of the day to go to school and attend the study halls if needed.

Other than that, the scheduling, nothing is really different. It’s just our second time around.

(How important was a strong recruiting class?)
I think it was huge. I think for us to get Auburn back to where I envision it being, which we’re certainly not there; I think it’s going to take those type of recruiting class one on top of the other. Our next year’s recruiting class, our goal is to make it better than the one the year before. Every year try to improve upon what you do.

It was important to us. It was important to our team to bring in good teammates. It was important to our fan base to see that we’re going to work on the recruiting trail. I think it was important to our whole program.

(What the raises means to Chizik and the staff)
It’s not about me. The administration has been phenomenal for me. It was really important that there was a vote of confidence there in our administration that they see and understand the importance in the continuity of our coaching staff. If you just look around the league, there’s been a lot changes. Of course we’ve only been here one year but when you have very talented guys as assistant coaches there’s going to be a lot of people that are interested in hiring them.

It was very important and huge administratively that we made that step forward to say, ‘Hey look, we want to be proactive on the front end of trying to keep everything intact.’ Really important to our coaches and what that means to our coaches but also don’t forget the huge impact that has on your players when they don’t have to change coaches. I think that’s big.

(Thoughts on escalating coaching salaries)
I think it's a little bit of everything. It's a little bit of the trickle-down effect. It's supply and demand. It all starts with the coordinators. People understand the importance of the leaders of your offense or the leaders of your defense and the impact they can have on your football team.

This profession, in general, especially at this level pays a lot of money. It's definitely gotten bigger over the last few years. The supply and the demand and the importance of winning is coming through loud and clear. People are willing to pay that money to get the best people at their trade.

(Does the coaching continuity help with recruiting?)
I hope it was an advantage. They guys we had recruiting a guy a year ago is the same guy we had recruiting him on Feb. 2 before signing day. I think that's a huge impact. Anytime you don't have change, that's a big deal. That just ties into the huge impact all the way around of not having any changes in your staff. That's a huge deal -- including recruiting.

(Do the increased salaries mean less patience?)
In this world of coaching, there always are very, very high expectations. The patience level of fans, the patience out there period, when when you get paid a lot of money is shorter. To a certain degree, yes, the patience runs low fast. When you make large amounts of money, people expect things. That's never going to change. I don't think that's changes from 10, 15 years ago. People can justify it more in their minds now: They make x amount of money, they should be delivering.

(Thoughts on Aairon Savage's return)
I'm really, really proud of having him back on our football team. It's not always easy to get a sixth year. That's not a gimme. I'm really, really happy to have him -- not just for what kind of player he has been but what he brings to the table in terms of leadership and maturity. He's going to finish him master's degree before he starts his last season. It's big to have him on the team. Where are we going to play him? He's been at some different places. Wherever he can help our team best. I don't know that I could give you a definitive. I know he can play either or because he's done it.

(How has Zac Etheridge bounced back from his injury?)
Really good. He's a day-by-day progression of getting to the point where he can play again. I don't want to over-step my boundary; I'm not a doctor. I feel very encouraged about the progress that's been made here in the last couple of months.

(Will any other players miss spring?)
I can't just throw any out there.

(Will Daren Bates practice in the spring?)
That will be questionable. When you talk about being ready for spring, ready for what? That's the issue. Are some of them going to be able to have contact? Off the top of my head, anyone I think is totally going to miss spring, nobody I can think about that can’t at least do something for us. I feel good about most of our guys being able to do something.

(Will Etheridge practice?)
That's going to be day by day. He's making some good progress. We have to wait. As we get closer, you think contact certainly won't be in the cards for him right now. What's he going to be able to do otherwise? I don't know.

(What has QB Cam Newton showed during his first month-plus?)
Cam is, in my opinion, been very focused on what he wants to accomplish. As a staff, we're not going to place any expectations on him that's any different than anybody else. That's not fair. There'll be a battle at the quarterback position. He's going to be part of that battle. May the best man win. Expectation-wise, he's not going to be in a different boat. It won't be any different.

(With Ben Tate gone, who will work at tailback this spring?)
Well, obviously Mario (Fannin) is somebody we're looking at that, again, we feel like can do that because he's done it. We feel like Eric Smith can do it because he's done it. Onterio (McCalebb), those are the guys that we're going to look at. They've all got some sort of, one way or the other, they've all got experience at that position in this offense, one time or another, even dating back to the last spring, so they've all three done it at some point.

(Where will Dontae Aycock work?)
Yeah, Dontae's a guy we can move around and do different things with. We're going to look at him at different spots. Obviously, he was a quarterback in high school so he's talented. I think he can bring some different options to the table, whether it be a guy playing in the slot type option, whether it's a guy that kind of did what Mario did last year, being able to stretch the field vertically, being able to run some wheels out of the backfield. He's very talented and athletic in that regard. Whether he can play tailback or not, he can be in that mix as well. I think he can do a few different things but we're going to try and look to see where the best fit for him depending on what way the tailback situation unfolds.

(Will he work at tailback?)
Just kind of feeling him out. He'll definitely get some reps there too, again, to see if that's what he brings to the table for us that helps our team win. Again, with those types of players, I know they're different body types and things, but they've all got a chance to play more than one role on the team.

(Chizik has signed a lot of former high-school quarterbacks. Is that something he tries to do?)
I do. I like quarterbacks. I like guys that are very athletic that bring a knowledge of the game right now. That's whether he's on offense or defense. Sometimes they have a different way of seeing the game simply because of what they were doing in high school. That could be for a defensive back, a wideout, can be a tailback. I've recruited them as corners, safeties and linebackers as well. I think, again, when they've done that in high school they have a great feel for the game for maybe a different perspective than other guys have had.

(Will Kodi Burns be involved in the quarterback competition?)
He's a wide receiver. He'll still play Wildcat, but his predominant position is wide receiver.

(On how Auburn will get five different quarterbacks enough practice time)
We'll see. We'll see. Again, we'll figure out a way to rep them the right way but it'll be a really good competition. Right now it's a healthy one. We've just got to figure out how we're going to do that and split up the reps, but we'll find a way to do it.

(How important was it to show a commitment to offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn?)
I'm going to say that with everybody first. I want to be proactive with everybody to keep them here. Some guys on our staff got offered potentially other assistant coaches jobs, some guys potentially got offered head jobs. And again, we wanted to do what we felt we needed to do to keep everything together. And that's kind of what the whole salary structure was based on. We just kept everything in tact as best as we could, to the best of our ability, and did what we needed to do to do that. With some of our guys being sought after, again, we did what we felt like we needed to do.

(Clarify "potentially' interested)
It means people were interested in them.

(Has anyone left the team?)
Off the top of my head, no. Nobody that you guys wouldn't no about.

(How important are the five early enrollees from a depth standpoint?)
Again, three of those five that came in January were junior college guys. Two of them were high school guys. And just for the depth of our team, I think it's really, really big. And I think for high school guys to come in here, it's kind of a whole new world for them. But surely that is going to be really good for us down the road in terms of building depth for young guys. And they are all fighting for jobs, but the junior college guys that you bring in here, typically you're bringing them in because there is a dire need at one of those positions and what-not. And those guys are going to come in here and really battle it out for potential starting playing time. And again, not that the high school guys are not, but they're still coming in two different type worlds. But it's good to have them all here and it's been excellent. It's been a great transition for the fight. They've really been on top of their stuff. It's really good for our team.

(What has Chizik seen in Roszell Gayden?)
My initial impressions have been really good. Roszell has come in here and really done everything we ask him to do, which we figured he would. He's a great young man and he's working really, really hard to get into the swing of what we do. At the tackle position right now, there will be some young guys that we're going to potentially play out there. It may be a mix and match. Sometimes it could be a guard-type guy who could move out to tackle. Obviously Andrew graduated, and that's the hole we're trying to fill, but you've still got Brandon Mosley that's competing for potentially an offensive line/tight end job. He's very athletic and he can do both. Again, with our own football team, there's still some young guys that we may try out there. Maybe it's a John Sullen. It really depends. We feel like we're pretty good right now from left tackle to right guard. But again, that's going to be the one that's open, and people have to challenge it for you.

(Does Chizik foresee any quarterbacks transferring positions or schools if they don't win the starting spot?)
I don't see anybody going to another position. The way I envision it, I don't see it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ten to Remember: No. 7

Spring ball is little more than a month away. With so many players returning from last year’s team, the faces and names will largely remain the same. Here is a look at the 10 under-the-radar players fans should know/remember going into spring practice.

No. 10
LB Jessel Curry

No. 9
RB Dontae Aycock

No. 8
DE Craig Sanders

No. 7
QBs Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley

The paths to starting quarterback became much tougher to travel for both redshirt freshmen the day Cameron Newton signed with Auburn. That said, this spring is still pivotal for the pair.

Both players need to put themselves in a position to be the backup if they don’t win the starting job. Newton will be probably be around for two years. That means Moseley and Rollison are battling not only for the backup spot, but also the right to become the heir apparent.

Neil Caudle winning the position for a second consecutive year – especially when Auburn went the junior-college route to find a probable starter – would send up a red flag that Moseley and Rollison aren’t ready.

Moseley drew rave reviews from offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. He also apparently received praise from defensive coordinator Ted Roof behind closed doors because of the work he did for the scout team.

So what is my opinion of Moseley? The same as that of Rollison – none. I haven’t seen either throw one pass in a game situation – not even in a scrimmage.

Rollison entered Auburn as a more-heralded recruit. He was one of the Tigers' biggest gets in the 2009 recruiting class and the highest-rated dual-threat quarterback. He was also in the mix for the backup job this year until the last few weeks.

I do know this about Rollison: There are questions about him stemming from his bowl game suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules. Whether the suspension came from grades or disciplinary reasons, it raises an alert about his maturity or lack thereof.

Though Newton is considered the favorite for the spot, it would be foolish to rule anyone out before he throws his first pass in the spring. Moseley and Rollison need to compete during spring practice for the starting position because even if it isn’t a starting competition for this year, it might very well be for the 2011 or 2012 season.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Trooper Towels Donate to Miracle League

Receivers coach Trooper Taylor made an appearance at halftime of the Auburn-Arkansas basketball game Saturday night to promote the Miracle League, a baseball league for disabled children.

Taylor, who celebrated his 40th birthday Saturday, was on hand for a check ceremony. The money raised from "Trooper towels," the white towels fans purchased at football games this year, went to the Miracle League.

The check was for more than $3,500.

For more on the Miracle League, readers can go here.

Ten to Remember: No. 8

Spring ball is little more than a month away. With so many players returning from last year’s team, the faces and names will largely remain the same. Here is a look at the 10 under-the-radar players fans should know/remember going into spring practice.

No. 10
LB Jessel Curry

No. 9
RB Dontae Aycock

No. 8
DE Craig Sanders

Auburn proved early on that it had a chance to put together a strong recruiting class. The lingering question centered on the program’s ability to compete against Alabama for in-state prospects.

Craig Sanders helped the Tigers provide an answer when he switched his commitment from the Crimson Tide to Auburn on Sept. 30.

Sanders should be more than just a recruiting pawn. He has a chance to make an immediate impact since he enrolled early and is already on campus. Sanders, along with LB Jessel Curry, are the only two early enrollee high-school prospects.

With Sanders coming from Class A Ariton, there were some doubt about his ability. He responded by posting a solid week during the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game practices.

Here’s what’s Barry Every said:

“Sanders was one of the prettiest prospects on the Alabama squad. He may only be from a Class A school, but he possesses excellent overall athletic ability and a frame that may allow him to grow into a defensive end that could play weak side or strong side. He finished the game with three total tackles, a TFL, and a pass breakup. With him graduating early, do not be surprised if he ends up having an impact for Auburn as a true freshman.”

Auburn will enter the spring in search of a new starter at defensive end. Antonio Coleman graduated and Antoine Carter is expected to move to weak-side end. Sanders will have steep competition, but could work his way into the playing rotation as one of the top four ends.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ten to Remember: No. 9

Spring ball is little more than a month away. With so many players returning from last year’s team, the faces and names will largely remain the same. Here is a look at the 10 under-the-radar players fans should know/remember going into spring practice.

No. 10
LB Jessel Curry

No. 9
RB Dontae Aycock

No more Ben Tate means Auburn’s remaining true tailbacks will have opportunities to impress coaches this spring.

The likely contenders are Onterio McCalebb, Mario Fannin, Eric Smith and redshirt freshman Dontae Aycock. All have plenty to prove – Fannin needs to dispel the ball-security issues he has struggled with off and on, Smith must show he can stay out of trouble and is quick enough to be a feature back and McCalebb needs to show increased durability.

Aycock seemingly has the most to prove, however, because the other three players have at least shown particular skill sets at the collegiate level. Not only has Aycock not done anything in college yet, he hasn’t even played the position regularly.

Aycock was a high school quarterback, though he ran an option offense. He rushed for 1,406 yards and 28 touchdowns as a high school senior and finished with 6,000 total yards in his high-school career.

Running backs coach Curtis Luper has no doubt Aycock can be successful at tailback, but he will only have a limited time to prove himself. That’s because RB Michael Dyer will arrive this summer. He is the most highly anticipated tailback to come to Auburn since Carnell Williams and one of the most highly anticipated in the last decade.

Dyer can’t prove himself at the college level before he arrives on campus, though. That’s where Aycock’s advantage comes. With a strong spring, he could put himself in position to earn carries in the fall. A poor spring, however, might leave him as an outsider looking in. With Dyer as a freshman and McCalebb already entrenched in a niche role as a sophomore, Aycock could find himself behind at least two players his entire Auburn career.

In other words, few players have as much to gain – or lose – as Aycock this spring.