Who is Sharon Cargill? The mother figure who helped Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson weather ‘the storm’

Cargill is a senior English teacher and academic adviser at Johnson's alma mater, Montgomery's Carver High School.

Nearly every day, Jeremy Johnson receives a text message from the woman he fondly refers to as “Mother.”

It isn’t from his biological mother, LaTasha Johnson, with whom he has a strong relationship, but rather from Carver High senior English teacher and basketball academic adviser Sharon Cargill — the woman Johnson looks to as a mentor and mother figure.

“Jeremy will always have a special place in my heart,” Cargill told AL.com earlier this month. “Many of those (former Carver) players, they have always come to me and sought advice from me, so they call me ‘Mother’ and I call them my sons.”

Johnson may be one of Cargill’s favorite children (he frequently invites her to Auburn home games even though she’s an Alabama State fan), but he’s also the one who has most often sought her advice during the last year.

Sharon Cargill.jpgCarver-Montgomery senior English teacher Sharon Cargill (photo courtesy Montgomery Public Schools)Courtesy MPS

As Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee have said multiple times over the last nine-plus months, Johnson “went through a storm” last season. Johnson entered 2015 as Auburn’s starting quarterback and a trendy preseason Heisman contender before a shaky start to the season plagued by interceptions and poor decisions on the field led to his benching after three games. Sean White supplanted him as the starter for the next five games before Johnson earned his way back onto the playing field and, eventually, into the longest quarterback competition of Malzahn’s coaching careerthis spring and fall, whichcame to an end Thursday when White was again named starter.

Throughout the whole ordeal, Cargill was there as both a sounding board for Johnson and a source of calming influence and guidance. She inspired him daily with motivational text messages when he was “feeling some type of way,” and she encouraged him to stick with it no matter what, because his main reason for coming to Auburn was to receiver a degree, with football being secondary.

“Ms. Cargill is a great person, love her,” Johnson’s father, Ojedita Johnson, told AL.com. “Always told them at Carver, it takes a village. When I’m not there or if (his mother) is not there, they know they can step in. It’s all about trust. Sometimes it’s hard in life to trust anybody but when I give my kids over to the school, when they get up in the morning to go to school for those eight hours, the teachers, they did their job too. They helped. Discipline I didn’t have to worry about.

“She said hey, this is how it’s going to be…. I had to fall in line with her too. Ms. Cargill has been a great inspiration.”

Jeremy Johnson’s family focused on big picture

By all accounts, Johnson remained headstrong through last year’s turn of events. He tried not to get down on himself and remained confident that a second chance would eventually come, as long as he worked for it.

Following Auburn’s road loss to LSU on Sept. 19, Johnson sounded defeated during postgame interviews, like a player whose confidence was shot. Three days later, Malzahn announced White would start the following week against Mississippi State.

Johnson had been benched, and Cargill — who has remained close to the former two-sport star since his days at Carver — was one of the first to offer him advice. Her message to him was straightforward.

“I know you’re disappointed, but use that time to rebuild,” Cargill recalled telling Johnson. “If they say you’ve lost your confidence — which I really and truly did not believe — then get your confidence back, because you have a team of people behind you…. Keep your head up, work through it and everything is going to be OK.”

Johnson, who comes from a military family, took the advice to heart. He kept his head down and got back to work, trying to earn his way back onto the field.

When White sustained a knee injury late during a four-overtime loss to Arkansas and was hobbled the following week against Ole Miss, Johnson’s chance presented itself. He returned to the starting lineup on Nov. 7 against Texas A&M.

That morning, Johnson received another text from Cargill. “Have fun today. I believe in you,” it read. It was one of several that Johnson received from Cargill, who would include quotes from people such as Vashti McKenzie, the first female elected as bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“Today is a good day to look beyond the problems and focus on your possibilities, potential and purpose,” Cargill recited, quoting McKenzie. “Don’t necessarily focus on that you are not starting, but you think about your possibilities.”

Against Texas A&M, Johnson led Auburn to a road upset after completing 13-of-17 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.

RELATED:Watch Jeremy Johnson discuss Auburn’s win against Texas A&M last season

He went on to start Auburn’s final four regular-season games before a strong performance off the bench to close the season in a win against Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl. In the eyes of Lashlee and Malzahn, Johnson had faced adversity and weathered the storm.

“I think he handled the situation pretty good,” Cargill said. “As I have said to him on numerous occasions, a lot of times character is what goes on when you’re not on the field and people are definitely watching you to see how you’re going to deal with it and just to remain humble because everything works out for the designed purpose.”

It’s bigger things in life to worry about you than just sports but making an impact on others! Leaving a legacy behind and that’s what we do at carver high school @melvintyus1 @iam_sdh20 @shcargill @colo_life [?] [?] #onceawolverinealwayswolverine

A photo posted by @super_turtle6 on May 15, 2016 at 10:52am PDT

Jeremy Johnson (top right) pictured with Sharon Cargill (middle) and other former Carver players.

When Auburn turned the page from 2015, so too had Johnson. The senior was starting fresh while competing with White and junior college transfer John Franklin III for the starting job throughout the spring and up until Thursday — a period that spanned 36 practices and offseason workouts.

Johnson received another text from Cargill on March 2, the day after Auburn opened spring practices. She wanted to check in on him and see how he was doing.

“I’m good and practice was great,” Johnson responded, according to Cargill. “I like how I’m there trying to make this a competition, but the thing is I got to win my spot because I’m the first quarterback going in, too, so that’s going to be hard because I got more to prove than anybody so you know I’ve been working my butt off this whole time, and everybody on the team will tell you that.”

Cargill replied: “Go hard at it. You know I believe in you. Prove to your coaches you are the one. Study your playbook, give it all you have and I’m proud of you.”

Johnson continued to battle and remained confident. After A-Day, the last time he was made available to the media, he reiterated his intent to “keep competing for the starting quarterback job” regardless of where he stood at the end of spring.

That battle came to an end before Thursday’s practice, when Malzahn anointed White as the starter for the season opener against No. 2 Clemson on Sept. 3.

Cargill did not immediately text him about the decision, though she did send him condolences Thursday in the wake of the passing of Johnson’s grandfather, Ojedita Johnson Sr.,who died in a single-car crash Wednesday morning.

The two spoke by phone on Friday, however. Cargill, always the mentor and mother figure, again offered up words of wisdom to one of her favorite sons.

“Of course I know he’s disappointed but at the same time it’s just like after a storm, the sun always shines,” Cargill told AL.com Friday afternoon. “I just told him, my advice to him is of course you went to Auburn to play football but at the same time you went to obtain a degree. There’s always a brighter day on tomorrow, so stay focused so if you are called upon at any point in the game, be ready. Jeremy has a good spirit, so that’s one of the things I like about him.

“He’s a team player. He’s been there before. Even last year when he was benched, he was called upon and he performed. I think the same would be true for the future.”

What is Auburn’s plan for quarterbacks John Franklin III and Jeremy Johnson?

What’s next for Johnson remains to be seen. Malzahn did not name a backup quarterback on Thursday, insisting the team was “committed to Sean White being our quarterback” while also declining to address whether or not he was committed to playing Johnson in some form or fashion this season.

There’s the possibility that Johnson, who graduates in December, could redshirt this yearand be afforded another season of eligibility as a graduate transfer with another program. For now, though, Johnson’s focus remains earning his degree in December and doing what he can to help Auburn in whatever role is handed to him.

“Jeremy is in good spirits,” Cargill said. “I guess you can say how some people say he’s sobbing and ready to quit the team or leave, but that’s not him. That’s not even up for discussion. He’s going to finish out at Auburn, and the name of the game is to be ready. I also spoke with his dad and we talked about Jeremy not starting, but he too — just like me — said after the storm, the sun always shines. He’s going to be OK.”

AL.com reporter James Crepea contributed to this report.

Who is Sharon Cargill? The mother figure who helped Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson weather ‘the storm’

Cargill is a senior English teacher and academic adviser at Johnson’s alma mater, Montgomery’s Carver High School.

Auburn’s Offensive Line Gels and Solidifies

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Though no official depth chart has been released, the offensive line seems to have solidified at the closing of fall camp. One by one, the pieces began falling into place for an offensive line that has been in a state of flux over the last two years. It wasn’t that it was particularly disjointed, untalented or not cohesive in the past, it was just that unforeseen circumstances caused a shuffling among Auburn’s best O-line players, causing them not to play in their best positions. 

Take 2015, for example. After transferring from Ole Miss, Austin Golson came off his one-year layoff to play center. That wasn’t where he played as a Rebel nor is it his natural position. Though he did an admirable job, his height frequently caused him to struggle as a center, specifically against 3–4 defenses with a nose guard playing over the football. Why was he playing in that position rather than his natural one? Mostly because NFL prospect Avery Young manned one of the tackle spots, and freshman phenom Braden Smith manned the other. 

It didn’t help that Xavier Dampeer, the JUCO transfer from Copiah-Lincoln, didn’t materialize as a starter his first year as a Tiger. When Golson began to struggle, especially against quality opponents starting with LSU, the more natural center wasn’t ready to go thanks to an unfortunate accident between him and Duke Williams. After a narrow victory against Jacksonville State and the fight with Williams, Dampeer was sidelined for the rest of the season.

Dampeer hung in, though, and became something of a media sensation during softball season as he tweeted hilarious reactions to Auburn’s trip to the Women’s College World Series. His emergence at center is something that Auburn fans have been waiting for, and if he could become the player he was meant to be, it would mean reshuffling the deck along the offensive line and placing players where they should be. The player they call “X” has done that.

Dampeer’s position coach, Herb Hand, had this to say to AL.com: “Winter conditioning, spring recess, the beginning of it, challenging him daily to bring his best and also to embrace the opportunity that he has to be the guy with the ball in his hand because it starts with him and he’s got to start the tempo with everything.”

Even though Golson struggled, his ability to play where needed makes him incredibly valuable. With Dampeer seizing the moment, the dominos began to fall, and Golson made the move back to left tackle where he will protect the future Auburn QB’s backside while setting the edge for what looks to be a decent rushing attack. This year will allow Golson to provide all the tape needed for NFL scouts to elevate him from the class of 2018’s fifth-best center into possibly one of the top prospects off the board. 

Elsewhere, Alex Kozan struggled in 2015. After an incredible 2013 freshman season when he earned Freshman All-American honors, Kozan herniated a disc in an offseason workout and missed all of 2014. “I was just happy to be playing [last season],” Kozan told AL.com. “[In] 2014 I wasn’t sure if I’d ever play again. So to play the whole 2015 season, obviously I didn’t play as good as I wanted to in a couple of games, but you take that and you grow from there and keep getting better as a player.”

Kozan has started all 27 games he has been physically ready to play, and the young man is said to be in better shape now than ever, and not just because he has recovered from injury. “There’s no doubt,” Malzahn said. “I think he’s probably as healthy as he’s been since he’s been here. His confidence level and just the experience factor—he’s one of our offensive leaders, one of our team leaders. He’s one of the guys when he talks he doesn’t say much, but when he talks everyone listens. He’s had a great spring and great fall camp.” Kozan is currently rated as the No. 16 offensive guard draft eligible prospect by CBS Sports. 

Auburn’s tandem of guards isn’t complete without Braden Smith. Smith has been a lock at the position, becoming the only player along the line who has not moved since setting foot on campus and becoming a starter. Often forgotten because of the revolving door of players off to the NFL as well as struggles elsewhere, Smith and his nasty streak made him the tops for finishing blocks last year. He was rated as the most efficient blocker in the SEC last season. Smith is currently the No. 4 ranked guard in the 2018 draft class. 

Robert Leff has spent his career as a backup, never quite getting over the hump to become a starter. Though he has appeared in over 40 games, he has just two starts. Was it his maturity and years in the system that got him to this point, or is it being pushed by former five-star and Texas transfer Darius James? Though the two look to be bookends on the depth chart, they battled during the offseason for the last spot. But  Leff, the 6′ 6″ 299 pounder, has arrived just in time, and his emergence at right tackle earned him the 28th overall offensive guard ranking, which with a big year he can easily parlay into an NFL payday. 

Auburn’s offense was in obvious state of disarray in 2015. It started off the field with Duke Williams. It percolated with questionable coaching. It had dreadful QB play to begin the season. But, it didn’t help that Auburn fielded a mix-and-match offensive line.

This year, Auburn will have three seniors and two juniors on the O-line. They have appeared in 119 games with 51 starts. No  other SEC team can boast of such experience. This unit is really beginning to gel and will not repeat the instability of 2015.

The post Auburn’s Offensive Line Gels and Solidifies appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

Malcolm Askew ‘100 percent’ committed to Auburn, but planning 4 official visits

Malcolm is the nation’s No. 10 athlete in the 247Sports Composite.

Malcolm Askew ‘100 percent’ committed to Auburn, but planning 4 official visits

Malcolm is the nation's No. 10 athlete in the 247Sports Composite.

McAdory athlete Malcolm Askew tells AL.com his commitment to Auburn is “100 percent solid” right now, but he’s also planning to take official visits to Cal, Miami, Oklahoma and TCU this fall.

“Right now I’m 100 percent solid,” Askew said. “I’ll take some officials to some other schools. If they open my eyes and I say ‘Hey this school’s got something that Auburn doesn’t and my family feels that’s a better fit for me, (it) could possibly lead to a decommitment and choosing another school.”

The four-star prospect committed to Auburn in early June and is expected to graduate early and enroll in January 2017. He is ranked as the nation’s No. 10 athlete in the 247Sports Composite.

“The vibe at Auburn was real,” he said. “I felt like they weren’t just selling the program… I could actually feel what they were talking about and the information they were giving me. At other schools it felt like they were saying the same thing over and over again. But when I got to Auburn they were more real and honest with me and that’s also what led to my commitment.”

Askew speaks with the Auburn staff “every other day.” Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn wished him luck with a phone call hours before McAdory faced off with Dallas County Friday. Askew told Malzahn he’s going to attend the season opener against No. 2 Clemson Sept. 3 inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.

His prediction?

“Well I’m committed to them so I predict we’ll win all the games,” Askew said. “I feel like they could be a team people that people are sleeping on and could shock the country again like they did in 2013.”

Askew (6-0, 170) also has a strong bond with Auburn secondary coach Wesley McGriff, who took over after Travaris Robinson left for South Carolina in January.

“He’s a great coach,” Askew said of McGriff. “We clicked right away when I first visited there when he first got there and we’ve clicked ever since. He clicked with my family. That was the main reason that went into my commitment because he’s my position coach and I feel like we have a great connection.”

Cal appears to be Auburn’s biggest threat for Askew’s signature at the moment. The Bears have solidified an official visit Sept. 17, the week Auburn plays Texas A&M. Askew’s other visits are not set in stone at this time.

“Cal’s a big one for me because they’ve stayed in contact with me almost as much as Auburn, which is a crazy thing,” he said.

After playing quarterback, wide receiver, safety and cornerback for McAdory last season, the Yellow Jackets are almost exclusively playing Askew at quarterback this fall. He is committed to Auburn as a cornerback and said he worked at the position this offseason during 7-on-7 team tournaments and gets a few reps in practice.

“That’s where they need me to be,” he said. “I’ll do out on defense on special occasions, but mostly just quarterback.”

Watch Malcolm’s full interview in the video Stay tuned to AL.com for highlights of Askew against Dallas County.

‘Positive vibes’: Auburn players rally around Sean White – Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site

Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site
'Positive vibes': Auburn players rally around Sean White
Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site
AUBURN, Ala. — Running back Kerryon Johnson says Sean White is “a really nice guys and a really great friend.” And a feisty competitor. Johnson says White “has a little mean streak to him” when the lights come on. Those lights flashed when he was…
2016 SEC football preview: Auburn TigersTeam Speed Kills
Beginning Tuesday, Auburn turns its sole attention to ClemsonESPN (blog)
SEC Network predicts outcome for each 2016 Auburn football gameSECcountry.com
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The 2016 Schedule: One Sentence Predictions

The 2016 Auburn football season is nigh, so it’s time to predict the outcome of each game in nearly the shortest way possible. People used to read, then that took too long. Then people tweeted, but now 140 characters is too much for some people. Now we just like looking at pictures.

Well, for the sixth straight season I’ll make it quick and tell you what will happen by only using one sentence per game. Can you at least carve out enough time for that, millennials? Maybe I can snap you my prediction next year, but this year, just read 12 sentences. Got 12? Ok whatever, let’s go.

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 4.50.38 PM– In 2010, I predicted that Auburn would go 11-0 in the regular season with a toss-up against Alabama. Auburn went 12-0 in the regular season.

– In 2011, I predicted that Auburn would go 9-2 in the regular season with a toss-up against Alabama. Auburn went 7-5 in the regular season.

– In 2012, I vowed to never pick another Auburn loss because of the results of 2010. I did just that and Auburn won 3 games.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯

– In 2013, I went less homer, but maybe full homer, and picked a 9-2 regular season with a toss-up against Alabama, and the Tigers went 11-1.

– In 2014, I picked Auburn to go 11-0 in the regular season with a toss-up against Alabama. Auburn went 7-4 in the regular season. Maybe I should stop picking undefeated seasons.

– In 2015, I bought into the hype that never came to fruition. What are you gonna do? Everybody believed, then 3 little things (Duke, Jeremy, Carl) happened, and the season wasn’t what we wanted.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but in the previous six years, I’ve predicted seasons of undefeated, two defeats, undefeated, two defeats, undefeated, undefeated. So last year I should’ve picked two defeats, meaning this year I’m supposed to pick an undefeated season. Will I do it? Have a look.

Sept. 3 – Clemson – High profile night games in Jordan-Hare including an opponent of decent caliber usually don’t end well for that opponent, regardless of the last game they played in.
Worry level: 10. Score: Auburn 38, Clemson 35

Sept. 10 – Arkansas State – Gus’s old team returns for a nice little beating, as John Franklin III has a coming out party.
Worry level: 3. Score: Auburn 41, Arkansas State 17

Sept. 17 – Texas A&M – The Aggies play a little better than they should, but this time there is no butt-fumble.
Worry level: 7. Score: Auburn 28, Texas A&M 20

Sept. 24 – LSU – In another late night game in Jordan-Hare, the crowd and Auburn’s defense stops the Heisman candidate for the first time in the season.
Worry level: 8. Score: Auburn 30, LSU 27

Oct. 1 – UL-Monroe – The team that beat Nick Saban’s Alabama ain’t walkin’ through that door!
Worry level: 2. Score: Auburn 38, UL-Monroe 7

Oct. 8 – at Mississippi State – The cheating cowbells are the only thing that will keep this one sort of close, in a game that is reminiscent of the 2010 meeting.
Worry level: 5. Score: Auburn 24, Mississippi State 14

Oct. 22 – Arkansas – All the revenge for the 4OT loss from 2015 is exacted all over Big Bert’s face as Gus scores one late just because.
Worry level: 6. Score: Auburn 34, Arkanas 17

Oct. 29 – at Ole Miss – Kerryon Johnson scores on a play that was setup to kick a game-winning field goal as time expires.
Worry level: 8. Score: Auburn 27, Ole Miss 21

Nov. 5 – Vanderbilt – The game is Auburn, and Vanderbilt doesn’t appear to be setup for their best season in history, so Auburn will win in a pretty easy one.
Worry level: 4. Score: Auburn 31, Vanderbilt 10

Nov. 12 – Georgia – The Dawgs’ questions still linger late into the season as Kirby Smart is still figuring this thing out, letting Auburn win in Athens for the first time since 2005.
Worry level: 9. Score: Auburn 34, Georgia 21

Nov. 19 – Alabama A&M – Their band is pretty cool.
Worry level: 1. Score: Auburn 52, Alabama A&M 7

Nov. 26 – Alabama – In a down year for the Tide, the Tigers have a shot in hostile Tuscaloosa.
Worry level: 10. Score: N/A

Did I just pick Auburn to go undefeated? I did. Why? Because it’s mathematically intelligent. Picking Auburn to win every game means their record will equal my picking percentage. That just makes it easier to figure it out at the end of the season. See? Smart.

Now give you me your predictions and/or tell me how smart I am in the comments section below.


Former Auburn players to be inducted into NJCAA Hall of Fame

Running back compiled a school-record 2,310 yards rushing along with 31 touchdowns, including a 370-yards, seven-touchdown performance in the championship game.

Former Auburn players to be inducted into NJCAA Hal of Fame

Running back compiled a school-record 2,310 yards rushing along with 31 touchdowns, including a 370-yards, seven-touchdown performance in the championship game.

The National Junior College Athletic Association has named two former Auburn Tigers as inductees into its 2016 Hall of Fame Class.

Running back Rudi Johnson and defensive lineman Gary Walker are among the four included in the class, which was announced on Wednesday.

From 1998-99, Johnsonwon two national titles and the NJCAA Player of the Year honor at Kansas’Butler Community College.

As a freshman in 1998, Johnson rushed for 1,697 yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging over six yards per carry. In1999, Johnson compileda school-record 2,310 yards rushing along with 31 touchdowns, including a370-yard, seven-touchdown performance in the championship game.

He then won SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2000 with his1,567 rushing yards as an Auburn Tiger.

RELATED: Johnson among the state’s elite

Johnson later was drafted by the Bengals and spent seven seasons in the NFL.

Meanwhile, Walker played defensive line for Hinds Community College in Mississippi from 1991-92 before transferring to Auburn and played during the undefeated 1993 season.

Walker, who had 148 tackles and 15 sacks in two seasons at Auburn, went on to play 11 seasons in the NFL.

Former Butler Community College coach John Anselmo and former Nassau (New York) Community College coach Troy Morrell are also part of the Hall of Fame class.

Nation’s No. 2 JUCO prospect has Alabama, Auburn in top four

The Mississippi Gulf Coast standout released a video.

Alabama and Auburn are still in the mix for Isaiah Buggs, the nation’s No. 2 junior college prospect.

Buggs, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound defensive end originally from Ruston, La., released a video that also included LSU and Ole Miss in his top four.

Buggs had 59 tackles, eightfor loss with four sacks last season for Gulf Coast.

Every prediction in the 247Sports crystal ball forecasts Buggs to LSU.

“Just because I’m from there doesn’t mean I’m going to go there,” Buggs told AL.com last month on a visit to Auburn. “People usually get it mixed up and say, ‘He’s a Louisiana guy, so he’s going to go home and play.’ That’s not necessarily true.”

Buggs originally was going to commit on Aug. 24, his 20th birthday, but told the Sun Heraldin Biloxi, Miss., that he was delaying that decision.

Buggs is ranked as the No. 1 weakside defensive end. His No. 2 national ranking is sandwiched between a pair of Alabama commits – City College of San Francisco offensive tackle Elliot Baker and Dodge City (Kan.) linebacker Gary Johnson.

#GoLive9[?] [?] [?] [?] [?] pic.twitter.com/gAG4DkpGIp

— Isaiah Buggs (@BigPooh_91) August 26, 2016

Nation’s No. 2 JUCO prospect has Alabama, Auburn in top four

The Mississippi Gulf Coast standout released a video.

Nation’s No. 2 JUCO prospect has Alabama, Auburn in top four

The Mississippi Gulf Coast standout released a video.

Nation’s No. 2 JUCO prospect has Alabama, Auburn in top four

The Mississippi Gulf Coast standout released a video.

Auburn’s Sean White ready to build off reputation as a ‘competitive field general’

The redshirt sophomore was named Auburn’s starting quarterback Thursday night.

Auburn’s Sean White ready to build off reputation as a ‘competitive field general’

The redshirt sophomore was named Auburn’s starting quarterback Thursday night.

Auburn’s Sean White ready to build off reputation as a ‘competitive field general’

The redshirt sophomore was named Auburn’s starting quarterback Thursday night.

Auburn’s Sean White ready to build off reputation as a ‘competitive field general’

The redshirt sophomore was named Auburn's starting quarterback Thursday night.

Sean White may have been the youngest competitor in Auburn’s lengthy quarterback race, but the redshirt sophomore has a reputation of being a stellar leader and managed to win the starting job Thursday night.

“The Auburn fans are blessed with a competitive field general who knows how to win and represent with integrity and grace,” Roger Harriott, White’s former head coach at University Nova South in Boca Raton, Fla., told AL.com in a text message. “Sean is the epitome of a positive role model and productive leader. God blessed him with the intestinal fortitude and strategic ability to manage and empower others to exceed expectations.”

White faced plenty of obstacles in the past year. He was unexpectedly thrown into the fire in Week 4 last season when he came off the bench to start five straight games in favor of a struggling Jeremy Johnson. Considering it was his first taste of SEC football, White played relatively well. He became the first Auburn quarterback to throw for 250 or more yards in three consecutive games since 1997, but admitted on Thursday he had trouble getting into a rhythm with his receivers.

White also suffered injuries in the grueling quadruple overtime game at Arkansas that would linger for the remainder of the year and Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn went back to Johnson for the final four games of the regular season. White started the Birmingham Bowl against Memphis, but was not 100 percent and threw a pair of interceptions in the first half.

‘Tough as nails’: White earning trust of teammates

When White got healthy this offseason, things began to change. He showed more confidence in his abilities, his demeanor improved and he gradually became the most consistent quarterback on the roster as he got more reps with the first team offense.

White’s drive came as no surprise to Harriott.

“Sean has a very poised, confident demeanor with determination and willpower,” Harriott said. “He’s the type of leader that sets his mind on a goal and pursues it with absolute optimism and motivation. His spirit welcomes formidable challenges and adversity.”

All of a sudden, White is now the player face of the Auburn program. And he takes that responsibility seriously.

“Coach Malzahn talks about it, my dad back home talks about it: You have to use your influence in a positive way,” White said. “So any chance I get, if it’s a fan or a kid that comes up and wants a towel or something after the game, I’m not going to be a jerk and walk away. It only takes two seconds to go ahead and talk to a little kid, and that might make his whole month. So just little stuff like that. And just helping out the community. Anything I can do — that’s huge: being the face of the program. I’d love to start doing even better in using my influence.”

Ken Mastrole, White’s private quarterback coach from high school and his freshman year at Auburn, told AL.com White set a good example for younger quarterbacks and how they should conduct themselves when facing adversity. He is “really happy” his former student won the job, but doesn’t expect the attention to get to his head.

“When everyone else cares about the hype and the social media being ‘the quarterback,’ they want to be the guy but don’t necessarily want to take on the every day pressure and the ups and downs,” Mastrole said. “(White) loves that and thrives in that kind of environment.

“It’s a long season, and basically, it’s a long race. It’s a marathon. For him, it’s not high fives and celebration time… He’s happy because he’s a competitor, but he knows he’s got to perform and not put pressure on himself. He’s excited about it. This is his job. This is what he came (to Auburn) for.”

White’s accuracy and intelligence have been praised by his coaches and teammates this offseason, but fans will get their first look at the new-and-improved version next weekend. Auburn opens its 2016 campaign against national runner-up Clemson comes inside Jordan-Hare Stadium Sept. 3.

“I think fans should expect a guy that can make plays… but he has the mental intangibles to be able to do the things you can’t see behind the scenes,” Mastole said. “He makes guys around him better, raises the game of guys at different positions around him. I think he brings a great energy and I think when he steps in the huddle you’re going to know you have a confident leader, a guy you can really believe in and trust with the 10 other guys no matter who the opponent is.

“I don’t think the stage ever gets too big for him. I think that’s something that’s really overlooked for a lot of young college quarterbacks, especially in the SEC… He’s a winner and he’s got the talent.”

Analysis: Why White won Auburn’s starting QB job

AL.com All-Access: Will Alabama, Auburn’s Game 1 starting QBs still be there at the end?

We have a good idea who will be under center first when the Tigers and Crimson Tide open their seasons in eight days. The question is, however, will those two still be the man by season’s end?

AL.com All-Access: Will Alabama, Auburn’s Game 1 starting QBs still be there at the end?

We have a good idea who will be under center first when the Tigers and Crimson Tide open their seasons in eight days. The question is, however, will those two still be the man by season’s end?

AL.com All-Access: Will Alabama, Auburn’s Game 1 starting QBs still be there at the end?

We have a good idea who will be under center first when the Tigers and Crimson Tide open their seasons in eight days. The question is, however, will those two still be the man by season’s end?

AL.com All-Access: Will Alabama, Auburn’s Game 1 starting QBs still be there at the end?

We have a good idea who will be under center first when the Tigers and Crimson Tide open their seasons in eight days. The question is, however, will those two still be the man by season's end?

Gus Malzahn has already ended the mystery: Sean White will start at quarterback for Auburn against Clemson on Sept. 3.

At Alabama, Nick Saban is still being coy. However, information –or at least a highly educated guess –has begun to trickle out indicating it will be Cooper Bateman who takes the first snap against USC that same day.

So we have a good idea who will be under center first when the Tigers and Crimson Tide open their seasons in eight days. The question is, however, will those two still be the man by season’s end?

Assuming White stays healthy, it’s a strong possibility he’s the man all season. Junior college transfer John Franklin III has not done much to prove he deserves the job, even though he’s theoretically the best fit for Malzahn’s offense.

It’s possible if Auburn goes south early –and the Tigers’ early schedule is brutal –Franklin could get a shot at salvaging the season (and Malzahn’s job). We might even see Jeremy Johnson again if White gets hurt early.

It seems to be a much more fluid situation at Alabama. True freshman Jalen Hurts is expected to play in the season-opener, and could eventually take the job from Bateman as the season moves along.

But if Hurts does take over the starting job, he’d the be the first true freshman to do so for a Nick Saban team. He’d also be the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Alabama in more than 30 years.

I’d say there’s a better than 50/50 shot that neither White nor Bateman is his team’s starting quarterback by the final game. What do you think?

I’ll take your questions and comments on that or anything else on your mind beginning at 10 a.m.

Auburn’s preseason honors grow with four on Lombardi list – Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site

Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site
Auburn's preseason honors grow with four on Lombardi list
Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site
AUBURN, Ala. – The football season is a week away, but the awards season is still going full blast for Auburn. The Tigers' Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams, Tre' Williams and Braden Smith earned a spot on the Lombardi Award watch list that was announced…

and more

Auburn safety Stephen Roberts arrested for attempting to elude, possession of gun without permit

Auburn defensive back Stephen Roberts was arrested on charges of attempting to elude an officer and for possessing a firearm without a license.

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Auburn defensive back Stephen Roberts was arrested on charges of attempting to elude an officer and for possessing a firearm without a license.

Roberts was arrested at 9:53 p.m. Wednesday night near the intersection of Harmon Drive and E Veterans Blvd. in Auburn, according to the arrest report provided to AL.com by Auburn Police Capt. Lorenza Dorsey, which lists the firearm in Roberts’ possession without a permit as a handgun.

The Opelika native was then taken to the Lee County Detention Center, where he was booked at 10:40 p.m., according to Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones, who said Roberts was released, with each charge having a bond of $1,000, later Wednesday night.

Both charges are Class A misdemeanors in Alabama and carry a penalty of no more than one year in jail and up to a $6,000 fine. Roberts is due in court at 8 a.m. on Nov. 17.

“Coach (Gus) Malzahn is aware,” an Auburn spokesman told AL.com in a statement Friday morning. “He is gathering all the facts and will handle the situation appropriately.”

Roberts, who appeared in all 13 games in 2015 and started the final four games of the season, was expected to start at free safety for the Tigers this fall. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele mentioned Roberts first when he named the team’s top four safeties earlier this week and the 5-foot-11, 183-pound junior has also been practicing at cornerback.

Stephen Roberts ready to leave impact on Auburn’s defense

Roberts attributed his improvement over the course of last season to “things off the field” and being more dedicated to studying film. He had 26 tackles, including 21 in the final four games, and three pass breakups during his sophomore season.

“When I have bad things off the field then it doesn’t work for me on the field,” Roberts said earlier this month. “When I had to get things good off the field, it started to work good on the field. And just my film study. I started studying film, and like I said, most people when they’re on second team or they ain’t playing they just move to the back burner. I didn’t have that mindset. I just had the mindset that I got to keep working and make it work when I get my chance, I got to make something of it.”

Roberts is the fifth Auburn football player to be arrested this off-season, joiningByron Cowart, Carlton Davis, Ryan Davis and Jeremiah Dinson, who were all arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana during a traffic stop in late April. Malzahn has said those four players, none of whom have been available for interviews since their arrest, were disciplined butwill not lose playing time due to their arrest. They are all due in court Sept. 1.

Auburn safety Stephen Roberts arrested for attempting to elude, possession of gun without permit

Auburn defensive back Stephen Roberts was arrested on charges of attempting to elude an officer and for possessing a firearm without a license.

DaVonte Lambert aims to ‘keep production high’ in bid to make Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Former Auburn defensive end DaVonte Lambert is trying to earn a place as a defensive tackle with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted rookie.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle DaVonte Lambertdidn’t do former Auburn teammate Corey Grantany favors when he dropped the Jacksonville Jaguars for a 4-yard loss in an NFL preseason game last week.

Grant is trying to establish himself as a viable choice as the third back behind former Alabama standout T.J. Yeldon and free-agent prize Chris Ivory for Jacksonville in his second NFL season. Grant earned a spot on the Jaguars last season as an undrafted rookie.

Lambert is trying to do the same thing with the Bucs this year. He took a step toward accomplishing that in Saturday’s 27-21 victory over Jacksonville.

With Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay’s all-star defensive tackle, sitting out the game with an ankle injury, Lambert came through with three tackles – as many as the Buccaneers’ other defensive tackles combined – in 18 snaps against Jacksonville.

“I felt like I did good,” Lambert told Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. “But at the same time, looking at film, I can do a lot of things better technique-wise. Playing behind Gerald, I’ve been studying him a lot, talking to him about pre-snap indications like run or pass. I’ve learned a lot from him.”

Tampa Bay is counting on McCoy, Clinton McDonald and Akeem Spence to be its top three defensive tackles.

McCoy has gone to the Pro Bowl after each of the past four seasons. McDonald is back after a pectoral injury limited him to six games last season. Spence stepped into the lineup when McDonald got hurt last season.

With the Bucs likely to keep four defensive tackles, Lambert has plenty of competition for the fourth spot.

Cliff Matthews, a three-year veteran who can double as a defensive end, didn’t play in 2015 after getting hurt in the preseason. A.J. Francis played in three games with the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks last season. Ishmaa’ily Kitchen has played in 40 games with three teams over the past four seasons. Travis Britz is an undrafted rookie from Kansas State.

Lambert started at defensive end during his two seasons at Auburn after joining the Tigers from Georgia Military College. At 282 pounds, he’s the lightest of the players listed as defensive tackles on Tampa Bay’s roster.

Tampa Bay plays the third of its four preseason games on Friday, when it hosts the Cleveland Browns. CBS will televise the game at 7 p.m. CDT.

“It’s going to be big,” Lambert said. “We have to come out and play hard, especially the third team. I’m going to make plays and keep my production high. Every day, I just look at it as doing my job. You can’t look at the Internet and social media. I just go in with a laser focus and go do my job. That 53-man roster is a goal for me, so I keep pushing every day.”

Each NFL team is required to have its 90-player roster reduced to 75 by 3 p.m. Tuesday. By 3 p.m. Sept. 3, the rosters must be at the regular-season limit of 53 players.

The Buccaneers started training camp with three undrafted rookies from Auburn.

Tampa Bay waivedlinebacker Cassanova McKinzyon Monday. The former Woodlawn High School standout missed almost two weeks of practice and both of the Bucs’ preseason games because of a hamstring injury.

Running back Peyton Barber rushed for 40 yards on 11 carries and caught a 10-yard pass against Jacksonville.

FOR MORE OF AL.COM’S COMPREHENSIVE COVERAGE OF THE NFL, GO TO OURNFL PAGE

DaVonte Lambert aims to ‘keep production high’ in bid to make Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Former Auburn defensive end DaVonte Lambert is trying to earn a place as a defensive tackle with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted rookie.

Can Kevin Steele succeed where other Auburn defensive coordinators have failed?

In many ways, Auburn's defense has only one direction to go.

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In many ways, Auburn’s defense has only one direction to go.

The Tigers closed a disappointing 2015 season on a high note but were unable to deliver on the expectations of an immediate defensive resurgence under Will Muschamp.

Change has become the norm on the Plains as Kevin Steele became Auburn’s third defensive coordinator in as many years and fourth in the last five years, but he’s made the learning process easier and is viewed by many as a “players’ coach.”

How the Auburn defense is learning its fourth scheme in 5 years

With most of the projected starters learning yet another new scheme, Steele has tried to make the transition easier for the players by keeping terminology the same from his predecessor, whose system has many similarities.

For Auburn to be successful this fall Steele will need to do what Muschamp, Ellis Johnson, Brian VanGorder and Ted Roof all could not – put a top 50 defense on the field.

RELATED: Auburn defensive coordinators since 1981

“That’s why we are here, to get the defense playing the way they’re supposed to play,” linebackers coach Travis Williams said. “It’s not a secret, that’s why we’re here. So it’s our job to come to work every day and get the defense prepared and get the guys prepared and bring a whole other physical part to the game.

“Like I was telling the guys, ‘We can’t just talk physical. We have to do physical stuff at practice.’ And during our individual drills we do physical stuff.”

Players have embraced Steele and his staff, which once again all changed from last season with the exception of defensive line coach Rodney Garner.

RELATED: Auburn DL could be ‘one of the best, if not the best, in college football,’ Malzahn says

“Coaches come and go,” Steele said. “And so the adjustment to that, particularly if you know somebody from the past or they’ve been in the same type system, it’s a pretty easy transition. As far as the staff personality, it’s been a really good fit in terms of all of us fitting together and being on the same page. … We work well together. That’s a start. We’re on the same page and so that’s big.

“But the rest of it is, they’re hasn’t been a lot of adjustment because Travis has been in a very familiar system, Rodney has been – twice – a very familiar system and there is carryover. Wesley and I have been in the same system, so it works pretty good.”

Williams, former All-SEC linebacker for the Tigers, is working with Steele in coaching the linebackers and the players have been receptive to his methodology.

“(Williams) really believes in us,” linebacker DeShaun Davis said. “He shows a lot of love. He’s a great coach. Coach Johnson was a great coach also. Coach Muschamp was a great coach. But Travis Williams, he understands the game of football and he knows how to – with some guys, they can’t pick up different terminology – level it down to where you can understand it and make you play faster. I really think the young guys are really stepping and making a lot of plays.”

Auburn linebacker believes Tigers will have ‘top 5 defense’ in 2016

McGriff has tried to instill a “next play” mentality in the secondary, which lost two of its best players from a year ago and ranked No. 63 against the pass last year.

“I always tell them to go play the game and let the coaches get frustrated,” McGriff said. “Then I think on the field they’re trying to play physical. We want to be a physical defensive unit. We want to be a physical secondary and I think the guys are doing that.

“The other thing the guys are doing is, we’re going to make some mistakes, but we’re minimizing our mistakes. We’re minimizing by playing as one, getting some good classroom studies. The biggest thing is the guys have come up on their own to watch videos, so it carries over to the field. The last thing is you see those guys are playing fast. They’re playing at a high level.”

The last season and a half has been very difficult for the Auburn defense.

The Tigers haven’t won an SEC home game since Oct. 25, 2014 due in large part to allowing 14 of their last 16 Power 5 opponents to score 20-plus points, including 10 that scored 30-plus.

The defense showed improvement by outshining the offense during spring practice and had a particularly impressive display on A-Day.

But the tests will be far more difficult for Auburn this fall as the Tigers start the season with Clemson, Texas A&M and LSU all in the first four weeks of the season.

Steele was happy with how the defense performed in the spring and entered fall camp, but expressed the usual early August sentiment of having a “long way to go” before the start of the season.

Whether Steele and his staff are able to lead the Tigers on the path back to being a premier SEC defense could determine how long Auburn’s season ends up lasting.

Gus Malzahn’s ‘No. 1 goal’ is for Auburn to have a top 10 defense

Can Kevin Steele succeed where other Auburn defensive coordinators have failed?

In many ways, Auburn’s defense has only one direction to go.

From the Eagle’s Nest

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The Offense has its Leader

Late yesterday evening Gus Malzahn confirmed what many have speculated, Sean White will be the quarterback when Auburn welcomes #2 Clemson to Jordan-Hare next weekend. I, for one, am not surprised by this decision and I believe many in the fan base aren’t surprised either. When healthy last season, White showed outstanding poise and passing ability. Injuries limited his playing time toward the middle and end of the season, but I think he showed enough grit and playmaking ability last year to warrant everyone’s support.

Auburn’s young receivers look to have their work cut out for them as having White under center will definitely open up Malzahn’s options in the passing game. I think this Auburn team will have no problem moving the ball on the ground which leads me to also believe that White can have significant success throwing the football this year. At this point, it’s going to come down to execution of a brilliant game plan in order to knock off Clemson under the lights in week one. A task I think this coaching staff is fully capable of.

RIP Hugh Freeze?

Every year around this time I start reading some truly strange things on message boards and around various college football news sites. I never thought I’d read about a head coach staging his own funeral for his players. I read things like this and it makes me wonder if my head is broken because the words I’m feeding it just do not seem to make any kind of sense.

I don’t know what Hugh Freeze was thinking and with an NCAA investigation looming larger every day in Oxford, I’m starting to wonder if this whole charade is not some weird, self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve tried to think of a more narcissistic move – and I can’t – short of purposely stranding yourself in space and forcing loved ones to communicate with you via Skype so you can see how much they miss until you’re able to be brought back down to Earth. Kudos for creativity, but I feel like this could be a signal of the beginning of the end for Freeze at Ole Miss.

Clemson’s “Best” is the New Standard

Clemson recently unveiled its plans for a new athletic facility for its student-athletes and no pennies are being pinched. The new complex will reportedly have laser tag, mini golf, and an indoor slide – and though it hasn’t been confirmed, I know Dabo pushed to have the slide added.

The new facility is truly a sign of the times for collegiate athletics, however. College football alone has grown into multi-billion dollar industry and it is nice to see a chunk of that money being spent toward the individuals responsible for said revenue. Opponents of facilities like Clemson’s will probably warn of an over-commercialization of collegiate sports – and it’s a warning that will arrive about two decades too late.  

Where there’s money to be made in America, there’s going to be extravagant spending. These new athletic complexes were inevitable and it won’t be long before schools begin competing heavily with one another to woo teenagers with lazy rivers, haunted houses, and all kinds of other whacky fun-house attractions they can do for free on campus any time they please. I can’t wait to see the height requirements for the rides over in Tuscaloosa.

Cal vs Hawaii in the Upside Down Bowl

College football gets started properly this year all the way on the other side of the world. Cal will face Hawaii this weekend in Sydney, Australia at ANZ Stadium with kickoff slated for 10:00 PM EST tonight. I’m a big fan of having a game like this promote the great sport of college football in an international venue. For years, the countries outside of America have only had soccer fans to lead the fanatical segment of sports fans. Now it’s time for college football’s own brand of crazy fandom introduce itself to the rest of the globe.

The post From the Eagle’s Nest appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

Now Sean White has to prove he can go the distance as Auburn’s QB

It's one thing to win the starting quarterback job for Gus Malzahn. It's another thing to keep it for an entire season. Do that, and the Tigers should be OK.

So, as suspected, Sean White is going to startthe first game of the season at quarterback for Auburn against Clemson. How will he do?

The only way to answer that question is with another question.

Will he also start the last game of the regular season against Alabama? What about the 10 games in between? It’s one thing to win the starting quarterback job for Gus Malzahn. It’s another thing to keep it for an entire season.

The last two quarterbacks who did, Cam Newton and Nick Marshall, turned out OK.

White isn’t Newton or Marshall, of course, but he’s far more ready to take the wheel than he was last year as a redshirt freshman in his first start against Mississippi State.

That decision smacked of desperation. This one, to hear Malzahn describe the longest quarterback battle of his college coaching career, has been much more calculated.

It got lost during a season gone wrong, but White grew into the job on the fly last year. Reflect on these numbers from his consecutive SEC road starts at Kentucky and Arkansas: 36 for 59 passing, 509 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions.

Those aren’t Heisman numbers, but you can compete with stats like that, and White compiled them while Auburn competed with something less than an All-American stable of receivers. He was the biggest reason Auburn beat Kentucky, and he was the biggest reason Auburn should’ve beaten Arkansas had those receivers not dropped the ball time and time again.

We’ll never know how the season might’ve turned out had White not hurt his knee in the fourth quarter against Arkansas. He still went the distance there, forcing overtime with a late drive and lasting through all four extra periods, and he started again the next week against Ole Miss, but he was never quite the same after the injury.

You may not be dazzled by his skills, but you can’t question his heart. He’ll need plenty of both as he goes against the best quarterback in college football in Deshaun Watson a week from Saturday. Expect to see not one but two up-tempo offenses that night. White’s grasp of the offense should allow Malzahn to push the pace to his liking far more than he did last year.

By choosing White over Jeremy Johnson and John Franklin III, Malzahn has a chance to put a dent in two lingering critiques of his coaching tenure at Auburn. One says he can’t win big in the SEC without a dual threat at quarterback. The other says he can’t develop a high school quarterback.

It looked like he was trying to catch lightning in a juco bottle for the third time in seven years by bringing in JFIII, but Franklin must not have been ready for his close-up. He was given ample opportunity to win the job, but it takes more than track speed to play quarterback in the SEC.

It’s natural to speculate where Malzahn will turn if White can’t stay healthy or productive. The head coach didn’t announce his backup plan Thursday, but it seems natural to assume Franklin will be ready with a read-option package and Johnson will be available for goal-line situations even if White stays in command.

There’s nothing wrong with playing multiple quarterbacks as long as the rotation is the result of design, not desperation.

Malzahn continues to say nice things about his bullpen, but he sounds as confident in his newly designated starter as AD Jay Jacobs does in Malzahn, even though White looks nothing like the last two championship quarterbacks at Auburn.

Maybe toughness, tempo and tenacity at the most important position on the field can move the Tigers back in that direction.

Now Sean White has to prove he can go the distance as Auburn’s QB

It’s one thing to win the starting quarterback job for Gus Malzahn. It’s another thing to keep it for an entire season. Do that, and the Tigers should be OK.

Auburn’s John Franklin III will make his opportunities count, says former coach

“He’s a good player and a phenomenal athlete.”

Auburn’s John Franklin III will make his opportunities count, says former coach

“He's a good player and a phenomenal athlete.”

When John Franklin III committed to Auburn last fall, he had a singular goal in mind — to be named the starting quarterback for the Clemson game and to hold that position for the entire season.

After a tight competition that lasted through spring and fall camp, head coach Gus Malzahn went in a different direction by naming redshirt sophomore Sean White his starter Thursday night. He declined to divulge his plans for Franklin or senior Jeremy Johnson moving forward, but at least one of Franklin’s former coaches believes he’s talented enough to be part of the game plan.

“I talked to (Franklin) recently and he was doing good and he’s been doing what (Auburn’s) asked him to do,” Clint Trickett, Franklin’s quarterback coach at East Mississippi Community College, told AL.com. “I told him it’s probably going to the type of competition that definitely goes into the season. I dealt with one of those at West Virginia. It sucks, but someone has to step up and be the guy.

“I just told him, ‘Whenever you get your chances you have to make it count.’ He’s going to do that. He’s a good player and a phenomenal athlete.”

What is Auburn’s plan for Franklin and Johnson?

Franklin has been in this situation before. He backed up James Winston at Florida State in 2013 and 2014. With the belief that his opportunities in Tallahassee were slimming, he decided to transfer to East Mississippi Community College for one season before making a jump back to a major program. EMCC played Franklin a good bit, but teammate Wyatt Robert got the majority of the starts and reps.

“I think he probably learned from that,” Trickett said. “He’s been in competition before and knows how to handle it. It’s a different level, obviously, but he knows what to do now. He knows he has to make the most of his opportunities when he gets them… Obviously every quarterback wants to be in there, but he knows he’s going to have to do his little deal first before he gets in there. He’s going to do it, and he’s going to try to make the most of it so that he is in there the whole time.”

It’s rare for schools to recruit and sign junior college players and not play them. Auburn’s coaches may not have said it publicly, but the general belief is that “JF3” will see the field for the Tigers this season in certain packages.

Franklin’s speed, which coaches and teammates have raved about all offseason, is too much of a factor to ignore. He was the only dual-threat in Auburn’s quarterback race — White and Johnson both struggled to make plays with their feet last season and the offense struggled as a result.

“That’s why Auburn went and got (Franklin),” Trickett said. “I think they had some trouble last year… He is a change of pace guy and they will figure out whatever is best for their team — whether they need to have more of a pocket passer or if they need to go back to running around. Whatever they need John is going to support the coaches’ decision.”

Analysis: Why White won Auburn’s QB battle

How soon will Marshall Taylor play for Auburn?

How quickly Marshall Taylor will be able to contribute at Auburn is still unclear.

How soon will Marshall Taylor play for Auburn?

How quickly Marshall Taylor will be able to contribute at Auburn is still unclear.

How quickly Marshall Taylor will be able to contribute at Auburn is still unclear.

The graduate transfer defensive backhas been “getting acclimated” since returning to the program on Sunday and practicing for the first time on Tuesday, according to Auburn coach Gus Malzahn.

“It’s really hard to tell how much he will be able to help the first game at this point,” Malzahn said following Thursday’s practice. “He’s just trying to get back out there and get rolling with it.”

Taylor, who came to Auburn from Miami University in Ohio, had 39 tackles with two interceptions and two pass breakups for the RedHawks last season.

“Body got get back used to football,” Taylor tweeted on Thursday. “I’m hurtin(‘).”

The Cordele, Georgia native missed Auburn’s first 19 practices this month due to injuries he suffered while attending a party in Columbus, Georgia with then-teammate Jovon Robinson several weeks ago. Auburn dismissed Robinson, who has denied wrongdoing.

Auburn senior receiver returns to ‘full speed’ following leg injury

Tony Stevens was limited at the end of fall camp while dealing with a leg injury.

Auburn senior receiver returns to ‘full speed’ following leg injury

Tony Stevens was limited at the end of fall camp while dealing with a leg injury.

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Auburn receiver Tony Stevens returned to practice this week following a minor injury he sustained toward the end of fall camp.

“Tony Stevens is back full speed,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said Thursday. “Matter of fact, for the most part all the guys are back out there practicing and we expect them all to be 100 percent.”

Stevens had been dealing with a leg injury that limited him at the end of fall camp earlier this month. During Auburn’s Fan Day on Aug. 14, Stevens was seen using crutches.

At the time, Malzahn said Stevens’ injury was a “minor thing” that would not endanger the senior receiver’s availability for the season opener against No. 2 Clemson on Sept. 3 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. He was expected back at practice on Tuesday, but Malzahn did not speak with the media until Thursday evening.

Stevens is one of two senior receivers on Auburn’s roster, the other being Marcus Davis. The 6-foot-4 Orlando, Florida native has appeared in 28 games during his first three years at Auburn, though he has been used in an ancillary role.

It’s now or never for Auburn’s Tony Stevens

As a junior in 2015, Stevens finished the year with a career-high 14 receptions for 177 yards and a touchdown despite not registering a catch until the sixth game of the season.

This fall, Stevens, Davis and Ryan Davis are currently working with the first-team offense at receiver. Now that Auburn has named a starting quarterback, Marcus Davis is confident the receiving corps will take a step forward as a whole — including Stevens.

“We’re real confident in what we’ve got going on as well,” Marcus Davis said. “Now that we’ve got that one guy, we can just continue to build that chemistry with him and I think that was the biggest thing, we got a lot of reps with Sean White and I think that everybody is just ready to play.”

Kevin Phillips wins Auburn’s starting punter job — again

Kevin Phillips averaged 41 yards per punt for Auburn in 2015.

Auburn’s quarterback battle wasn’t the only competition to come to an end Thursday.

Head coach Gus Malzahn also named the Tigers’ starting punter this season. For the second straight year, that job will fall to Kevin Phillips, who edged out Ian Shannon for the starting gigthis fall.

“He was in a good battle with Ian Shannon, and Ian really made it very competitive,” Malzahn said. “But we decided to make the call with that.”

Phillips, who transferred to Auburn from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College prior to last season, averaged 41 yards per punt last season during his first year on the Plains and only had three of his 55 attempts returned by opponents. He placed 17 of his punts inside the 20-yard line and had 10 punts of at least 50 yards, including a long of 56 yards against LSU.

Shannon signed with Auburn out of Marietta (Georgia) High last year and redshirted after Phillips won the starting job. As a senior at Marietta, Shannon averaged 40.7 yards per punt and allowed just 22 total return yards. Shannon also served as Marietta’s placekicker, making a school-record 16 field goals in a season while in high school.

Although Phillips is the starter, Malzahn did not rule out the possibility of Shannon having a role on special teams this season.

“You could see Ian from time to time get some punts throughout the year,” Malzahn said. “He’s an outstanding punter. He’s also an outstanding kicker.”

Kevin Phillips wins Auburn’s starting punter job — again

Kevin Phillips averaged 41 yards per punt for Auburn in 2015.

Analysis: Why Sean White won Auburn’s QB battle

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee decided to name Sean White the starting QB due to four main factors.

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Following the longest quarterback battle of Gus Malzahn’s 11-year college coaching career, Auburn namedSean White its starting quarterback for the season opener against Clemson.

After 36 practices during the spring and throughout this month, Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee made their decision over the course of the past 48 hours and chose White due to four main factors.

Here is an review of the key areas Malzahn emphasized during the course of announcing White would be the Tigers’ starter.

Development

Malzahn said White “improved in all areas” over the course of the off-season. Even while splitting reps with Jeremy Johnson and John Franklin III, White was able to separate himself while relying on his experience and knowledge of the offense.

“I think probably just more than anything is the progressions of understanding the offense,” Malzahn said. “Any time you have experience in something, you can go to your check-downs or go to the other side of the field and just probably the overall experience factor of knowing, being in the situations, knowing what to expect, knowing what to do or what not to do. …

“He battled. He battled hard in fall camp. It’s tough when you rotate three guys and you’re in a battle, it’s tough on all three of them. But he responded very well. He’s in a good spot.”

Senior wide receiver Marcus Davis said the team is confident in what White, who threw for 1,167 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions last season, brings to the offense.

“He’s really intelligent, and you know he knows the offense,” Davis said. “All those guys competed very hard, but he did what he was asked — he ran the offense. That was the main thing and that’s how we’re able to play fast. I think he just did a good job this camp.”

As a redshirt-sophomore, White is the youngest of the three quarterbacks who were competing for the job and has the most time available to him in the future to further enhance his skill set.

Leadership

As was the case when White unexpectedly was thrown into the job last season, he has the support of his teammates based on his demeanor and attitude on and off the field.

“Sean’s got a little mean streak to him,” running back Kerryon Johnson said. “He’s not going to back down from anybody. He’s a spicy player. He loves competition. I think that’s the thing that people really get out of playing with him. They really get that attitude that you can really feed off of as a team.”

White admitted it was difficult for him to lead the offense last year because he felt out of place telling a senior wide receiver like Ricardo Louis what to do.

That’s no longer an issue, White said.

“It’s been a conscious effort, for sure, but it has also been kind of natural, because I’m more comfortable and I’m older,” he said. “Really, I don’t even have to think about it, like, ‘Man, today I’ve got to go and lead these (guys).’ I just go out there and take control, because you feel like when you’re out there you’re the older guy, you’re the quarterback.

“When you’re out there and you’ve got young receivers and offensive linemen that are looking to you, it’s easy to lead. These guys are easy to lead because they listen and they’re great players and great people.”

Davis and Johnson both said the team is relieved to have a starter named and nine days to prepare for the season opener and rally behind White.

“With your peers you can be able to give a person confidence, not only a quarterback, but any position,” Davis said. “If you got the whole team behind you, you gain more confidence. I think that’s going to be the best thing for the team. We’ve got that one guy that we can really rally behind and everybody’s pretty excited.”

White said he feels “responsible to lead this team against Clemson” on Sept. 3.

“I’m happy coach put this responsibility on me and my teammates believe in me,” White said. “I feel like they have a reason to believe in me. We’ll be ready to go come Saturday.”

‘Tough as nails’ QB Sean White has earned trust of Auburn teammates

Experience

Just as Johnson’s experience was a major factor in him being named the starter in the spring of 2015, White’s in-game experience was a factor that aided him in this competition.

White feels it is a “night and day difference” from a year ago, when he was expecting to be the backup to Johnson.

“Part of that might be on me, but before the season, I prepared hard, I wasn’t slacking, but I wasn’t preparing to go out and start and lead the team until my name was called on,” White said. “This year, I had all spring, all preseason to prepare like I’m the starter. That’s been a huge difference as far as timing with the receivers and just being able to go out there and run the plays, not think, and being able to lead everybody. …

“Now I feel comfortable out there where I feel like I can lead the offense, lead the team.”

The only candidate who lacked game experience was Franklin, who Lashlee compared to a true freshman because he did not play in two years at Florida State and split time while at East Mississippi Community College last season.

With experience being a factor Franklin could not match his competitors in during the course of the competition, Auburn’s way of accounting for that was to allow the dual-threat signal caller to go live twice during the spring and hold numerous scrimmages this month.

“We tried to put those guys into as many game-like situations, different situations and like I said before just trying to put them in situations where you could evaluate them and give them a fair chance to compete,” Malzahn said. “We feel like we did that, and like I said, John did some very good things.”

Sean White a steady hand in Auburn quarterback competition

Mobility

While Franklin’s running ability is best among the candidates for the job, the coaching staff feels White is a capable runner as well.

It was a limited sample for White last season, particularly prior to his knee injury against Arkansas, but his 31-yard run against Mississippi State was among the plays Malzahn cited as evidence of White’s mobility.

“He’s got the ability to tuck it and run,” Malzahn said. “He’s a 4.6 guy. But after he hurt his knee and hurt his foot he wasn’t the same guy. That limited him on his mobility, but he’s a mobile guy.”

Malzahn said he’s seen White’s mobility improve as he got healthier since the end of the season.

White, who limited to nine carries for minus-19 yards in his final four games, downplayed his 40-yard dash time. He is confident in his running ability though.

“I think it’s more about, especially at quarterback, taking care of the ball and getting what you can get and about being quick,” White said. “I really don’t believe I got a chance to show that I can run a little bit.

“I wouldn’t say I’m Nick Marshall, like I said before, but I definitely think I can run better than I showed last year due to being young and being injured.”

Gallery preview

Analysis: Why Sean White won Auburn’s QB battle

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee decided to name Sean White the starting QB due to four main factors.

What is Auburn’s plan for quarterbacks John Franklin III and Jeremy Johnson?

Auburn named Sean White as its starting quarterback Thursday, but what does that mean for quarterbacks John Franklin III and Jeremy Johnson and their roles this fall?

What is Auburn’s plan for quarterbacks John Franklin III and Jeremy Johnson?

Auburn named Sean White as its starting quarterback Thursday, but what does that mean for quarterbacks John Franklin III and Jeremy Johnson and their roles this fall?

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Gus Malzahn made one thing clear Thursday night: third-year sophomore Sean White will be the team’s starting quarterbackwhen Auburn opens the season Sept. 3 against No. 2 Clemson.

What remains unclear, however, is what role — if any — quarterbacks Jeremy Johnson and John Franklin III will have this season now that the competition for the Tigers’ starting job has run its course.

Following his announcement of White as the team’s starter, Malzahn declined to provide an answer when asked who will be the next man up should White struggle or get injured.

“Right now, we’ve just named Sean the starter,” Malzahn said. “Not ready to say who’s (No.) 2 and 3 yet. But we just named Sean the starter. We told the players today and the team was excited for him.”

While White will get all of the first-team reps over the next week-plus as Auburn prepares for its opener against the ACC powerhouse, the possibility of Franklin seeing the field against Clemson shouldn’t be ruled out, though Malzahn said he’ll have to “see how the season unfolds.”

What is the next step in Auburn quarterback John Franklin III’s journey?

While it is rare for a coaching staff to bring in a junior college quarterback and not start him, it would be even rarer for a major program to bring in a JUCO quarterback and not devise some way to get him on the field. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee admitted as much earlier this month during Auburn’s fall camp, saying that “absolutely” the Tigers could still have packages for the elusive Franklin in the event he didn’t win the starting job.

“Nothing’s off the table,” Lashlee said Aug. 6. “Again for us, the big emphasis for us is we got to play with better tempo, and part of that is playing with better tempo, but the other part of that is obviously converting and staying on the field and getting momentum going. We’ve got to play with tempo and then the next thing is we got to generate explosive plays. That’s where we really struggled last year and it’s hard to score a lot of points in this league if you can’t generate explosive plays.

“So we’ll do anything and everything we can to put our guys in positions to allow them to try to make plays. If that’s something we need to do, that’s something we can do.”

Franklin, a 6-foot-1, 186-pounder, is the truest dual-threat option on Auburn’s roster and gives the offense an added dimension with his legs and speedthat neither White nor Johnson provide at that level, thoughhe is not Nick Marshall just yet.

Even without the quarterbacks going live this fall, Malzahn believes Franklin had enough opportunities to showcase his legs in practice — including two opportunities live against the defense in the spring. That alone wasn’t enough to secure the starting job, though Malzahn has emphasized the importance of having a mobile quarterback run his offense, even saying as recently as Aug. 15 that Auburn’s quarterback has “got to be more of a runner this year.”

“I think (Franklin) was able to show, like I said in the spring I think we went live with him twice,” Malzahn said. “In fall camp there was enough situations where we could see all three of them, how they would react. All you can do is you’d say, ‘Wait would this guy break that tackle or would he break this tackle?’ We did enough where we felt like we gave them all a fair chance.”

While it’s likely that Franklin sees the field in some form this season — possibly even against Clemson, which is expecting Auburn to use multiple quarterbacks in the opener — Johnson’s role remains up in the air.

After being the heir apparent to Nick Marshall and a preseason Heisman favorite a year ago, Johnson’s fall has been precipitous. When asked Thursday if he is committed to utilizing Johnson in some manner this season, Malzahn declined to give an answer.

“Right now we’re just committed to Sean White being our quarterback and getting after it, getting to play Clemson,” Malzahn said. “That’s what we’re committed to right now.”

There is a possibility that Johnson, the lone senior of the group, could redshirt this season. It would be unusual, but since Johnson graduates in December, it would afford the 6-foot-5, 234-pounder an additional season of college eligibility.

If that scenario, which Lashlee said as of last week hadn’t really been considered “at all” by the coaching staff, were to unfold, then Johnson would be eligible to join another program as a grad transfer in the spring if he wanted to. It’s unclear if Johnson, who has not been made available to the media since A-Day in April, has considered that route.

“Jeremy is a real good guy off the field,” said senior receiver Marcus Davis, who is Johnson’s roommate. “He’s a team guy, family guy. He’s happy for Sean. He told me he’s going to do whatever it takes to help the team, you know, and that’s the type of things we need, just positive vibes. I’m pretty sure he felt some type of way; everybody wants to be the starter, but at the end of the day I know he’s going to do whatever it takes to help the team.”

If Jeremy Johnson doesn’t win Auburn starting QB job, could he redshirt?

Gus Malzahn has no response to Pat Dye’s claims of disharmony among Auburn coaches in 2015

Gus Malzahn offered no response to Pat Dye’s comments about disharmony on the Auburn coaching staff last season.

Gus Malzahn has no response to Pat Dye’s claims of disharmony among Auburn coaches in 2015

Gus Malzahn offered no response to Pat Dye's comments about disharmony on the Auburn coaching staff last season.

Gus Malzahn offered no response to Pat Dye’s comments about disharmony on the Auburn coaching staff last season.

Malzahn did not confirm nor deny Dye’s claims to ESPN 106.7 in Auburn that members of Auburn’s coaching staff did not like each other in 2015. Instead, Malzahn chose not to acknowledge the remarks by the former Auburn coach.

“Yeah, I’m not talking about last year,” Malzahn said Thursday. “I mean we’re a week away from playing one of the better teams in the country.”

During his radio appearance on Wednesday, Dye said “every change (Gus Malzahn) made on the staff has been a positive. Every change, without exception. I don’t care whether it’s – what it is, it’s been a positive.

“The coaches like each other and that wasn’t the case last year. When the coaches don’t like each other the players are confused and who are you going to listen to? Who’s got the influence?”

Five members of Malzahn’s staff left following last season.

Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp leaving to become the head coach at South Carolina, taking defensive backs coachTravaris Robinson with him to serve as defensive coordinator and outside linebackers caoch Lance Thompson later joined them.

Offensive line coachJ.B. Grimes left for the same position in Cincinnati and wide receiver coach Dameyune Craig took the same position at LSU.

Senior wide receiver Marcus Davis said he was not aware of any coaches from the 2015 staff not getting along or confusion on the part of the players as to who to “listen to” last year.

“Not that I know of,” Davis said. “I just play the game and do what I’m asked. I didn’t pick up on anything; but I don’t know.”

Gus Malzahn declines comment on report of NCAA talking to Auburn players about recruitment by Ole Miss

Gus Malzahn is not naming names.

Gus Malzahn declines comment on report of NCAA talking to Auburn players about recruitment by Ole Miss

Gus Malzahn is not naming names.

Gus Malzahn is not naming names.

The Auburn head coach declined to say who among his players met with NCAA regarding their recruitment by Ole Miss.

“I can’t report on any kind of NCAA investigation,” Malzahn said Thursday.

Yahoo! Sports reported NCAA enforcement representatives, in the course of their investigation of Ole Miss, visited Auburn, Mississippi State and “perhaps at least one more” SEC West schoolto meet with players about their recruitment by the Rebels.

The NCAA charged Ole Miss with 28 rules violations, of which 13 are against the football program, but that came prior to the events that transpired during April’s NFL Draft with former Rebels offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.

Ole Miss self-imposed scholarship reductions in football and released a154-page response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations in May.

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has admitted to mistakes but denied any attempt to cheat or pay players.

“I do believe and have zero knowledge that any of our coaches have ever paid a player,” Freeze said on May 31. “If I ever get knowledge, there will be problems.”

Sean White Announced as Auburn’s Starting Quarterback

Sean White (13). 
Mississippi State vs Auburn in Auburn, Ala. on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015.
Zach Bland/Auburn Athletics

Upon completion of the Tigers’ practice this evening, Gus Malzahn announced that redshirt Sophomore Sean White would start against Clemson. The move comes as not much surprise as various Auburn outlets have reported White to be the front-runner since the team gathered in Auburn for Fall camp. I still expect we’ll see John Franklin III receive significant playing time running Malzahn’s patented wildcat package though that has yet to be confirmed by Malzahn himself. 

The post Sean White Announced as Auburn’s Starting Quarterback appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

Auburn names Sean White starting quarterback – Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site

Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site
Auburn names Sean White starting quarterback
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AUBURN, Ala. — Sean White will begin Auburn's new season just as he ended the last one. He's the Tigers' starting quarterback. White was named the starter by coach Gus Malzahn on Thursday as the Tigers work toward their season-opener against…
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Auburn names Sean White starting quarterback for opener

Auburn’s quarterback competition came to an end nine days before the season opener against No. 2 Clemson.

Auburn names Sean White starting quarterback for opener

Auburn's quarterback competition came to an end nine days before the season opener against No. 2 Clemson.

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Sean White has been handed the keys to Auburn’s offense once again.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn named White the team’s starting quarterback for the season opener against Clemson on Sept. 3, bringing an end to a prolonged position battle that spanned spring practice and the start of fall camp.

White, a sophomore from South Florida, staved off senior Jeremy Johnson and junior college transfer John Franklin III for the starting job.

Malzahn’s decision allows White a fresh start after he was thrown into the fire early last season as a redshirt freshman. In 2015, White was not expected to have much of a role for the Tigers, as Johnson entered the year as the team’s starter, a preseason second-team All-SEC selection and an early favorite to win the Heisman.

That all changed after the third game of the season, when a lackluster start to the year by Johnson resulted in him being benched, a decision that thrust White into the starting role.

Tough as nails’ quarterback Sean White has earned trust of Auburn teammates

White made his college debut against Mississippi State and finished his first start completing 20-of-28 passes for 188 yards and an interception. He showed the ability to help Auburn sustain drives and helped steady the offense but struggled to lead touchdown drives.

White started five straight games for Auburn and helped stabilize the Tigers’ offense during that stretch despite pedestrian passing numbers while the team relied heavily on the run game and running back Peyton Barber. He did not throw his first touchdown pass until his fifth game, a 27-19 home loss to Ole Miss.

The 6-foot, 200-pounder was hobbled against Ole Miss and dealt with injuries during the second half of the season. He missed three of the team’s final four regular-season games due to injury, with Johnson returning to the starting role during that stretch. White regained the starting job for the Birmingham Bowl against Memphis and completed 8-of-13 passes for 103 yards and two interceptions.

Sean White a steady hand in Auburn quarterback competition

He finished 2015 completing 83-of-143 passes for 1,1167 yards and one touchdown against four interceptions. On A-Day, he got the first chance with the first-team offense and finished the day 8-of-14 for 125 yards. Although he was the most consistent of the three quarterbacks in the spring game, he was also the only one to not put together a touchdown drive. He was also responsible for the game’s lone turnover when he mishandled a snap and fumbled in the red zone early in the game.

While White has provided the least “wow” factor of the trio, his consistency has been impressive and this fall, the third-year sophomore asserted himself at quarterback and earned the right to be the team’s starter heading into the season.

Rewind: Gus Malzahn names Auburn’s starting QB

Follow along during Gus Malzahn’s press conference as he updates Auburn’s QB battle.

Rewind: Gus Malzahn names Auburn’s starting QB

Follow along during Gus Malzahn's press conference as he updates Auburn's QB battle.

Watch video

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn held a press conference following Thursday’s practice.

The Tigers have held 22 practices this month and with kickoff against No. 2 Clemson nine days away are still weighing their options at quarterback.

Malzahn updated the quarterback competition, which is the longest-lasting at the position in his 11 years of coaching at the college level.

Below is an initial recap from the press conference

GUS MALZAHN

— “Today we also named our starting quarterback. It’ll be Sean White, will be our starting quarterback against Clemson.”

— “We’re excited for Sean, he’s earned it.”

Auburn names Sean White starting quarterback for opener

— Kevin Phillips will be starting punter

— Marshall Taylor is indeed back, as was reported. Unclear how much he can help in the first game.

— Not naming No. 2 and No. 3 QB yet. Won’t say John Franklin III will definitely have a personnel package.

— On Sean White: “He battled. He battled hard in fall camp.” Says “progressions of understanding the offense” is biggest change. Cites experience was a factor as well.

— “It was a close race.”

— Tony Stevens is back full-speed

— Won’t say he’s committed to playing Jeremy Johnson this season.

— Says “thoughts and prayers” are with the Johnson family, as Jeremy’s grandfather died in an auto accident

— Malzahn says he didn’t realize this was the longest QB battle of his college career, attributes it to quality of close battle

— Says last 48 hours was big to making decision on QB

— Malzahn can’t say on report of NCAA visiting to talk with players about recruitment by Ole Miss

— Won’t address Pat Dye’s comments about the coaching staff not getting along in 2015

SEAN WHITE

— Says he was told today, before practice, that he won the job

— “I believe Jeremy and John are really good quarterbacks” and says he learned from them both throughout the competition

— Calls it a “night and day” difference for him to prepare compared to last year

— On the impact on his knee and foot injuries last season: “It bothered me” but says it was no excuse. Says he’s “100 percent healthy” now.

— On Auburn recruiting a JUCO transfer in John Franklin III last year: “The coaches job is to bring somebody better than you every year. … For me it was to prove that I was the best quarterback on the team.”

— Says pace is “a lot faster” for the offense this fall camp than before

Breaking down Auburn’s most heated position battles

Check out the video above as Lauren Sisler and Auburn beat writer Wes Sinor discuss some separation amongst several key positions on The Plains.

Breaking down Auburn’s most heated position battles

Check out the video above as Lauren Sisler and Auburn beat writer Wes Sinor discuss some separation amongst several key positions on The Plains.

Watch video

Auburn kicks off the football season against Clemson in just over a week with plenty of position battles still ongoing.

Check out the video above as Lauren Sisler and Auburn beat writer Wes Sinor discuss some separation amongst several key positions.

4 Auburn players named to Lombardi Award watch list

Four Auburn players picked up preseason recognition on Thursday.

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Four Auburn players picked up preseason recognition on Thursday.

Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams, Tre’ Williams and Braden Smith were named to the Rotary Lombardi Award watch list, according to Auburn. The full list is scheduled to be released later Thursday afternoon.

The award has been presented each year to the nation’s top lineman or linebacker but is expanding to encompass “all position players,” according to a report by the Houston Chronicle. Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib won the award last year.

It is Lawson’s third watch list recognition this year. He was previously named to the Bronko Nagurski watch list, along with Adams, and theChuck Bednarik Award watch list, along with defensive back Rudy Ford. Lawson was named preseason First Team All-SEC.

4 Auburn players named to Lombardi Award watch list

Four Auburn players picked up preseason recognition on Thursday.

Paul James III says he has edge to help Auburn’s D-line – Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site

Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site
Paul James III says he has edge to help Auburn's D-line
Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site
But James, one of the newest Auburn football players, says his primary competition, and primary drive, comes from within. “The reason why is because every day Coach tells us you'll never be the same: You're either going to get worse or you're going to …

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Auburn’s T.J. Neal, Paul James III picking up where they left off at Illinois

Linebacker T.J. Neal and defensive end Paul James III played together at Illinois in 2014.

When Paul James III lines up at defensive end and looks over his shoulder, it’s just like 2014 for the Auburn JUCO transfer — just a bit hotter.

James, who spent his freshman season at Illinois in 2014, has been reunited with an old Illini teammate on the Plains this fall since Auburn added former Illinois linebacker T.J. Neal to the fold as a graduate transfer.

“We was tight,” James said of his relationship with Neal. “We played on the same side of the ball, so when I look back and see T.J., I know he’s ready so it goes hand in hand.”

Both Neal and James are expected to impact Auburn’s defense this season when the Tigers open play against No. 2 Clemson on Sept. 3 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Neal is in line to be one of Auburn’s starting linebackers alongside junior Tre’ Williams, while James should factor into the Tigers’ deep rotation along the defensive line.

The tandem’s relationship began back in 2014, when James was a freshman in Champaign, Illinois and Neal was a sophomore. That year, Neal started all 13 games while totaling 98 tackles, four pass breakups and an interception. James, who signed with Illinois as the No. 16 defensive end in the 2014 recruiting class, appeared in just four games that season before opting to transfer to Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi last season.

T.J. Neal transitioning to life in the SEC

The two were reunited this spring when Neal decided to transfer as a graduate student and visited Auburn in February. During his stay on the Plains, James served as Neal’s host and the two spoke at length.

“I knew Paul James real well,” Neal said. “His body changed a lot. He grew up a lot, matured as a person. He’s good at pass rushing. I think he really got better at run stopping since the last time I seen him play. He’s coming along real well.”

While Neal has seen changes from James since the last time they were teammates, James has seen Neal adjust, too — in a different way. Neal said last week that he has struggled to adjust to the heat and humidity in Auburn this time of year and has often found himself exhausted after practices.

“I can believe that,” said James, a Miami native. “He was always cold in Illinois; he barely see the sun, so I can understand that.”

After spring setback, Auburn defensive end Paul James III pushing himself every day

Auburn’s T.J. Neal, Paul James III picking up where they left off at Illinois

Linebacker T.J. Neal and defensive end Paul James III played together at Illinois in 2014.

Grandfather of Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson killed in Lowndes County crash

A Montgomery man was killed Wednesday morning when his pickup truck left a roadway in Lowndes County and struck a tree.

Grandfather of Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson killed in Lowndes County crash

A Montgomery man was killed Wednesday morning when his pickup truck left a roadway in Lowndes County and struck a tree.

Trooper SUV.jpg

A Montgomery man was killed Wednesday morning when his pickup truck left a roadway in Lowndes County and struck a tree.

Ojedita Johnson, 65, who wasn’t wearing a seat belt, and was pronounced dead at Baptist Medical Center South, according to Alabama state troopers.

Johnson is the grandfatherofAuburn University quarterback Jeremy Johnson, the athlete’s father confirmed.

The crash occurred at around 9:30 a.m. on Alabama 21, one mile north of Hayneville. Johnson was driving a 2008 Ford Ranger.

Troopers continue to investigate.

AL.com reporter James Crepea contributed to this report.

Seven Auburn players on coaches All-SEC team – Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site

Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site
Seven Auburn players on coaches All-SEC team
Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site
Lawson and Ford is on the watch list for Bednarik Award, which recognizes college football's best defensive player. Ford is up for the Paul Hornung Award, which recognizes the game's most versatile player. Adams is on the watch list for the Bronko …
7 Auburn players named to coaches' All-SEC team247Sports

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Auburn lands 3 on preseason Coaches All-SEC 1st team

The annual preseason team was released Thursday morning by the league.

Seven Auburn players were named to the Coaches All-SEC team released Thursday morning by the conference, with three earning first-team recognition.

The annual team was voted on by all 14 of the SEC’s head coaches. Alabama led all schools with sevenfirst-team selections, while Alabama and LSU were tied for most overall selections with 13 representative apiece.

Among Auburn’s first-team selections were left guard Alex Kozan, defensive end Carl Lawsonand kicker Daniel Carlson.

Kozan, who was a third-team preseason selection last year, has started in all 27 games he has appeared in during his Auburn career. He was also voted to the media’s preseason All-SEC first team during SEC Media Days last month.

Lawson, who also made the preseason third team a year ago, missed half of the 2015 season due to a hip injury and finished the season with 17 total tackles and one sack. The fourth-year junior was also voted to the media’s preseason All-SEC first team last month.

Carlson was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award given to the nation’s top placekicker and earned unanimous All-SEC honors at season’s end. Carlson also earned preseason All-SEC first-team honors from the conference’s media members in July.

Right guard Braden Smithand defensive tackle Montravius Adams earned second-team honors, while defensive back Rudy Ford earned third-team honors and was joined by wide receiver Marcus Davis, who made the third team as a return specialist on special teams.

Smith, who earned third-team All-SEC honors from the media last month, combines with Kozan to form one of the top guard tandems in the countryand arguably the best in the SEC. He has started 14 of the 26 games he has appeared in during his Auburn career.

Adams earned preseason second-team honors from the media last month after finishing 2015 with 44 total tackles, including 2.5 sacks.

Ford has led Auburn in tackles each of the last two seasons and also earned third-team All-SEC honors from the media last month. Davis was one of the conference’s top punt returnerslast season.

Auburn lands 3 on preseason Coaches All-SEC 1st team

The annual preseason team was released Thursday morning by the league.

Report: NCAA talked to Auburn players about recruitment by Ole Miss

In the course of its investigation of Ole Miss, the NCAA sent officials to meet with players at Auburn about their recruitment by the Rebels, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports.

During the course of its investigation into Ole Miss, the NCAA sent enforcement officials to visit Auburn to meet with players regarding their recruitment by the Rebels, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports.

Pat Forde reports NCAA reps met with players at Auburn, Mississippi State and “perhaps at least one more” SEC West school to discuss Ole Miss’ recruiting. Players were reportedly granted immunity from NCAA sanctions in exchange for their truthful accounts, Forde reported per anonymous sources.

It is not clear who the Auburn players were who were interviewed by the NCAA. An Auburn official said the school cannot comment on NCAA investigations.

Ole Miss and the NCAA declined comment to Yahoo!.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze are also close friends.

In February, the NCAA charged Ole Miss with 28 rules violations, of which 13 are against the football porgram.

This was prior to thenational spectacle that unfolded with former Rebels offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil during April’s NFL Draft.

In May, Ole Miss self-imposed scholarship reductions in football and released a154-page response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations. During SEC Spring Meetings, Freeze said he was not a cheater and denied his staff paid any players but could not comment about whether the Lunsil situation could impact the investigation.

“I do believe and have zero knowledge that any of our coaches have ever paid a player,” Freeze said on May 31. “If I ever get knowledge, there will be problems.”

In June,Tunsil’s stepfather told Sports Illustrated he met with the NCAA for over 100 hours and compared Ole Miss’ recruiting tactics to the movie “Blue Chips.”

Report: NCAA talked to Auburn players about recruitment by Ole Miss

In the course of its investigation of Ole Miss, the NCAA sent officials to meet with players at Auburn about their recruitment by the Rebels, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports.

What they’re saying nationally about Auburn as 2016 season approaches

With the season just nine days away, AL.com surveyed the national landscape for the latest stories about Auburn.

What they’re saying nationally about Auburn as 2016 season approaches

With the season just nine days away, AL.com surveyed the national landscape for the latest stories about Auburn.

August is the time for preseason predictions, schedule projections and declarations from across the media landscape as to what will unfold during the upcoming college football season.

While Auburn is still deciding on its starting quarterback in what is the longest preseason battle for the starting job in Gus Malzahn’s 11-year college coaching career and the latest Auburn has gone without naming its starter for the season opener since 2008, that hasn’t stopped prognosticators from across the country from chiming in on what the Tigers’ fate will be over the next five months.

Clemson DC: ‘Up to (Auburn), whether or not they have confidence’ in starting QB

With the season just nine days away, AL.com surveyed the national landscape for the latest stories about Auburn.

In danger of collapse: 4 teams that could start hot and flop (SI.com)
6 overrated college football teams that will fail to meet expectations in 2016 (FoxSports.com)
Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman projects Auburn to finish last in the SEC West again and has Gus Malzahn among histop 10 coaches on the hot seat entering the season
CBS Sports’ college football staff made its preseason predictions for the SECand only Dennis Dodd and Jerry Palm have Auburn finishing as high as fourth in the SEC West.
For a more positive outlook, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit explained why he picked Auburn as his sleeper to win the SEC
Locally, former Auburn coach Pat Dye said the coaching staff is better this year because “coaches like each other and that wasn’t the case last year”
Pro Football Focus listed five Auburn players on its preseason All-SEC teams
A trio of Tigers were named to ESPN.com preseason All-SEC team
The SEC Network’s Greg McElroy, Clint Stoerner and Dari Nowkhah went through Auburn’s schedule

Nick Fairley suddenly carrying heavier load for New Orleans Saints’ defense

When first-round draft choice Sheldon Rankins suffered a broken leg last week, former Auburn standout Nick Fairley became an even more important part of the New Orleans Saints' defense.

The New Orleans Saints’ offseason signing of Nick Fairleytook on added importance last week.

After adding the former Auburnstandout through free agency in March, the Saints used the 12th pick of the NFL Draft in April on Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins, giving New Orleans a 1-2 punch of improvement at defensive tackle for the team that gave up the most points in the NFL last season.

But on Aug. 15, Rankins suffered a broken leg during practice.

“When he went down, he was up being the No. 1 and me being the backup,” Fairley saidat a press conference on Tuesday. “Now that he’s down, they told me I was going to have to take on more of the load. I’m ready for it. I’ve just got to get in better shape and just keep going.”

Fairley is entering his sixth NFL season. He’s had an up-and-down NFL career after the Detroit Lions selected him with the No. 13 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. His four years in Detroit were marked by inconsistency and weight issues, although he was enjoying his best season in 2014 until a knee injury sidelined him halfway through the campaign. Last year, he played as the St. Louis Rams’ No. 3 defensive tackle.

In New Orleans’ 16-9 loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday in the Saints’ second exhibition game, Fairley made four tackles, including a sack, and added a quarterback hit in 19 snaps.

“He’s active; he’s athletic,” New Orleans coach Sean Payton said of Fairley. “When he wins, he usually wins in the first second of the play or first second-and-a-half of the play. So he’s pretty quick. I’d say he’s got a pretty good football IQ. In other words, he’s experienced and he’s able to recognize schemes, as to if it is run, what type of run it is. But he had some good production in that last game.”

Fairley said he wants to build off his performance with the help of the Saints’ coaching staff.

“I feel good,” Fairley said. “I’ve got a lot of improving to do, though, with my technique, fundamentals. When the going gets tough, I’ve just got to focus down technique-wise and make some plays.”

After trips to New England and Houston, New Orleans will play for the first time this preseason in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Friday. The Saints host the Pittsburgh Steelers at 7 p.m. CDT Friday.

Fairley was an All-State football and basketball player for Williamson High School in Mobile. He said his mother, father and other family members would be coming across on Interstate 10 on Friday, and he’s “especially” excited about the game.

“This is the team I rooted for growing up,” Fairley saidof the Saints. “Actually, as a kid growing up, I didn’t go to any of the games. Came here as a rookie when I was in Detroit. But now I’m playing, I’m on their sideline and I get the cheers from the fans. I can’t wait. I get chills talking about it.”

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Between Williamson and the NFL, Fairley earned All-American recognition and won the Lombardi Award at the nation’s top lineman in 2010 on Auburn’s BCS national-championship team.

Nick Fairley suddenly carrying heavier load for New Orleans Saints’ defense

When first-round draft choice Sheldon Rankins suffered a broken leg last week, former Auburn standout Nick Fairley became an even more important part of the New Orleans Saints’ defense.

Auburn aims to improve pace, execution after worst offensive season of Gus Malzahn’s career

Auburn's offense struggled throughout 2015 as the Tigers finished 7-6. Head coach Gus Malzahn hopes the team can return to its offensive identity and remedy those problems from a year ago.

Somewhere along the road last season, Auburn lost its way.

The Tigers, who have normally found success on the offensive side of the ball under head coach Gus Malzahn, underwent an offensive identity crisisin 2015 while putting together the worst offense in Malzahn’s coaching career. This offseason, Auburn has aimed to get back on track — back to the Hurry Up, No Huddle Offense that Malzahn built his name on.

“I think I’ve said that numerous times I wasn’t happy, and really it was the first year we didn’t execute at a high level,” Malzahn said at SEC Media Days in July. “The good thing is, from a coach’s standpoint… you get a chance to look at the whole deal and what you need to do different, what you need to tweak, how you need to get to where you need to be, so that’s done there.”

Across the board, Auburn’s offense struggled in 2015. The Tigers ranked 74th nationally in scoring at 27.5 points per game, 94th in total offense at 370 yards per contest and particularly had issues in the passing game, averaging just 173.7 yards through the air while juggling between Jeremy Johnson and Sean White at quarterback.

Most noticeably, though, Auburn’s tempo on offense declined for the second straight season as the Tigers struggled with their pace of play.

“If you look at the big picture and the history of our offense, we’ve always been very successful with pace until last year, and we’ve been very successful at executing at a high level during pace until last year,” Malzahn said.

Last season, Auburn averaged just 2.42 plays per minute — the worst rate in Malzahn’s first three seasons as head coach. By contrast, Auburn ran 2.61 plays per minute in 2014, which ranked 65th nationally according to CFBMatrix.com. The prior season, the Tigers ran 2.8 plays per minute on their way to the greatest single-season turnaround in college history, an SEC title and a national runner-up finish.

Failing to live up to expectations in 2015 was ‘humbling’ for Auburn

So what was the biggest issue plaguing Auburn’s offense in 2015, and how can the Tigers mend that heading into what will certainly be a pivotal 2016 campaign? According to Malzhan, the answer to the former isn’t cut and dry.

“I think there were a lot of factors,” Malzahn said. “I think any time you switch quarterbacks in the middle of the year and you have an injury, that has something to do with it, but really just the overall execution of all 11 positions. Like I said, that’s something we always prided ourselves in, and we’ve been very good at that. Last year we didn’t get that done and because of that it made everything look very sloppy, and because of that it slowed us down and changed who we were.

“We really changed who we were because of that and just tried to win games any way you could.”

The answer to the latter, however, seems much simpler — at least on paper.

Auburn struggled to sustain drives for much of last season, ranking 95th nationally in time of possession while averaging about 28 minutes, 21 seconds per game on offense. A lot of that had to do with the team’s inability to pick up first downs (tied for 82nd at 19.8 per game) and its lack of explosive plays on offense. The Tigers finished last season with just 49 plays of at least 20 yards, with 31 coming in the passing game; that was a decrease from 69 such plays (including 42 through the air) in 2014, and 80 (38 through the air) in 2013.

Getting back to an improved pace of play has been an emphasis for Auburn since the spring. Malzahn brought in friend and coaching confidant Herb Hand in January to take over the offensive line and help reinvigorate the offense. The two enjoyed great offensive success working together at Tulsa from 2007-08 and are hoping to replicate that this season at Auburn.

Auburn’s quest to get back to ‘who we say we are’ on offense

“It’s been a point of emphasis and we know we’ve got to do that,” Hand said. “I think the biggest thing with pace is you better get some first downs. When you get that first first down then you can get into playing as fast as you need to and want to. How fast you play I think a lot of times depends on how productive you are.”

The Tigers’ productivity will depend on several variables this fall. The team is replacing its top three rushers from last season after Peyton Barber declared for the NFL Draft,Roc Thomas transferred and Jovon Robinson was dismissedbefore fall camp. Auburn is also dealing with an unproven but talented corps of receivers, and of course there’s the issue of quarterback, with an open competitionbetween Johnson, White and JUCO transfer John Franklin III.

Malzahn understands the onus in solving those variables ultimately falls to him, and he’s certain that Auburn will once again find its way on offense this season as he takes a more hands-on coaching approach.

“We know what it looks like, really know what the changes we need to make and adjustments we need to make,” Malzahn said. “Really, that’s what I’m focused on and I’m ready to get back to work with this offensive group.”

Auburn aims to improve pace, execution after worst offensive season of Gus Malzahn’s career

Auburn’s offense struggled throughout 2015 as the Tigers finished 7-6. Head coach Gus Malzahn hopes the team can return to its offensive identity and remedy those problems from a year ago.

Where to watch Alabama and Auburn commits, plus the A-List, this week

Here’s how you can watch top recruits in the state of Alabama this week

Where to watch Alabama and Auburn commits, plus the A-List, this week

Here's how you can watch top recruits in the state of Alabama this week

Each week, AL.com will highlight where our A-Listers play, plus where in-state Alabama and Auburn commits are playing if they aren’t in the A-List.

5 Huntsville games to watch

5 Mobile games to watch

5 Birmingham games to watch

Here is where the A-List plays. Games are on Friday at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

Nico Collins, Alaric Williams highlight last week’s A-List performers

1. LaBryan Ray, DL,James Clemens- Jetsare at Gardendale in a big non-region game. James Clemens’ defense shut out Decatur in a jamboree and Gardendale won 14-10 at Muscle Shoals.

2. Nico Collins, WR,Clay-Chalkville- Cougarsface a stiffer defensive challenge at Bessemer City, featuring Missouri linebacker commit Jamal Brooks

3. Austin Troxell, OL,Madison Academy-The Auburn commit Troxell and the Mustangs travel to Ensworth to face the No. 19 team in the country at Tigers Stadium in Nashville

4. Markail Benton, LB,Central-Phenix City- The Alabama commit Benton and the Red Devils are at home against Fairfield looking to avenge last week’s loss to Hoover

5. Ryan Johnson, DL,St. Paul’s- Saintstravel to face St. Stanislaus of Mississippi, featuring LSU quarterback commit Myles Brennan

6. Brian Robinson, RB,Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa-The Alabama commit Robinson and the Patriots host Oak Mountain

7. Will Ignont, LB,Buckhorn-Bucks are at Hazel Green in season opener

8. Kendall Randolph, OL,Bob Jones- The Alabama commit Randolph and Bob Jones are at Austin

9. Alaric Williams, RB/ATH,Southside-Gadsden-The Auburn commit Williams and Southside host Hokes Bluff on Thursday.

10. Henry Ruggs, WR,Lee-Montgomery- Lee faces Park Crossing and Mr. Football candidate Malik Cunningham on Thursday at Cramton Bowl

11. T.D. Moultry, LB,Jackson-Olin- Jackson-Olin hostsCentral-Tuscaloosa on Thursday

12. Chadarius Townsend, QB/ATH,Tanner- The Alabama commit Townsend and the Rattlers hostClass 5A Mae Jemison

13. Justin Thomas, DL,Spanish Fort-The LSU commit Thomas and Spanish Fort host Daphne

14. Malcolm Askew, QB/ATH,McAdory-Askew, the Auburn commit, and McAdory host Dallas County

15. Neil Farrell, DL,Murphy-The LSU commit Farrell and Murphy play at Alma Bryant

In-state Alabama commits

Hunter Brannon, OL, Cullman – Cullmanhosts North Jackson

Kyriq McDonald, DB, James Clemens – Jets playat Gardendale

In-state Auburn commits

Bill Taylor, TE/DE/LS (committed as long snapper), American Christian Academy -ACA hosts Sipsey Valley

Jordyn Peters, DB, Muscle Shoals – Trojans are at Class 7A Spain Park

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