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