Saturday’s Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia will feature Gus Malzahn’s departure from Auburn and Gene Chizik’s return to his defensive coordinator roots. Both men are already making plans.
According to tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, his offensive coordinator has big things in store for the Cavaliers. “He’s going to throw the book at them,” he said of Malzahn’s gameplan. Malzahn will take over as Arkansas State’s head coach after the bowl.
Chizik, meanwhile, is filling in for departed D-coordinator Ted Roof. And he always coached from the pressbox as a coordinator in the past. Any chance he coaches from on high Saturday? Uh, no.
“That’s going to be the challenge for me, obviously. Even when I was a defensive coordinator before all those years I never called a game before from on the field. Obviously, I’m going to have to be involved in the total aspect of the game — third downs, fourth downs, ‘are we going to go for it?’ I feel like we’ve got a pretty good plan in place, but when everything starts flying fast out there, sometimes it gets pretty hairy out there. But that’s going to be my plan right now.”
LSU fullback JC Copeland has fired a shot toward the Auburn football program that you can bet has fans of the Plainsmen riled up today. The 280-pound bruiser remembers his Tigers 45-10 win over AU’s Tigers for the hits he didn’t have to dole out:
“The most memorable game I’ve had this year, I’ve got to say, was Auburn, because after the first couple of hits, everybody (on AU’s defense) was just backing up. They didn’t want to hit at all. … Before I got to them, they just fell down and just laid on the ground.
I actually said, ‘C’mon man, you’re better than that. C’mon, hit me. That was like the only game I went home and had no nicks and bruises at all.”
Makes you wonder if Georgia’s Mark Richt was referring to Auburn’s D when he said pre-SEC title game: “I’ve seen people just start jumping out of the way of this guy, literally.”
One thing you can be sure of is this… you can bet that Gene Chizik will post Copeland’s comments all over Auburn’s football complex in the week running up to next year’s LSU game.
When he’ll return to the team? That’s the indefinite part.
Gene Chizik has slapped an indefinite suspension on his offense’s biggest star due to the dreaded (and vague) violation of team rules. The All-SEC back rushed for 1,242 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011. This after a 1,093-yard season in 2010. He is one of just five Tiger backs to post consecutive 1000-yard seasons and the first to do it in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Before the season, we took a bit of a beating from Auburn fans for suggesting that the Tigers would have their fair share of troubles this year with so many young, inexperienced players having to fill the roles of departed veterans.
We haven’t been hearing much from Tiger fans the past few weeks.
“Last year when things didn’t seemingly look like they were going very well, you had a lot of guys who had been through a lot of peaks and valleys during their careers. You have experience with guys who have been in the valley — and they know how to get back up to the peak. We need more leadership.”
With Samford and Alabama left to play, it’s likely the Tigers will finish 7-5 on the season and unranked. So much for all the preseason talk of being disrespected by the media. (And by this site.)
Starting a majority of freshmen and sophomores is a recipe for disaster in the SEC. Regardless of the logo on the helmet or the titles won in prior seasons.
Earlier this week we poked a little fun at MSU’s Dan Mullen for saying that Kentucky — if not for a few turnovers — would be a hot team right now. When it comes to puffing up an opponent, that was a pretty good line because UK wouldn’t be considered “hot” right now if they were playing in the Arctic Circle.
But we’ve got a new King of Puff in the SEC and his name is Gene Chizik. Chizik’s Auburn Tigers take on Ole Miss this Saturday and the coach called the Rebels “a very, very good football team.”
How can these guys keep a straight face saying things like that?
“They’re probably a play here or a play there from winning five or six games. I think the record is not an indicator of how good they are.”
In reality, UM did finish just one play away from beating BYU in its opener. But they lost by 14 to Georgia, 23 to Vanderbilt and 45 to Alabama. One or two plays probably wouldn’t have gotten the job done.
And while last week’s loss to Arkansas was close — 29-24 — the Hogs rolled off 29 consecutive points to zoom from behind.
Best 2-5 team in the country? That should satisfy angry Rebel fans.
With a road trip to #1 LSU coming up on Saturday, Auburn has a new starting quarterback. Clint Moseley has gotten the nod after giving the Tigers a lift off the bench when he replaced Barrett Trotter against Florida this past weekend.
“We’ve been struggling offensively the last couple of weeks,” Gene Chizik said today. “I don’t feel like that’s a secret. We need a spark there. I feel like in the second half of the Florida game, Clint came in and gave us somewhat of a spark when we needed it. I think he’s earned the right for the opportunity to start.”
Chizik didn’t enjoy breaking the bad news to Trotter. “This is the part of the business I don’t like. You have to tell one guy one thing and another guy the other.”
In Auburn’s 17-6 win over Florida, Moseley was 4 of 7 for 90 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
“The NCAA enforcement staff is committed to a fair and thorough investigative process. As such, any allegations of major rules violations must meet a burden of proof, which is a higher standard than rampant public speculation online and in the media. The allegations must be based on credible and persuasive information and includes a good-faith belief that the Committee on Infractions could make a finding.
As with any case, should the enforcement staff become aware of additional credible information, it will review the information to determine whether further investigation is warranted.”
That last line will send anti-Auburners back to the messageboards to hurl more accusations, but the fact of the matter is that’s just boilerplate NCAA legalese.
There was no hard proof that anyone at AU paid anything to Newton or his father, Cecil. Some will no doubt say that their favorite program was penalized despite a lack of hard evidence, that the burden of proof was never met. But the NCAA also said in its statement that there was not even “credible and persuasive information” suggesting Auburn was guilty of paying the Newtons. This after 13-months and dozens of interviews.
No proof. No credible, persuasive information.
Danny Sheridan’s bag man? Just talk radio hooey until the man gives up a name, something he can do without the threat of a lawsuit (despite his claims).
Scott Moore’s tapes? Oh, how many times have we been told, “You just wait, they’re coming!” Well, unless he finds a place to play them, they can be filed under H for hokum.
Those FBI wiretaps that would tie everything together in a nice, neat package? Messageboard hogwash.
Our thoughts on this subject — from beginning to end — can be summed up in a couple of posts:
1. On November 19th, 2010 we posted a column titled: “Isn’t It Possible That Auburn Never Paid The Newtons A Thing?” In it we took on the role of Henry Fonda from “12 Angry Men.” It would be a position we tried to keep throughout the entire Auburn/Newton saga. In our view, all the talk, accusations and appearances shouldn’t mean a thing unless someone could provide some evidence, some tangible proof of wrongdoing.
2. On February 25, 2011 we posted a column called: “It’s Time For Bond And Moore To Put Up Or Shut Up On The Newton Saga.” Like so many others who’d claimed to have information in the case, Moore — an Alabama fan and then-radio host — went from talkshow to talkshow across the South saying he’d heard and had access to evidence in the Newton case. Former Mississippi State player John Bond allegedly had audio tapes proving that Newton the Younger knew that Newton the Elder was shopping him to State. But Moore and Bond never produced the tapes. Sheridan would do basically the same thing with his bagman claims earlier this fall.
In the end, it looks like there was a lot of smoke around the Auburn program and the Newtons, but no fire. At least no major fire.
Even the comments of the “HBO Four” failed to yield fruit… mainly because three of the four would talk only to HBO and not to the NCAA, which discredits them more than a little.
That said, do we at MrSEC.com believe there were hundred-dollar handshakes going on at AU? Yes. But we’re also 100% sure you could go on any SEC campus and find athletes getting some form of under the table payment from someone. That happens everywhere and there’s no way to clean it all up.
We also believe the SEC and the NCAA should have suspended Newton as soon as his father admitted to asking for cash from MSU. That violated a rule on the books and both parties had to find a loophole — that they later admitted needed to be closed — to allow Newton to play in the SEC Championship Game and the BCS Championship Game.
Going forward, that rule should state that once a player or family member asks for cash — period — that player is dunzo.
But once that hurdle was cleared, the “Auburn cheated thing” was just a sideshow. Carnival barkers barked, people willingly climbed aboard a rickety ride, but there was nothing to be gained from buying a ticket on the Newton Violations Tilt-A-Whirl.
Despite that fact, we’re still quite happy that Newton decided to take his game to the NFL a year early. Had he stayed for his senior season, the Auburn football team and the SEC would have been dealing with more negative press every single time he stepped onto a field this fall.
In summary: Newton’s father broke an obvious rule and the player should have been punished for that… as would have been the case had his father accepted any money. But Newton continued to play. He was arguably the greatest player in SEC history during his one season as a starting quarterback. He and Auburn have now been cleared of illegal activity. Thank God and Greyhound he’s gone.
Barrett Trotter will once again be given the starting nod when Auburn hosts Florida on Saturday. The quarterback has started every game for the Tigers this year, but his passing numbers have dropped in recent weeks.
“I expect him to play well,” said Gene Chizik today. “And I expect everybody else around him to play well with him. We looked hard at everything. It’s hard for any quarterback to be as productive as you want him to be if everybody else isn’t productive as well.”
Chizik put plenty of the blame on Trotter’s pass-catchers before saying, “I don’t want to turn this into a wide receiver bashing party.”
Kiehl Frazier will continue to run Auburn’s Wildcat package and Clint Moseley will continue in his third-team role.
When it comes to Auburn’s success in 2011, the numbers just don’t add up. The Tigers have lost starters by the boat load, including superstars Cam Newton and Nick Fairley on offense and defense, respectively.
Auburn’s defense is allowing yards and points at an alarming rate. The Tigers’ 27.4 points-allowed-per-game average is worst in the SEC.
Even on offense, Gus Malzahn’s crew has taken a major step back in terms of production. They’re currently eighth in the league in scoring.
Look below at this simple comparison of each schools’ average points scored and allowed points allowed per game. Then take a look at the schools’ records to the right.
Avg. Pts. Allowed/Game
We’re not deep into SEC play, so strength of schedule certainly has some bearing on those numbers. That said, it’s clear that the bigger a team’s average scoring margin the better. Common sense, right?
Just not in the case of Auburn. The Tigers are surrounded by teams with losing records. Yet they themselves are 4-1 overall and undefeated in the SEC.
That’s good coaching, folks. Last year, with Newton running all over the field, AU’s string of close-game wins were devalued a bit because it appeared Gene Chizik had simply landed a player for the ages who had lifted his team upon his back like Atlas.
But Atlas is gone — along with umpteen other starters — and the Tigers are still winning close games.
Interestingly, the Tigers’ average scoring margin of +3.2 points per game ranks but a hair behind Mississippi State’s +3.4 scoring margin. On the standings board, however, the Tigers are 4-1 (2-0), the Bulldogs are 2-3 (0-3).
Not surprisingly, Chizik’s team slipped by Dan Mullen’s squad in a close game sealed with a goal-line stand.
There are two months of the season yet to be played and a lot can change in that time. But for now, Auburn’s coaches have shown once again that they can get the most out of their players in clutch situations.
“Gene Chizik came in and stole my man Jermaine Whitehead. I asked Gene, ‘Now Gene, you didn’t even have a home visit.’ It must be nice to hold up that crystal ball. Hold up a crystal ball and get one of my best players.”
Whitehead was a four-star defensive back prospect who had committed to Mississippi State and then to Ole Miss before Auburn finally grabbed him in a late surprise.
“He took my hand and said, ‘Coach Nutt, I’m coming to play or you. I took his word!”
How is this not the very definition of recruiting? And remember, until Dan Mullen put the press on him in recent years, Nutt had always been a coach who preferred not to get too many early commitments. He instead preferred to be the guy raiding another guy’s nest… rather than sitting at home trying to protect his own eggs.
Coaches known as strong closers get their recruits from someone else. That’s how closing works. In this case, Nutt was the raidee and not the raider so suddenly that kind of poaching is bad.
Sorry, but we’re not buying this one because at one time or another every coach “steals” a recruit from some other poor shnook.
Nutt’s point in bringing all this up was to decry the league’s new soft 25-man signing cap. “What if something happens like Gene Chizik comes in and takes Jermaine Whitehead?” Nutt asked.
Well, it means a coach had better have some fallback options at the ready.