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The Countdown to Kickoff: The SEC’s best No. 36

There are 36 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 36 in SEC football history is Tennessee guard Ed Molinski.

The Countdown to Kickoff: The SEC’s best No. 36

There are 36 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 36 in SEC football history is Tennessee guard Ed Molinski.

AL.com is counting down to the 2017 SEC football season on Sept. 2 by presenting the No. 1 player to wear each number 1 through 99 in the conference’s history. There are 36 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 36 is Tennessee guard Ed Molinski.

Robert Neyland coached 11 future College Football Hall of Fame players at Tennessee. Four of them were guards, including Ed Molinski.

It was the Volunteers’ good fortune that they had Molinski and Bob Suffridge as their guards from 1938 through 1940. During those seasons, Tennessee went 18-0 in SEC play, won all 30 of its regular-season games and produced two SEC Players of the Year – George Cafego in 1938 and Bob Foxx in 1939.

Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1961, Suffridge received first-team All-SEC recognition in all three of his seasons, and first-team All-American recognition in each year, too, earning consensus All-American status in 1940.

Molinski didn’t get into the College Football Hall of Fame until 1990, but he did beat Suffridge to consensus All-American recognition. Molinski earned that accolade in 1939, when Tennessee didn’t give up a point in 10 regular-season games. This was in the days of one-platoon football, with Molinski manning one of the inside line positions in the Volunteers’ 6-2-2-1 defense.

In his other two seasons, Molinski was a second-team All-SEC choice, but was still a first-team All-American selection by The Sporting News in 1940.

Runner-up at No. 36: Georgia running back Willie McClendon  

FOR MORE OF AL.COM’S COMPREHENSIVE COVERAGE OF THE SEC, GO TO OUR SEC PAGE

AU ROUNDUP: Katie Frerking signs contract with pro team

Former Auburn women’s basketball player Katie Frerking has signed a professional contact with Luleå Basket in Sweden, the club announced Thursday.

Los Angeles Rams place Alex Kozan on NFI

Guard Alex Kozan will start his first NFL training camp with the Los Angeles Rams on the non-football injury list.

Guard Alex Kozan will start his first NFL training camp with the Los Angeles Rams on the non-football injury list.  

The Rams designed the rookie from Auburn as active/non-football injury on Thursday.

Los Angeles announced the personnel move the day after the Rams’ rookies reported for training camp and the day before the team’s veterans are scheduled to do so. The Rams are holding their training camp at the University of California-Irvine. The designation will prevent Kozan from practicing.

Los Angeles did not release details for the decision. The non-football injury designation indicates Kozan’s issue occurred at some time other than during his work with the Rams.

Since he was put on the active/NFI list and not the inactive/NFI list, Kozan will be able to start practicing as soon as he’s medically cleared.

Kozan started 40 games while at Auburn. He signed with the Rams after being bypassed during the NFL Draft in April.

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

In another personnel move on Thursday involving an Alabama collegiate player in Los Angeles, the Chargers waived former Jacksonville State quarterback Eli Jenkins.

Jenkins signed with the Chargers after going undrafted and participated in their offseason program. He was a prep standout at Parker High School in Birmingham.

Los Angeles announced on Thursday that it had acquired quarterback Cardale Jones from the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. To make room for Jones on the roster, Los Angeles waived Jenkins.

The Chargers are scheduled to report to training camp on Friday.

Los Angeles Rams place Alex Kozan on NFI

Guard Alex Kozan will start his first NFL training camp with the Los Angeles Rams on the non-football injury list.

Auburn ranked No. 24 in ESPN college basketball BPI

Bruce Pearl thinks his 2017-18 Auburn men’s basketball team should have its sights set on making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003. The computers seem to agree.

Cam Newton won’t allow another Carolina Panthers’ performance like 2016

The Carolina Panthers held their first training-camp practice of 2017 on Wednesday evening, and former Auburn star Cam Newton was throwing again after offseason shoulder surgery.

Cam Newton won’t allow another Carolina Panthers’ performance like 2016

The Carolina Panthers held their first training-camp practice of 2017 on Wednesday evening, and former Auburn star Cam Newton was throwing again after offseason shoulder surgery.

In 2015, the Carolina Panthers posted a 15-1 regular-season record and went to the Super Bowl. Their quarterback, Cam Newton, won the NFL MVP Award.

In 2016, the Panthers went 6-10, and Newton turned in the lowest passer rating of his six NFL seasons.

“I just know that, for my career, I can’t let that happen again ever,” Newton said on Thursday.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera said Newton checked in for training camp weighing 246 pounds, the lightest he’s been since he showed up for his first training camp after winning the 2010 Heisman Trophy at Auburn.

“I just had a realization with myself this whole offseason,” Newton said. “I took last year personal. I took it extremely personal, and I knew that something had to change, starting with myself, and I feel as if with my impact to that locker room, I wanted people to see this is just not no other year. I didn’t want to speak it. I wanted to action it.

“Starting with this offseason, some words were said via coaches – productive words – that football is a sport that people don’t realize it’s a 12-month sport. … I figured starting from February on, I’d just keep the pedal down, knowing that via social media all the football players will start showing videos and pictures of things that they’ve been doing. But I’ve been having this mentality ever since our last game (of the 2016 season) in Tampa.”

Newton did not get to throw to his teammates during the Panthers’ offseason program. He had surgery on his throwing shoulder to repair a partially torn rotator cuff on March 30. That kept Newton from throwing a pass until June 26, almost two weeks after Carolina’s offseason work had ended.

“It felt good. It felt great,” Newton said of being able to throw passes during Wednesday’s practice, the first of training camp. “I was kind of nervous, though; I ain’t going to lie — nervous just because it’s been a couple of months, but excited, to say the least. But, all in all, I felt good.”

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

Rivera said Newton would work on a “pitch count” in practice as he continued his recovery from surgery.

“You could tell he was eager to get out there,” Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. “I thought it was a good start. He’s not there yet, and we wouldn’t expect him to be. The thing he’s got to do – and we’ve got to do collectively following our trainers and doctors – is not do too much.

“As a coach, you always want guys to get as many reps as they can, especially at that position. We are playing catch-up, but he has six years of experience, and that’s going to have him caught up as quickly as possible. Our goal is to have him ready for Week 1.”

Newton said the Panthers are looking to get their edge back.

“I want my energy to be vibrant,” Newton said of his purpose in the training-camp practices in Spartanburg, South Carolina. “I want people to see it. I want it to be contagious offensively and defensively. Gone are the days of that’s not quarterback-like. I’ve got a lot of words to say to that. I’m just basically trying to get my swag back, get our swag back and just have fun.”

To help the Carolina offense rebound from 2016’s downturn, the Panthers used their first two draft choices in April on speedy running backs Christian McCaffrey of Stanford and Curtis Samuel of Ohio State, giving Newton quick-pass options out of the backfield.

Rivera has said he wants the Carolina offense to evolve to take the pounding off of Newton, with a passing game that allows the quarterback to get the ball out of his hand faster and with fewer designed runs by him.

Newton, who holds the NFL career record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, said he wasn’t so sure about reining in his running.

“I don’t understand certain things,” Newton said. “That’s my edge. You don’t expect a lion not to roar. You’ve got to really ask yourself that. I couldn’t imagine talking to Brady or talking to Aaron or talking to even Matt Ryan or Brees and saying, ‘Hey, you going to stay in the pocket all day like that?’ That’s where you feel comfortable at. In my career, over the whole body of work, the thing that has put me at an advantage most times is having that ability to run.

“I’m just going to take what the defense gives me. Do I have weapons? Absolutely. But it’s still going to be on me and in me to focus on getting those different outlets the ball at the right time. But as far as designed and called runs, I could care less. I want to win in the worst way, straight up.”

Auburn confident Dontavius Russell will return to disrupting opposing backfields

Statistics don't always tell the whole story, but Auburn still wants more of them from Dontavius Russell this fall.

Statistics don’t always tell the whole story, but Auburn still wants more of them from Dontavius Russell this fall.

The two-year starter at defensive tackle is coming off a 2016 season in which he had just 29 tackles with none for loss, six hurries and two pass breakups, all drops from his redshirt-freshman season (42 tackles with 4.5 for loss including 1.5 sacks and eight hurries).

Yet on film, Russell was doing his job and it undoubtedly opened up lanes for Montravius Adams to have the best season of his career.

“Dontavius, he’s a guy that does his job,” defensive line coach Rodney Garner said. “He doesn’t make all the flashy ‘wow’ plays but when you grade him out on Sundays, he’s a guy that grades out consistently the best because he’s going to hold his gap, he’s not going to get displaced, he’s going to hold the double-teams, he plays solid football. So now we need him to be a little more productive.”

Dontavius Russell returns for third year as starter

Russell added size over the years, from 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds as a redshirt-freshman to 308 pounds to open last season and is listed at 310 pounds now.

It’s normal for a nose tackle charged with plugging gaps and stopping the run to be in that mold, but he was hoping to cut down in order to get into the backfield more this season.

“I’m trying to get back down to what I played at my redshirt-freshman year because I’ve gotten up there,” Russell said in the spring. “As far as strength wise I feel a lot of people are getting bigger and stronger, but as far as weights, the coaches determine whether or not they think we have to lose or gain weight. So I’m trying to get down. For me at least, I know I’m trying to change my body.”

As the only multi-year returning starter on the defensive line, Auburn also wants Russell to be more of a leader this season.

Russell said he’s not caught up in his numbers and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele felt he was “a very productive player” in 2016.

Garner is confident Russell will have a return to form in terms of stats and have a greater presence in the backfield.

“Yeah, I think he will,” Garner said. “I really do.”

Auburn fall camp position breakdown: Defensive line

Auburn confident Dontavius Russell will return to disrupting opposing backfields

Statistics don’t always tell the whole story, but Auburn still wants more of them from Dontavius Russell this fall.

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Auburn fall camp position breakdown: Defensive line

A review of Auburn’s defensive line heading into fall camp

Auburn fall camp position breakdown: Defensive line

A review of Auburn's defensive line heading into fall camp

AL.com will be previewing each of nine position groups leading up to the start of Auburn’s fall camp on July 31. The sixth installment in the series reviews the defensive line.

The biggest voids Auburn has to fill from last season are on the defensive line, the good news is the Tigers have lots of options to plug those starting spots.

While the departures of Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson deservedly draw the most attention, Auburn also lost two other senior tackles in Davaroe Lawrence and Maurice Swain, so the depth chart inside is changing dramatically from a year ago.

Marlon Davidson and Dontavius Russell return to starting roles and Derrick Brown, Andrew Williams, Jeff Holland, Paul James III and others are all going to be asked to raise their production to make up for the loss in pass rush.

The biggest unknown for Auburn, in terms of production, entering the season is at Buck because Lawson was so effective and others have seen so little time.

Departed: Montravius Adams, Carl Lawson, Devaroe Lawrence, Maurice Swain, Antwuan Jackson Jr. (transferred to Blinn C.C.)

Returning starters: Dontavius Russell, redshirt-junior; Marlon Davidson, sophomore

Other returning players: Derrick Brown, sophomore; Andrew Williams, redshirt-junior; Paul James III, redshirt-junior; Jeff Holland, junior; Byron Cowart, junior; Nick Coe, redshirt-freshman; Jauntavius Johnson, redshirt-sophomore; Tre’ Threat, sophomore; Tyler Carter, redshirt-sophomore; Gary Walker, sophomore; Tashawn Manning, freshman 

Summer arrivals: Markaviest Bryant, Alec Jackson, Tyrone Truesdell

Post-spring OL analysis: DE | DT | NTBuck

Outlook: Auburn lost players who accounted for 14.5 of 25 sacks and 34.5 of 83 tackles for loss last season.

Davidson is going to shoulder the burden of heightened expectations entering his sophomore season. His six tackles for loss are most among any returning defensive lineman and Auburn needs that number to do up.

Russell saw a drop in production from 2015 but defensive line coach Rodney Garner said he still graded out well every week. With Adams gone there should be more opportunity for Russell to get in the backfield.

What Auburn expects from defensive linemen Marlon Davidson, Jeff Holland, Derrick Brown

Brown and Williams will compete for the starting job and move up the depth chart at tackle. Fans may expect more from Brown, a former five-star recruit, but Williams’ three sacks are the most of any returning player.

Holland and James will split time at Buck, where true freshman Markaviest Bryant could also see early playing time. The unknown is production.

Over two seasons, Holland had 13 tackles in each year and a total of three sacks. James is coming off a knee injury but had a big performance on A-Day. Then there’s Bryant, whose stature is wildly different compared to what Auburn has had at the position.

RELATED: Bryant showing physical, mental traits Auburn wants at Buck

Further down the depth chart heading into camp is Byron Cowart, who moved inside to tackle during the spring. It remains to be seen how the former No. 1 recruit handles opposing guards and centers at 6-foot-3 and 283 pounds.

After redshirting last season Nick Coe was cited by many teammates as a younger player who could have a productive season. He’ll be behind Davidson at end.

Fall camp position preview: QB | RB | HB/TEWR | OL

Battle to Watch: Buck. Holland seemed like a lock for the starting job for most of spring and then James closed with a huge A-Day. If he can pick up where he left off, James could get the nod.

Keep an Eye on: Brown. With so much turnover inside the sophomore could take over the starting spot from Adams.

Projected two deep:

Defensive end:
Marlon Davidson: 6-foot-3, 282 pounds, sophomore
Nick Coe: 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, redshirt-freshman

Defensive tackle:
Derrick Brown: 6-foot-5, 316 pounds, sophomore OR
Andrew Williams: 6-foot-4, 286 pounds, redshirt-junior

Nose tackle:
Dontavius Russell: 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, redshirt-junior
Derrick Brown: 6-foot-5, 316 pounds, sophomore

Buck:
Jeff Holland: 6-foot-2, 249 pounds, junior
Paul James III: 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, redshirt-junior

Projecting Auburn football’s 2017 offensive depth chart by job security – SECcountry.com


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Auburn opponent early scouting report: ULM

An early look at Auburn's last non-conference game of 2017

We’re taking an early look at Auburn’s opponents for the 2017 regular season. This 12-part series will feature analysis and insight from beat reporters who cover the 12 teams Auburn will play this year. Today we look at Auburn’s last non-conference game.

ULM

Game date & time: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Nov. 18

2016 record: (4-8, 3-5 Sun Belt)

Coach: Matt Viator, second year

Betting line: Not yet posted

Returning starters: 7 offense, 9 defense, 2 specialists

Most important returning players: QB Garrett Smith, RB Ben Luckett, WR RJ Tuner, WR Xavier Brown, LB David Griffith

Most critical departures: WR Ajalen Holley, TE Alec Osborne, LT Rey Baltazar, DB Tre’ Hunter, DB Justin Backus

Insight from ULM beat reporter Adam Hunsucker (@Adam_Hunsucker):

  1. What are the expectations in Matt Viator’s second year?
    There were a few things to feel good about in Matt Viator’s first season. ULM was a much better constructed team on the field and doubled its win total from 2-11 to 4-8. Playing at a consistent level was a problem, though, and a handful of plays in losses to Georgia Southern and Idaho kept the Warhawks out of a bowl game. ULM can continue to build on 2016, but a tougher schedule that features Memphis, Florida State, Southern Miss and Auburn makes a bowl berth an uphill climb.
  2. How did Garrett Smith progress this offseason?
    Lingering injuries from the 2016 season kept Smith out during spring practice, but he has been cleared for fall camp. Most of Smith’s work in the offseason was on the mental side, where he was attached at the hip to offensive coordinator Matt Kubik and the other quarterbacks.
  3. Is there anything specific ULM will use the $1.4 million from this game on?
    That’s a tough question to answer with Nick Floyd replacing Brian Wickstrom as athletic director. In the past, ULM’s profits from guaranteed games have been dispersed throughout the athletic department. All the recent athletic facility upgrades on campus were done with private donations, not university funding.
  4. Beyond the pay day and given last year’s outcome, what is ULM’s goal for this game?
    Get out healthy. Last year’s 58-7 bloodbath was lopsided enough, but ULM took its worst physical beating of the season during its visit to Jordan-Hare. ULM closes the regular season the following week at home against defending Sun Belt co-champion Arkansas State
  5. The loss to Auburn will mean what to ULM?
    Given the spot the game falls on the calendar, Nov. 18, probably not much in the grand scheme of things. ULM will have determined its fate over the prior month with the bulk of its Sun Belt slate of games.

Auburn story lines:

  • Staying healthy
    The game between Georgia and Alabama serves as a glorified scrimmage. The Tigers smashed the Warhawks 58-7 last season and while this year could be more competitive than that, it still won’t be close. Once it’s a four-possession game expect to see Sean White at quarterback and the depth chart to be delved into.
  • Any statistical markers
    With Kamryn Pettway chasing back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Jarrett Stidham leading the passing game and receivers aiming for better production that Auburn has had in a few years, several milestones could be approached or achieved.

Early scouting reports: Georgia Southern | Clemson Mercer MissouriMississippi StateOle Miss LSUArkansasTexas A&M Georgia

ULM story lines:

  • Paycheck
    Auburn is paying ULM $1.4 million for this game, most of the three non-conference home games for this season.

An Auburn win would mean:

Going into the Iron Bowl with a win, which is a guarantee. Auburn will also improve to 27-0 all-time against Sun Belt teams.

An Auburn loss would mean:

Probably the worst loss in program history and a massive distraction heading into the Iron Bowl. That’s not happening.

Auburn opponent early scouting report: ULM

An early look at Auburn’s last non-conference game of 2017

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Auburn football: Cam Newton knows the feeling; Auburn basketball gets Charleston bracket – SECcountry.com


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Big men on campus: Bama’s 25 best HS lineman of the last 25 years

This continues a weekly AL.com series looking at the top 25 high school players in the last 25 years at a number of different positions.

Big men on campus: Bama’s 25 best HS lineman of the last 25 years

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The Countdown to Kickoff: The SEC’s best No. 37

There are 37 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 37 in SEC football history is LSU cornerback Tommy Casanova.

AL.com is counting down to the 2017 SEC football season on Sept. 2 by presenting the No. 1 player to wear each number 1 through 99 in the conference’s history. There are 37 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 37 is LSU cornerback Tommy Casanova.

The No. 37 hasn’t been worn by a parade of All-Americans from the SEC, as some jersey numbers have. But what 37 may lack in quantity, it makes up for in quality. The SEC’s No. 37’s include:

  • Three College Football Hall of Fame members: LSU’s Tommy Casanova, Vanderbilt’s Carl Hinkle and Tennessee’s Bowden Wyatt (who also is enshrined as a coach).
  • Two three-time first-team All-SEC selections: Casanova and Alabama’s Bobby Johns.
  • Two SEC Players of the Year: Hinkle and Alabama’s Shaun Alexander.
  • Three consensus All-Americans: Casanova, Johns and Wyatt.

One of the players was a consensus All-American twice. Casanova earned that recognition for the 1970 and 1971 seasons after receiving first-team All-American recognition by The Football News in 1969.

When the 1971 season arrived, Sports Illustrated declared Casanova as the “best player in the nation.” It didn’t work out that way as a hamstring injury took the edge off his senior season with the Tigers. Casanova played only in the secondary and returned punts that year.

In his first two seasons with LSU, Casanova saw spot duty at running back, rushing for 295 yards and six touchdowns on 72 carries. For his career, Casanova averaged 16.3 yards per punt return with three touchdowns, including two against Ole Miss in the 1970 regular-season finale as the Tigers secured the SEC championship.

When the Walter Camp Football Foundation selected its All-Century team in 1999, Casanova was one of the defensive backs on the squad. He joined the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

Runner-up at No. 37: Alabama running back Shaun Alexander  

FOR MORE OF AL.COM’S COMPREHENSIVE COVERAGE OF THE SEC, GO TO OUR SEC PAGE

The Countdown to Kickoff: The SEC’s best No. 37

There are 37 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 37 in SEC football history is LSU cornerback Tommy Casanova.

Bulldogs Bring it to Auburn. (Previewing Auburn vs. Georgia.)

UGA Chubb Preview

Can the Tigers slow down Nick Chubb?

     War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for another Auburn football preview! On Veterans Day, November 11th, the Auburn Tigers will host the Georgia Bulldogs in a crucial SEC cross-division showdown. Georgia’s fate may well be already decided by this date, as the Bulldogs will have already played all of their serious competition in the SEC East. For Auburn, this game will have major importance. Auburn has lost 9 of the last 11 games against Georgia, and Auburn fans are pretty sick of it, at this juncture.

     This year, The Auburn Tigers will have opened the season with Georgia Southern, then traveled to Clemson. Auburn will then enjoy an early homecoming game against Mercer, before traveling to Missouri, prior to a home clash with Mississippi State. The Rebels follow at Jordan-Hare Stadium, the following week, before a road trip to LSU. Auburn then travels to Fayetteville to fight Arkansas, before a well-earned bye week. A trip to Texas A&M follows, before Auburn returns home to face Georgia. The Bulldogs open with Appalachian State, then travel to South Bend to take on Notre Dame. Georgia then hosts Samford, and Mississippi State. Road games at Tennessee and Vanderbilt follow, then Georgia hosts Missouri, before a bye week on October 21st. A rivalry game in Jacksonville follows the break, then Georgia hosts South Carolina, before traveling to Auburn.

     Georgia got a big boost on offense, when running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel opted to return for their senior seasons in Athens. Their presence will help shore up an inconsistent Georgia offense led by sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason. Eason showed great flashes of talent as a true freshman, but also missed the target at times. Georgia really went pass-heavy in their spring game this year, as Chubb and Michel combined for just 1 carry. Eason again at times showed an amazing arm, but overall on the day, he only hit on 16 of 36 passes. Last season, the real issue for Georgia was a shaky offensive line. Will the Bulldogs be able to fix that, this season? They were still tinkering, this spring.

     Georgia was pretty good last year on defense, and they return 10 starters on that side of the ball. There are star players at every level, including Trenton Thompson on the line, Roquan Smith at linebacker, and Dominick Sanders in the secondary. This defense shut Auburn down last year, as Auburn could not even get a first down in the second half. On the other hand, Georgia struggled with red zone defense last year, and finished allowing 24 points per game. On paper, there should be opportunities for Auburn to move it against this team, in the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium.

     Georgia was average last season on special teams, but returns most of those pieces, with the exception of return men. We’ll see some new blood bringing kicks and punts back, but with the skill players Georgia has, I don’t expect to see any letdowns, there.

Unit matchups, after the jump!

Auburn defensive line vs. Georgia offensive line: Auburn brings a big, athletic defensive line back this season. Likely starters at tackle are junior Dontavius Russell and sophomore Derrick Brown. Sophomore strong-side end Marlon Davidson was a beast on A-Day. The buck side will likely be manned by a combination of junior Jeffery Holland and senior transfer Paul James III. Auburn has a good bit of depth behind the starters, as well. Last season in Athens, Auburn controlled the Georgia line, and effectively allowed only a pair of late field goal drives in the game. I’m still guessing at Georgia’s starting five, at this point. From left to right I think we’ll see senior Isaiah Wynn, senior Dyshon Sims, junior Lamont Gaillard, redshirt freshman Solomon Kindley, and senior Aulden Bynum across the Georgia line. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn linebackers vs. Georgia backs: The Auburn Tigers have a good cross-trained quartet of upper echelon SEC-caliber linebackers. Junior Deshaun Davis, senior Tre’ Williams, junior Darrell Williams and junior Montravious Atkinson can play all three positions, and we might see any combination of these players out on the field at a given time. Seniors Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are some of the best backs in the league, and leading the charge at fullback will be senior Christian Payne. Advantage: Even.

Auburn corners vs. Georgia receivers: Auburn has a fairly good combination of starting corners, in junior Carlton Davis and sophomore Javaris Davis. The Tigers are hoping that Jamel Dean will be healthy this fall, as he is one of the fastest players on the team. Sophomore Jeremiah Dinson could move over from nickelback, if needed. Georgia must replace its starting outside receivers this year, and will likely turn to veteran junior Terry Godwin and senior Javon Wyms. There are some talented freshmen coming in, who might contribute. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn safeties vs. Georgia secondary receivers and quarterback: Auburn’s starting unit features seniors Tray Matthews and Stephen Roberts at safety, and sophomore Jeremiah Dinson at nickel back. There’s not much depth here, beyond senior Nick Ruffin, who’ll probably see as much playing time as the starters. The Tigers are solid here, as long as no one gets hurt. In the slot, Georgia has speed burning sophomore Riley Ridley and freshman Isaiah Wilson. Georgia often uses a pair of tight ends, and both sophomore Isaac Nauta and senior Jeb Blazevich are matchup problems. The Tigers weren’t able to put much heat on Bulldog quarterback Jacob Eason last season, and the then-true-freshman had a decent game, throwing mostly underneath. Advantage: Even.

Punting: Sophomore Ian Shannon will likely get the nod as Auburn’s starting punter, after a couple of years of waiting in the wings. Shannon has looked good on A-Day a year ago, in warmups. The Tigers gave up only 19 punt return yards last season, on 6 punts, for a stifling 3.2 yards per return. The Tigers are still auditioning for the punt returner job. It’s thought that senior Stephen Roberts has the inside track, after returning 6 punts last season for 100 yards. Georgia brings back sophomore punter Marshall Long, who averaged 38.7 yards per punt last season. Georgia allowed 6.1 yards per punt return, on 20 returns. Junior Terry Godwin seems to have salted away the return job, taking over for the departed Isaiah McKenzie. Advantage: Even.

Kickoffs: Daniel Carlson was very good kicking off last season, notching 57 touchbacks on 72 kickoffs. When Auburn did allow returns, opponents averaged only 18.0 yards per return. Junior Kerryon Johnson is Auburn’s most experienced return man returning, and he averaged 22.2 yards per return last season. Georgia will go with sophomore Rodrigo Blankenship on kickoffs. Blankenship hit on 20 touchbacks on 55 kickoffs, last season. Georgia was a little shaky on kick coverage last season, allowing 23.8 yards per return. The Bulldogs will need to find some new return men this year, after averaging 20.2 yards per return last season. Advantage: Auburn.

Place kicking: Auburn sophomore Daniel Carlson is the man for Auburn. Carlson was 28 of 32 on field goals, and perfect on extra points. Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship hit on 14 of 18 field goal attempts, and all of his extra points. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn offensive line vs. Georgia defensive line: It’s still not settled who’ll start for Auburn on the line, although the starters looked pretty good on A-Day. It seems the tackle spots are set, with seniors Darius James and Braden Smith. Senior Austin Golson will likely start at center, although Auburn is bringing in senior transfer center Casey Dunn from Jax State. If Dunn starts, Golson could move to guard. Also transferring in this fall is former Florida State starting guard Wilson Bell. Bell is expected to start at one of the guard spots. If Dunn does not beat Golson out, the other likely starting guard would be sophomore Mike Horton. Georgia figures to go with senior John Atkins at nose, and juniors Trenton Thompson and Jonathan Ledbetter at ends, this season. This battle was essentially a stalemate last season, although Auburn protected the quarterback pretty well. I figure that Auburn has more upside on the offensive line, this season. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn backs vs. Georgia linebackers: Auburn features junior H-back Chandler Cox blowing open holes. Running behind the big H-back will be massive junior Kamryn Pettway, and the shifty junior Kerryon Johnson in reserve. Inside, Georgia will go with juniors Roquan Smith and Natrez Patrick. Outside backers are seniors Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy. Last season, with no threat of an Auburn passing attack, Georgia limited Auburn’s running game. However, in last year’s game, Auburn had only Kerryon Johnson left, and he was noticeably limping. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn receivers vs. Georgia corners: At the end of spring, it looked like Auburn’s two starting outside guys were sophomore Nate Craig-Myers and sophomore Darius Slayton. Both guys can fly, have good height, and great hands. Redshirt freshman Marquis McClain had a great A-Day, and is someone to watch out for on the outside, as well. Georgia will go with senior Malkom Parrish and junior Deandre Baker with depth from sophomore Tyrique McGhee. Advantage: Even.

Auburn secondary receivers and quarterback vs. Georgia safeties: Auburn has potential threats here, starting with wickedly fast junior slot receiver Will Hastings. Sophomore Eli Stove can also fly. Tight ends Jalen Harris and Sal Cannella are expected to be a big part of the passing game as well. Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham is likely the starter. In 6 games as a freshman at Baylor, Stidham was electric. That trend continued during A-Day this spring, as Stidham was deadly accurate, and showed great mobility. Seniors Dominick Sanders and Aaron Davis are veterans for Georgia. Advantage: Even.

     These November games are very difficult to predict, as teams can improve, or regress significantly by this time. Injuries can play a major role, too. Georgia has had a hard time keeping their running backs healthy, the past few seasons. Last year, Auburn quarterback Sean White was so banged up in this game, that he was ineffective. It may well be that the healthiest team wins this game.

     What I like in this matchup is that Auburn appears to match up well on both lines of scrimmage, and has superior depth, at least right now. I expect Georgia to close that gap in coming years, if they keep recruiting like they did last season.

Prediction: Auburn toughs it out at home, outlasting a spirited Georgia team, 30-23.

The post Bulldogs Bring it to Auburn. (Previewing Auburn vs. Georgia.) appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

New Orleans Saints aren’t holding out much hope for Nick Fairley’s return to football

The New Orleans Saints will "never say never" on defensive tackle Nick Fairley returning to the NFL team, but their coach and general manager said their medical staff hasn't given them hope that will happen.

The New Orleans Saints will “never say never” on defensive tackle Nick Fairley returning to the NFL team, but their coach and general manager said their medical staff hasn’t given them hope that will happen.

After turning in the best season of his NFL career in 2016, Fairley missed the Saints’ offseason program when a specialist recommended he retire because of a heart condition. Fairley got at least three opinions on his heart, and they were reportedly not all in agreement, but New Orleans designated the former Auburn standout as reserve/non-football illness on June 26.

The Saints’ veteran players reported for training camp on Wednesday, and New Orleans will hold its first full-squad practice on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis held a pre-camp press conference.

“Not that I’m aware of,” Payton answered when asked if there was something that could be done to correct Fairley’s problem. “I don’t think it’s a condition that you can go in and have a procedure done to change that.”

But Payton didn’t want to declare Fairley’s career over either.

“I would never sit at this table and use that word never,” Payton said. “I think as we sit here today, though, we’ve prepared ourselves for him not playing this season.

“Look, there’s a downside to that when you’re talking about Nick Fairley, and then there’s a good side to that. And the good side to that is fortunately this was discovered not the hard way. As successful as he was for us on the field last year, he’s wonderful to be around. And I think that the focus when I’m thinking of Nick is making sure he’s healthy and that this maybe was able to help not only himself, but maybe other members of his family or others that might have this.”

Fairley helped Auburn win the BCS national championship for the 2010 season, when he won the Lombardi Award as the nation’s best lineman or linebacker.

A physical at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2011 found Fairley’s heart problem, but that didn’t prevent the Detroit Lions from selecting him with the 13th pick.

Fairley has played six NFL seasons with the condition.

“It’s a challenging thing because he came out of the draft and there were some re-checks, and it cleared at that time from everyone,” Payton said. “But I’ve got to trust in the medical experts, and I do, and I know Mickey does. It’s just a difficult, unfortunate condition, and yet, fortunately we found it.”

Loomis echoed Payton when asked about Fairley.

“I think Sean’s answer to that was good: He would never say never,” Loomis said. “Yet that’s not what our medical people are telling us. But I wouldn’t say never either. I’m not a doctor. I’m not educated enough to understand the condition — can it improve or not improve.”

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

Fairley signed a four-year, $28 million contract with the Saints in March after recording 45 tackles and a career-high 6.5 sacks in 2016. The contract included $9 million guaranteed at signing, with $8 million of that as a signing bonus. Fairley has a $1 million salary for the 2017 season.

“I’d rather not answer that because I don’t know yet,” Loomis said of Fairley’s contract situation. “I don’t know how that’s going to resolve itself. It’s some difficult questions there. It’s unfortunate for his case, and we’re a lot more concerned about Nick himself than we are about that, although that is a concern.”

Before going to Auburn, Fairley was an All-State football and basketball player at Williamson High School in Mobile.

New Orleans Saints aren’t holding out much hope for Nick Fairley’s return to football

The New Orleans Saints will “never say never” on defensive tackle Nick Fairley returning to the NFL team, but their coach and general manager said their medical staff hasn’t given them hope that will happen.

Bruce Pearl still has 1 date to fill on Auburn’s nonconference schedule

Calling all Division I men’s basketball coaches: Auburn still has an open date on its 2017-18 nonconference schedule and is looking for a dance partner.

Mustapha Heron dealt with offseason stress fracture in left shin

Mustapha Heron’s first offseason at Auburn got off to a slower start than he anticipated.

Avery Young starting NFL training camp on NFI again

As he did at his first NFL training camp, former Auburn offensive lineman Avery Young will start his second NFL training camp on the non-football injury list.

Avery Young starting NFL training camp on NFI again

As he did at his first NFL training camp, former Auburn offensive lineman Avery Young will start his second NFL training camp on the non-football injury list.

As he did at his first NFL training camp, former Auburn offensive lineman Avery Young will start his second NFL training camp on the non-football injury list.

The Miami Dolphins designated Young as active/non-football injury on Wednesday.

The Dolphins announced the personnel move on the same day that the NFL team’s veterans reported for training camp in Davie, Florida. Miami is scheduled to hold its first practice on Thursday, but Young’s NFI designation will keep him from practicing.

Miami did not release details for the decision. The non-football injury designation indicates Young’s issue occurred at some time other than during his work with the Dolphins.

Miami placed Young on active/NFI instead of inactive/NFI. That keeps Young on the Dolphins’ 90-player roster, and he will be able to join practice when he is cleared medically.

Young also was placed on NFI when he arrived for his first NFL training camp last year. The New Orleans Saints signed Young as an undrafted rookie and placed him on NFI on July 21, 2016.

Young spent the entire 2016 season with the Saints, but he never got off the reserve/non-football injury list, and New Orleans never explained the need for the designation. Young was able to participate in some practices in November.

New Orleans released Young on Feb. 27, and he signed with Miami on March 22.

Young saw action at three spots in the Auburn offensive line and started 36 of the 37 games that he played for the Tigers.

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

Reports indicate that Young’s issue stems from a knee injury suffered at Auburn’s pro day last year.

Auburn’s Charleston Classic opponents announced

We’ve known for a while now that Auburn would be playing in the 2017 Charleston Classic in Charleston, S.C. Now, we know who the Tigers will be playing.

Auburn fall camp position breakdown: Offensive line

A review of Auburn’s offensive line entering fall camp

Auburn fall camp position breakdown: Offensive line

A review of Auburn's offensive line entering fall camp

AL.com will be previewing each of nine position groups leading up to the start of Auburn’s fall camp on July 31. The fifth installment in the series reviews the offensive line.

For as much as Auburn has to replace on its offensive line in Alex Kozan and Robert Leff, it has a major pillar back in Braden Smith and returning starters Austin Golson and Darius James.

That’s not to mention the additions of graduate transfers Wilson Bell and Casey Dunn and five-star freshman Calvin Ashley.

Once Rhett Lashlee took over play-calling last season the offensive line’s performance improved and ended up having a fairly strong season overall, particularly when you consider two of the starters were undrafted free agents.

Smith and Golson will lead the room after the departure of Kozan and there are two position battles to be determined in fall camp at left tackle and left guard, which is the far more open competition.

Departed: Alex Kozan, Robert Leff, Xavier Dampeer

Returning starters: Darius James, redshirt-senior; Austin Golson, redshirt-senior; Braden Smith, senior

Other returning players: Prince Tega Wanogho Jr., redshirt sophomore; Bailey Sharp, redshirt-sophomore; Prince Michael Sammons, redshirt-freshman; Mike Horton, redshirt-sophomore; Marquel Harrell, redshirt-sophomore; Kaleb Kim, redshirt-sophomore; Tyler Carr, redshirt-sophomore; Nick Brahms, freshman; Brodarious Hamm, freshman

Summer arrivals: Calvin Ashley, Wilson Bell, graduate transfer; Casey Dunn, graduate transfer; Austin Troxell

Outlook: With three returning starters and a group of five seniors that could potentially form the starting lineup, Auburn’s offensive front is the deepest its been during Gus Malzahn’s tenure. Whether it proves to be the best of the last five years remains to be seen.

At left tackle, Darius James still has to hold off Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. in fall camp to keep the starting job. One way or another though, Wanogho will see the field and it’s important to remember he is still learning the game.

Calvin Ashley, who recently underwent a minor medical procedure on one of his eyes, will also get a look in fall camp. While Malzahn claims he’d prefer not to redshirt the five-star recruit after doing so with Greg Robinson in 2011, the best way for Ashley to see the field as a true freshman may be as a blocking tight end, as Braden Smith did in 2014.

Post-spring OL analysis: LTLG | C | RG | RT

Left guard is the wide open spot after spring.

Marquel Harrell is not ready to be a starter in the SEC and the addition of Wilson Bell at right guard will move Mike Horton over to the left side. Horton is the favorite on paper entering camp but if Casey Dunn were to prove capable of handling the heightened competition early on in the season, Austin Golson could eventually slide outside. The other possibility is James moves inside if Wanogho were to elevate his game enough to start.

Even without moving parts, Auburn is deeper at center than at any point under Malzahn. Golson returns and Dunn was an FCS All-American.

Fall camp position preview: QB | RB | HB/TEWR

Bell is clearly the starter at right guard and while there’s some reason for pause given he lost his starting job at Florida State, it wasn’t as though he was going to be banished on the depth chart had he stayed.

Smith is the lock starter at right tackle and the anchor of the group.

Bell adds ‘mountain of a man’ to Auburn OL

Battle to Watch: Left guard. It’s wide open with no fewer than two candidates and as many as five depending on how things shake out at left tackle and center.

Keep an Eye on: Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. He got to play quite a bit last year and is massive. He’ll make a case to start and even if he doesn’t, he’ll still play a role.

Projected two deep:

Left tackle:
Darius James (6-foot-4, 324 pounds) OR
Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. (6-foot-7, 301 pounds)

Left guard:
Mike Horton (6-foot-4, 318 pounds) OR
Austin Golson (6-foot-5, 312 pounds) OR
Darius James (6-foot-4, 324 pounds)

Center:
Austin Golson (6-foot-5, 312 pounds)
Casey Dunn (6-foot-4, 292 pounds)

Right guard:
Wilson Bell (6-foot-5, 355 pounds)
Mike Horton (6-foot-4, 318 pounds) OR
Braden Smith (6-foot-6, 303 pounds)

Right tackle:
Braden Smith (6-foot-6, 303 pounds)
Darius James (6-foot-4, 324 pounds)

2017 Charleston Classic bracket announced for Auburn Basketball – Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site

2017 Charleston Classic bracket announced for Auburn Basketball
Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site
AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn men's basketball will open the 2017 Gildan Charleston Classic against Indiana State on Nov. 16 at 10:30 am CT on ESPNU at TD Arena in Charleston, S.C. It will be the first meeting between the two schools. The Tigers will play the …

and more »

Auburn freshman Calvin Ashley undergoes minor medical procedure

Calvin Ashley is expected to be ready when the team reports for fall camp on Sunday after undergoing a minor medical procedure.

Auburn freshman Calvin Ashley undergoes minor medical procedure

Calvin Ashley is expected to be ready when the team reports for fall camp on Sunday after undergoing a minor medical procedure.

Auburn freshman offensive lineman Calvin Ashley is expected to be ready when the team reports for fall camp on Sunday after undergoing a minor medical procedure.

Ashley had a procedure on one of his eyes, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed. The former five-star recruit recently posted a picture to Snapchat from his hospital bed, which was reposted by SEC Country.

AuburnUndercover.com first reported the nature of the procedure for Ashley, who is expected to compete for time at left tackle, where Darius James and Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. are set to compete for the starting job before the season.

Fall camp position breakdown: Offensive line

2017 Charleston Classic bracket announced for Auburn Basketball – Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site


Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site

2017 Charleston Classic bracket announced for Auburn Basketball
Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site
AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn men's basketball will open the 2017 Gildan Charleston Classic against Indiana State on Nov. 16 at 10:30 am CT on ESPNU at TD Arena in Charleston, S.C. It will be the first meeting between the two schools. The Tigers will play the …

and more »

Lessons won: What Auburn football learned in loss to Georgia last season – SECcountry.com


SECcountry.com

Lessons won: What Auburn football learned in loss to Georgia last season
SECcountry.com
All of Auburn football's five losses in 2016 stung, but the Tigers won lessons in each. This week, SEC Country will examine what the Tigers can do to put themselves in a better position to win this season's rematches.

“Auburn Has A Real Knack For Attracting Great People…” – Catching Up with Indy Roper – Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site

"Auburn Has A Real Knack For Attracting Great People…" – Catching Up with Indy Roper
Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site
To many current and former Auburn equestrian student-athletes, Indy Roper is considered one of the greatest riders to have ever been part of the four-time national championship program. A First Team Academic honoree and multiple First Team All-American …

Austin Golson is the Swiss Army Knife of the Auburn offensive line

There are plenty of moving parts on Auburn’s offensive line heading into this fall. None have the potential to move around more than Austin Golson.

AL.com All-Access: When will we see Hugh Freeze in football again?

Join us on AL.com All-Access at 10 a.m.

AL.com All-Access: When will we see Hugh Freeze in football again?

Join us on AL.com All-Access at 10 a.m.

Just like that, the rise and fall of Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss is over.

But is he out of college football for good?

Maybe it depends on how far the pattern of immoral behavior went for the 47-year-old.

Or, maybe not.

If Bobby Petrino can recover, I don’t see why Hugh Freeze can’t. Sure, Petrino never spouted off about how much of a saint he was, but he bounced back just a year after getting caught in a lie with his mistress.

Petrino sat out the 2012 season and resurfaced at Western Kentucky in 2013. After one season there, he was off to Louisville. 

If you can coach, you can coach. While it was certainly out of the ordinary for Freeze to pull in national five-star recruits, I don’t think he’s a bad coach by any stretch.

So when will Hugh Freeze be back coaching football? And will it be back in the college game or in high school? Give it a year, I say. What about you?

We’ll talk that and more on AL.com’s All-Access at 10 a.m. CT.

Ole Miss v. Mississippi State trumps the Iron Bowl rivalry in clean, old-fashioned hate

A State fan uncovered the phone call that helped force the Ole Miss coach to resign in disgrace. It's just the latest drama in the Egg Bowl blood bath.

OK, Mississippi. We give. You win. It’s not often we in Alabama defer to anyone on anything when it comes to college football, but we have to hand it to you.

At the moment and subject to change, you now own the best rivalry in the SEC. And by best, we mean the dirtiest, nastiest, most intense blood feud in the dirtiest, nastiest, bloodiest, most intense conference in all the world.

In addition to passion, pride, performance and profit, it just means more gut-level animosity, too. You see what happens when both SEC programs in the same state start to win at a high level? Some of your fans start to burn hotter than usual.

Ole Miss-Mississippi State began to rival Alabama-Auburn as an in-state duo in 2014. First, Ole Miss took down No. 3 Alabama in Oxford and State whipped No. 2 Auburn in Starkville on consecutive October weekends. A month later, in the first College Football Playoff rankings, State checked in at No. 1 and Ole Miss at No. 4 while Auburn was No. 3 and Alabama No. 6.

That combined on-field success wouldn’t last, but it was heady stuff, and it was nothing compared to what’s happening now. The best rivalries bring out the worst behavior in both fan bases, and the latest knife twist in the Egg Bowl family feud puts you over the top.

Let me see if I have this straight.

A Mississippi State fan with a tattoo of the school’s logo on his hand helped an Arkansas lawyer – who’s working for a former Arkansas and Ole Miss coach in a lawsuit against Ole Miss – take down the current Ole Miss coach. That Mississippi State fan – who’s writing a book on the NCAA case against Ole Miss called Flim Flam – discovered a phone call from Hugh Freeze’s university-issued cell phone to an escort service.

Freeze resigned in disgrace last week without so much as a golden parachute buyout. But wait. There’s plenty more.

Two Mississippi State players have received limited immunity from the NCAA in exchange for their testimony against Ole Miss concerning alleged recruiting shenanigans. One of those State players has developed a wicked habit of subtweeting his glee when Ole Miss suffers some sort of major indignity, like self-imposing a postseason ban or having its head coach resign in disgrace.

A clothing store in Oxford that specializes in Ole Miss gear – named Rebel Rags – is suing those two Mississippi State players as well as the ex-stepfather of a former Ole Miss player for allegations they made to the NCAA.

Those are just the highlights, and no one knows if this ride will end once the NCAA Infractions Committee takes its own shots at Ole Miss come the fall.

None of this may have happened had the Rebels and Bulldogs continued their traditional roles as SEC West patsies. Was anyone sifting through Ed Orgeron’s phone records during his time in Oxford? Instead both programs raised their games to new heights, raising questions, suspicions and blood pressure throughout the Magnolia State.

We’ve been there and done that. Alabama vs. Auburn didn’t reach the nuclear level of Eric Ramsey and Gene Jelks until Auburn moved the Iron Bowl out of Birmingham and beat Alabama four straight times from 1986-89. Tide v. Tigers got poisonous again, literally, after Cam Newton and Auburn followed Mark Ingram and Alabama the very next year with a Heisman and a national title of their own.

So congratulations, Rebs and Bullies alike. It takes two fan bases flush with success and venom to turn a cold war hot and drag a rivalry to the top of the roiling, boiling SEC. If only one of you had a championship to show for it.

If our experience on this side of the state line tells us anything, you’re not finished drawing blood. Just remember, the more you wound each other, the easier you make it for everyone else in the conference to put you back in your traditional place.

At the bottom, where nobody wins and nobody cares. At least not enough to sue.

Ole Miss v. Mississippi State trumps the Iron Bowl rivalry in clean, old-fashioned hate

A State fan uncovered the phone call that helped force the Ole Miss coach to resign in disgrace. It’s just the latest drama in the Egg Bowl blood bath.

Auburn opponent preview: Arkansas

Auburn’s trip to Arkansas comes in the middle of a brutal three-road-game-in-four-week stretch that runs from Oct. 14 through No. 4. It’s also the final of eight games before the Tigers’ bye week on Oct. 28.

Auburn football: Tre Mason, Carl Lawson, and Greg Brown are staying busy – SECcountry.com


SECcountry.com

Auburn football: Tre Mason, Carl Lawson, and Greg Brown are staying busy
SECcountry.com
Welcome to SEC Country's daily War Eagle Wakeup, a rundown of everything happening in Auburn football and Auburn Tigers athletics with Lauren Shute. Here's a look at what you might have missed on Tuesday: …

Auburn opponent early scouting report: Georgia

An early look at the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.

Auburn opponent early scouting report: Georgia

An early look at the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.

We’re taking an early look at Auburn’s opponents for the 2017 regular season. This 12-part series will feature analysis and insight from beat reporters who cover the 12 teams Auburn will play this year. Today we look at the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.

Georgia

Game date & time: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Nov. 11

2016 record: (8-5, 4-4 SEC)

Coach: Kirby Smart, second year

Betting line: Auburn by 10

Returning starters: 8 offense, 10 defense, 3 specialists

Most important returning players: QB Jacob Eason, RB Nick Chubb, RB Sony Michel, DL Trenton Thompson, LB Roquan Smith, DB Dominick Sanders

Most critical departures: WR Isaiah McKenzie, WR Reggie Davis, C Brandon Kublanow, DB Maurice Smith

Insight from Georgia beat reporter Marc Weiszer (@marcweiszer):

  1. How did Jacob Eason progress this spring?

    Kirby Smart and players were complimentary of Eason becoming more of a leader and being more vocal this offseason. He was said to have more ability to make checks. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has said Eason’s development reading defenses while working under center will be key. It helped that early enrollee Jake Fromm put some heat on him, but Eason is the starter. Now, he has to hold onto it during the season.

  2. What would it take for Jake Fromm to be the starter at this point in the season?
    If Fromm is the starter for the Auburn game in November, either Eason will be out injured or Fromm will have made the most of an opportunity when he got meaningful snaps in place of an ineffective Eason. Eason has the big arm, but coaches would like to see his accuracy improve and the offense not leave so many points on the field.

  3. What is realistic to expect from Nick Chubb and Sony Michel?
    That may depend on if Jim Chaney’s playcalling can find ways to maximize their talents. Clearly, that didn’t happen last year at times. So much so that Chubb and Michel met with Chaney to ask to get more carries. Chubb could be a Heisman Trophy candidate if he truly is back to the form pre-knee injury and if the offensive line improves. Georgia will try to get the ball in Michel’s hands in different ways, including lining him up as a slot receiver.

  4. With 10 returning starters, how does the defense believe it will improve?
    Georgia was a good defense last season, but it wasn’t world-beaters. It struggled big-time stopping teams in the red zone and Smart has harped on getting more tackles for loss. Georgia has All-SEC caliber talent in defensive tackle Trenton Thompson and inside linebacker Roquan Smith and if they take their game another level, maybe even All-American. Freshman Deangelo Gibbs could contribute in an experienced secondary.

  5. A win for Georgia would mean? A loss for Georgia would mean?
    Best case a win could clinch the SEC East or keep Georgia’s chances of getting in the college football playoff. Worst case it would help take some of the sting out a season that didn’t live up to expectations like last year’s win. If Georgia already has won the East, a loss would put a dent in their case to make the playoff. If there’s a stumble like Vanderbilt and/or another loss to Florida, losing to Auburn would only crank up the heat on Smart.

Auburn story lines:

  • Snapping the losing streak to UGA
    Auburn will return home after a three-game road stretch for the 121st meeting with Georgia, which has won three straight, five of six and 9 of the last 11 meetings in the all-time series. Gus Malzahn can’t afford to keep losing rivalry games.
  • Moving the sticks
    Auburn could not gain a first down in an atrocious second half Between the Hedges last season. Whether it’s stretching the field vertically or pounding the ground, the Tigers must move the chains more effectively than in the past three meetings of this rivalry.
  • Pettway & Johnson vs. Chubb & Michel
    By this point in the season which duo is having the better season should be clear. If not, it probably means it’s a neck-and-neck battle that this game will decide.
  • Postseason implications
    Projecting 10 games into a season is pointless but regardless Auburn will be jockeying or position in the SEC West and bowl contention. If the division is still in play, and therefore a spot in the SEC Championship and College Football Playoff berth, then the implications are enormous.

Early scouting reports: Georgia Southern | Clemson Mercer MissouriMississippi StateOle Miss LSUArkansasTexas A&M

Georgia story lines:

  • SEC East race
    Georgia will have already played Tennessee, Florida and South Carolina so much of its relevant tiebreakers in the SEC East will have been decided before this game or the week before against Kentucky.
  • Keeping the win streak in tact
    As much as Auburn wants to win in this matchup, Georgia wants to continue what has been a decade of absolute dominance in the rivalry.
  • Scott Fountain vs. Auburn
    The longtime Auburn assistant is an analyst at Georgia and while he can’t coach during the game, he’ll be a part of game prep.

An Auburn win would mean:

At the very least it means snapping a losing streak in the rivalry, which is a huge development for Malzahn and the program at large. At most, it keeps Auburn in contention for the SEC, perhaps even clinching the division if Alabama were to suffer multiple losses to this point, and in the national conversation heading into the Iron Bowl.

An Auburn loss would mean:

Four straight years losing to Georgia, which is incredibly difficult for an Auburn coach to survive under the best of circumstances and with Alabama owning a three-game win streak in the Iron Bowl as well, it’ll put Malzahn squarely on the hot seat for two weeks if the Tigers have two or more losses.

The Countdown to Kickoff: The SEC’s best No. 38

There are 38 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 38 in SEC football history is Tennessee guard John Michels.

AL.com is counting down to the 2017 SEC football season on Sept. 2 by presenting the No. 1 player to wear each number 1 through 99 in the conference’s history. There are 38 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 38 is Tennessee guard John Michels.

Tennessee set an SEC single-season record for rushing yards per game in 1951 of 306.8, a mark that stood until the wishbone era and still ranks seventh in conference history.

Hank Lauricella was the star back for the Volunteers and finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1951. But the pulling guard played a key role in the single-wing attack of coach Robert Neyland, and that’s where John Michels came in.

Playing on Neyland’s final three Tennessee teams, Michels helped the Volunteers roll up a 14-1-1 SEC record and a 29-3-1 overall mark from 1950 through 1952.

The 1951 Volunteers became the first SEC team to top the final Associated Press and coaches polls of the season.

That was in the days when the final polls came out at the end of the regular season and before the “extra-curricular” bowls. Tennessee had a 10-0 regular-season record in 1951, but lost to undefeated and third-ranked Maryland 28-13 in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1952. The Terrapins’ victory ended the Volunteers’ 20-game winning streak, at the time the second-longest in SEC history.

Michels was an All-SEC selection in 1951. In 1952, he repeated that honor, won the Jacobs Trophy as the conference’s best blocker and earned consensus All-American recognition.

In 1996, Michels was tabbed for the College Football Hall of Fame. In 2009, he was joined there by another SEC No. 38 – Auburn fullback Ed Dyas, who also had been a record-setting place-kicker.

Runner-up at No. 38: Auburn fullback Ed Dyas  

FOR MORE OF AL.COM’S COMPREHENSIVE COVERAGE OF THE SEC, GO TO OUR SEC PAGE

The Countdown to Kickoff: The SEC’s best No. 38

There are 38 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 38 in SEC football history is Tennessee guard John Michels.

Recruiting Roundup: Big Week for the Tigers

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Auburn has had a busy week on the recruiting trail, as Gus Malzahn’s staff received commitments from four of its targets and is looking to add a few more after a successful weekend.

The first commitment of the weekend is also the Tigers’ first commitment for the 2019 class. George Pickens, a four-star wide receiver from Hoover, Alabama gave his verbal to Auburn last Friday. Pickens, the fourth-ranked recruit in Alabama for the 2019 class, made the announcement during an unofficial visit to the plains. Pickens will be playing alongside his high school current teammate, Shedrick Jackson — a 2018 Auburn receiver commit — when he comes to play for the Tigers.

The second commitment came on the same day from Josh Marsh — an outside linebacker from Decatur, Alabama. The three-star prospect is a lifelong Auburn fan, and after a solid display for the Auburn coaching staff at Auburn’s camp on Friday afternoon, Gus Malzahn gave him the offer he was hoping to receive. Marsh committed on the spot. 

Michael Harris, a four-star inside linebacker out of Tucker, GA, was the Tigers’ third commitment of the week. Harris picked the Tigers over Georgia and Ohio State — seemingly putting an end to a recruiting battle that the Auburn coaching staff has been yearning to win. Harris attended Auburn’s recruiting cookout that the program hosted over the weekend before committing to the Tigers on Monday. 

On Tuesday afternoon, three-star safety Jamien Sherwood announced his decision to play for the Tigers. Sherwood, the No. 33 ranked safety in the nation, plays out of Jensen Beach High School in Florida. According to 247sports, Sherwood committed privately to the Auburn coaching staff during the recruiting cookout on Saturday before making his decision public on Tuesday afternoon. Sherwood is planning on graduating in December and will arrive on campus in time for spring practice next year. 

So after four commitments, three for the 2018 class and one for the 2019 class, Auburn now has 11 total commits for the 2018 class and has moved up to No. 30 in the 247sports team recruiting rankings. 

Gus Malzahn’s staff is looking to add around 14 more recruits for the 2018 class. Still a long way to go. 

The post Recruiting Roundup: Big Week for the Tigers appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

Sammie Coates sidelined after arthroscopic knee surgery

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates will miss the start of training camp after undergoing his second surgery of the offseason, ESPN reported.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates will miss the start of training camp after undergoing his second surgery of the offseason, ESPN reported.

Coates had arthroscopic knee surgery last week, reported Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. Coates is expected to be sidelined at least through mid-August.

The Steelers are scheduled to report for training camp on Thursday at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Coates suffered an injury while training during the NFL’s summer break.

The former Leroy High School and Auburn standout was supposed to hold a free youth football camp at Satsuma High School on Saturday, but announced on Facebook on Wednesday that it had been postponed.   

“I’m beyond disappointed that my football camp this weekend will need to be postponed indefinitely,” Coates wrote. “We will notify everyone (via email and social media) as soon as we have more information or details regarding a new date for the camp. I truly appreciate everyone’s understanding.”

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

Coates got off to a fast start in 2016, his second NFL season. He led the league in yards per reception through the first five games of the season. But on Oct. 9 in a game against the New York Jets, Coates broke the index finger on his left hand and ripped open a gash that required seven stitches on the same hand.

On Nov. 6 in a game against the Baltimore Ravens, Coates broke the ring finger on his left hand.

After the season, Coates had surgery – not to fix his fingers, but to take care of a groin injury.

Coates completed the 2016 season with 21 receptions for 435 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games.

Sammie Coates sidelined after arthroscopic knee surgery

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates will miss the start of training camp after undergoing his second surgery of the offseason, ESPN reported.

Online sportsbook heavily favors Jarrett Stidham to win Auburn starting QB job

An online sportsbook lists the odds of Jarrett Stidham winning Auburn’s quarterback job as greater than any signal caller competing for a starting role in major college football.

Online sportsbook heavily favors Jarrett Stidham to win Auburn starting QB job

An online sportsbook lists the odds of Jarrett Stidham winning Auburn's quarterback job as greater than any signal caller competing for a starting role in major college football.

An online sportsbook lists the odds of Jarrett Stidham winning Auburn’s quarterback job as greater than any signal caller competing for a starting role in major college football.

Bookmaker.eu lists Stidham as a massive minus-750 favorite over Sean White, who is listed at plus-500, to be Auburn’s starting quarterback job for the 2017 season opener.

RELATED: Why Gus Malzahn says you should believe Auburn has a QB competition

That means a bet of $750 on Stidham would win $100 if he is the starter, whereas a $100 bet on White would win $500.

Auburn fall camp position breakdown: QBs

Those odds are the greatest disparity among the 12 quarterback competitions listed at the online sportsbook. The next closest is at Texas, where Shane Buechele is a minus-480 favorite to Sam Ehlinger, a plus-355 underdog.

Odds for two of Auburn’s regular season opponents are listed, including reigning national champion Clemson, where Kelly Bryant is a minus-125 favorite over true freshman Hunter Johnson (plus-120) and Zerrick Cooper (plus-800).

The competition at Texas A&M is viewed as wide open, with Jake Hubenak (plus-145), Nick Starkel (plus-185) and true freshman Kellen Mond (plus-235) all returning more in potential winnings than original wagers.

Sean White ‘ready to compete’ for Auburn QB job

Auburn fall camp position breakdown: Wide receivers

A review of Auburn's receiving corps heading into fall camp

AL.com will be previewing each of nine position groups leading up to the start of Auburn’s fall camp on July 31. The fourth installment in the series reviews the wide receivers.

Arguably the most unproven position on the entire roster, Auburn’s receiving corps has a lot of questions but also reasons for optimism heading into the season.

Who ultimately wins starting jobs and emerges as the go-to guy probably won’t be determined until several games into the season, but the good news is there are lots of candidates.

While his numbers weren’t all that impressive, Tony Stevens did lead Auburn with 31 receptions for 487 yards and three touchdowns last season and Marcus Davis was the vocal leader of the group.

Those voids will be filled by a sophomore group that was highly-touted as recruits. Nate Craig-Myers had a huge performance on A-Day and should be in line to start, Eli Stove will battle for time at flanker while Kyle Davis is set to return after missing spring practice due to an undisclosed personal matter.

Darius Slayton and Ryan Davis won’t give up starting spots without a fight so there’s going to be competition in fall camp.

Departed: Tony Stevens, Marcus Davis

Returning starters: Ryan Davis, junior; Darius Slayton, redshirt-sophomore; Jason Smith, senior

Other returning players: Kyle Davis, sophomore; Nate Craig-Myers, sophomore; Eli Stove, sophomore; Marquis McClain, redshirt-freshman; John Franklin III, redshirt-senior; Will Hastings, junior

Summer arrivals: Noah Igbinoghene, JaTarvious Whitlow

Outlook: There isn’t a lot to look at by way of statistics from this group of returning players.

Slayton is the leader in terms of yards (292) and Ryan Davis has the most receptions (25) among them last season, when Auburn failed to produce a 600-yard receiver for the first time since 2008.

It’s easy to play a lot of the blame there on quarterback play, but Stevens signed as an undrafted free agent and Marcus Davis did not get that far, so it wasn’t the most talented group a year ago either.

With three of the top 20 receivers recruits from two years ago as targets for Jarrett Stidham, Auburn has plenty of cause for optimism about its wide outs.

Post-spring WR analysis: SEFSlot

Slayton, Kyle Davis and Craig-Myers are all bigger targets, Ryan Davis and Eli Stove offer a lot for shorter routes and end-arounds. Then we get to the smaller slot guys in Will Hastings and John Franklin III, who offers great speed but is still learning the position.

Franklin and Jason Smith are the lone seniors but neither has earned the clout to be a leading voice in the receiver room. A younger player could take ownership, but it’ll require playing well and consistently once the season arrives.

Fall camp position preview: QB | RB | HB/TE

Battle to Watch: Split end could be interesting if that’s where Kyle Davis ends up now that he’s back on campus. Slayton was in a starting role by the end of last season, has the most yards of any returning player and a similar skill set.

Keep an Eye on: Craig-Myers. He had a huge A-Day and was very disappointed in how his freshman season went. If he’s able to pick up where he left off in the spring, Craig-Myers could be locked in as a starter and major contributor.

Projected two deep:

Split end:
Darius Slayton (6-foot-2, 190 pounds)
Kyle Davis (6-foot-2, 213 pounds) OR
Jason Smith (6-foot-1, 186 pounds) OR
Marquis McClain (6-foot-2, 226 pounds)

Flanker
Eli Stove (6-foot, 183 pounds)
Ryan Davis (5-foot-9, 175 pounds)

Slot
Will Hastings (5-foot-10, 167 pounds)
John Franklin III (6-foot-1, 184 pounds)

Y/Big slot
Nate Craig-Myers (6-foot-2, 213 pounds)
Sal Cannella (6-foot-5, 228 pounds)

Auburn fall camp position breakdown: Wide receivers

A review of Auburn’s receiving corps heading into fall camp

Auburn gets commitment from Florida safety Jamien Sherwood

Auburn picked up another defensive back commitment

Auburn gets commitment from Florida safety Jamien Sherwood

Auburn picked up another defensive back commitment

Auburn landed a defensive back high on its board when Jensen Beach, Fla., safety Jamien Sherwood announced his commitment to the Tigers on Tuesday.

He announced his decision in a commitment video from TCPalm.com.

Sherwood was in Auburn on Saturday for a cookout with many other high-priority recruits. He said then that Auburn was “at the top” for his services.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Sherwood is a three-star recruit, ranked as the No. 32 safety and No. 392 prospect nationally. He has made three unofficial visits to Auburn this year, including for A-Day and Big Cat Weekend.

His offer sheet included the likes of Miami, Florida, Michigan and other Power 5 programs.

This is Auburn’s fourth pledge since Friday, joining Hoover 2019 receiver George Pickens and 2018 recruits Josh Marsh of Decatur and Michael Harris of Tucker, Ga.

This could fill out Auburn’s needs at the safety spot as Quindarious Monday of Atlanta committed two weeks ago. Auburn is looking at Marsh as a potential safety or nickel and Cordova’s Kolbi Fuqua could be a safety at the next level.

Check out Auburn’s list of 2018 commits.

Kickoff times, TV info, released for Auburn’s first three games – Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site


Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site

Kickoff times, TV info, released for Auburn's first three games
Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site
Auburn's season opener against Georgia Southern begins at 6:30 p.m. Auburn time on Sept. 2 on SEC Network. July 25, 2017. By Jeff Shearer AuburnTigers.com. AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn's season opener against Georgia Southern on Sept. 2 will kick off at …

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Game times set for Auburn season opener with Georgia Southern, Homecoming with Mercer

The game times for Auburn’s 2017 season opener with Georgia Southern and Homecoming game with Mercer are set.

Game times set for Auburn season opener with Georgia Southern, Homecoming with Mercer

The game times for Auburn's 2017 season opener with Georgia Southern and Homecoming game with Mercer are set.

The game times for Auburn’s 2017 season opener with Georgia Southern and Homecoming game with Mercer are set.

Auburn will host Georgia Southern at 6:30 p.m. CT on Sept. 2 at Jordan-Hare Stadium and the game will be televised on SEC Network.

Following a road trip to defending national champion Clemson on Sept. 9 (6 p.m. CT, ESPN), Auburn will host its Homecoming game with Mercer at 3 p.m. on Sept. 16 on SEC Network alternate.

The Tigers opened as 36-point favorites against GSU and won the only prior meeting in the series in 1991.

Auburn leads the all-time series with Mercer 11-0 but the teams have not met since 1922.

It is the second straight year Auburn will open the season with back-to-back night games. The Tigers opened 2016 with three straight games in prime time.

Kickoff times announced for first 3 games of Auburn football season

You can go ahead and start planning those tailgates now.

AL.com All-Access: Where does Ole Miss rank among all-time SEC football scandals?

The ongoing Ole Miss football scandal is unique in many ways, in that it combines major NCAA violations and a coach accused of off-field extramarital activities.

AL.com All-Access: Where does Ole Miss rank among all-time SEC football scandals?

The ongoing Ole Miss football scandal is unique in many ways, in that it combines major NCAA violations and a coach accused of off-field extramarital activities.

The ongoing Ole Miss football scandal is unique in many ways, in that it combines major NCAA violations and a coach accused of off-field extramarital activities.

It’s almost a combination of the major scandals at Alabama from last decade — Albert Means and Mike Price. In the former, Alabama boosters were charged with giving large sums of money to steer a recruit to their school. In the latter, a coach lost his job in a sex scandal.

For those reasons, the Ole Miss scandal might rank No. 1 among modern SEC football scandals. I’ll reserve judgment until we hear the final penalties, but here’s a chronological list of what the current Ole Miss case is up against (much of the information on the following cases came from this report posted on AL.com earlier this):

Auburn, 1958

After winning the 1957 national championship while under NCAA sanctions regarding payments to recruits, the Tigers were hit again the following year. An Auburn booster was found to have offered Guntersville High School quarterback Don Fuell a number of luxury items, including a motorboat and an air-conditioned apartment (Fuell was then married with a young son), in order to induce him to sign with the Tigers. Auburn was hit with three years of probation, a three-year postseason ban and a three-year television ban, extending through the 1960 season.

Fuell transferred from Auburn after his freshman year to Southern Miss, where he was a small-college All-American in 1961. Head coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan denied the charges regarding Fuell for the remainder of his life.

Florida, 1985

The Gators were charged with 107 major violations, including 59 committed by head coach Charley Pell himself. Included among them were paying players for no-show jobs, athletes selling tickets to boosters at a heavy mark-up, non-scholarship players receiving free housing and meals, out-of-season practice and spying on opposing teams.

The Gators got two years of probation, the loss of 20 scholarships over a two-year period, a two-year postseason ban and a two-year television ban.

Pell had already been fired in September 1984, a year before the NCAA hammer fell. The Gators were ruled ineligible for the SEC championship in both 1984 and 1985, seasons in which they compiled consecutive 9-1-1 records and finished in the Top 5 nationally under Galen Hall. Florida would not win more than seven games in a season again until Steve Spurrier arrived in 1990.

Auburn, 1993

Auburn booster Corky Frost was found to have given more than $4,000 in cash and merchandise — including steaks and tires for a car — to Tigers defensive back Eric Ramsey. Ramsey made several secret recordings of conversations with Frost and Auburn assistant coach Larry Blakeney, who also provided cash to Ramsey from another booster. Head football coach Pat Dye, then also the school’s athletic director, was never directly implicated, but charged with lack of institutional control.

Dye resigned after the 1992 season, months before the sanctions were announced. Auburn got two years of probation, lost 33 scholarships over a three-year period, was hit with a two-year postseason ban and a one-year television ban. Frost and Blakeney were permanently disassociated from the program.

Ramsey and wife Twilitta were booed heavily at their graduation from Auburn in December 1992. Auburn went 11-0 under first-year head coach Terry Bowden in 1993, but was ineligible for the SEC championship due to the NCAA sanctions. The Tigers — who won or shared in four SEC titles under Dye in the 1980s — wouldn’t win the conference again until 2004. Dye never coached again, but remains an active presence around the Auburn athletic department. Blakeney left in 1991 to become head coach at Troy, where he stayed more than 25 years and won 178 games.

Ole Miss, 1994

An Ole Miss booster was accused of offering a Ford Mustang sports car to a recruit. Several recruits, including future LSU wide receiver Chris Hill, were photographed at a Memphis strip club during their official visits to Ole Miss (NCAA rules prohibit official visit entertainment that occurs outside a 30-mile radius from campus). Other players were given clothing and impermissible transportation, including car rides and airline tickets.

Ole Miss was given four years of probation, docked 24 scholarships and a number of recruiting visits over a two-year period, given a two-year postseason ban and a one-year television ban. Head coach Billy Brewer was given a four-year show-cause penalty.

The Rebels remain the last major-college football program hit with a TV ban. Brewer — who never coached again — was fired on July 12, one day after athletic director Warner Alford resigned. During the 1996 Ole Miss-Mississippi State game in Oxford, Ole Miss booster Brad Lott got into a racially charged shouting match with Mississippi State defensive tackle Eric Dotson, who had accused Lott of NCAA violations during the investigation. Lott was soon after disassociated by Ole Miss.

Alabama, 2002

In the words of Committee on Infractions chairman Thomas Yeager, Alabama was “staring down the barrel of a gun” of the NCAA’s death penalty in the most infamous violations case since SMU’s program was disbanded in 1987. At the center of the case were Memphis high school star Albert Means and Crimson Tide booster Logan Young, who agreed in 2000 to pay more than $100,000 to Means’ high school coaches in order to steer Means to Alabama. Also, Crimson Tide boosters Wendell Smith and Ray Keller were charged with paying $20,000 in 1995 to North Jackson High School standout Kenny Smith, who never enrolled at Alabama and later played at Tennessee. Crimson Tide linebacker Travis Carroll was given complimentary use of a car, which a booster repossessed when Carroll transferred to Florida in 1999.

Alabama was placed on probation for five years, docked 21 scholarships over a three-year period and given a two-year postseason ban. Young, Smith, Keller and the fourth booster were all disassociated from Alabama. Former assistant coaches Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams were charged with unethical conduct, Cottrell for failing to disclose loans he had received from Young.

Means transferred to Memphis, where he was granted immediate eligibility, but never became an impact player. Carroll was a solid player at Florida, and later played briefly in the NFL. Young died at age 65 in 2006 under mysterious circumstances, having been found dead in his home after what was deemed by authorities to be an accidental fall. Cottrell later sued the NCAA due to use of a “secret witness” against him (later revealed to be recruiting analyst Tom Culpepper) and was awarded $30 million by a Tuscaloosa court, but that judgment was later overturned. He is currently head coach at Mobile Christian High School.

Alabama, 2003
A year after the indignity of the Albert Means affair, Alabama football endured the all-out embarrassment of the Mike Price scandal. Head coach Dennis Franchione flew the coop following the 2002 season, with the Crimson Tide still facing another year of NCAA sanctions. Alabama athletics director Mal Moore brought in veteran coach Mike Price, who had had an up-and-down, but largely successful tenure at Washington State.

But soon after arriving in Tuscaloosa, things unraveled for Price, who clearly wasn’t ready for the fishbowl existence he’d experience as Alabama head coach. Rumors of his after-hours carousing spread throughout town, culminating in a now-infamous trip to a celebrity pro-am golf tournament on the Florida Gulf Coast.

After the golf outing, Price wound up at a local gentleman’s club and later in the company of an exotic dance, who charged more than $1,000 to Price’s credit card. After news of Price’s adventure broke online and then on a statewide radio show before spreading throughout the media, Price was fired without ever coaching a game at Alabama (he later wound up coaching for several semi-successful seasons at UTEP). Forced to scramble for a coach in May, Alabama hired Mike Shula, who went 26-23 in four seasons before being fired to make way for Nick Saban.

So where would you rank the current Ole Miss scandal among this group? I’ll take your questions and comments on that or anything else on your mind beginning at 10 a.m.

Could Auburn’s Kendall Veach move to catcher in 2018?

Before crouching down behind the plate Saturday night at Jane B. Moore Field, Kendall Veach warned Ashlee Swindle that she was “a little rusty” at catcher.

Derrick Brown ‘going through the transformation’ entering Year 2 at Auburn

“Derrick has a lot of goals, and he’s staying focused so he can achieve those goals. That’s the main thing right now. He knows what he wants to do.”

Derrick Brown ‘going through the transformation’ entering Year 2 at Auburn

"Derrick has a lot of goals, and he's staying focused so he can achieve those goals. That's the main thing right now. He knows what he wants to do."

Derrick Brown’s parents see a big difference.

As the sophomore defensive lineman’s father put it, Brown “now looks even more like an SEC defensive tackle.”

It’s part of the reason Auburn is so confident that the former five-star recruit is set for a breakthrough year after contributing 11 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery as a freshman last season.

The 6-foot-5, 316-pound Georgia native has gotten stronger, dropped some bad weight and is noticeably more muscular in his upper body heading into Year 2 with the Tigers.

“He’s going through the transformation,” said Brown’s mom, Martha Brown. “From high school to right now, I can see where his body has changed. The training and his diet and everything is working out for him.”

Brown, who is competing for Montravius Adams’ vacated spot at defensive tackle, had a good spring and has followed that up with a strong summer, according to Tigers defensive line coach Rodney Garner.

Brown’s father said his son’s bench press is now up to about 420 pounds.

“I was pleased with Derrick’s spring. I actually have been pleased with Derrick overall, period,” Garner said of Brown, who made three tackles during Auburn’s spring game. “He and (fellow sophomore defensive lineman Marlon Davidson) were two really mature young men coming in. I think they’ve done a really good job of handling expectations. I think you can see constant growth and their maturity.

“Just talking to (strength and conditioning coach Ryan’s Russell), I think he’s been really pleased with them in the offseason program and the way the guys are approaching the offseason. Even though (Brown’s) going to be a rising sophomore, he’s taking more ownership. He seizes the opportunity that this is my team and really mature for his age.”

The progress with the physical transformation will surely help Brown. So will his increased comfort level with Auburn’s playbook and his responsibilities along the defensive line.

Brown didn’t have a playbook in high school and has acknowledged that he struggled some with learning the Tigers’ playbook last year.

It didn’t help that Brown was a summer enrollee and didn’t arrive at Auburn until three months before the start of the season.

“He’s expressed that learning the playbook and getting comfortable with the plays was (a priority),” said Brown’s father, James Brown. “Just being able to play with confidence and knowing what’s going on. It’s hard to go 100-percent full speed when you’re not quite certain with your assignments and everything. But he feels pretty confident going into fall camp.”

Brown has talked to his father about how Auburn is going to need some defensive linemen to step up with Adams and Buck end Carl Lawson now in the NFL.

Brown’s classmate, Davidson, is one that will be depended on to be a big contributor along the defensive line.

Brown is another.

“He feels good about the upcoming year,” Martha Brown said. “Derrick has a lot of goals, and he’s staying focused so he can achieve those goals. That’s the main thing right now. He knows what he wants to do.”

Auburn football: Pardon the press conference, another boom for the Tigers – SECcountry.com

Auburn football: Pardon the press conference, another boom for the Tigers
SECcountry.com
Welcome to SEC Country's daily War Eagle Wakeup, a rundown of everything happening in Auburn football and Auburn Tigers athletics with Lauren Shute. Here's a look at what you might have missed on Monday: …

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Auburn opponent preview: LSU

Auburn’s Oct. 14 trip to Baton Rouge, La., is likely one LSU fans have circled on their calendars.

Auburn News and Notes: 7/25/17 Edition

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“You know, I mean, Hugh is one of my good friends in this business. He’s one of the good guys in college football.” Those words, in one form or fashion, have been said many times by Gus Malzahn about Hugh Freeze. We may never know the extent of Freeze’s indiscretions, and it may not be fair to judge a man based upon a single one-minute phone call. What we do know is that what we all thought of Freeze and the Ole Miss program circa signing day 2013.

Auburn has landed some terrific signing classes, but the class that the Rebels landed in 2013 was astounding in any frame of reference, whether compared to Alabama or to the history of a floundering Ole Miss program. From the very beginning, it seemed that something wasn’t right in The Grove, and that feeling was exacerbated with two straight wins over Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. All the bits of evidence, taken separately, could be dismissed. All together, it painted a picture of possible corruption. 

Hugh Freeze could have fooled just about everyone, especially rabid fans of the program. However, you can’t tell me that he could fool his athletic director. It’s just as hard for me to know what to make of a “good friend” of his to be that fooled. The question is, were Freeze and Malzhan just not as close as they let on, was Malzahn covering for his close friend, or was Gus duped? 

***

Basketball star Austin Wiley suffered a stress fracture in his left leg during a quarterfinal game against Germany. As most know, Team USA took home the bronze. Wiley was playing fantastic basketball, averaging a double-double during the tournament. He was the only American to do so, despite averaging under 20 minutes per contest. The rising sophomore will not play when Auburn takes a trip to Italy, and the injury will set him back four to six weeks.

It is slightly disconcerting to see this injury because big men of Wiley’s size sometimes suffer from chronic leg and knee injuries. Wiley will not need surgery, but it is imperative that he make the most of his rest time for Auburn basketball is just 100-odd days away. It surely seems that Auburn and Coach Bruce Pearl are on the precipice of greatness this coming season. To do that, Wiley and Chuma Okeke must get healthy. (Okeke went home early with a knee injury.)

***

The Team USA Women’s Fastpitch Team took on the Alabama All-Stars in Auburn in a fantastic exhibition that didn’t get nearly the publicity it deserved. Saturday night, Auburn legend Kasey Cooper made her final plate appearance at Jane B. Moore Field, and it went just like fans of Coop expected: another long ball.

Team USA steamrolled the Alabama Stars, but the score isn’t nearly the important part of the story.

Four Auburn Tigers took the field on a team of collegiate players from across the Heart of Dixie. Among those were KK CrockerVictoria DraperAshlee Swindle and Kendall Veach

“I’ve always wanted to play for Team USA, but to play against them was even better,” stated Crocker. “It was fun playing against Kasey; we had our little chat at second base, so that was fun.”

All four of Auburn’s players made contributions in the field and, most importantly, all three hitters managed to record hits. Veach led the way by going 2-for-2, including a double. After being an afterthought, she was a surprise for softball fans as she was called upon to replace Tannon Snow at first base at the beginning of the season. Though she had some mistakes at first base, she was terrific at the plate. And, the surprise of the year may have come Saturday night as Veach found her way behind the plate. 

As many know, standout catcher Carlee “Clutch” Wallace made a surprising move to transfer to Baylor after the season. Behind her would be Courtney Shea, who was a part-time starter at catcher and full-time designated hitter. 

Is Veach’s start at catcher a sign of things to come? Certainly current head coach Clint Myers could have the ears of Alabama All-Stars’ coaches and former Auburn standouts,  Chris Steiner-Wilcoxson and Holly Currie. Could this have been planned? What would that mean?

Myers has been adamant that both Tannon and freshman sibling Taylon Snow (the number-one recruit in the country) would be on campus for the 2018 season. Tannon’s returning to first would free up Veach. With the number of games played, it makes sense to have a second catcher, especially considering that either she or Shea are good enough hitters to make the lineup every game. 

Until next time …

The post Auburn News and Notes: 7/25/17 Edition appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

Auburn opponent early scouting report: Texas A&M

A look at Auburn’s final road game of the regular season.

Auburn opponent early scouting report: Texas A&M

A look at Auburn's final road game of the regular season.

We’re taking an early look at Auburn’s opponents for the 2017 regular season. This 12-part series will feature analysis and insight from beat reporters who cover the 12 teams Auburn will play this year. Today we look at the final road game of the regular season, at College Station.

Texas A&M

Game date & time: Kyle Field, Nov. 4 at TBA

2016 record: (8-5, 4-4 SEC)

Coach: Kevin Sumlin, sixth year at Texas A&M (79-38, 44-21 at Texas A&M)

Betting line: Not yet posted

Returning starters: 5 offense, 7 defense, 2 specialist

Most important returning players: RB Trayveon Williams, WR Christian Kirk, LB Otaro Alaka, DB Armani Watts, DB Donovan Wilson

Most critical departures: QB Trevor Knight, WR Josh Reynolds, WR Ricky Seals-Jones, DE Myles Garrett, DE Daeshon Hall, LB Shaan Washington

Insight from Texas A&M beat reporter Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman):

  1. What is the outlook on Texas A&M’s quarterback competition heading into the season?
    Plenty of times in these situations the coaches will have a pretty strong inkling of who will start, even if they don’t reveal as much, but in this situation I believe it’s still wide open. I wouldn’t blame the coaches if “journeyman” senior Jake Hubenak earned the start at UCLA on Sept. 3, considering freshmen Nick Starkel and Kellen Mond have never taken a college snap. Longer term, it wouldn’t surprise me if Starkel was the guy earning the majority of snaps. He has the strongest arm of the three, and has progressed quite a bit in his year-and-a-half on campus.
  2. If he doesn’t win the job before the season, what would it take for Kellen Mond to be the starter by the Auburn game? Did Kevin Sumlin learn from the Kyler Murray/Kyle Allen situation?
    Rivals had Mond as a five-star out of IMG Academy, but the spring showed he still has a long way to go in terms of being a starter in the SEC. Mond is athletic, but his passing needs plenty of improvement and, honestly, he’d benefit greatly from a redshirt season (although that likely won’t happen). Sumlin learned from the Kyle Allen/Kyler Murray imbroglio not to sign entitled five stars in consecutive seasons – although he really wasn’t left much choice with the legacy Murray (son of A&M legend Kevin Murray).
  3. How much of a philosophical shift has it been for Texas A&M to have a 1,000-yard rusher and likely expect him to repeat?
    A&M’s offense is much different than when the Aggies entered the SEC with a fast, wide-open attack behind then-coordinator Kliff Kingsbury. Second-year coordinator Noel Mazzone tries to chew up more clock with his approach – therefore ideally helping out the defense – and that’s where running backs Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford come in. Williams was the first true freshman in A&M history to rush for 1,000 yards, although he hit the freshman wall later in the season. He’ll be given every chance to repeat on the 1,000-yard front, although Ford has slimmed up a bit from last season and should earn his fair share of carries.
  4. How do the Aggies plan to replace Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall?
    The Aggies signed one of the top junior-college defensive ends in Micheal Clemons, and he’ll compete with veterans Qualen Cunningham and Jarrett Johnson for playing time. Truth is, the Aggies can’t come close to replacing the monster that was Garrett, who played through plenty of pain last season, including in the Texas Bowl loss to Kansas State. Expect A&M to show more multiple defensive fronts than it has in the past, as third-year coordinator John Chavis tries to fool more offenses than he has while at A&M. Over the past couple of years he could just rely on Garrett and Hall to try and harass the quarterback.
  5. A win for Texas A&M against Auburn would mean? A loss for Texas A&M to Auburn would mean?
    Everyone including Kevin Sumlin knows he’s coaching for his job this season after three consecutive 8-5 finishes, and a home win against the Tigers likely is vital in improving on eight victories. The Aggies own their toughest non-SEC West schedule since entering the league, considering they open at UCLA and play at two-time SEC East champion Florida in mid-October. A loss by the home team, though, has come to be expected in this weird A&M-Auburn series, considering the visitor has won all five previous games with the Aggies in the SEC West, perhaps A&M’s oddest stat since joining the league.

Auburn story lines:

  • End of the road
    This is the last of a crucial three-game road stretch and comes after an open week. It’s also Auburn’s last road game of the regular season.
  • Most pivotal game?
    After moving earlier on the schedule last season, this game is back to late in the season and has proven to have a huge impact on four Auburn seasons from 2012-15. Depending where each team is in the standings, the loser might be completely out of the race in the SEC West, or in the case of Kevin Sumlin, out of a job.
  • Containing Williams
    Auburn could not contain Trayveon Williams in last year’s game, as he had eight carries for 127 yards and a touchdown. Though 89 yards came on one run, that’s still 38 yards on seven other carries.
  • JF3 vs. Watts
    Armani Watts was critical of John Franklin III’s ability as a passer during last year’s game. With Franklin now at receiver, he may get a chance to test the Aggies safety in coverage.
  • Stidham, Martin & James in Texas
    It wasn’t that long ago that Auburn had no players from the Lone Star State. Now there are four in Jarrett Stidham, Kam Martin, Darius James and Spencer Nigh.

Watts: ‘Nothing against’ John Franklin III in saying he ‘can’t throw’

Early scouting reports: Georgia Southern | Clemson Mercer MissouriMississippi StateOle Miss LSUArkansas

Texas A&M story lines:

  • Sumlin’s job security
    The entire season will be a week-to-week review of Sumlin’s tenure and evaluation of if he’s best for the future.
  • QB play
    The Aggies enter fall camp with a legitimate quarterback battle. If the position isn’t settled by now it could easily be like Auburn’s visit to College Station two years ago, when Kyler Murray took over the offense.
  • Defending home field
    The road team has won all five meetings in the series since TAMU joined the SEC

An Auburn win would mean:

Likely staying in contention in the SEC West and keeping a ridiculous road-team win streak alive in this series. The Tigers would return home for the Georgia game potentially in the national spotlight.

An Auburn loss would mean:

Possibly being knocked out of the race in the West at the beginning of November. That scenario would make Auburn’s season, if not Gus Malzahn’s future, hinge entirely on the outcome of rivalry games with Georgia and Alabama.

The Countdown to Kickoff: The SEC’s best No. 39

There are 39 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 39 in SEC football history is Alabama defensive end E.J. Junior.

AL.com is counting down to the 2017 SEC football season on Sept. 2 by presenting the No. 1 player to wear each number 1 through 99 in the conference’s history. There are 39 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 39 is Alabama defensive end E.J. Junior.

Alabama did a lot of winning from 1977 through 1980, and defensive end E.J. Junior had a lot to do with that.

Junior earned first-team All-SEC recognition for the 1978, 1979 and 1980 seasons and, by his senior season, had worked his way up to unanimous All-American status.

During Junior’s time at Alabama, the Crimson Tide posted a 24-1 conference record, won three SEC championships and went 44-4 overall.

The victories include a 28-game winning streak that is the longest in SEC history.

The Tide came close to earning three consecutive national championships during Junior’s collegiate career.

In 1978, the Tide was the championship pick of The Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation, but the final coaches poll favored Southern Cal as the best team. Southern Cal defeated Alabama 24-14 in Birmingham in the third game of the 1978 season, but the Trojans lost three weeks later 20-7 to Arizona State. Both the Tide and Trojans finished the season with one loss.

In 1979, the Tide finished 12-0 and added the coaches-poll championship to the three it had won the previous season.

The two titles came after Alabama finished second in the polls in 1977 in a galling result for Tide fans.

That season, Alabama lost its second game 31-24 at Nebraska, but went into the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State ranked No. 3 in the nation in the AP poll. The Tide beat the No. 9 Buckeyes 35-6 on Jan. 2, 1978, after No. 5 Notre Dame had knocked off No. 1 and previously unbeaten Texas 38-10 in the Cotton Bowl. No. 2 Oklahoma also lost that day, falling to No. 6 Arkansas 31-6 in the Orange Bowl.

When the final polls came out, the AP, UPI (the coaches), FWAA and NFF all had Notre Dame at No. 1 for the 1977 season.

During Junior’s all-conference seasons, Alabama led the SEC in scoring defense and rushing defense each year. The Tide also had the best total defense and passing defense in 1979 and 1980.

The undefeated 1979 team led the nation in scoring defense, yielding an average of 5.6 points per game.  

Runner-up at No. 39: Auburn linebacker Kurt Crain  

FOR MORE OF AL.COM’S COMPREHENSIVE COVERAGE OF THE SEC, GO TO OUR SEC PAGE

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