Thursday, February 18, 2010

What Might Have Been

We Could have Been a Contender

My wife, two days past due for the birth of my son, understandably went to bed early last night, so I had a chance to catch up on some college hoops rather than watch the Lifetime Movie of the week.

The Duece had Texas-Missouri, so I was immediately interested. I have been a Mike Anderson fan since UAB, where he was once a coach and I was once a student at the school of optometry there. My student ID gave me free admission to the "Fastest forty minutes in basketball", as it was called back then. I watched Anderson's teams who were so often undermanned whip more talented teams with shear guts and hustle. They never stopped. I was reminded of that again last night as Missouri imposed their will upon a shell-shocked Texas team with more talent, but less want to. Anderson is in basketball what Guz Malzahn is to college football. The fast paced approach wears the opponents down physically and more importantly mentally. Both are exciting to watch as fans of either sport. Both are, I would imagine as a player, great fun to play for.

In 2004 we closed the book on Cliff Ellis. His tenure produced the single greatest season in Auburn Basketball. But more often than not, his teams were forgettable and played uninspired. After another lousy season with better than average players, Cliff got canned.

Jay Jacobs had every opportunity at the time to go get Anderson. Most insiders berlieved he wanted the job. Jacobs fumbled the opportunity away by from a couple of accounts refusing to make the 2 hour drive to Birmingham to meet with Anderson. It was beneath him I guess.

The result was possibly the worst few years of Auburn baskteball since Tommy Joe Eagles. Jeff Lebo is a nice guy who simply has not gotten it done. This season was supposed to be a turn around. Instead, we Auburn fans have been subjected to losses to Troy and Sam Houston St., among others. We have seen flashes of brilliance slip away in overtime. It has been excrutiating underachievement.

I could write all day about poor shot selection, lousy halfcourt defense, atrocious free-throw shooting, etc. But I will save it, because we all have seen it before.

Jeff Lebo's tenure is likely done in a month or so. I wonder what might have been if Mike Anderson had been Auburn's head coach. He singlehandedly might have cured Auburn basketball apathy with an exciting brand of basketball that produces winners. Guess we will never know.

It has been documented before, but it's worth reminding us all again....

**Courtesy of Jerry @ Warblogeagle (formerly JCCW)

***Updated--Thanks to a reader, I just realized that Jay Jacobs didn't hire Lebo. It was Hal Baird, who also holds the distinction of hiring Tom Slater to run a once great AU baseball program into the ground. I stand corrected. Here you go...


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Turning the Tables

When he takes off the glasses, he is like Superman.

After the Iron Bowl, I posted that Auburn's players and coaching staff had changed the perception of Auburn football in one game. Forgive the phrase fellow followeres of the Orange and Blue, but that process rapidly accelerated yesterday with Auburn having the best signing class in its history.

Of all of the signees I think I am most excited about Cam Newton. He's a blue chipper that can give Auburn's offense an instant upgrade. Think about how successful those option pitches were with Chris freakin Todd as the QB. Now imagine an actual threat of a QB keeping the ball and running for 30+. I salivate at the thought.

Auburn signed another great running back in Michael Dyer. He is strong as an ox and can bust a big play at any time.

The O-line signees satisfy our urgent needs there.

I am just as impressed with the defensive upgrades. As Rob said, Jake Holland is a beast who should contibute immediately. Let's not forget Owens is the more highly touted linebacker prospect, and Jessel Curry (already in school) has an NFL pedigree.

Dfensive line? Check. With Whittaker, Lemonier, and Bonomolo (it just rolls off the tounge) the D-line has even more depth this year. Seriously, check out the film on Bonomolo and you can see why I am so excited.

We signed a ton of athletes for the secondary to shore up some holes there.

Gene Chizik and company continue to impress. I cannot wait to see this team hit the filed in the fall, but for now I will settle for our friends in Crimson to be upset about their own top five signing class not being as impressive as Auburn's.

War Eagle, baby!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Recruiting Recap

If my memory serves me correctly, this limo was the laughing stock of the state...a silly, corny ploy our brethren of the crimson persuasion swore. "Recruits will see right through this!" they implored. Turns out recruits wanted to pile in and ride with the Tigers!

National Signing Day was the culmination of an immense amount of work this coaching staff and their peripheral staffs performed since the day they arrived in Auburn. Congrats and kudos for deciding Auburn will take a back-seat to no one. If we are intrigued with a player and determine he would make an excellent fit...damnit we are going after him full throttle. I love it...the aggressiveness is infectious and a breath of fresh air. This group of talented studs will push the upperclassmen for playing time...breeding competition and forcing everyone to improve on a daily basis.

Truth be told, several of these guys will never make it...probably the most prolific, can't miss recruit we are all penciling in as the next Auburn All American will turn out to be a dud. I remember the hype surrounding the guys from my signing class in 1997, the can't miss future NFL stars....Asa Francis-never played a down, Demontray Carter-played a season and half before transferring, Stanford Simmons-took three years to get into school, Herman Banks-quit after 6 games. I could go on and on. My never really know what you have (work ethic, attitude, coachability, being a team player) until you get these guys on the field and put them in uncomfortable situations.

It's still nice and satisfying to haul in guys so highly sought after and highly ranked by our competitors and national pundits. War Eagle!

Who I'm most excited we got-1A Trovon Reed...simply for taking the number one player out of Louisiana from LSU and Alabama (with Saban's connections) is a remarkable feat. Elite level speed and quickness make Trovon an unbelievable get for this Auburn offense. 1B Shon Coleman...again, anytime you take the number one player away from another state you are good at what you do. Coleman's stock rose considerably after dominating performances against the best high school talent in America at post season all-star games, garnering him the ever elusive 5 star rating.

Who will make an immediate impact-Jake Holland...saw the kid play in person against my brother's Spain Park team and Jake was all over the field. It's much easier to play early as a defender than offensive guy and it's no secret the Auburn LB unit is lacking depth. Jake will be a tackling machine!

Diamond in the Rough-Justin Delaine...Coach Phillip Lolley will find a guy along Alabama's Black Belt every year no one has heard of and that guy will be a tough-nosed football player (see Spencer Johnson). This kid will gain 30 lbs and runs like a deer.

Who is that?, but I'll Take Him Cause He Plays Like a Demon Possessed-Joel Bonomolo...I'm still waiting for someone to block Joel on his highlight tape from wherever he played last season. Either he played against eighth graders from the Sisters of the Poor or he's an unblockable beast with an insatiable appetite for destroying the ball carrier...I'll stick with the latter til proven otherwise!

Coach that deserves the most credit-tough call...raises to Curtis Luper, Trooper Taylor, Gus Malzahn, Tracy Rocker, and Tommy Thigpen are in order. Word on the street is Tommy Thigpen is an unsung hero, a master recruiter (eventhough Trooper Taylor gets all the buzz). No wonder Florida made a run at Thigpen to join their staff.

Finally, welcome aboard Michael Dyer! This guy is will be special! And welcome aboard all the guys from metropolitan Birmingham---Springville, Moody, Bessemer, Pelham, Woodlawn----represent Birmingham for us boys!!

What are your thoughts?