Monday, December 10, 2012

Yoxall's Lasting Legacy

Over a decade of Auburn players have been molded into tougher men by Coach Kevin Yoxall. As he exits the Auburn program having served it in an elite manner for 14 years , there will be a generation of former and current Auburn players who feel a piece of them exit with Coach Yox.

And I was there to see the transformation he ushered in. I was there the night Coach Tuberville told us in a team meeting he was hiring a strength coach that could and would physically throw us out of the weight room if he deemed it necessary. I was there the night we performed our very first conditioning regimen under Coach Yox—a measly three gassers inside the indoor complex. It was the least amount of running we’d ever do for him and we had more players than you could imagine who failed the test. I was there to see many teammates walk out never to return. And, I was there to see us go from a 3-8 team to a SEC Championship game merely two years under a work ethic he instilled.

Before he came to Auburn, we were incredibly weak in mind and body. He blew us away with his structure, intensity, demands, expertise, and his passion. As he walks out the door at Auburn, I believe I can safely speak on behalf of my teammates and all those who’ve followed, Kevin Yoxall positively impacted our lives for the better, forced us to grow up, demanded excellence every single day. He shaped the way we think, work, respond, raise our children.

We hated his guts initially. Cussed him within the confines and anonymity of our locker-room. Would have bet my life he conferred with Satan himself to create daily workouts. Dreaded each day during class, wondering what torturous running he had planned, what awkward lift he would stand and observe me perform. There was no guessing, no cheating, no way to coast through a workout. He, or one of his GAs, watched every rep of every exercise of every individual that entered the weight room. He had even prepopulated the weight to be placed on the bar for each lift along an algorithm to be certain he could track our progress and see who was producing and who wasn’t.

He made us dress exactly the same. Auburn issued orange shorts with Auburn issued gray t-shirt. You wear something different, you wished you hadn’t. You show up late, not five minutes, but one second—you wished you hadn’t.

As we began to see results of our hard work, a work ethic we all thought we epitomized prior to Coach Yox’s arrival—however a work ethic we hadn’t come close to obtaining—we began to buy in. It not only became crystal clear there was no easy path to success, that “work, hard work” was the price to pay to reap rewards, it was also evident and not lost on the players the effort and desire Coach Yox put into his daily grind. He was the hardest working coach on staff, hands down.

Yes, he was building us into leaner, faster, stronger versions of ourselves, but he was laying the foundation for each of us to live successful lives. He was equipping us with mental toughness, with overcoming seemingly insurmountable circumstances, with what it meant to be held accountable, and the understanding that to be and beat the best, no matter what the task, you must outwork, outcompete, outlast the best. He was the catalyst that resurrected a program from the ashes to national preeminence.

The longer we were around him the more we appreciated him. We understood the reasoning behind the hellish routine and grew to expect it, to persevere, and to be better off because of the effort. In the moment, he was a bastard sent straight to Auburn from the pit of hell. In the aftermath, he was a father figure, a mentor, a leader, the master; the best there is or was.

You go ask any football player from 1999 to 2012 and 99.9% of them will tell you Yox was the most instrumental and respected coach they had during their career. More so than the head coach. More so than the coach that recruited them to campus. More so than their position coach. We all spent infinitely more time with Yox than all of the above combined. He coddled no one. He played favorites to no one. He loved us all the same, and we never questioned his commitment to us.

After the 2010 national title victory I wrote the following on my blog:

“My biggest behind the scenes contributors go to the two men that were brought to campus by Coach Tuberville and who have been the most instrumental hires Auburn University has made in its athletic department bar you Coach Yox and Chette're like fathers to us players, you mold us physically and spiritually into men by pushing us beyond our comfort zones, you make us believe in our abilities and in each other by the work ethic you instill, the ear you lend, the encouragement you provide. You are the best in the business at what you both do and Auburn is lucky to have you. You both deserve this more than anyone else associated with Auburn athletics and I for one am grateful for what you meant to not only this team, but what you have meant to my life! Thank you!”

In my mind, Coach Yox leaves a legacy at Auburn University that will live on as long as any of us that played under his tenure are breathing air. We’ll all forever be indebted to Yox for forcing us to push beyond our comfort zones down deep into a core existence we never knew we were capable of achieving. He brought out the best in us. He demanded it every day. I’m a better husband, father, optometrist, person because of the lessons I walked away from Auburn with. Many of those lessons came from Kevin Yoxall.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

AU Brings back Gus Reax

So after all the weeping and gnashing of teeth over who Auburn's next coach will be, Auburn goes with the known commodity and brings Gus Malzahn back to the plains. So we all know what that means...

The no-huddle hurry up offense is back. And we will likely see it even more ludicrous since Gus doesn't have Gene Chizik in his ear begging him to slow it down.

Obvious reasons for excitement:
1. Most of the offensive recruits will likely stick around, including QB Jeremy Johnson.

2. Keihl Frazier might get a reprieve. He knows the system. Is all he's run since the 7th grade.

3. The offense in all likelihood will go back to being its normal point scoring self.

Obvious reasons for concern:
1. Will defensive guys like Rueben Foster stay committed? We need those guys.

2. Who will coach the defense? Will it matter? Arkansas State's D finished 49th in FBS in yards per play allowed, not bad considering the offense they ran and the fact that virtually everyone in the Sunbelt ran the spread.

3. Will the discipline problems under Chizik Continue? This is my big question right now. Will mental toughness improve or will the "mental midgets" Heath Evans talked about earlier this season continue to be a problem.

Only time will tell on all these things. My guess is Guz is the right guy to get the ship turned around. And once again, Auburn fans can say "Wait till next year."

Monday, December 3, 2012

Alabama/Season Review

What a horrific season. Really a complete joke, a total disaster. A season in which expectations were high with a roster filled with players primed for "break-out" seasons, a new defensive coordinator for which everyone approved, an athletic quarterback we thought ready to lead this team, a schedule of only having to travel to Starkville, Oxford, Nashville, and Tuscaloosa. It had promising written all over it. It was a failure in every sense of the word.

So few players lived up to their potential. So many players were stagnant or went in reverse. So many players with high expectations rarely even stepped foot on the field. So many games got out of hand, effort was questionable, technique was atrocious, game plans were futile, adjustments were minimal as coaches had no answers. The word embarrassing was accurately tossed around following far too many football games.

Not just Alabama, or Georgia, or Texas A&M--but Ole Miss, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, State all showed us just how far we had fallen as a program, just how lifeless we were as a team, just how hungry these teams were to improve compared to our ambivalence and lack of leadership. Position by position, player by player, coach by coach, administrator by administrator...we were void of improvement, void of motivation, void of a response to adversity, void of a clue. We were the single worst team I've ever followed. Why?

Obviously, there are more answers to this question than Internet space available to mankind. And much of the following I said on my radio show last week. We could all go on for days, down different paths, point fingers at various players/coaches/factions/influences, yet end up at the same place. That change was inevitable, change should be expedited, and change should be bold!

But what is bold? Is bold giving Bobby Petrino a chance to rectify his poor judgement-riddled past? Is it bringing back Gus Malzahn and giving him the keys to the program after one season at Arkansas State? Is bold keeping Jay Jacobs in place to spearhead another coaching search, even under the auspices of a committee? Is bold going after someone currently at an SEC school? Depends on your viewpoint.

Bobby Petrino would be bold. But, I don't believe Bobby Petrino would mesh well at Auburn. Why? Because I'm not sure Bobby Petrino is a guy you can turn over the keys to the program and give full reign...which is exactly what Auburn needs...a single, solitary, lone voice. A guy calling all the shots. A guy free from outside influences and demands. His only demand should be to produce a winner. A coach that answers to but one person, the president of the University. Are you comfortable giving that freedom to a guy who's made as many poor decisions as a head coach as Bobby Petrino? Some are...and I respect that. Some aren't...and I respect that as well.

But, Petrino is also in a remarkably weak bargaining position, which is good for Auburn monetarily, but bad for Auburn and the way Auburn typically handles this process in the long run. The new coach should be given everything he deems necessary to run a championship program. Nothing held back. I have to believe however, Auburn officials would be dictating their terms to Petrino with regards to a litany of issues in a way a non-compromised Petrino would scoff at and completely reject. Whether that be staffing, control, decision making, would be shared under Petrino...a problem Auburn can't seem to shake. The problem with Alabama football for 25 years post Bear Bryant.

I would support a Petrino hire and would stand behind him from day one. I'm in no position to judge Petrino for his moral failings just as I'd hope others would refrain from judging my actions. That day will come for us all. I do however have serious reservations about the manner in which he has left several programs/organizations. Because of that and because of Auburn officials/boosters/power brokers always needing to be "involved"...I'd have reservations.

Malzahn? Like him as a coach. Not sure he has the required backbone to be a disciplinarian. In fact, when he took back Mike Dyer at Arkansas State, knowing full well who Mike Dyer had become, I lost confidence in Coach Malzahn's ability to lead. Not saying guys don't deserved a second chance. But Mike Dyer had four hundred second chances...many coming at the request of Gus Malzahn.

I do hope we run an up-tempo offense like Malzahn would run. It's a system kids want to play in, coaches hate defending it, and fans enjoy watching...when it's run unimpeded and led with fantastic QB play.

Again, I would stand behind a Malzahn hire. I would also understand the frustration many would have just as I would understand the allure his offense offers.

Jacobs I would not retain. This is tough for me because I like Jay and he has been kind to me in the past, but Jay fired himself when he fired Chizik. That was his hire. He gets the credit for hiring Gene and taking Auburn to the top. He also carries the baggage of overseeing Auburn's cataclysmic fall from the heights he ascended the program to. In his own words, this is a results oriented business...and as much as he'd like to hang his hat on equestrian and swimming national titles, the direction of the revenue sports at Auburn, the sports we identify with and rally around, is far from upper echelon. When your previous position within the administration is coddling donors, many of whom want to wield power, those same people expect to be coddled when you become AD. We need an AD that doesn't know Bobby Lowder from Bobby from Homewood. A relentless salesman. A savvy businessman. A media superstar. A guy that gives the head coach everything he needs to be questions asked. Who is that? I don't know? Perhaps it's Mac Crawford?

My bold selection would be Chris Petersen. No one has won more big football games with inferior talent than Chris Petersen's Boise teams over the years. I understand he's not from the South. I understand he competes in a weak league. But, he's creative, his teams play with a chip on their shoulder, and he develops talent. He makes $1.5 million in Boise. Make him turn down twice his salary to come compete for national titles in the toughest division in college football. Some say he's not leaving Boise. You may be correct. At least make him an offer that would be hard to refuse.

Next up...James Franklin. He's a winner. He's a salesman. He's a motivator. His overachieving clubs have made many more highly sought after coaches and players look foolish, undisciplined, poorly prepared. He recruits to a school no one has been able to recruit to. He uses the schools greatest disadvantage (it's academic reputation) as it's greatest attribute to future players (a degree from Vanderbilt). He's passionate, he's energetic, he's been a success in this league when no one thought it was possible. (Side Note: Franklin even called into Eyes on Auburn twice! Completely unprompted. Since our shows inception we've asked for Coach Chizik every week for two years. We never got him.)

Right behind him, I'd be calling Coach Hugh Freeze for all the same reasons. An added bonus with Freeze would be his offensive philosophy...the one Nick Saban wants banned. He's building Ole Miss into a team again and I believe he'd turn Auburn around quickly.

Maybe those names aren't as bold as some would like. Maybe you downright disagree with my sentiments. That's perfectly fine...I accept that and welcome the difference of opinion. Regardless, we're going to end up in a better situation soon whether your guy is selected, my guy is picked, or none of us identified the correct coach. Whenever and whoever it is, we need to fervently unite behind the coach and give him everything he needs to be successful...and that means us being the greatest fans a program could hope to have. Not yes-men. Not blindly devoted. Not no-questions asked. But accepting, loyal, passionate, and enthusiastic. We have a role to play and it's just the opposite of division. It's uniting. It's rallying. It's being family. Families have differing opinions. But families respect and value those differences.

Challenging times brings out true character. I'm interested to see just what that will look like.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Alabama Preview

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I, for one, am grateful for an innumerable amount and this day of thanks comes at just the right time for me to offer a healthy dose of perspective. It's easy to see God's providence and work in my life and I'm thankful for each and every day He bestows. By the worlds standard, if you're reading this post on your laptop or smartphone you're wealthier than 99% of mankind. We live in the greatest country ever created, under the blanket of freedom, the protection of the world's greatest military, still the economic engine of the universe...yes, even with Barack Obama in charge. I'm grateful for my God, for sending His Son to die a brutal death to atone for my sins allowing me to have a personal, eternal relationship with the King of Kings. I'm thankful for my wife, my kids, my upbringing, my job, and all the blessings I've been granted. The reality we can spend as much time as we do discussing, dissecting, supporting, worrying over athletics and our beloved institution is a testament to just how well we really have it.

One thing I'm also immensely thankful for, and this time of year seems to always bring home this point, is my decision to become an Auburn Tiger! Auburn is a place we all love and cherish, a place we call home. It's a place we seek to protect, support, see triumph and prevail over all obstacles that come her way. It's more than Auburn just being important to us...rather Auburn lives in us...we're all bound and connected by a spirit others will never fully recognize nor appreciate. That spirit is what makes us family...a connection often mocked by some, attempted to be duplicated by others. You can't manufacture it, you can't sell it, can't reproduce it, can't claim must be an Auburn man or woman to grasp what I speak of. If you're're shaking your head in dismay as you read this. But those that are--are shaking their heads in the affirmative, in total agreement and understanding.

This season has been a total disaster. I have been disheartened by our teams lack of competitiveness, its lack of leadership, lack of development, lack of toughness, lack of answers, and lack of success. I have called out our staff for not displaying the ability to adequately prepare this football team for the rigors of Southeastern Conference play. I have called out the players for passionless play, questionable effort, for the appearance of ambivalence. I've grown weary of writing this year the same negative sentiments week in and week out. It's truly felt like Groundhog Day.

I have taken my fair share of heat for not spinning the product I see in endearing terms. How could I and be taken seriously? Frankly, it's a product that has become completely indefensible and because of that, I've called for change. No one former players opinion isn't nor should it be a catalyst for change. But you know what is...a roster of current players whose performance has been so disappointing they have effectively sealed the fate of their head coach.

Auburn won't beat Alabama in the 77th playing of the most intense rivalry in all of college football. The daylight between these two programs has widened considerably in a shockingly small amount of time. Alabama will field a team loaded with top-end talent, but most importantly, a team that is physically and mentally tough. They're not invincible, they're not even a great team...but they play with great passion and desire, they play for four quarters, they wear you down physically with sound technique and schemes. Auburn on the other-hand will field a young team searching for answers with none in sight. We enter games with the outcome all but certain, hoping for the best but expecting the worst. We're mentally weak, play with fleeting passion, and proper technique is tossed in favor of either bad habits or bad coaching. It hasn't improved over this's only gotten worse.

I fear with an Alabama team having much to play for in a stadium full of blood-lusting fans sensing a fractured opponent in our Tigers, this game has set up to be one of the ugliest outcomes I can ever recall. To prove me wrong, this Auburn team has to use the adversity they've endured to its advantage. They must play like a wounded dog, backed against the wall, fighting for survival. They have nothing to lose...Alabama has everything to lose. They must jump out early and show not only Alabama but themselves they came to battle...they came to compete for the duration. The mentality must be, "You may win the war, but you'll have to kill me first." And you know what, Alabama may do just that. But show me the effort, show me you care, show me you respect the jersey you wear, show me you'll fight from opening to closing whistle. I'll stand and applaud that effort. I'll praise you even in loss. Show me though how much it means to you to represent Auburn University in a game you've been utterly blessed to become a participant. This game won't change your season, but this game would ruin theirs. Play the spoiler, play the bad guy. Play because you enjoy the game. Play because God's blessed you with a talent to do so. Play the game for those of us that can't and know that regardless of the outcome, you'll have the full support of the Auburn faithful if you played the game the way it's supposed to be played. Play with passion! And beat Alabama.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Alabama A&M Reax/Bama Preview

I'll be travelling to see the wife's family for Thanksgiving today. I'll be with 20 in-laws, mostly extended family. Auburn goes into the Iron Bowl as a 32 point dog against Alabama. So it goes without saying...

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

First a quick review of the Alabama A&M game: Auburn used superior talent and speed to squash the Bulldogs, proving that Scott Loefler, with Auburn's talent could easily win the SWAC.

It was nice to give the seniors a W in their final home game. Most of them have earned it.

I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time on what Auburn has to do to win the Iron Bowl. I have not even made my mind up if I am going to watch the game. Watching the game will be something like having to watch a loved one being repeatedly punched in the face. You can't do anything to stop it. You just have to sit there and take it.

I'll instead give my two cents on the state of the union in regard to our beloved program, and how I think we got where we are.

I have read many theories on what happened with Gene Chizik to get us to this point. Some point to the 2011 Clemson game as the unraveling of the Chizik era. Auburn was humming on all cylinders on offense in the first half of that game. When it became glaringly obvious that Auburn could not stop Clemson on defense, Chizik meddled with Gus's scheme. The ludicrous speed offense throttled back, and really was never the same after that. Barrett Trotter was shouldered with the blame. AU decided to hand the keys to Clint Moseley, who proved to be totally over matched against better teams.

What might be a better theory is the idea that Chizik won because of Tuberville's upperclassmen paired with the greatest college player in a generation led to a national championship in 2010. Bynes, Ziemba, Adams, Zachery, etc all had something to prove. Combine that with one Cameron Newton, throw in a Nick Fairley and you get the magical 2010 season that no one will soon forget.

Chizik received a great deal of credit for 2010. But when all those guys were gone, we were left with a lot of Rivals 4 stars who to this day have not been coached up. Some were/are quite obviously recruiting busts. Others quite frankly have not been coached.

Combine that with the obvious lack of mental toughness and discipline off the field, and we get to where we are today, to a place where no Auburn fan ever thought we would be. We have no hope of beating of biggest rival. We are staring a winless conference record right in the face. Three frickin wins. 3.

And we could tolerate most of the losses if they were competitive. But over last 2 seasons, we have been getting blown out, and regularly. It's too much to stomach really. And at this point all of us know change is coming. It has to.

Rob and I have been very honest the last two seasons. Early on, Rob more than me was chastised on message boards for telling the truth. He's even had members of the current coaching staff call and rip him.

You know what? Rob was right. He was right about the glaring problems last season when many Auburn fans chose to bury their heads in the sand. Those problems just got worse this year.

And all of your worries and my worries that the guy at the airport in 2009 was right were true. Then, Auburn just hired a 5-19 coach. After four years, we've become Iowa State circa 2008.

That's not to say we won't be back. If a 5-19 coach can win a national title at Auburn, imagine what a good coach will do.

Auburn will return to the top quickly. It's who we are. It's what we do.

Happy Thanksgiving. War Eagle.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Alabama A&M Preview

There are several young men that will suit up and play out their Auburn careers inside of Jordan-Hare Stadium for the last time. Guys that have contributed in very large ways during their Auburn careers. Guys that can walk away from their time at Auburn and say something very few that have worn the jersey can...I was a national champion! I was a contributor on a team that beat all comers. As poorly and as disheartening their senior seasons have been, they leave having been a part of the greatest season in Auburn football history and for that they deserve our adoration.

Emory Blake- Burst onto the scene with a catch and run on a WR bubble screen against Mississippi State to open the scoring in SEC play for the 2010 Tigers. Ever since, he's truly been a joy to watch, a guy that comes to play every week, someone you can never question his effort and will leave as one of Auburn's all time greats at the position. Dependable, blue-collar, our only viable WR threat this season. He's been a great ambassador for Auburn.

Onterio McCalebb- I'll never forget his scamper around left end to break the LSU contest open in 2010. Over his career you always held your breath when he touched the ball because the homerun threat was real and the speed was breath-taking when it reached its peak. His highlight reel will make for spectacular viewing for many years to come. His game has been decimated this year without legitimate QB play.

Daren Bates- This guy has gone to war in a very physical way for Auburn University. I've always admired the passion he plays with as well as the selflessness it requires to play out of position due to the necessity of a thin linebacking unit. Even though he's had struggles with playing with technique, you can't question his tenacity and that I revere.

T'Sharvan Bell- Came out of nowhere with a pair of INTs to help win the Outback Bowl over Northwestern in 2009. And his sack of Greg McElroy in the 2010 Iron Bowl will live on as legend for generations. Injuries kept T'Sharvan from becoming the player we all hoped he would become, but nonetheless, the candor and demeanor represented us all well and his Iron Bowl sack was a critical play in our National Title run.

Phillip Lutzenkirchen- Was as athletic a TE I've ever seen. He could do it all. Once again, a guy asked to sacrifice the fame and glory of catching passes for trapping defensive tackles and lead blocking on middle linebackers. A phenomenal person and true gentleman, he will remain a fan favorite for his lifetime for his catch in front of the Alabama student section for the go ahead score in 2010. A tremendous face of the program we will struggle to replace.

DeAngelo Benton- A colossal bust. In fact, I thought he'd been kicked off the team until I saw him break the huddle midway through this season. He and Trovon Reed are battling for biggest bust of the Chizik era...right now I give it DeAngelo. For a guy we were told would break all the Auburn receiving records...his 15 career catches are a shame.

Anthony Morgan- Another guy lost within the program. Is he a he is a defensive back?Shined when given the opportunity, but injuries were also a setback in his career. Respect him for sticking it out through it all.

Ikeem Means- Anyone who walks on and does enough to impress the coaches to earn a scholarship is a hero in my book. Walk-ons are treated poorly in college football and for a guy to battle through that, believe in his abilities, contribute every year he's there, and work his way towards the school paying his tuition...I stand and applaud! Your effort is not lost on me. I'd hire a guy like this in a heartbeat.

Jonathan Evans- Gets propelled into a starting role a true freshman against the undefeated 2009 Alabama squad and played admirably. Just never became the guy I expected after playing the game of his career against that Alabama team. A lot of raw ability, but consistency and injuries were his downfall. Still, battled for four season and that's commendable.

Ashton Richardson- Guys like Ikeem Means I'd hire...guys like Ashton Richardson I fear for my job. When you carry a GPA as lofty as this young man does while walking on and dedicating the required time towards getting your head pounded on the scout team, you have some qualities that make you an enviable and highly sought after guy. And when given the opportunity to play in the middle he's played well this season. He also proved he can grow an afro to stellar proportions, a quality earning high marks from me.

John Sullen- Has played a lot of snaps for his hometown university and has been a decent player. He's exceeded my expectations for him in terms of amount of playing time as I assumed other, more sought after lineman would have usurped his starting gig. He's a lot of man and I'm sure he'll have a ton of family and friends to watch him suit up one final time in his backyard.

Jamar Travis- Quite frankly, I was shocked to see he was listed as a Rivals 4 star recruit. I thought he had walked on based solely on his level of contribution. For his career he has a total of 7 tackles. Not sure why he was never given an opportunity the last two seasons because what we got from those in front of him was Conference USA level at best.

Travante Stallworth- Another guy that just never could quite make it over the hump. Played a lot of downs for Auburn, but never really flourished or became the play-maker opposite Emory Blake. His move to open the 2011 season against the Utah State defender nearly breaking every bone in his lower extremities was quite a sight, but we just never saw enough of those type plays from Travante.

Some fine young men that will go to battle one last time on their home turf. I wish them the best and thank them all for their service and contributions to Auburn University. I'm sure at times in every one of their careers they thought about quitting, about taking the easy road. But they persevered, they battled through it all and were a part of Auburn football at its pinnacle, and at its hell. It's a shame they'll end walking through the fire, but they'll be better husbands and fathers and businessmen because of the refining that takes place in difficult times. Go out and enjoy your last moment in Jordan-Hare because take it from'll treasure the moments for an eternity. Both the good and bad!

Alabama A&M-13

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dr. Z's UGA Reax: Heath Evans, Private Security Firms, etc

So let's recap the week:

It comes out that Auburn hired a private security firm to keep players in the dorm rooms by 2300 hours (that's 11 PM to non military and college students)> I'm sure that's helpful in firming up that trust that players and coaches have in each other. How is Ashton Richardson supposed to deal with this? Word has it that he can't/won't leave the library until 1 AM.

If you're down on the plains and you're wondering what those silent helicopters are doing, they are just looking out for the players best interests.

Tango has made it successfully to U103. Roger and out.

From what I hear Jack Bauer couldn't get into the athletic offices on campus right now. But I have seen this kind of behavior before...Saddam Hussein was kind of like the Auburn coaching staff before we invaded.

I kid about this but it speaks volumes about the mindset in Auburn right now. The fact that assistant coaches are calling former AU players who speak negatively about the state of the program tells me these guys absolutely know that they are under siege.

This guy knows something about coaches. He's played for A-holes like Saban and Bellicek.

On Friday, Heath Evans ripped Gene Chizik's program a new one. He basically said all of the things that we all feared about this coaching staff. I don't know the guy but Rob does. I would take every word of what Evans said as the gospel truth, because he has spilled the same blood in the same mud as the players who are there now. Don't be surprised if you don't hear a little more from Heath Evans in the near future.

There was a game Saturday, and the result was predictable. We got our asses handed to us once again.

The have absolutely quit. I'm not a former player so I guess no assistant will call, but it case they would like to. I will say it again. THEY QUIT. THEY ARE DONE.

For that matter so are the Auburn faithful. Auburn President Jay Gogue had better make the right call in coming weeks or the Auburn family will be in full on mutiny.

War Eagle.

Georgia Review (AU 0 Georgia 38)

This team has become heartbreaking. There's nothing left to say. Attempting to summarize all of our inadequacies has become a chore I'm no longer willing to dedicate the required effort to get done...because frankly I could go on for days. If the writing is not on the wall to the Auburn power brokers that matter then I am left with serious questions regarding the leadership structure at Auburn University. Do us all a favor and act swiftly and boldly. Don't dangle your toes in the water and gauge public sentiment. Go make a splash and give us hope again. Because entering rivalry football games with zero hope has us all doubled over in agony. There's no excuse for it, it's an embarrassment, the alumni and fan base deserve better as do the young men stepping into battle each week seemingly ill-prepared, over-matched, fundamentally flawed, and passionless. Get them the help they need to save us all from the product we continue to field. It's a train wreck and we've seen enough. Surely you have as well.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

UGA preview-Who the Hell is Shawn Watson?


If you believe 24/7's Phillip Marshall, AU President Jay Gougue is is planning on making a change at the end of the season. And if you believe Marshall, he's floating the name Shawn Watson.

What? You've never heard of Shawn Watson? Well, do not fret because neither have I. I had to look the guy up. From the ever reliable wikipedia:

In 1994, Watson obtained his first appointment as a head coach when he was hired to take control of the program where he started his playing and coaching careers; Southern Illinois. SIU had gone 15–29 in the four years prior to Watson's arrival, and his first year was a rough start to his head coaching career as SIU finished 1–10. SIU finished the next two seasons with repeat 5–6 records before Watson moved on, finishing with an overall head coaching record to date of 11–22. During Watson's three year tenure at SIU he produced 20 all-conference players and an NFL-drafted tight end in Damon Jones.

I have a very hard time believing this to be true. Not the wiki page's info, but the fact that Auburn would be floating the name Shawn Watson. To be clear, we should just as well hire a half dozen other guys named Watson a least you might have heard of:

How about Foley High's Todd Watson?

Or PGA Golfer Bubba Watson?

Why not go for Sexual Chocolate's Randy Watson?

One can only hope that Phillip got some bad information. One can only hope.

As for the game, I doubt we have a shot. I thought a night game at JH would give us a chance against Texas A&M. The result was a 63-21 blowout.

I think emotion will keep it from being that bad, but it will still be bad.

Auburn 17
Georgia Dawgs 35

Georgia Preview

For this Auburn team to beat the Georgia Bulldogs, we'll have to see an effort far beyond any we've witnessed this season. It must rival the intensity we saw against LSU, but must surpass even that. We must be more creative offensively and enter with a gameplan our players believe in, can execute, are put in positions to be successful, aren't left on an island to block an All American DE, or ask a true freshman QB to outsmart a quality defensive coordinator. We must tackle better than we have all year. Rally to the football and limit what UGA does on the ground. With an offense as balanced as Georgia's, you have to take something away and that must be the run. Can Coach VanGorder devise a scheme his players can comprehend, execute, and be successful?

We must be able to run the football with some success, even when Georgia knows that's what we want to do. Get Wallace out of the pocket and let him be an athlete...something we've lacked all season from the quarterback position and something we've been unable to even slow down defensively. Give him an opportunity to display that athleticism. Make his life easy by staying ahead of the sticks, keeping the defense honest with the screen game, the deep ball, a few misdirection plays...but ultimately, just run the damn ball down their throats. 2nd & 8, 3rd & 6 is workable. 3rd & 10 is not. And therein lies the key to this game...what happens on third down?

We are worst in the league converting 3rd downs...28.8%. Georgia is 3rd in the league at 42.6%. Their drives must be limited, and our drives must be sustained. It's the only way we stay competitive and have a chance.

Speaking of's unfortunate that's the hope for this game...for it to remain a game. That we've (at least I have) fallen from expecting to bring the pain to expecting to feel the pain. It's been these rivalry games that have decimated Gene Chizik and has led to his uncertainty. Can he field a team willing to go down swinging? One that shows a pulse and refuses to be out-hustled, out-efforted, out-competed? One that may lose the war, but wins many of the battles, that forces the opponent to walk out of Jordan-Hare respecting the effort put forth by their rival...regardless of the scoreboard. We lose that way and I'll be proud, I'll commend the effort with a standing ovation. Show me it means more to you than laying down in OUR stadium! Have enough pride to fight for four quarters. Ignore the things you can't control and concentrate only on destroying the guy across the ball. Run with passion, tackle with aggression, play with confidence, and poise, and desire. Coach realistically, simply, without over-analyzing every single tiny detail. Just put guys in positions to be a success.

I want to this team to beat a quality opponent. I want this team to experience the elation of victory over the Bulldogs. I want my kids to be proud of the Auburn name they wear across their chest. I want our staff to be successful and see the hard work pay off. I want Auburn fans to have the opportunity to roll Toomer's with their friends and family after a night game in the perfect setting for college football. I want to see a team so desperate for success none of us can question their effort. Will we get it? We will see.


Monday, November 5, 2012

New Mexico State Review (AU 42 New Mexico State 7)

To be transparent and in the name of full disclosure, I must admit I did not nor have I yet watched the game. I was enduring a tortuous day of optometric lectures with topics such as: “Contact Lenses- Tales from the Trenches” and “Ocular Surface Disease” so my weekend was painfully boring. We did have several ODs in attendance wearing houndstooth and rooting for Troy over Tennessee however...imagine that.

I'm glad this team finally had the opportunity to taste success...chiefly because of the work involved to compete week in and week out and the disappointment of doing so in vain. But secondarily and selfishly, I've grown tired of writing columns about all that ails us, questioning effort, and playcalling, and personnel decisions, and the direction of the program as a whole. Even a coach or two were tired of reading it (and called me to voice their displeasure and refute my opinions). So...I'm utterly ecstatic to see this team walk off the field a winner.

Sure, we all have unanswered questions. We wonder, many of us aloud, what becomes of the staff, the athletic department, the current Auburn culture as we know it. We wonder if this team can find a way to be competitive against our biggest rivals. We wonder if the "powers that be" have what it takes to make tough decisions in the best interest of Auburn athletics.

Those questions and many more are best left unanswered in this column. For now, I'll enjoy the victory and be grateful for it. And I'll hope a small taste of success whets the appetite of a football team to play inspired football from here on out.

More important than Auburn football...go vote tomorrow. Have your voice heard. And if we're lucky, the result will foreshadow what occurs on the corner of Samford and Donahue. Sweeping change. Needed change. Someone that brings a record of success to the position. Someone that restores us to a position of excellence, of hope, of prosperity, of believers. We need it at Auburn and we need it from our president. Perhaps we'll get both.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New Mexico State Preview

How many of us looked at our magnetic preseason schedule our realtor or financial planner sent and thought there was any way possible we enter New Mexico State week at 1-7? 0-6 in SEC play? Dead last in the conference in scoring offense, rushing defense, total offense, interceptions, 3rd down conversions, sacks against, first downs, and turnover margin? Dangerously close to last in many more statistical categories? Who would have thought our defensive front, a group we thought was at least two deep with potentially dominant talent has all but entered witness protection mode? Who would have predicted Johnathan Wallace would start as a true freshman? Who will claim they saw a loss at Vanderbilt? Our only victory an overtime thriller to...La Monroe? Beyond being 1-7, who thought we'd only be competitive in half of our games (Clemson, Monroe, LSU, Vanderbilt)...and really the only thing competitive about Vandy was the final score. How many thought Sammie Coates would catch 4 passes to this point...Mike Blakely get but 22 touches...Emory Blake have more receptions than every other receiver on the team combined? Kris Frost play no role? Brian VanGorder look hapless against the spread? Scott Loeffler look hapless in totality?

I had higher expectations for this team. I believed a physical offensive line, a punishing fullback, a trio of running backs, a coordinator willing to adapt to his personnel would provide enough success to allow Kiehl Frazier to blossom as the season progressed. I was far from being accurate. Defensively, I expected the secondary to be monumentally improved, to challenge WRs all over the football field, to play with confidence and poise and to be ball-hawks. The defensive line I thought would wear on offensive lines, would wreak havoc on QBs, would attack and create a new line of scrimmage. They have been my greatest disappointment defensively. I thought Coach VanGorder would demand excellence, be creative, and if nothing else...devise a scheme to stop the run. It hasn't happened.

It's been a disaster and it makes me sick. It makes me sick because I know how hard the kids work, and I understand the fine line between being a successful team and being a team that's laughable. I played on both. It makes me sick because I expected more from players that arrived on campus as some the most prized recruits in the nation. I expect coaches to push, develop, lead, mentor, put them in the best position to be successful, discipline, and adapt to the talent they've brought in. But more than any of that, I expect players to play with passion, with an appreciation of the uniform they wear, the people they represent, to have pride in the privilege to don the orange and blue, to approach each and every game with a tenacious, take no prisoners mindset prompting play so aggressive no one could ever question their level of desire. Texas A&M made me question that commitment.

New Mexico State is terrible. Their closest loss is 8 points to Idaho and only victory was in week one to Sacramento State. This game is not about New Mexico's solely about Auburn. Can they play with pride? Can they play mistake free? Can they play with consistency? Can they stop the run, force a turnover, have any semblance of production from the quarterback position, tackle? Surely this is the week to have some success.

New Mexico State-17

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Texas A&M Reax: Wallace! Wallace! Wallace!

The only upside to the total, epic beat down handed to Auburn Saturday night was the introduction of Jonathan Wallace. The kid who was an afterthought in the recruiting process and backed in to a spot on the Auburn team last February.

I don't know why Jonathan wasn't more highly recruited. I don't follow recruiting that closely. If you ask a guru like Justin Hokanson, he might tell you that Wallace is too small, or he lacks arm strength.

But based on what I have seen so far out of Wallace, and granted that is not much, he is our guy for now. The team lights up when he is in the game. That much is evident.

When Auburn signed Wallace, a very good friend of mine who is ver involved with the Central-Phenix City football team told me we found a diamond in the rough, and that he thought Wallace would eventually beat out both Frazier and Moseley for the starting job. My initial thought was my good friend Griff started sniffing glue again. But he was right. Wallace is a special young man. He has leader written all over him. The offense seemed to raise it up a notch when he was in the game against A&M.

Dr. Griff's quote to me today was "I am telling you Zack, he is a special kid. No real way to describe it. He will make a tremendous impact on that program if given a fair opportunity."

Whether Wallace pans out or not remains to be seen. But for now, I choose to look at Jonathan Wallace as a chance for a bright future at QB. Here's hoping this diamond in the rough, this recruiting afterthought gets Auburn back to prominence sooner other than later.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Texas A&M Review (Auburn 21 A&M 63)

We saw a team quit. We saw the very definition of ambivalence. A game plan shredded on both sides of the ball. Execution extinct. Pride nonexistent. Effort questionable at best. The most defunct Auburn football team in the history of Auburn football sunk to a new low Saturday night which is sure to usher in sweeping changes throughout the athletics department. And it should have already happened. In fact every day that passes without major change is another day of Auburn wallowing around in our own apathy. It's complete insanity, by definition. Same plans...expecting different results. What we saw against a middle of the pack Texas A&M squad Saturday was unacceptable by all involved, it was a complete embarrassment to all who care. Noncompetitive? Again? At home? Get real!

The worst part of this whole process is leaving the players in the dark with what's going on behind the scenes. They have coaches with one foot out the door in many instances. Coaches they're close to and in numerous cases, coaches that were the predominate factor in them choosing to become an Auburn Tiger. They have boosters and board members trying to come to a consensus without any true knowledge of football in general, let alone how it affects the young men we watch on Saturdays. They know change is in order, but the specifics are never shared and left to speculation. They should be the very first people to know the plan. They live with the decision in a way the decision makers and observers can't even grasp, so letting them know by means of SportsCenter is unacceptable. They deserve better than that and I hope they'll be treated with the proper level of respect and immediately informed when decisions transpire. They should hear it from the horses mouth rather than their classmates.

With regard to our coaches, we can argue about minutia all day long, but the reality is this staff apparently needs more than top 10 talent to win at Auburn. They need All-Pro talent to do so and that's an impossibility. They need guys that come already prepared for the next level because we certainly haven't shown an ability to do the necessary developing ourselves.

I've truly run out of things to say here. It's the same song, different verse repeatedly and it's a chore to try and fill space discussing the same problems every week. I'm weary from writing. I can't even fathom how weary this team is and how much they dread playing out the remainder of this season. What a sad state of affairs.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Texas A&M Preview

Prepare yourself to witness what could be the greatest disparity in the Southeastern Conference this season. Texas A&M will roll into Jordan-Hare boasting an offense that tops the league in nearly every statistical category. Auburn...rock bottom. A&M has a freshman quarterback making plays with both his arm and legs, is statistically annihilating what Cam Newton did to opponents, and plays the game with unbridled passion...a natural leader. Auburn will counter with an experienced QB, yet confidence shattered, playmaking ability minuscule, production nonexistent. A&M brings in a first year head coach having no problem adjusting to a new league, teaching a new system to new players, being more than competitive. Auburn brings in a fourth year coach, two years removed from being named National Coach of the Year, scratching his head...dumbfounded, unsure what buttons to push to even field a team that will compete. A&M will bring a passionate fan base, determined to see their program garner the respect of each new member institution. Auburn will parry with a fan base divided, in shock, sickened by the precipitous fall from a team seemingly getting worse each week. The contrast is real, it's sad, it's frightening, it's maddening, it's unacceptable.

I've said for many weeks now A&M QB Johnny Manziel is everything I had hoped Kiehl Frazier would be. Dual threat, team leader, keeps plays alive, exciting with the ball, opportunistic, fearless, playmaker. What is most disappointing is the difference between their mental development. Manziel has all the confidence in the world and because of that he plays care-free. Kiehl is just not mentally tough and because of that he can't overcome the previous play, he thinks too much, he doesn't trust his football insticts, he's overcome by the situation.

The offensive coordinator position is another area of stark difference. Kliff Kingsbury is in his first season as OC for A&M and is absolutely killing it. In fact a scan of his resume shows this is but his second season to be a true college coach (quality control assistant is equivalent to being a GA). His offense is shredding this conference. Scott Loeffler brings 14 years of coaching experience to the position. His quarterback tuteledge reads as impressive as I've ever seen. His offense however is the worst in college a mile. It's hard to watch and even harder to swallow when I hear him say repeatedly how "close" they are. Let's at least crack the top 100 in a few positive offensive statistics before we use the term "close" again.

In my mind, there's too many differences to overcome this week unless A&M gifts us field position and turnovers. That being said, Vandy did just that last week and we still couldn't capitalize.

Even so, come support the young men that wear the logo. Come and enjoy fellowship with the Auburn faithful. Come and enjoy your family and friends and the sights and splendor that make Auburn home. Even during down times, I still choose Auburn over the alternatives. We may divide over coaches, ADs, the direction of the program...but we'll never be divided over our passion and desire to see all things Auburn succeed. Prove it again Saturday night.

Texas A&M-28

A&M Preview-Hullabaloo Caneck,Caneck

I have to admit, I have always been a fan of the the Texas Aggies, so when I heard they were coming to the SEC, I was excited.

A&M is a great place, if you have never been there. It is a lot like Auburn, just bigger with less trees. They also have a group of guys called the Corps. They walk around campus in their uniforms and kind of look like Niedermeyer fro Animal House.

Texas Governor and former presidential primary punch line Rick Perry is former Corps. The other students on campus call them the "Corps Turds"**

A&M has a rich history a great traditions, none better than going to visit prostitutes after beating Texas.

Check out thos dance moves! Johnny Manziel is going to be really hard to tackle if he can pirouette like those guys. For the record, I would question any man that can dance like that actually wanting to visit a whorehouse, but I digress.

There are three things Auburn needs to do to win this game.

1. Contain Manziel- He's a dual threat, so he will be tough to defend. The Aggies will also give the ball away, so creating a turnover or two will be critical.

2. Run the them-Auburn has really never tried the power running route and stayed with it. I've said this till I'm blue in the face. I don't really see it happening. I have no faith in Scott Loeffler. I've said that till I'm blue in the face as well.

3. I can't remember the third thing.

Auburn 13
Aggies 27

**I thank my Texan college buddies Paul and Derek for educating me on Aggie rituals.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Vanderbilt Review (AU 13 Vandy 17)

I hope you've long ago stopped swinging by this site looking for a silver lining. It doesn't take a James Spann forecast to identify the colossal dark clouds hovering over Auburn athletics, the torrential downpour of discouragement, dejection, despondency we've endured, and the immense need for gale force like winds to usher in transformation.

The product on the football field Saturday in Nashville sunk to a new low, replacing the team I played on in 1998 as the worst Auburn team in memory. For many, that realization had long ago occurred. For me, I saw too much talent in 2012 to reduced these guys to 1998 level. I expected the light to come on at some point this season. Amazingly, they blew right past us Saturday. Not only is the light not on...there's no electricity.

Like Zack said below, we've written the same review every week. What's left to say? What positives can come from dropping to 1-6, extending the longest losing streak in conference play to seven. And the way we've lost them...blown out by UGA, destroyed by Alabama, don't show up against State, tremendous battle versus top 5 LSU, embarrassed by Arkansas, blown out by Ole Miss, perennial cellar dweller Vandy outcompetes. How can this be acceptable? How can this even happen? It's everything Auburn football should never be...passionless, aloof, hopeless, appalling. As I walked out of Vanderbilt Stadium Saturday, even a Vandy fans said the following..."Chizik is toast, no? You can't lose to us and keep your job at Auburn can you?" His theory will be tested and we shall see.

I feel sick for the players. They play for coaches that make an insane amount of money given the task to put these guys in the best possible position to be successful. With this task they have failed miserably this season. Too many times we can't not only get our best players the football, we can't get them on the football field. It's one thing to recruit great players to Auburn. It's quite another to keep them there and to make them better than they were when they arrived. I believe one hand would be sufficient to count the number of players that have consistently elevated their game and grown as football players since their arrival. In fact one hand may leave plenty of room. That's a major problem.

This team has zero confidence and minimal true playmakers. We're quarterback challenged and woefully underwhelming at defensive line. Non-opportunistic defensively and penalty-laden at the worst possible times. Void of leaders and an offensive pulse with playcalling painful to watch. We can't stop the rush, we can't stretch the football field vertically. We can't score touchdowns in the red zone and we can't stop teams from scoring when we finally do. We look helpless, clueless, defeated as a staff.

And I commend the Auburn supporters for making the trip to Nashville. There were more Auburn fans than Vandy, and for a group struggling as mightily as our team, that speaks volumes about the passion of this fan base. Someday soon however, this program must give us something to be passionate about, other than the need for wholesale change. With the trajectory of this program regrettably, that would likely unite us all.

Dr. Z's Vandy Reax: Whipped by Nerds

The speech I would have given after the game.

Saturday we saw a team with much less talent come out and take it to an Auburn team with 4 and 5 star players. That speaks volumes.

We are looking at the worst Auburn football team in modern history folks, including the Barfield era.

Gene Chizik, only one and one half years after guiding Auburn to a national title, has guided this proud program off a cliff. What I saw on Saturday was a team with no confidence, no will to fight, no rudder.

We saw silly mistakes in the special teams again destroy field position.

We saw a defense that lapsed and the beginning of both halves, giving up touchdowns that made the difference in the game.

We saw an offense so misdirected that it made us laugh, to keep from crying.

It gets harder every week to write about this disaster. I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Over and over, it's the same damn day.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Great column from a guy you might know

Rob wrote a really good column yesterday for the Auburn rivals site yesterday. It's worth the read, and it gives us a nice history lesson about how it affects how players and how they react in the years to come.

Check it out here.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Dr. Z's Vandy Forecast: Revenge on the Nerds

So can we look at this as a revenge game?

If we think back to 2008, the Vanderbilt game solidified all the worries that we Auburn fans had about the Franklin experiment. Auburn lost to a middling Vandy team 14-13, scoring no points in the second half, dooming the rest of the season. Franklin was out the door a few days later. Tubs followed along with the rest of the staff in a couple months.

So let's hope against hope that we can get the ship righted against Vanderbilt, the nerds of the SEC.

If your're headed up to the game, enjoy the great city of Nashville, though its reputation is being muddied by the god awful ABC television show my wife made me watch the other night. It stars the wife from Friday Night Lights (movie and TV show) and one of the stand-up comics from Who's line is it anyway. It pretty much sucked. I'm talking Auburn vs Arkansas 2012 sucked, so hopefully my wife will forget it's on next week.

Anyway, as for the game, Auburn needs to forget the first 6 games. It's a 6 game season now. Go 5-1, we get to go bowling. Is that possible? Not very. But for the moment, let's be optimistic. After last week's scathing preview and review by horrible doomsday Auburn bloggers like me, let's pump some sunshine.

I believe this week we run the ball consistently. I believe the defense plays with a chip on its shoulder after getting gashed in the run game last week. I believe Coach Chizik threatened to beat Scott Loeffler with a folding chair if he runs a speed sweep into the boundary again.

I said last week, if things continue in this awful direction that Gene Chizik needs to be shown the door. I'm not saying that I want that to happen.

Auburn exorcises some demons this week.

Auburn 24

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vanderbilt Preview

What is there to say at this point? We control the market on putrid offensive statistics. Name an offensive category...we're in the bottom ten in the nation. Combine that with the single worst turnover ratio I've ever seen, at any level, any time in my life. It's a precise mathematical formula yielding no surprises, rather exactly what we'd expect: Terrible Offense + Turnover Kings = 1-5...and 8 point dogs to Vanderbilt.

We've seen a lack of leadership, play-making ability, urgency, fight, adjustments, attacking. We've seen guys we thought would loom large play minuscule roles, guys we thought would live up to their billing fail to arrive, players we expected to take over the reigns look timid and confused, guys make tremendously athletic plays only to be unseen/little used the rest of the game. Schemes we thought would suit our players executed poorly, mental errors mount continually placing our football team in untenable positions. Players question effort, coaches question themselves, starters benched, true freshmen elevate to starting positions, fans split on the direction of the program, former coaches call our manhood into question. It's been a disaster by nearly every measure.

Even so, I still can't fathom consecutive trips to Nashville resulting in losses. Every player on Auburn's squad could have gone to Vanderbilt. Very few on Vanderbilt's squad could say the same about Auburn. I have seen this Auburn team operate in a foolish, self-inflicted, poorly executed manner, but I haven't seen them quit. I can't say this staff has lost this team. But, with a loss to Vanderbilt...I'd have to rethink my position.

Vanderbilt will be hungry and they are a capable football team. In fact, there's not a game on their schedule that's not winnable for them...perhaps they'll be favored in the rest. Regardless, there's no reason Auburn should be losing football games to Vanderbilt...period. No matter how down a year we're having. No matter if we play true freshmen at every position. Auburn should always be better than Vanderbilt. And it's time for Auburn to grow up and start acting like Auburn. I'm ready to see a defense play with scary intensity, with a nasty demeanor. Forget about making mistakes and just go run to the football and bring hell with you when you arrive. That's the gameplan. Just beat the guy in front of you. Offensively, it's about time we see a QB that looks the part, a guy competent and willing to sacrifice his body for the team. A guy his team can count on. A guy that will lead. You don't even have to complete many passes. I don't care. Just throw the football away and don't throw it to the opposite colored jersey. You take care of the football and we have a chance to win football games. I'm ready to see a coaching staff ride the hot hand. If a WR makes a big play, reward him with another opportunity...don't substitute for him. If a we're running it down their throats, don't start running it sideways. If it's fourth the offense your confident, you believe in them...make calls that are obvious to your team you came to win...not to keep things close for 3 quarters.

We're all pissed, frustrated, and embarrassed by the first half of this season. I assure you no one is more upset than the guys wearing the jerseys. The devotion it takes to just don the jersey is beyond explanation...most of you wouldn't want or allow your children to be pushed to those extremes. Kids come to school at Auburn because of they way Auburn makes them feel...supported, loved, united, passionate, devoted, important. Not a single guy ever thought it possible to struggle as much as this team has during their Auburn careers. Make them remember and forever appreciate your level of support in the lean years. Reward their effort with unwavering support regardless of the outcome. You can scold them, yell at them through your TV, abhor them, pray for their early graduation...but on love appreciate root for them, even when they make doing so nearly impossible. I remember those days well, in fact I treasure those days.

I hope we win Saturday...I hope we compete four quarters and play mistake free football. For the players, I hope they get to taste the satisfaction of winning on the road. For the fan base, I hope we remember what makes Auburn so special.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Dr. Z's Ole Miss Review- A Sinking Ship

Not much to say as far as I am concerned about what we saw Saturday. Except to say I think Gene Chizik is a dead man walking.

I've seen my share of not so good Auburn teams. There were the early nineties at the end of Pat Dye's tenure, the 98 squad we've mentioned, Tuberville's 2008 debacle, but none, and I mean none match this 2012 catastrophe. How a team with so much talent can be so rudderless is beyond me.

Our only choice now is to clean house. Jay Jacobs must be the first to go. He brought in Chizik, and his other hires as an A.D. have been just as bad. We haven't even sniffed mediocrity in basketball, and the baseball program continues to underachieve.

Jacobs is the brains behind this mess. His head needs to roll first.

As much respect as I have for Pat Dye, he needs to be excommunicated from the program as well. I have no clue whom he thinks he is helping by going on radio shows trumpeting the bonafides of Gene Chizik. Talk about fiddling as Rome burns. Dye should have no comment from this point further and forever more. Does he not know that his reputation is tarnished every time he opens his mouth in regard to the current state of Auburn football? Coach Dye, do us all a favor and stop it. Let us remember you for what you did for our program in the 80's, not what you say about our program present day.

I will continue to support this team. I will continue to love and respect my Alma mater, but I see no way forward with Gene Chizik and the current coaching staff at Auburn University.

Ole Miss Review (AU 20 Ole Miss 41)

It was this week, after starting 1-5 during my sophomore season in 1998 Coach Terry Bowden was fired/quit (however you view it) the Friday night before our game against Louisiana Tech. The difference between our current team the one I played on...this one is uberly more talented, has less injuries to overcome, they lose going away whereas we fought for four quarters against teams that were just better than us, and even we beat Ole Miss. I simply can not justify or explain away in endearing terms a team losing badly to a foe that's lost 16 straight in the conference. In fact, we now own the longest losing streak in conference play at six in a row. I've never seen a team as outplayed and demoralized in fourth quarters with the inability to execute when the football game is on the line. I have seen, and played, on teams with poor QB play...but it's an unfair comparison. Ben Leard's offenses were one dimensional because we had no running game...we had five different centers, a makeshift offensive line and miniature tailbacks. Our QBs have the luxury of a decent rushing attack. We're one dimensional because in one scenario we're mentally not ready to the other we're physically challenged. Watching Clint Moseley lumber around Saturday was painful...he looked 20 going on 70. His arm looked weak as his deep balls were under thrown and his scrambling/running ability to keep a play alive is nonexistent. And when I look around this conference, pretty much every team minus Kentucky has fantastic QB play. It's absolutely killing us.

But most disheartening is what's going on in the fourth quarter of football games. We are 1-5 and have never trailed by more than four points entering a fourth quarter this season other than in Starkville where we entered trailing by 11. Yet we have loses of 18, 17, and 21...the last two coming against teams having no business pulling away from Auburn in the fourth quarter no matter how down a year we're having. We have scored zero touchdowns in the fourth quarter all season. In fact we've only kicked one field goal all season in the fourth quarter...our lone points...and that was way back in week one vs Clemson. Outscored 24-3 by Ole Miss in the second half? Not even the most pessimistic Auburn fans could have foreseen that. A team finding ways to lose is a team void of leadership, both on the field and wearing headsets. I don't see these kids quitting, I see them unsure of themselves, making poor reads, making the same mental mistakes consistently, shooting themselves in the foot when the stakes are highest. When it happens infrequently...I place blame on the player. When it happens every week...I place blame on the staff. It's their job to get it corrected and through week 6 they have had no answers.

And now we're 8 point dogs on the road at Vanderbilt. That's what we've descended to? Eight point dogs to Vandy in week 7 of the college football season? Perception is reality and reality for our football program right now frightening. Seeing a team lose is acceptable when they fight four quarters, play with passion, leave it all on the field. But seeing a team regress, lose games going away to teams with less talent and makeshift coaching staffs, getting weaker as the game progresses rather than stronger...I just can't stomach it any longer. Fair or unfair, my belief is what we witnessed in Oxford Saturday sealed the fate of Coach Chizik. It's unfortunate, it's regrettable, but has become unavoidable and necessary. And Jay Jacobs has been put in quite a bind by Coach Pat Dye's "he can lose them all" comment. He sticks with looks like Pat Dye runs the program. He fires Gene...he makes his former coach look incompetent, out of touch. We seem to have the problem Alabama football had within their athletic department for 25 years post Bear Bryant. No single, solitary voice. Too many hands in the cookie jar. I don't know that too be the's just my perception. But again, perception is reality.

These kids work too hard and sacrifice too much to not enjoy some success. It truly pains me to see a team struggle the way we have, having been in their shoes in a near identical scenario. If I had the opportunity to talk with these guys my advice to them would be to just have fun. Don't fracture your team, point fingers, listen to outside negativity, worry about the future. No one expects you to win football games so the pressure is off. You can go out and play with reckless abandon, take chances, force the issue. Remember how miserable it feels to walk off the field a loser and use it to outwork your opponents in the offseason, in preparation, in everything you do. And know just as quickly as things go south, they can be revamped, you can have success, you can draw from the low points to reach new heights. I was there. I lived it. I feel for you. But it's up to you to change the course, to right the ship. I'm pulling for you and always will and no matter how bad things get you can count on the Auburn faithful to be there for you, cheering you on. As Coach Chizik said after Arkansas, the fans didn't deserve what we got. I hope the players can never say the same about the level of support they receieve. These kids deserve our best, and during times like these is when they need it most.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dr. Z's Ole Miss Forecast

Wonder if Sandra Bullock is still running the program?

Let's review the state of Auburn football this week-

Sunday-Lutzy and T-Bell come out and rip certain players for lack of effort.

Tuesday-Freshman WR Sammie Coates rips upperclassmen for lack of leadership. Gene Chizik describes this as "one person's opinion".

Wednesday-Chizik's wife Jonna rallies Gene's fanbase on Facebook. (Coincidentally Jonna, if you poke me again I will write things on your wall that will make your computer cry.)

Friday-No starter named for the game Saturday at QB, because indecision with our offense has worked so well this year.

So my forecast for tomorrow is gloomy with a chance of four letter words uttered by me around lunch time tomorrow.

As for our opponent, you have to be pretty impressed with Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze. He inherited a flat out mess, and has made the best of it with a pretty decent offense and a scrappy defense.

You might remember Hugh Freeze's character from the famous movie The Blind Side as the guy who didn't know how to coach Michael Oher, and Sandra Bullock took over, turning Oher into a pancake machine.

Freeze rode Oher all the way to Oxford and never looked back. Thank God for women like Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side.

From a talent standpoint, Auburn is way better than Ole Miss on paper. Oh if games were palyed on poaer these days. The difference in this game is confidence. Ole Miss is playing with it. Auburn is not. Ole Miss is hungry to get of the schnide and end their 16 game SEC losing streak. Auburn is busy with a streak of their own, and it's not the good kind.

Our best hope is to run the ball and hope we can out muscle the smallish Ole Miss front seven. If Ole Miss jumps out 14-0, you might as well do what I plan on doing if that happens, and play the 2010 BCS game in your DVR.

Defensively, Ole Miss poses a challenge, because Ole Miss will spread you out and zone read you to death. Bo Wallace was a great pickup for the Rebels. He has the engine in Oxford humming.

I'd love to say we circle the wagons and turn things around this week, but I just can't. I was made a believer in 2009, and my faith was reinforced in 2010. Those may be my two favorite teams in AU history. Since then, my faith in Auburn football under Gene Chizik may be irreparably damaged. I cannot see a victory tomorrow, not with this group. They lack confidence and swagger, and the coaching chops to get it done.

Auburn- 13
Ole Miss-24

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ole Miss Preview

This football team is beyond a crossroad. It is screaming down a path of no return. We've seen poor philosophical approaches bring about poor execution; poor execution bring about poor results; poor results bring about a non-unified voice of frustration in the locker room. We're a team about to hit the road for a crucial two game stretch midway through the season and we sit here two days out not knowing who are QB is, what our offensive identity is, dead last in this conference (with some pretty bad football teams) in scoring offense, rushing defense, total offense, interceptions, pass efficiency, sacks against, first downs, and turnover margin. Wow! Inconsistency here and there I expect. Regression and not playing to your strengths I do not.

It's one thing to lose to an Arkansas program in disarray. They have some weapons and will win more games as the season progresses. It's quite another to lose to an Ole Miss program having lost 16 straight SEC games. That's a streak you can't have end on your watch if your head coach Gene Chizik. When you've already been beaten by a coach spending more time trying to climb out of bankruptcy than in-game deficits and your lone win is an overtime defeat of a middling Sun Belt program, your margin for error is razor thin. Last week was a must win to salvage a season on the brink. This week is a must win to salvage a coach on the least in my eyes.

And Ole Miss presents an enormous challenge. Their fast-pace, unconventional offensive attack is what Coach VanGorder's defensive unit has struggled immensely to stop all season. Their JUCO QB, Bo Wallace, looks brilliant one play, Frazier-esque the next. He's thrown just as many picks as Kiehl, but has 4x the TD tosses as well. Which Bo Wallace shows up will go a long way in determining the outcome. What about our defensive front? Do they play dominant football as they did against LSU, or do they disappear and go completely unseen as was the case against Arkansas and others? Can we make an offense one dimensional and force an erratic QB into mistakes or do we allow them to run the football making life easier for both the OB and the coordinator? What do we get from Kiehl Frazier or Clint Moseley? Do they play with confidence and make wise decisions or do they flounder and flake as we've grown accustomed to? Do we have an offensive line determined to protect their QB and run the football with success at will or do we penalize ourselves with yellow flags...consistently imploding on ourselves with drive killers? I don't know? I don't know what Scot Loeffler chooses to do, how (or if) our QBs can mature, who on this team takes the onus of becoming a playmaker and leads by being productive, efficient, successful?

Are we tough enough mentally to win on the road in this league after such a disappointing season? Do we trust one another, love one another, willing to give the guy next you everything you can possibly muster to win the small battles within the war? Do we have a group capable of walking into a stadium on the road undoubtedly beleaguered and scarred, but locked arm-arm ready to fight for four quarters against the team across the field, the guy across the line, the whole crowd if need be...everything in red and blue. Stand in the ring and not only match punches, but throw so many the opponent can't respond because you're a machine. You're on the offensive. You refuse to take a body blow because you refuse to stop punching. That's what it'll take from this Auburn team because quite frankly, we're not good enough to win any other way. Not yet. And until we are, if we continue to walk into stadiums across this conference and play any other way...we'll lose. And we have no one to blame but the guy we see in the mirror. You leave it all on the field against Ole win. I'm not convinced we have that type of character...and that's what is saddest of all.

Ole Miss-24

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dr. Z's Arkansas Review-Implosion

I have no idea where to begin with my review. Rob pretty much summed up my feelings. If you you haven't read his post, you should. He has been there. In 1998, I sat in the stands for Rob's entire season that began with a debacle against Virginia and ended with a lead blown against Alabama.

1998 and 2012 are very different monsters in my opinion. In '98, Auburn suffered through a myriad of injuries to go with a lack of offensive talent. The 2012 team is just a group of underachievers with little to no leadership, and very poor coaching and planning on the offensive side of the football.

Why Scott Leoffler continues to throw 2 out of every three times flummoxes me. He has neither a quarterback or an offensive line that are capable of doing so. When he chooses to call a running play, he insists on doing so with a 165 pound running back and no lead blocker. Our most successful runner so far this season had 6 carries in the game Saturday. The All American fullback, the only All American on the offense, was on the field about 20% of the time.

Loeffler has no, or at least appears to have no consistent plan for his offense. Are we a spread team? A power eye team? I wonder if even Loeffler knows. And for a guy who was touted as being a specialist in quarterback development, he showed Saturday that he has two that haven't even come close to developing.

All of this falls at the feet of Gene Chizik, who has utterly failed the Auburn family since the second half of 2011 and first half of this season. Now we have players calling each other out to the media. This team is imploding, and fast. It makes 2008 look like a good situation.

At this point I don't know if Chiz survives to coach the Tigers in 2013. Raise your had if you think Auburn wins two conference games. How about 1? At this point AU has little hope of beating Ole Miss and Vandy on the road, much less A&M and UGA at home. And forget about the Iron Bowl. Trust me, I am trying to. I may find myself doing yard work or volunteering in a soup kitchen that day. 3-9 after three straight top 5 recruiting classes will not get it done.

My advice to Chizik and Leoffler is to burn the playbook. Find yourself about 12 power running plays and 6 pass plays. Play middle school football on offense and let the defense keep you in the game. It's the only shot we have.

I cannot believe what I have seen so far in 2012. This is one of the most disappointing Autumns that I can recall.

War Eagle anyway.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Arkansas Review (AU 7 Arkansas 24)

I am by no means an Auburn apologist. Don't get me wrong, those that know me best know my heart, my allegiance, my passion to see Auburn excel in every undertaking. Those that know me best also know me as a realist, someone who'll give a heart-felt, honest assessment whether life is good or life stinks to high heaven. Right now, for Auburn fans, life is tragic on Saturdays. And this will not be an easy assessment to write.

What we saw Saturday was quite simply an unprepared football team. Not at every position, not each individual to a man, but overall a team one step slower, one notch less passionate, one level less intense, hungry, DESPERATE. A team displaying poor execution, a team who's only consistency is being inconsistent...ending drive after drive after drive with sacks, penalties, fumbles, interceptions. It's a disgusting sight...historically a sight we are unfamiliar with as Auburn people, but a sight we are undoubtedly being force-fed in heaping amounts on a routine basis. The results have been difficult to defend for some time, but after losing to an Arkansas team without a pulse, coming off a bye week, the results have become indefensible. If we're being honest with ourselves...we'd have to hire David Axelrod or Karl Rove to spin the state of Auburn football in a positive light. Not even the late Johnnie Cochran would take this case.

The sad reality is this team is probably a mediocre at best QB away from being a decent football team still in the thick of the SEC division race. Unfortunately, the lack of mental development at this position is frightening, has been the chief impediment to this group having success, and is solely the responsibility and failure of coach Scot Loeffler. For a coach whose MO coming into Auburn was quarterback development, he'll leave Auburn with his resume forever stained by his tutelage of Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley. Five games under our belt and I still have no idea what our offensive identity is? Are we a finesse/misdirection offense, a spread offense, an I-back, one back, no back, 5-wide, three TE, downhill attack or sideways attack? The answer is we're all of it...we are multiple indeed...but we do none of it well enough to win. We're a train wreck offensively and it's pathetic to watch.

Loeffler is not alone in his ability to stink up the place. The consistently inconsistent play of our offensive line and TEs, our inopportune turnovers, our presnap penalties all effectively killed drives...nothing Arkansas did...rather self-inflicted wounds. I didn't expect this offensive unit to set the world on fire Saturday, but I did expect to see improvement, to see two weeks worth of preparation against a miserable defensive unit to be the Rx for what ails us. Instead, we got more of the same and it's unacceptable...Coach Chizik was first to say so. When you're forced to apologize on more than one occasion for the way your football team played in a given season you're forced to look beyond the players and straight to the coaches preparing those players. They're not getting it done.

When Kiehl Frazier time and time again refuses to simply throw the football away I point to preparation. When Onterio McCalebb fumbles a KO return I question his mental preparation. When Trovon Reed repeatedly allows punts to land and roll giving up valuable field position for a struggling offense I wonder why it doesn't mean more to him to benefit his unit. When Tre Mason has but 6 touches the entire game I question what in the hell our offensive coordinator is thinking, and why is our head coach not demanding #21 carries the ball more. When I see Steven Clark let a punt snap slide through his hands...hit his helmet...and nearly have his punt blocked out of the end zone I know something is amiss. When we come out after the half and our first play is false start by our most experienced offensive player in Phillip Lutzenkirchen I know we're still not on the same page. When the offensive line gives up more sacks to a team than that opponent has accumulated against all teams combined I see the signs of a unit content with going through the motions.

Defensively, I thought we played about as well as we could against this team. In fact, I nailed the Arkansas score in my preview prediction (I missed the Auburn score however by 30!). I would have liked for us to have opened up with more success out of the gate to set an initial tone and let Arkansas know it would be a long day. We didn't do that. Most discouraging was allowing Arkansas to drive 75 yards for a TD immediately after our offense shows a pulse and cuts the lead to three. Just when a three and out was in order...we fail to come through with a stop. The inability to get pressure on Wilson was a problem, but in truth...the defense made it a ball game into the fourth quarter. Without their effort through three quarters the game is over at the half. They have improved. They have guys that play with passion and intensity and are a unit that from game one to five have begun to get it. I don't get the impression defensively we're poorly prepared or lack basic fundamentals. We're young, we're still learning a system, but we're now playing well enough to win football games.

From here...I just don't have an answer. It's increasingly difficult to see Coach Chizik survive this start. For a coach with such promise, such conviction and belief in his way of doing things, his post game head-scratching leads me to believe without running the table from here out, his days are numbered. There's been too many players not live up to even a fraction of their recruiting stature. Too many decisions regarding personnel that haven't panned out and have set the program back. Too many losses in which Auburn has looked totally inept, unable to answer, unwilling to adjust, incapable of providing a challenge. Too many losses against the teams we love to beat (LSU, Georgia, Alabama) and the teams we expect to beat (Mississippi St., Arkansas, Clemson) regardless...based on program and tradition alone.

I like Gene, think highly of Gene, have always wished I could have played under Gene, but his football team has regressed and there's simply no where else to point the finger than at the head coach. I'm sure there are things behind the scenes we have no knowledge of, hurdles particular players must overcome to compete, challenges away from the football complex that make his job more difficult than we could ever imagine. His greatest attribute during 2010 was his steadiness, his ability to absorb the criticism, the doubt, the detractors and do so with grace, with poise, with loyalty, with a steel chin. Those same qualities being displayed toward on offensive approach...a coordinator and QB unable to deliver positive results...may be precisely what leads to his undoing. Sad.

All that being said, Auburn will continue on being the Auburn we know and love. There will be those that attempt to divide us and some of us will let them be successful. There will be a strong contingent loyal to Coach Chizik and that should be respected. There will be a strong contingent wanting a clean sweep and that too should be respected. Regardless, we all know we will return to the pinnacle of college football where Auburn University belongs and we will be all the more grateful, all the more humble, all the more in a position to relish the ride because of the adversity we endured. When times are tough I always think of the old proverb, 'Good timber does not grow with ease, the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.' It rings true. Whatever happens, handle it with class, dignity and an appreciation of the players who live with the decisions others make on their behalf. I've been exactly where these guys sit. Support them. Love on them. Don't give up on them. Better days are ahead.