Former Auburn WR Tony Stevens hopes his speed gives him shot at making NFL roster

Through the East-West Shrine Game January, through Auburn’s Pro Day in March and through every part of the pre-draft process until now, Tony Stevens has tried to show NFL teams one thing in particular.

Q&A with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey: NCAA recruiting rules changes, football staff sizes, more

Live updates from UAB's campus, where SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is holding a Q&A during the APSE Southeast Region meeting in Birmingham.

Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey held an hour-long question-and-answer segment at the Associated Press Sports Editors region meeting on UAB’s campus in Birmingham on Monday afternoon.

Sankey spoke at length about the NCAA’s recently approved rules package regarding recruiting, the league’s serious misconduct policy, football staff sizes and men’s basketball, among other topics.

Below are highlights and excerpts from Sankey’s interview on Monday afternoon.

What are your thoughts on the NCAA’s recently passed rules package regarding recruiting?

“I think the continuing review of recruiting that’s going to happen. Recruiting’s a dynamic environment, and when you’re in a dynamic environment change is going to happen. I have not been one to either accept or dismiss wholesale all of the changes. I think you have to look at each with intent and then take a position.

“Last year when we were here we were talking a lot about summer and the unregulated environment that existed around football summer camps. Clearly from my perspective the change there with the timing and the circumstances of those camps is something I see as positive from the football oversight committee.

“The dead periods that have been identified, I generally think are positive. I’m hopeful that there will be a continuing review of those dead periods, both length and timing.

“One of the best examples that justify those dead periods is there’s been a two-week dead late June, early July dead period in football. When you talk with coaches, they have embraced that because if they’re away catching their breath, they’re not worrying about who’s visiting campus because prospects aren’t able to visit.

“So those dead periods allow coaches to focus on their teams rather than on recruiting or maybe on themselves. When we get into things like the early visit opportunity, that’s a concern for me. Not that I’m just a person who says you can never have early official visits. I think those will come in other sports as well. As we look at the normal college evaluation process and college visit process, those happen.

“But we didn’t really adjust in what I view as an effective way. Take our footballl student leadership council, in February they met. They said why would you bring people to campus when it’s not a regular academic term? Why would you have visits in June? These visits should be anchored during a regular academic year. We proposed an amendment to just make them in April because everyone’s in class in April. March would have been a positive addition.

“But the idea of bringing young people to visit a campus when you’re not having regular campus life is not a direction we would support.

“What’s called a hard cap on signing, I don’t think that accomplishes what it’s intended to accomplish. I think what it’s going to do is remove some opportunities that should exist. So somebody signs, isn’t eligible for some reason, the school is prohibited from replacing that scholarship with someone new, an initial counter.

“I don’t view that as necessarily healthy. Yet our staff received some interpretive guidance where you could sign over 25. Keep in mind the SEC on its own instituted a signing limit right at 25, a very specific cap. We proposed expanding the time of counting. We think that’s a much more effective way to deal with the issue than what’s been introduced, but that wasn’t the majority of the council’s opinion.

“Those two pieces, I don’t view as healthy. I’ve yet to understand why, with all the discussion about personnel in a recruiting package, a 10th assistant coach was added. I think it was viewed as a bit of a sweetener, if you will.

“But the personnel, staffing conversation is an important one. And I’m not one who says well they’ve got this many. I don’t think that’s how we’re going to solve these issues.

“The Southeastern Conference advocated for some change in overall personnel management. I think our leadership is hopeful there will be a meaningful discuss of overall personnel in football, but not to some lowest common denominator. It’s not just about numbers, it’s perhaps about a duty. We still want entry opportunities for people. The point that there’s been criticism about that, I think some of it’s a little bit too fine. There are still opportunities so with what’s called an individual associated with a prospect, that’s a rule that we generated that I can’t move into the college ranks from high school. (that’s what it sounded like, garbled)

“You can still move into the college ranks from a high school coach. You move in either as a coach on the field, I think a graduate assistant is one of those opportunities, or you move to a university where they’re not recruiting your high school students. So there are still those opportunities. I generally think that’s an OK adjustment, but I think all of this should be part of a bigger, intentional conversation. It is not about reducing people to whatever the lowest common denominator is nationally.

“I think there’s some good in there and I think there’s clearly some issues we did no support as a league and don’t think are heading in the right direction at this moment. Hopefully they will be subject to further review sooner rather than later. But through every piece of that, I am absolutely certain our schools will continue to recruit successfully at the highest level of college football. There’s been nothing to indicate otherwise.”

What are your feelings on the NCAA’s elimination of two-a-days and whether that would lengthen a season that some feel is too long already?

“Based on the emerging medical feedback, the NCAA’s chief medical officer Brian Hainline is very diligent in providing information, and it appears that is the right step, so that’s a perspective and I respect the NCAA has a chief medical officer to provide that guidance. We are prepared to walk down the same path that the NCAA just did on removing two-a-days based on that information. Now the question is what happens during the full season? Actually, Dr. Hainline’s work contemplated year-round practice guidelines to reduce contact during the regular season, the elimination of two-a-days and we in many ways have year-round preparation for football games as we do other sports, so how that plays out from team to team may be different. Part of what I understand from coaches is you’re now backing the actual practice up a week earlier, and that’s caused some frustration, which I understand as we learn more about the game we want to be attentive to adapting the game to make sure we, to the greatest extent possible, support the health and safety of its participants.”

Should officials be held publicly accountable by the league office when they make an error?

“Well, there’s a should and then there’s specific circumstances. We have issued some statements when there are specific errors around application. I don’t think we should be in the situation of evaluating through a press release or a response to the media every judgment call that’s made in the game. You referenced holding; holding was it, or wasn’t it? So, we don’t officiate based on still photos. We don’t officiate based on different perspectives that are a moment in time, and those evaluations are made around a full play and a full season. Should we? We’re prepared to acknowledge improper application of rules when they occur. I’m not one who thinks you necessarily gain from a suspension, so I think to your earlier question, our officials have performed well. We haven’t seen some of the circumstances you’ve seen around this country with just complete error in application, and I hope we don’t see that. If we need to deal with that publicly, we will, but I’ve not had to, so I’m not going to respond to every ‘did this happen or did that happen?’ I think the reality is the vast, vast, vast majority of the times they get it right in very challenging situations.”

With recent events at Georgia and Indiana, do you expect and foresee the serious conduct policy being expanded or being addressed for expansion during spring meetings next month?

“I won’t predict whether it will or won’t, but moving back to my previous statement, it certainly is a conversation that takes place in a lot of different ways. It will continue. As you noted, Indiana has developed a policy based that they’ve modeled on what we implemented two years ago. Keep in mind, we updated last year. Right now do I have an update that will be introduced in Destin? No, but there’s still time before we get to see all those proposals in front of us.”

In that update last year, there was the due diligence component. In light of Dede Westbrook situation (at Oklahoma), where you have a prominent player nationally at another major school that claims to have done due diligence and subsequently it’s discovered there was another arrest for domestic violence that wasn’t discovered during so-called due diligence; if plausible deniability could be presented, should there be further restrictions to the serious misconduct rule or should the conference handle the due diligence process in order to eliminate somebody who may not want to find something that could be there but then say “we had a third party look into it; we’re done. We have plausible deniability here. Should the conference be the ones to perform due diligence?

“It seems to me that the key in all of that is ‘in another conference.'”

But that team from “another conference” played multiple SEC schools

“I don’t govern another conference.”

Georgia dismissed D’antne Demery for hitting a woman. Will the SEC stop him from going to another SEC school?

“At the time of a National Letter of Intent is signed an SEC financial aid agreement is signed as well and in there is a recruiting prohibition. So the other schools in the league are prohibited in the league are prohibited from recruiting individuals who signed that agreement and that’s in place right now, for each signee.”

Does the SEC have a stance now on support staff sizes and how those roles are differentiated? Do you expect that conversation to carry on moving forward?

“Well, based on this question, I’m sure it will be a conversation in Destin, but it was a conversation I think back in 2010 in Destin. This is not a new issue or conversation in the Southeastern Conference. In fact, that others are ready to join the conversation is I think something that our leadership would view as well-received. What’s never been an acceptable piece is to say, ‘well, the smallest staff size in Division I is this, so we’re all going to go to that.’ That’s not appropriate. This is about, and I don’t know that ‘staff size’ is actually the right label for the conversation; I think it’s ‘what’s the personnel plan for football?’ What should it be at the college level? That’s a healthy conversation and it’s one that’s not been attended to. There’s not been a standard. We’ve not acted or self-imposed a standard. We do things around our staff. We monitor the sizes. We monitor the roles. We ask our athletics directors and coaches to sign off on who’s actually engaged in on-field coaching. We’ve been doing that now, again, for like six or seven years. I think that’s been helpful, but we’ve not capped numbers, and I don’t know that capping numbers is the appropriate direction for anyone.”

Fair to say that as SEC commissioner, you know staff sizes for each of your member institutions?

“I can’t quote you that number. I think (Big 12 commissioner) Bob (Bowlsby) put a number out there that doesn’t track on numbers we have, so I’m not sure who that number applied to nationally. But we, as part of this effort, have identified compliance with the categories: the on-field coaching category, then there’s the strength coach definition, then there’s other support members that I’m, as commissioner, unable to quote those numbers to you, but do we have someone with the ability to understand what our staff sizes are? Yes. We share that information, as well, among our other institutions.”

Why should football staff sizes be regulated at all?

“Why? Well I think that what I talked about, I think I was really intentional to say, I think staff size is the wrong moniker. I hope the conversation talks about what’s the staff (inaudible) or what’s the full staffing plan around football. We’ve had staff size issues in every sport or structures in every sport. The fact that there’s an increase in any number of sports it seems a relevant conversation. I really think again it’s a staffing management approach for college sports and college football si the question that I was asked about so it was an effective response in that context.”

Concerned that football has the fewest coaches per player?

“I think that’s a relevant point. Go back we’ll give Derek Dooley credit for being the first one who first brought it up in coach’s meeting and had done the work to having a look at per student-athlete, the coach to student-athlete ratio by sport. I don’t know that that’s all transferable and applicable sport to sport because they’re very different but as I talked about an overall staffing plan around football I do think that topic’s relevant for consideration.”

You said the graduate transfer rule would come up at spring meetings, particularly in light of academics. Last year you said you’ve never apologized for any rule in this conference and were prideful of increased academic restrictions. Now you said you’re likely to pull back on some of those internal policies in regards to grad transfers. What do you foresee changing on the grad transfer rule regarding academics?

“I guess we’ll see in Destin, first of all. All of those quotes are accurate. We’ve not apologized for having our own policies. We won’t. That doesn’t mean we’ll always be consistent. We’ve talked about recruiting being a dynamic situation and you have to adjust to those from time to time. We did regarding football camps, as you’ll recall last year. I do expect one on who views the grad transfer rules as appropriate. That’s obviously been a changing situation in college athletics. But I’m hoping we still have a standard of expecting young people to go to class and engaging in campus life if they’re a graduate student transferring in to play the last season or two of their athletics eligibility.”

Will lowering restrictions imposed by the athlete’s present school (i.e. can’t transfer in conference) be addressed by the transfer working group?

“I am pleased that there is an NCAA group that will look at transfers. Again, I think we’re at a time when change is almost expected. Now how that change manifests itself I don’t know. I said in an interviewSaturdaythat I’m one who advocates looking from the academic center of this conversation outward. In other words, as people move, and this was statistics from the committee I was on years ago, as people transfer their likelihood of graduating diminishes across the spectrum of grade points. That’s why there’s a 2.6 GPA expectation around APR, the APR construct in transfer. Sometimes a year residence is appropriate. I think all of those, the restrictions, all of those should be a part of this conversation. I think for now I’ll hold what I think because the group, if I keep in mind sequencing is to be formally appointed by the Board of Directorson Wednesday, but I think it’s an important conversation and I hope that the working group is efficient from a time standpoint in developing some solutions that can be considered.”

Pleased with men’s basketball scheduling? Is it getting better?

“Yeah, I think clearly it is. We’ve put some policies in place and if you go back under Mike’s leadership we started that conversation. It was more of a check-with-me standard and last year we went to a more objective set of targets or a target for non-conference scheduling. That produces Vanderbilt who had, depending on what metric you look at, the toughest out of conference schedule. Then you had a group of programs: Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, who was in the 200s a year ago, I think now this past year was in the 20s or so. We’ve seen progress in each of those categories. We’re all connected in this universe, we don’t want to force programs to over schedule especially when there’s transition, but at our level we want to play quality opponents with some level of frequency. We also know that there’s of those other games a little bit of a breather maybe, although coaches will never tell you it’s a breather, right? So you’re trying to find that right balance for home games, when you’re on the road, quality opponents at home, quality opponents on the road, neutral-site opponents, and I think we found a good approach. At least the early returns indicate that. it’s one that we’ll continue and we’ll continue to monitor as well to see if it works.”

Staying on basketball, when we were here a year ago, you expressed disappointment at where the league was as far as competitiveness. This year you had 5 in NCAAT. How do you assess progress made and what do you think the next step is?

“I would go back to last year, and I appreciate the graciousness of the question, but I would have just said disappointment. Not even a little bit of disappointment. It was disappointing to have three teams in the NCAA Tournament. In fact, I’ve remarked that one of the more uncomfortable days of my tenure that first year was that Selection Sunday, just not knowing. Maybe it was two, we had Vanderbilt in Dayton, so they were one of the later teams in the NCAA Tournament by an at-large selection. I am, one, very encouraged by the progress made over the last year. Very encouraged. We had five teams in. All five teams represented themselves well. Vanderbilt lost to Northwestern but had the ball at the end with a chance to win on a shot. Arkansas won and gave North Carolina a great game and the other three made it into the Sweet 16.

“Through the season, we saw real progress. I think you have to go back to the beginning of last year to really understand what happened last year and why it was important. We were, as a league, I think this is a Ken Pomeroy stat, the league with the fewest returning minutes on the floor on our rosters. We had players playing in the SEC who just hadn’t been on a college basketball floor by comparison to our competitors. You go back to November and December, we won some big games. The Kentucky-North Carolina game was a great game at that point, then North Carolina won in the NCAA Tournament. Then we had a whole bunch of close losses. Then you watch teams progress, we go to the SEC/Big 12 Challenge and we go 5-5. I don’t want us to tie, I’d like us to prevail. Then you saw what happened among the five teams in the NCAA Tournament and even some ebb and flow in February. I think all of those are some really healthy signs of competitive success.

“Now, I just talked about 13 softball teams and maybe eight or nine baseball teams, our expectations are to perform at that level. You go back historically and look, when we were a 12-team league, we had six and seven teams selected. Our goal should be to see seven and eight teams selected to the NCAA Tournament, then once you’re selected to have success. Those are kind of the objectives. Hopefully in there is an answer to the question. I think we’ve hired coaches in this league, the young coaches have done incredibly well. You look at Bryce (Drew), in one year going to the NCAA Tournament, Mike White is Coach of the Year in his second year. We bring in two new coaches this year in Cuonzo (Martin), who’s got experience at Tennessee and Will Wade, who’s got two Division I stops. Combine them with what’s happening around the league, all of which I think show signs of promise. Hopefully the disappointment won’t be there and I’ll feel more like I did this March, which we’d like to have even more success but we’re proud when your teams compete the way they did.”

Have you been made aware of changes Georgia has made to media policy regarding reporting injuries at practice?

“I was made aware in a question in the stadium press box Saturday and in a conversation with one of our staff afterwards. I don’t know that I have the details to be an expert.”

What is your reaction and could SEC think at all about guidelines conference wide?

“I did not have a reaction when I was asked, and the answer I provided Saturday is that’s not an agenda topic for conversation, certainly at present.”

Should conference take a policy and set the standard for things as simple as roster updates or what we can see as an open practice?

“You come at that from a very interesting perspective. It is not a topic of conversation. It arose because an institution made decisions based on information that may be shared as I understand it. The policy is it came out of a specific circumstance that I think appropriately troubled that athletic department how I understand it.

“There’s likely a two-way street. I’d be careful just going down the road that this is all about student athlete safety. Our institutions take great care in supporting student athletes in the right way. They have doctors engaged with young people to monitor their care and status.

“I want to be careful that somehow, whatever policy exists on different campus, does not result in the proper treatment of young people. I think what happens on a daily basis is just the opposite on our campuses. You may have a different feeling, but that’s the reality on our campuses.”

So, should SEC regulate media policies?

Should. What’s a conference … we do a lot of things. You could have should about anything you can. We talk and I responded to James about academic policies we have. Should we do that? Yes. How far should we go? What’s our core purpose? Is it to ensure uniform media information – every week, month, quarter?

“We’ve not done that. That’s not been a central conversation. NFL, different professional leagues, have different policies. They’ve clearly said that’s part of their role. Right now, that’s how I view the issue.

Should the SEC have a uniform drug policy across its member institutions?

“We’ve talked and our institutions are allowed to implement their own drug testing and accountability. The NCAA policy says if you have one, follow it.

Does the length of SEC football games concern you?

“You can go back, it was an overtime game, A&M, tipped four hours. There was a number of CBS games that were in the 3:15 range. We’re attentive to the lengths of games. It’s a conversation among our athletics directors. On the other hand, I actually receive emails and probably generate emails and letters, that say when I make the decision to go to campus, I’m not hurrying to leave. I’ll get different points form viewers, especially among the Southeastern Conference games, whether it’s 5 or 8 minutes, that’s not the decision point for me.

“I am one and Steve Shaw and I have talked, about how we continue to move the game along from a management standpoint. That’s actually a point of conversation that will continue to develop in advance of next season. I want to be careful about changes to the structure of the game. But next year is nationally a rules-making cycle for the NCAA. I would expect the length of game issue to be a central part of that conversation.”

How do you balance your role on NCAA Committee on Infractions with being SEC commissioner, especially regarding Ole Miss?

“I’m fully recused from anything involving any SEC university. Since I’ve been a member of the committee on infractions, Tennessee has appeared before the committee twice, Florida and Georgia have, there have been some others. There’s been summary disposition reports, including someone from Alabama (Bo Davis), I have nothing to do with those from a committee on infractions standpoint at all.

“I’m not involved — and this is an incorrect notion I think exists — in granting immunity around SEC student athlete, I’m simply walled off completely from those. I don’t talk colleagues on the committee on infractions. I serve in an advisory role for any of our institutions and have for years.”

Any feelings on granting immunity as a tool for the COI?

“No, not for this purpose.”

What’s your response to UNC arguing for a conflict of interest?

“Um, I’m not going to comment on the North Carolina case. We have corresponded appropriately in the NCAA release statements after others have released information. I think those capture fully the perspective of what works on the committee on infraction. I will now keep in mind that I served on the committee of infractions in 2011 for a prior North Carolina case, as have others.”

Take you back to the UF-LSU situationlast fallwith Hurricane Matthew? How do you prevent that? And what would have happened if UF didn’t step up and reschedule the game at LSU?

“I won’t deal with the second one, I know that’s a hypothetical and not what occurred. Our athletic directors and presidents have clarified our commissioner regulations in meetings in December and March, and I think we’ve made this public, but I know have the authority to schedule a game under certain circumstances. But our hope is that we have wonderful weather each weekend through the Fall, but we’ll continue to prepare for that eventuality. And one of those is to make clear the commissioner’s authority in determining those games.”

Could it have played out differently? Would you have liked that?

“I’m not going to relive last fall. I think I was clear then and the game was played and we’ll adjust policies accordingly.”

You said it was an “unhealthy step” afterward, what would that have been?

“I stand by that at that time. We played a game and we were able to come to an agreement on playing that game.”

Q&A with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey: NCAA recruiting rules changes, football staff sizes, more

Live updates from UAB’s campus, where SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is holding a Q&A during the APSE Southeast Region meeting in Birmingham.

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Why offering preferred walk-on opportunity at Auburn to Alex Medary was special to Herb Hand

A decade after Dr. Max Medary helped save Herb Hand's life, the gregarious offense line coach offered Medary's son, Alex, an opportunity to be a preferred walk-on at Auburn.

Eleven years ago, Herb Hand was in a hospital bed in Orlando fighting for his life following a freak brain hemorrhage.

The neurosurgeon at Orlando Regional Sand Lake Hospital when Hand arrived on April 24, 2006 was Dr. Max Medary, a former pupil of world renowned surgeon and former Pittsburgh Steelers team doctor Dr. Julian Bailes, who helped identify chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in former NFL players.

A decade after Dr. Medary helped save Hand’s life, the gregarious offense line coach got the opportunity to return the favor as best he could, offering Medary’s son, Alex, an opportunity to be a preferred walk-on H-back at Auburn.

“It was pretty awesome, but it was overwhelming at the same time,” said Alex Medary, who was weighing offers to go to Ivy League schools. “I had sit down and think about what I really wanted to do.”

Hand began recruiting Alex Medary while he was at Penn State and offered the 6-foot-1, 200-pound fullback out of Lake Highland Prep the opportunity as a preferred walk-on following a camp last summer.

“He’s a good enough player to say, ‘Hey we’d love to have you be a part of our program we want you to be an Auburn Tiger,'” Hand said. “This is what I told him throughout the whole process and his parents, is that, is part of the equation that his dad was a big part of a very critical time in my life? Yeah, that’s part of the equation. But ultimately, he’s good enough player to be here, because if he wasn’t a good enough player to come in and hold his own then we wouldn’t have offered him the opportunity.

“Is it special for me to be able to do that? Absolutely. Or us to be able to do that I should say because coach (Gus) Malzahn’s on board with it and everybody here is. They all kind of know the tie-in with him and his dad. So, is that special? Yeah, it’s great. I’m eternally grateful to his father and will be. He’s a great dude.”

Everyone has a story, this guy is a BIG part of mine.
Ten yrs ago I had a brain hemorrhage-Dr. Max Medary was my neurosurgeon.#GameChanger pic.twitter.com/3KmL6J0oPq

— Herb Hand (@CoachHand) January 28, 2017

Malzahn is well aware of how special it was for Hand to offer Alex Medary a chance to play at Auburn.

“There’s no doubt his dad was part of having the emergency surgery and helping save (Hand’s) life,” Malzahn said.

Alex Medary chose to come to the Plains in part because he wants to study architecture, whereAuburn’s undergraduate program is ranked in the top 10 nationally. He might change majors and wait until graduate school for architecture though, depending on how the schedules for football and his future studies come together.

“Auburn is a lot more welcoming and it seemed like a much nicer place; I felt more comfortable,” he said. “The architecture school at Auburn is ranked higher than almost every Ivy League to begin with.”

When he arrives at Auburn on May 28, Alex Medary hopes to weigh around 210 pounds when he joins a group of Tigers H-backs that includes returning starter Chandler Cox, backup Keenan Sweeney and incoming signee John Samuel Shenker.

Also a key member of Lake Highland’s powerhouse lacrosse team, which is competing for a fourth state championship in five years, Alex Medary understands the physically grueling nature of the position as well as how it can be called upon in the passing game.

“I like the idea of out of the backfield routes,” he said, “which I specialized in in high school.”

Max Medary said it was a “heartwarming experience” to see not only the impact of his work on Hand and his family 11 years later, but for his son’s life to be on the cusp of changing as well.

“Obviously, my son was just six or seven years old at the time (of Hand’s brain hemorrhage), we never expected we would be reunited,” Max Medary said. “It’s not about me at all. It’s not necessarily about Herb, it’s about the kid. For him this has been a dream come true. … He couldn’t be happier. In fact, when it was alluded at the time that it was a possibility he didn’t really care about anything else, as far other schools he was interested in pursuing.

“Why would you?”

Why offering preferred walk-on opportunity at Auburn to Alex Medary was special to Herb Hand

A decade after Dr. Max Medary helped save Herb Hand’s life, the gregarious offense line coach offered Medary’s son, Alex, an opportunity to be a preferred walk-on at Auburn.

Auburn football: Music in Jordan-Hare Stadium; win-filled weekend for Tigers – SECcountry.com

SECcountry.com
Auburn football: Music in Jordan-Hare Stadium; win-filled weekend for 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. Today, we discuss the weekend activities on and away from the Plains.

3 trap games for Auburn in 2017 – 247Sports

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Break down of Auburn's running backs following spring practice

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Auburn Baseball Is Proving to SEC How Dangerous It Can Be

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The best surprise  to come out of Auburn this spring has been a rejuvenated baseball program. And Auburn keeps on rolling along as the No.10 Tigers defeated No.11 Arkansas in a three game home-stand over the weekend in what was possibly the biggest series at Plainsman Park in the past seven years. 

Sunday’s game marked the second time this season that Auburn has won a series without one of their starting pitchers. The Tigers had to play Arkansas without starter, Casey Mize who was held out due to a sore shoulder. Just a week ago, Auburn beat South Carolina without the team’s other ace, Keegan Thompson, who was also nursing a much used throwing arm.

But that’s what makes this team so special. The difference in a good team and a contender of any sport, is solid depth. That’s certainly been the case with Auburn this season. Every time the Tigers face a test, someone steps up.

In Sunday’s game that player was senior Andrew Mitchell who came on to pitch the final five innings, giving up a run on three hits, as the Tigers beat the Razorbacks 11-6.

Offensively, the Tigers had 10 extra-base hits, on a season-high 16 hits including eight doubles and two homeruns. Josh Anthonyled the charge. He was 9-for-12 for the series with seven RBIs. 

Mitchell said, “It (the win) shows we are a pretty good team. We take two of three both weekends without one of our best pitchers. It just shows when we have all three (starting pitchers) how dangerous we can be.”

This team continues to prove they are a good team and can be dangerous. But will they make it to the NCAA Tourney in Butch Thompson‘s second year at the helm? All indicators say they will.

The Tigers (30-12) probably need to win six more SEC games to host a regional. And if they can win eight or more they will most likely be selected to host a Super Regional.

Auburn has now won five of six SEC series and are tied for second in the West with Arkansas (32-10). They are a game behind Mississippi State. If the Tigers can win next weekend against the Bulldogs, they will most likeky take over sole possession of first place.

The post Auburn Baseball Is Proving to SEC How Dangerous It Can Be appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

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Auburn won the first two games of its series at South Carolina, but both were by razor-thin margins. Two two-run outputs from the offense, two shutouts from the pitchers in the circle.

Cam Newton ‘getting the mojo back’ after shoulder surgery

In re-evaluating his decision to play through a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder during the 2016 NFL season, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said “the team comes first.”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton played the final three games of the 2016 NFL season with a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. The former Auburn star had surgery to repair the injury on March 30 after rest and rehabilitation didn’t fix the problem. He probably won’t start throwing with his teammates again until training camp.

In re-evaluating his decision to play through the injury, Newton said “the team comes first.”

“For me, I wear the ‘C’ patch on my shoulder pads, on my jersey with great pride,” Newton toldBill Voth in a video interview for the Panthers’ official web site, “and I feel as if it comes around again, would I reconsider it? Yeah, but also knowing those guys that I’m going to give every single thing that I have to give for this game, for the fans, for my teammates especially and, obviously, leaving it all on the field. “

“Was it smart? People may say it wasn’t. But at the end of the day, I think the bigger picture was: Listen, I’m one of the leaders on this team. I just want to set a good standard that, listen, the team comes first and I’m just going to put myself in position to try to lead this team as much as possible.”

The Panthers started their offseason program last week. Newton said he’d been doing a lot of cardio and footwork while fighting “the itch to get back.”

“Everything’s good,” Newton said. “I’m getting the mojo back. It’s not as tragic as some people made it out to be. But I’m still being a professional about it, still getting treatment and making sure I’m getting stronger with the rest of my body as well.”

During a Friday press conference, Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman saidNewton’s recovery was “on schedule.”

Newton suffered the shoulder injury during a 28-16 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Dec. 11. The Panthers didn’t reveal the nature of the injury until March, when it was announced the quarterback would need shoulder surgery. Newton was listed as a limited participant in practice because of a shoulder injury on Carolina’s injury report for each of the final three weeks of the season.

When Newton got hurt, the Panthers were three games behind the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC West standings and two games out of the final wild-card spot in the conference with three games to play.

In the final three games, Newton completed 57-of-112 passes for 735 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions as the Panthers defeated the Washington Redskins 26-15 and lost to the Atlanta Falcons 33-16 and Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17-16.

In 2016, Newton’s completion percentage of .529 was the worst among the NFL’s regular quarterbacks and his passer rating of 75.8 exceeded only the Houston Texans’ Brock Osweiler and the New York Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick. In the second half of the 2016 season, Newton completed 48.7 percent of his passes.

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

Newton won the 2010 Heisman Trophy while leading Auburn to the BCS national championship. He entered the NFL as the first player picked in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Newton won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award for the 2015 season and has been invited to the Pro Bowl three times.

In his six seasons, Newton has completed 1,710-of-2,928 passes for 21,772 yards with 136 touchdowns and 78 interceptions. He’s also run for 3,566 yards and 48 touchdowns on 689 carries. Newton holds the NFL record for most rushing TDs by a quarterback.

Cam Newton ‘getting the mojo back’ after shoulder surgery

In re-evaluating his decision to play through a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder during the 2016 NFL season, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said “the team comes first.”

SUNDAY Q&A: Auburn track and field freshman Nathon Allen discusses 2016 Summer Olympic experience

There a few different ways a high school graduate can spend their summer off before the start of their freshman year at college. They can get a job. Travel. Or just lay low and spend time with friends.

Approval rating for Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn: You decide – SECcountry.com

SECcountry.com
Approval rating for Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn: You decide
SECcountry.com
Spring practice could not have gone any better for Auburn and Gus Malzahn. That should allow the Auburn coach to breathe a sigh of relief. Former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham looked magnificent in the Tigers' spring scrimmage. Auburn has always …

Strong senior season puts former Auburn OT Robert Leff in position to have NFL future

Not many high school athletes would have been comfortable taking the path to playing time Robert Leff did at Auburn.

NFL Draft: Auburn’s past picks await new members to roll call

Auburn will add at least a couple to its NFL Draft total when the league’s 82nd annual player picks are held Thursday through Saturday in Philadelphia.

NFL Draft: Auburn’s past picks await new members to roll call

Auburn will add at least a couple to its NFL Draft total when the league's 82nd annual player picks are held Thursday through Saturday in Philadelphia.

Bullpen takes Game 2 loss as No. 14 Arkansas evens series with No. 11 Auburn

Entering last Tuesday’s game at Samford, coach Butch Thompson challenged his team to get better in two areas in particular: At the plate and out of the bullpen.

Freshman Ashlee Swindle pitches No. 7 Auburn softball to victory in first career start

Until 12:47 a.m. Thursday morning, Ashlee Swindle was not a starting pitcher. She would have made the trip to South Carolina as Auburn’s No. 3 arm, likely entering the circle only in the case of an emergency or blowout.

Old Friends, Old Friends

(Author’s note:  My best friend from Auburn lost his mother last week.  I am reposting this old column from four years ago.)

One spring afternoon in the mid-Eighties, having previously seen the invitation painted on the cafeteria windows, I began walking from my class at Haley Center over to Foy Union to sign up for the College Bowl academic competition.  As I started toward Foy, I noticed a fellow of large stature (who naturally stood out from the crowd) about thirty feet in front of me walking in the same general direction.  Oblivious to me behind him, he crossed Thatch Avenue and headed for the back entrance to the cafeteria, the same exact route I was choosing.  I had the strange feeling I was following him, even though there was a long way to go and many different turns on my way.

The fellow in front entered the cafeteria, and turned to go past the backed-up, stacked-up rows of used trays and dishes on the cafeteria conveyor belt, once again seemingly anticipating the direction I was heading.  He turned down the corridor leading to the elevator, again the same way I was headed.  By this time I think that fellow started to feel like somebody was stalking him for some reason.  We both got on the elevator together, both got off on the third floor, and both walked into the small former storage closet that housed the AU College Bowl team, both feeling a little awkward at having made this dance all the way through the bowels of Foy Union.

That’s how I met Bill Jones, the person I call my “best friend from Auburn” and one of the best friends ever in my life.  During our concurrent time on the Plains, we spent many, many days together on College Bowl road trips and at Auburn football games, and way, way too much time in front of the pinball machines and video games in the Foy Union game room.  When I couldn’t make it home all the way to Florida for non-break holidays like Easter, Bill took me to his home back in Montgomery, where I became the proud owners of a second set of parents (I love you, Mr. and Mrs. Jones!).

Our college careers diverged somewhat: I went straight through and got two degrees in accounting at Auburn; Bill continued at AU and finished up a math degree a year later.  I went into accounting and Bill started in software development.  We both moved around different places in the Southeast, always staying in touch and sharing the triumphs and challenges of young single life.

Our social and political philosophies also diverged, I becoming more conservative than ever and Bill leaning much the other way.  Even our interest in and identification with Auburn (both the institution and the football program) would wax and wane, usually at completely different times.

But our lives also criss-crossed so many ways.  We were roommates for a while when I was between jobs (both of us just happened to end up in Atlanta at that time, for different reasons).  Later on, we were even groomsmen in each other’s weddings within the space of a month (not planned, it just happened that way).  And through the years we always shared that bond of being Auburn men, no matter what the extent we self-identified as such at any particular time.

Recently, I was out of work for a year and a half, all through Auburn’s 2010 National Championship run.  Bill and I had both ended up in Atlanta for a second time, again under totally separate circumstances.  So, we got together to watch almost every AU football game that season, with him keeping up my naturally pessimistic spirits during my mostly fruitless job search.  When we each got “snowed in” for the BCS Championship, we kept in touch the whole game via text messages, and celebrated by phone after that kick went though the uprights.  We both observed that that season was the first time in a while that either of us had strongly felt a part of the Auburn Family.

Later, I was the one with the job, while Bill was “in transition” as they say.  On top of that, Bill had a couple of health problems from which he is recovering.  Through all of these struggles, Bill maintains the positive (enough) attitude that has always marked him in his own challenges.

In 2013, I broke my fibula playing Rugby with guys a half and a third my age (“That’s what you get,” said more than one acquaintance, including my beloved bride).  With my right foot in a cast, I could not operate an automobile for the hour-and-a-half commute to my job.  Bill knew I needed face-time at the office, and offered to take me into work two days a week just for gas money.  As Bill’s home was between my home and my office, he basically took on double the time of my own commute, plus, due to the timing of our ride, more time in the snarled Atlanta traffic than I usually spent (well, at least we had some good company).

With me and my crutches and him with his cane, I started to nickname us the “Gimp Brothers” (but then I remembered that scene from Pulp Fiction…).  I thought back to our salad days of yore, when two young guys with a world of possibilities in front of them would ride around singing along with the car cassette player, or would be hollering and cheering during amazing AU comebacks like the 1987 Iron Bowl and the 1990 FSU fumble-rooskie game.  Those two invincible guys back in the past could never picture the “sorry” state in which we now found ourselves—surprisingly still hanging out with each other, but beat up physically (and a little bit mentally) by life.

(I must interrupt these reflections on my friend Bill to tell you of an even more wonderful blessing bestowed upon me.  My wife Eileen, a teacher, was SO looking forward to her week off for winter break in February.  These breaks in the school year are her own personal time to recharge and take care of things.  Bill could not transport me and my cast during the particular week Eileen was off.  Knowing how important getting into the office was to me, this woman effectively gave up her precious break and dragged me into work the whole week, many days killing time—HER time—during my workday on my office’s side of town.  Add to that the days she took off to cart me in several other weeks, and all the personal care she gave me during my time of limitation, and you see why I will always say I have the best wife in the whole world.)

Now, this column isn’t just a well-deserved paean to my friend, nor is it is a mere warm-and-fuzzy piece about our shared Auburn heritage.  No, this is a reflection on an amazing fact that I discovered the hard way (the only way I learn anything):  no matter who you are, life is just too freaking hard to make it well—really well—on your own.  If we are truly going to flourish the way God intends us to flourish, we all need the “human touch” of our friends and family.  In turn, we help our own loved ones flourish with their lives.

That doesn’t mean that we relate to everyone we know in the same way.  Sometimes, out of respect (of one kind or another), one must keep some distance from certain others; the important thing is that the folks who are currently apart must know that whenever either one really needs the other, that temporary gulf will be bridged faster than Bo Jackson could hit the sideline and score.

Everyone meets great friends at whatever college they attend.  I’d like to think the friends we pick up at our time at Auburn are ones of a special type.  As diverse as we Auburn folks are, we already share many things in common that go beyond the eleven young men for whom we scream on autumn weekends—if not the Auburn Creed specifically, then the values and outlook on life that the Creed represents.

So, people, I leave you with this: value the friends you have gained in your lifetime, especially those you found at Auburn.  If you haven’t spoken to one in a long time, pick up the freaking phone, burn some rollover minutes and call them up.  It doesn’t have to be for a reason.  Let’s face it, the clock only runs in one direction, and anything can happen at any time.  For the one thing I have learned from my forty-seven years of walking this earth is that, after all is said and done, the only thing you really have in this world is your friends and family—I mean, that’s all you have.

Michael Val

(who who believes “in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all”)

The post Old Friends, Old Friends appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

Former Alabama high school stars await NFL Draft

Eighteen or so players from Alabama high schools and colleges are expected to hear their names called during the 2017 NFL Draft, which will be held Thursday through Saturday in Philadelphia.

Vanderbilt has had nine players picked in the first round of the 81 NFL drafts. The Commodores are expected to get No. 10 in the 82nd on Thursday night.

Linebacker Zach Cunningham could become the first Vanderbilt player picked in the first round since offensive tackle Chris Williams in 2008.

The SEC’s leading tackler for the 2016 season, Cunningham joined the Commodores from Pinson Valley High School. He’s among the 18 or so players with Alabama football roots who are expected to hear their names called during the 2017 NFL Draft, which will be held Thursday through Saturday in Philadelphia.

Cunningham is among the former Alabama prep stars who seem assured of being drafted next week, along with linebacker Ryan Andersonfrom Daphne, linebacker Reuben Fosterfrom Auburn, tight end O.J. Howardfrom Autauga Academy, cornerback Marlon Humphreyfrom Hoover, wide receiver ArDarius Stewartfrom Fultondale and cornerback Marquez Whitefrom Northview.

Tight end Brandon Barnes from Russell County, safety Rudy Ford from New Hope, wide receiver Jamari Staples from Clay Central and offensive lineman Jylan Ware from Valley also could be drafted. If not, they’ll join the rookies heading into NFL offseason programs as free-agent signees, a route several other former Alabama prep stars likely will take for their shot at the pros.

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

Foster, Howard, Humphrey and Stewart played at Alabama, and Ford played at Auburn. They’ll have other teammates who get drafted next week.

Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen is likely to be among the first players picked, and at least four other Crimson Tide teammates are expected to be drafted, too – safety Eddie Jackson, offensive tackle Cam Robinson, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and outside linebacker Tim Williams.

Ford’s teammates Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson, a pair of defensive linemen, will be drafted out of Auburn.

Alabama and Auburn won’t be the only state colleges represented in the draft. South Alabamatight end Gerald Everett and Troyoffensive tackle Antonio Garcia are expected to be chosen by the time the third round ends on Friday night. Everett will become the first South Alabama player picked in the NFL Draft. Troy hasn’t had a player drafted since 2012.

Barnes and Ware played at Alabama State, which hasn’t had a player drafted since 2007.

Former Alabama high school stars await NFL Draft

Eighteen or so players from Alabama high schools and colleges are expected to hear their names called during the 2017 NFL Draft, which will be held Thursday through Saturday in Philadelphia.

Vanderbilt has had nine players picked in the first round of the 81 NFL drafts. The Commodores are expected to get No. 10 in the 82nd on Thursday night.

Linebacker Zach Cunningham could become the first Vanderbilt player picked in the first round since offensive tackle Chris Williams in 2008.

The SEC’s leading tackler for the 2016 season, Cunningham joined the Commodores from Pinson Valley High School. He’s among the 18 or so players with Alabama football roots who are expected to hear their names called during the 2017 NFL Draft, which will be held Thursday through Saturday in Philadelphia.

Cunningham is among the former Alabama prep stars who seem assured of being drafted next week, along with linebacker Ryan Andersonfrom Daphne, linebacker Reuben Fosterfrom Auburn, tight end O.J. Howardfrom Autauga Academy, cornerback Marlon Humphreyfrom Hoover, wide receiver ArDarius Stewartfrom Fultondale and cornerback Marquez Whitefrom Northview.

Tight end Brandon Barnes from Russell County, safety Rudy Ford from New Hope, wide receiver Jamari Staples from Clay Central and offensive lineman Jylan Ware from Valley also could be drafted. If not, they’ll join the rookies heading into NFL offseason programs as free-agent signees, a route several other former Alabama prep stars likely will take for their shot at the pros.

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

Foster, Howard, Humphrey and Stewart played at Alabama, and Ford played at Auburn. They’ll have other teammates who get drafted next week.

Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen is likely to be among the first players picked, and at least four other Crimson Tide teammates are expected to be drafted, too – safety Eddie Jackson, offensive tackle Cam Robinson, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and outside linebacker Tim Williams.

Ford’s teammates Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson, a pair of defensive linemen, will be drafted out of Auburn.

Alabama and Auburn won’t be the only state colleges represented in the draft. South Alabamatight end Gerald Everett and Troyoffensive tackle Antonio Garcia are expected to be chosen by the time the third round ends on Friday night. Everett will become the first South Alabama player picked in the NFL Draft. Troy hasn’t had a player drafted since 2012.

Barnes and Ware played at Alabama State, which hasn’t had a player drafted since 2007.

Former Alabama high school stars await NFL Draft

Eighteen or so players from Alabama high schools and colleges are expected to hear their names called during the 2017 NFL Draft, which will be held Thursday through Saturday in Philadelphia.

No. 11 Auburn bludgeons No. 14 Arkansas behind season-high 3 home runs

Arkansas ace Blaine Knight hadn’t allowed more than five runs in any of his 27 career appearances on the mound. He entered Friday’s start at Plainsman Park with a svelte 1.86 ERA and six victories in nine starts.

After misunderstanding with Auburn, Jalen Cunningham updates recruitment

Cunningham’s conversation with Auburn’s coaching staff this week cleared up some confusion

After misunderstanding with Auburn, Jalen Cunningham updates recruitment

Cunningham's conversation with Auburn's coaching staff this week cleared up some confusion

On Monday, St. Clair County defensive tackle Jalen Cunningham took to Twitter to reveal his top five schools– Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi State, Oregon and Ole Miss.

Later that night, he was on the phone with Gus Malzahn and Rodney Garner at Auburn.

“I was confused because when I went down there for (Auburn’s) Junior Day (March 4), Coach Malzahn called me down to his office to sit down and talk to him and my family,” Cunningham said. “Then we went to Coach Garner’s office and talked to him.

“They said they had offered me, but I didn’t hear them say it. When I put out my top 5 the other day, they told me, yes, I had the offer. I just didn’t know. They never specified I had it. They didn’t bring it up exactly like I had an offer. They just said they were interested in me, but they cleared it up.”

Now that he’s aware of the Auburn offer, the Tigers are most definitely a factor for the 6-foot-5, 360-pound Cunningham.

“I’m supposed to be dropping my other top five soon,” he said. “I wanted to do 10 (originally) but I already had the edit for the five. I have to put Auburn back in because I didn’t know I had the offer from them… So yeah, they’re in my top 5. I just love Auburn because of the coaching staff mainly, and all the players. I really love Coach Malzahn.”

Cunningham is ranked as a three-star prospect and the No. 38 defensive tackle in the 247Sports Composite. He said the Tigers like his size and strength and project him to play nose guard. He also has a close relationship with Garner.

“(Garner’s) ability to help athletes to the next level is important,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham grew up an Alabama fan, but is not letting those ties affect his recruitment.

“The main thing I love about Alabama is the relationship with the coaching staff that I have,” he said. “I’ve been there three times in the past two months. That’s important to me. Coach (Karl) Dunbar is saying I could start as a freshman because they won’t have any nose guard signed by the time I get up there. I’m the only big nose guard that he wants.”

Cunningham said he has been speaking to the staff at Florida State and will likely set up a visit to Tallahassee, Fla. This weekend he’ll be at a Rivals camp in Atlanta. He has no timetable for a commitment.

“I’m still going through offers and trying to choose between the 15 I have,” he said. “I want to get a quick relationship with the coaches. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing the most.”

Check out Cunningham’s junior highlights in the Hudl video below.

No. 7 Auburn takes series-opener at South Carolina amid distraction

When the Auburn softball team arrived in Columbia for a three-game series with South Carolina, it did so without everyday shortstop Haley Fagan, No. 2 starter Makayla Martin and freshman reserve Brittany Marisette.

No. 10 Auburn baseball vs. No. 16 Arkansas live score updates, analysis

Live updates from Plainsman Park as No. 10 Auburn takes on No. 16 Arkansas in the first of a three-game series. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.

Auburn starts the second half of its SEC slate as first-place Arkansas comes to town for a three-game weekend series.

It’s a pivotal series for the 10th-ranked Tigers (28-11, 10-5 SEC), who will officially be without sophomore right-handed starter Casey Mize, who was left off the 27-man roster for the series. Auburn will turn to ace Keegan Thompson (4-1, 1.29 ERA) for the opener against the Razorbacks (31-8, 11-4 SEC).

RELATED:No. 10 Auburn seeking bullpen improvement for pivotal series vs. No. 16 Arkansas

Arkansas, meanwhile, will start right-hander Blaine Knight (6-1, 1.89 ERA) for the opener.

AL.com will provide live updates throughout the game in the space below, so be sure to refresh the page for all the latest from the series opener.

Bottom of the 2nd: Auburn 5, Arkansas 0

— Jarvis grounds out to third, and Auburn fails to extend its lead.

— Conor Davis and Dylan Ingram draw back-to-back two-out walks, bringing Luke Jarvis up with two on.

— Jay Estes strikes out and then Daniel Robert flies out to open the inning.

Top of the 2nd: Auburn 5, Arkansas 0

— Jake Arledge grounds out to short for the third out. Thompson is through two innings on 30 pitches, 27 of which have gonefor strikes.

— Thompson gets the first two outs before Jax Biggers doubles into the gap.

Bottom of the 1st: Auburn 5, Arkansas 0

— Jonah Todd flies out to the warning track for the third out.

— Blake Logan flies out to right field for out No. 2, but then Bo Decker singles to put runners on the corners with Jonah Todd due back up. Decker advances to second on a wild pitch.

Auburn 5, Arkansas 0:Josh Anthony with a single to left field to score two runs. He only gets one RBI, as Luke Bonfield misplayed the ball, allowing Jarvis to score on the error.

— Dylan Ingram draws a walk before Luke Jarvis doubles off the Green Monster. Runners on second and third with one out for Josh Anthony.

— Conor Davis hits a chopper back to Knight, who lobs it over to first for the first out.

Auburn 3, Arkansas 0:Daniel Robert uncorks on the first pitch he sees from Blaine Knight and crushes a two-run shot to center field. His fourth home run of the year. Ball went 400 feet with an exit speed of 105 mph.

Auburn 1, Arkansas 0:Jay Estes doubles down the left-field line, and Jonah Todd easily scores while running through a stop sign from coach Doug Sisson at third base.

— Jonah Todd with a leadoff single for Auburn.

Top of the 1st: Arkansas 0, Auburn 0

— Thompson with an 18-pitch first inning; 16 of those pitches were strikes, and he had a first-pitch strike to all six batters.

— Thompson gets out of the jam, inducing a chopper from Carson Shaddy toward third base. Josh Anthony fields it and throws to first for the third out.

‘– Thompson strikes out Jared Gates, but a passed ball allows Gates to reach first and load the bases.

— Grant Koch pops up to shallow center field for the second out.

— Thompson then strikes out Chad Spanberger, but a wild pitch on strike three allows Spanberger to reach first. Luke Bonfield follows with Arkansas’ first hit, a single to the right side on an 0-2 pitch.

— Keegan Thompson opens the game with a groundball out on three pitches.

PREGAME

Arkansas lineup:

— RF Jake Arledge (.326)

— 1B Chad Spanberger (.314)

— LF Luke Bonfield (.320)

— C Grant Koch (.312)

— 3B Jared Gates (.288)

— 2B Carson Shaddy (.291)

— DH Eric Cole (.252)

— CF Dominic Fletcher (.271)

— SS Jax Biggers (.355)

Auburn lineup

— CF Jonah Todd (.385)

— 2B Jay Estes (.293)

— RF Daniel Robert (.310)

— DH Conor Davis (.325)

— 1B Dylan Ingram (.221)

— SS Luke Jarvis (.290)

— 3B Josh Anthony (.259)

— C Blake Logan (.244)

— LF Bo Decker (.279)

AL.com will update this post.

Rewinding No. 10 Auburn baseball’s 15-2 series-opening win against No. 16 Arkansas

Live updates from Plainsman Park as No. 10 Auburn takes on No. 16 Arkansas in the first of a three-game series. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.

AU BLOG MAILBAG: Can Auburn softball still meet postseason expectations after arrests?

Just when you think all is relatively quiet around Auburn, three softball players get arrested for marijuana possession and one of the baseball team’s best pitchers is dubbed “doubtful” to pitch in a crucial series at home.

Jarrett Stidham’s plans for a ‘crucial’ first summer with Auburn football – SECcountry.com

SECcountry.com
Jarrett Stidham's plans for a 'crucial' first summer with Auburn football
SECcountry.com
Jarrett Stidham-Auburn football-Auburn Tigers Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham excelled in the Tigers' spring game with an MVP-caliber performance. (Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics). Although he's expected to win the No. 1 quarterback job during fall…

How Will the Arrest of Three Auburn Softball Players Affect Auburn’s Post-Season Play?

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Fresh off of an out of conference win against Kennesaw State, three Auburn softball players were arrested Thursday. The police responded to a call at an address on East Samford Street before arresting Haley Fagan, Makayla Martin, and Brittany Maresette at 12:47 a.m. All three are suspended indefinitely and did not travel with the team for the series against South Carolina. It is the first arrest for all three players 

Just hours after Haley Fagan made her 44th start of the season as the Tigers’ starting shortstop, Martin earned her 16th win and Maresette made her 17th appearance, the three players were taken into custody.

How will this affect the three players futures or Auburn’s post-season play? 

The first thing that should be said is that there is a chance the three will return, though the length of punishment will be the part in question. Auburn Football’s John Franklin, III was arrested last year for the same offense and missed one game. Franklin is the current boyfriend of  Haley Fagan.

While a third SEC straight championship was unlikely, a strong finish would possibly have secured a position as a host to the Regional and Super Regional tournaments.

Auburn is currently ranked 4th in the SEC behind Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M. Had the series against Tennessee not been canceled, the Tigers would likely be in the third spot. Many have projected that all thirteen SEC teams will make post season play, so being one of the top ranked teams was important, not only for seeding, but for hosting. 

Auburn won’t immediately miss freshman outfielder Maresette, who as a pinch runner is second on the depth chart behind Bree Fornis. 

However, the other two players absence could possibly sink Auburn’s chances at a run at the Women’s College World Series. 

As has been written before here on Track ‘Em Tigers, Auburn’s offense isn’t what it was in last season’s back to back SEC Championship run. Instead, Auburn has won by being the nation’s leader in double plays and among the very best inside the circle. While Kaylee Carlson (21-2) is the unquestioned ace on Auburn’s staff, Makayla Martin has been very good as the usual second pitcher in the rotation for three game series. Carlson’s low ERA of 1.26 isn’t much better than Martin’s 2.05 and the two are deadlocked with 88 and 87 strikeouts respectively. 

Auburn’s bullpen has only two other possibilities: long time utility player Jenna Abbott and freshman Ashley Swindle. Abbott has been very good in her six appearances but Swindle has struggled with a 3.82 ERA. Can Carlson handle additional innings or will one of the two relievers have to step into a starting roll? Either possibility dampens the chances of a championship. With Abbott pitching, Auburn will likely look to get Madi Gipson involved, somehow.

While Auburn has a wealth of outfield options, there aren’t many options for the infield and Auburn will likely have to play some players out of position.

Enter the other half of Auburn’s winning ways: double plays. Fagan is the centerpiece of Auburn’s defense and despite having the most balls hit her way, she is fielding at a .948 clip while turning 16 double plays this season.

The loss of Fagan’s bat will certainly be missed as she is fourth on the team in batting average and tied for third with six homers. What will be the expected drop off from Fagan to her replacement? 

After a preseason injury, Whitney Jordan started the entire season in place of Fagan at shortstop. Fagan’s return moved Jordan into a starting role in the outfield but Jordan was simply woeful at the plate and she eventually lost her job. She has the second worst batting average on the entire team with a .121 against mostly non-conference foes. 

It is likely that Kendall Veach will be moved off of first base to the other corner to make room for Jenna Abbott, when she is not pitching. Abbott has played first base on multiple occasions and is the first player off the bench to hit. She is hitting .370 in her 27 at-bats.

Kasey Cooper may move to shortstop. The issue here will be that Cooper does not have the speed or range of Fagan and while she is efficient, she will give up a lot more than Fagan. 

While Auburn softball fans likely have seen the end of another championship run, the biggest loser has to be fifth-year senior Haley Fagan. Not only was graduation just a month away, but the National Pro Fastpitch draft was just four days away and she was expected to be a very high draft pick. 

Auburn takes on South Carolina tonight at 5:30 on SEC Network+

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @Best5Zach as I post live updates and commentary during this weekend’s series. 

The post How Will the Arrest of Three Auburn Softball Players Affect Auburn’s Post-Season Play? appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

AL.com All-Access: How many in-state players will be first-round NFL draft picks this year?

Up to a half-dozen Alabama players are candidates to be selected in the first 32 picks next Thursday in Philadelphia. Auburn also has one player who could sneak into the first round if everything breaks right.

AL.com All-Access: How many in-state players will be first-round NFL draft picks this year?

Up to a half-dozen Alabama players are candidates to be selected in the first 32 picks next Thursday in Philadelphia. Auburn also has one player who could sneak into the first round if everything breaks right.

We’re inside a week from the beginning of the 2017 NFL draft, but things still appear to be fluid as to whom will be selected in the first round.

The Reuben Foster saga continued on Thursday, with news he’d failed a drug test at the NFL combine. (Foster told reporters he merely had a “diluted sample,” but that counts as a positive test under the NFL drug policy).

Foster looked like a lead-pipe cinch to be a first-rounder headed into the NFL draft season, and seemed to remain so even after shoulder surgery and then his highly publicized dismissal from the combine. But will this latest news affect his stock?

Up to a half-dozen Alabama players are candidates to be selected in the first 32 picks next Thursday in Philadelphia. Auburn also has one player who could sneak into the first round if everything breaks right.

Here’s how I’d rank those players, in terms of the likelihood they’ll be taken in the first round:

1. Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama –There have been whispers about Allen’s health –he reportedly has a bad shoulder that might be a chronic problem –but there are no questions about his talent, character and football smarts. He’s almost a lock to go in the Top 10.

2. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama –The star of both the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine, Howard is that rare tight end who could crack the Top 10 in the draft. It would be a major shocker if he’s still on the board by pick No. 20.

3. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama –Before Thursday, I might have placed Foster ahead of Howard, but continued off-field question marks might cause him to slip on some teams’ boards. I still think he goes in the first round, just maybe not Top 10.

4. Cam Robinson, OL, Alabama –Robinson was inconsistent as a player at Alabama, and there are some questions as to whether he’s a left tackle in the NFL. Nevertheless, based on skill set he’s a solid candidate to be a first-rounder.

5. Marlon Humphrey, DB, Alabama –Humphrey has even more on-field performance questions than Robinson, as he was burned pretty often. However, his combination of size (6-foot-1) and sprinter’s speed doesn’t come along that often.

6. Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama –Williams does one thing very well –rush the passer –a skill that is much-coveted in the NFL. The other parts of his game aren’t as refined, however, and he’s had some off-field issues.

7. Carl Lawson, DE/OLB, Auburn –The NFL is always looking for pass-rushers, and Lawson performed very well at the combine. Still, his injury history and lack of every-down production are a concern.

(A number of other players, including Alabama LB Ryan Anderson, Auburn DT Montravius Adams, South Alabama TE Gerald Everett and Troy OT Tony Garcia are also early-round draft candidates, but it would be a big surprise to see them go on Day 1).

So how many in-state players will be drafted in the first round? I’m going to say four –Allen, Howard, Foster and Robinson, with Humphrey narrowly missing. (The Las Vegas over/under is 4.5, so I guess I’m going slightly under).

If that sounds like crazy talk, remember that this time last year, we all thought Alabama’s Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson and Reggie Ragland were first-rounders, but all slipped to the second. When you get into the back half of the first round, strange things often happen.

So what do you think? Are you guessing four first-rounders? More? Fewer?

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

Gus Malzahn still expects WR Kyle Davis to return for Auburn football’s fall camp – SECcountry.com

SECcountry.com
Gus Malzahn still expects WR Kyle Davis to return for Auburn football's fall camp
SECcountry.com
Auburn football-Kyle Davis- Auburn Tigers football Auburn wide receiver Kyle Davis turned heads his freshman season with an ability to make highlight-reel catches. (Michael Chang/Getty Images). Davis didn't practice this spring with new quarterback …

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Auburn football: Jordan-Hare turns into concert hall, big weekend for baseball, softball – SECcountry.com

SECcountry.com
Auburn football: Jordan-Hare turns into concert hall, big weekend for baseball, softball
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. Today, we discuss a weekend stadium transformation and the weekend's events.

Former QB Jeremy Johnson says he ‘used to get miserable’ at Auburn

Jeremy Johnson’s meteoric rise and precipitous fall from Auburn’s quarterback job in 2015 took a toll on him.

NFL Draft: State’s first-round streak will continue in 2017

At least one player from an Alabama high school or college has been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft for 13 consecutive years.

NFL Draft: State’s first-round streak will continue in 2017

At least one player from an Alabama high school or college has been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft for 13 consecutive years.

Center Ryan Kelly was the only player with Alabama football roots selected in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. But one is all it takes to keep a streak going, and when the Indianapolis Colts chose the Crimson Tide All-American with the 18th selection last year, the pick made it 13 drafts in a row with a player from an Alabama high school or college going in the first round.

The streak will grow to 14 straight years on Thursday, when the first round of the 82nd NFL Draft is held in Philadelphia.

Draft prognosticators foresee four to seven players from the state finding their new NFL homes in the opening round. Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, linebacker Reuben Foster (Auburn High School), tight end O.J. Howard (Autauga Academy), cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Hoover) and offensive tackle Cam Robinson; Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson and Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham (Pinson Valley High School) are considered first-round candidates.

The most players from the state drafted in a single first round is seven in 2011.

Ninety-six players with Alabama football roots have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, which started in 1936. Another 33 have been picked in positions that would be in the first round now, but weren’t when the player was selected. Thursday’s first round will feature 32 selections. The first NFL draft had nine first-round picks.

Seven players from Alabama high schools and colleges have been the No. 1 pick in a draft, but the fourth and sixth selections are where state players appear most.

Based on the careers of the players picked in those spots, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets ought to choose a player with Alabama roots. The Jaguars hold the fourth choice on Thursday, and the Jets are scheduled to pick sixth.

The Pick Sixes from the state have been Robert Brazile, Eric Curry, Julio Jones, Walter Jones, Lee Roy Jordan, Barry Krauss, Andre Smithand Richard Todd.

The eight state players picked at No. 6 have combined to play in 924 NFL games – a number that will grow in 2017 because Julio Jones and Smith are active. Walter Jones is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Brazile, Jordan and Julio Jones might get there. Even the player among the eight with the least accomplished career spent seven seasons in the NFL.

Two of the eight No. 4 picks with Alabama roots are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – John Hannah and Derrick Thomas. Another one, Philip Rivers, could join them. And while it’s too early to make a Hall call on Amari Cooper, he’s been a Pro Bowler in both of his NFL seasons.

The other state players taken with the fourth pick have been Brent Fullwood, Jon Hand, Keith McCants and Lowell Tew.

While a survey of mock drafts by ESPN and CBS analysts indicate the Jaguars will take LSU running back Leonard Fournette at No. 4, Alabama’s Allen also will be in play.

While the Jets need a quarterback or a cornerback at No. 6, Alabama’s Howard also is considered a possibility for New York.

The most recent draft without a state player in the first round came in 2003. That year, the first player from Alabama drafted was Tuskegee defensive back Drayton Florence at No. 46.

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

The players with Alabama football roots who have been selected in the first round of a regular NFL draft:

bo jackson 2.jpgBo Jackson never played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team that selected him with the first pick in the 1986 NFL Draft. He spent his entire NFL career with the Los Angeles Raiders.AP Photo

First pick: Harry Gilmer, Woodlawn, Alabama, 1948. Tucker Frederickson, Auburn, 1965. Bo Jackson, McAdory, Auburn, 1986. Aundray Bruce, Carver-Montgomery, Auburn, 1988. JaMarcus Russell, Williamson, 2007. Cam Newton, Auburn, 2011. Jameis Winston, Hueytown, 2015.

Second pick: Riley Smith, Alabama, 1936. Bo Matthews, Butler-Huntsville, 1974. Cornelius Bennett, Ensley, Alabama, 1987. Ronnie Brown, Auburn, 2005. Greg Robinson, Auburn, 2014.

Third pick: Chris Samuels, Shaw, Alabama, 2000. Marcell Dareus, Huffman, Alabama, 2011. Trent Richardson, Alabama, 2012.

Fourth pick: Lowell Tew, Alabama, 1948. John Hannah, Albertville, Alabama, 1973. Jon Hand, Sylacauga, Alabama, 1986. Brent Fullwood, Auburn, 1987. Derrick Thomas, Alabama, 1989. Keith McCants, Murphy, Alabama, 1990. Philip Rivers, Athens, 2004. Amari Cooper, Alabama, 2015.

Fifth pick: Vaughn “Cisco” Mancha, Alabama, 1948. Red Phillips, Benjamin Russell, Auburn, 1958. E.J. Junior, Alabama, 1981. John Copeland, Valley, Alabama, 1993. Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, Etowah, Auburn, 2005.

Sixth pick: Lee Roy Jordan, Excel, Alabama, 1963. Robert Brazile, Vigor, 1975. Richard Todd, Davidson, Alabama, 1976. Barry Krauss, Alabama, 1979. Eric Curry, Alabama, 1993. Walter Jones, Aliceville, 1997. Andre Smith, Huffman, Alabama, 2009. Julio Jones, Foley, Alabama, 2011.

Seventh pick: Bobby Thomason, Leeds, 1949. Travis Tidwell, Woodlawn, Auburn, 1950. Joe Childress, Robertsdale, Auburn, 1956. Mark Barron, St. Paul’s, Alabama, 2012.

Eighth pick: Bobby Marlow, Troy High, Alabama, 1953. Ken Rice, Auburn, 1961. Rolando McClain, Decatur, Alabama, 2010.

Ninth pick: Butch Avinger, Sidney Lanier, Alabama, 1951. Wilbur Jackson, Carroll-Ozark, Alabama, 1974. Antonio Langham, Hazlewood, Alabama, 1994. Carlos Rogers, Auburn, 2005. Dee Milliner, Stanhope Elmore, Alabama, 2013.

Tenth pick: Willie Anderson, Vigor, Auburn, 1996. Chance Warmack, Alabama, 2013.

Eleventh pick: DeMarcus Ware, Auburn High, Troy, 2005. Leodis McKelvin, Troy, 2008. D.J. Fluker, McGill-Toolen, Foley, Alabama, 2011.

Twelfth pick: Dave Middleton, Ensley, Auburn, 1955. Jackie Burkett, Auburn, 1959. Joe Namath, Alabama, 1965. Trace Armstrong, John Carroll, 1989.

Thirteenth pick: Takeo Spikes, Auburn, 1998. Nick Fairley, Williamson, Auburn, 2011.

Fourteenth pick: Ron Billingsley, Gadsden, 1967. Marty Lyons, Alabama, 1979. Derrick Burroughs, Blount, 1985. Gerald Robinson, Notasulga, Auburn, 1986.

Fifteenth pick: Forrest Blue, Auburn, 1968. Wayne Gandy, Auburn, 1994.

Sixteenth pick: Mike Pitts, Alabama, 1983. Jason Allen, Muscle Shoals, 2006.

Seventeenth pick:Dre Kirkpatrick, Gadsden City, Alabama, 2012. C.J. Mosley, Theodore, Alabama, 2014.

Eighteenth pick: Bob Cryder, Alabama, 1978. Ryan Kelly, Alabama, 2016.

Ninteenth pick: Terry Beasley, Lee-Montgomery, Auburn, 1972. Shaun Alexander, Alabama, 1999.

Twentieth pick: Dennis Homan, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, 1968. Dwayne Rudd, Alabama, 1997. Kareem Jackson, Alabama, 2010.

Twenty-first pick: Don McNeal, Escambia County, Alabama, 1980. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama, 2014

Twenty-second pick: Hanford Dixon, Theodore, 1981. Bryan Thomas, Minor, UAB, 2002.

Twenty-third pick: Ozzie Newsome, Colbert County, Alabama, 1978. Antowain Smith, Stanhope Elmore, 1997. Dee Ford, St. Clair County, Auburn, 2014.

Twenty-fourth pick: James Brooks, Auburn, 1981.

Twenty-fifth pick: Reese McCall, Jess Lanier, Auburn, 1978. Emanuel King, Leroy, Alabama, 1985. Jason Campbell, Auburn, 2005. James Carpenter, Alabama, 2011. Dont’a Hightower, Alabama, 2012.

Twenty-sixth pick: Les Kelley, Cullman, Alabama, 1967. Don Reese, Vigor, 1974. Fernando Bryant, Alabama, 1999.

Twenty-seventh pick: Victor Riley, Auburn, 1998. Roddy White, UAB, 2005.

Twenty-eighth pick:Mark Ingram, Alabama, 2011.

Twenty-ninth pick: George Teague, Jeff Davis, Alabama, 1993. Ben Grubbs, Elmore County, Auburn, 2007.

Thirtieth pick: Kendall Simmons, Auburn, 2002. Jimmie Ward, Davidson, 2014.

Thirty-first pick: None.

Thirty-second pick: None.

Former quarterback Jeremy Johnson ‘used to get miserable’ at Auburn

Jeremy Johnson was Auburn’s heir apparent to Nick Marshall before being benched after three games in 2015.

Former quarterback Jeremy Johnson ‘used to get miserable’ at Auburn

Jeremy Johnson was Auburn's heir apparent to Nick Marshall before being benched after three games in 2015.

Former Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson apparently struggled with his benching in 2015.

Johnson recently spoke with WSFA at his former high school, Carver, in Montgomery and opened up about his time on the Plains. Among the revelations was how much he internally struggled with his disastrous start to the 2015 season.

Johnson was Auburn’s heir apparent to Nick Marshall following the 2014 season and earned the starting job shortly after the completion of spring in 2015. A wave of hype followed, as Johnson was named to the preseason All-SEC second team and was a preseason favorite for the Heisman Trophy that year.

Things quickly unraveled, however, and Johnson was benched after the third game of the season — a loss at LSU — after throwing more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five) during that season-opening stint. Sean White assumed the starting job the following week.

“There were days I was just in my room just thinking to myself like what am I gonna do now?” Johnson told WSFA.”I used to get miserable. I actually used to want to leave. I used to call and talk to my teachers and I used to tell them I want to go. I was too busy trying to be somebody else everybody else wanted me to be instead of being myself and I wish I could redo that over and also really just play football.”

Johnson never truly regained his footing but stuck out the rest of his career at Auburn. He made a few spot starts over the remainder of his career, including the final two regular-season games as a senior last season against Alabama A&M and on the road against Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

He finished his career with a 7-4 record as a starter and appeared in 30 games. The former Alabama Mr. Football recipient completed 179-of-282 passes (63.5 percent) for 2,224 yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for his career.

He participated in Auburn’s pro day last month, looking to garner the attention of a team willing to give him a shot at the NFL as he turned the page on his beleaguered college career and looked toward the future.

“I’m willing to sit out, learn, grow and whenever I get my chance take advantage of my opportunity,” Johnson said after his pro day workout.

‘It was my fault’: Jeremy Johnson reflects on Auburn career, looks to future

Former Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson details how tough his time with the Tigers actually was – Saturday Down South

Saturday Down South
Former Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson details how tough his time with the Tigers actually was
Saturday Down South
I was too busy trying to be somebody else everybody else wanted me to be instead of being myself and I wish I could redo that over and also really just play football.” Johnson stuck with coach Gus Malzahn and the Tigers, though, even as he fell behind …

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No ‘specific date’ when Auburn will name starting quarterback for 2017

There isn’t an exact date during fall camp when Auburn plans to name its starting quarterback for the 2017 season.

No ‘specific date’ when Auburn will name starting quarterback for 2017

There isn't an exact date during fall camp when Auburn plans to name its starting quarterback for the 2017 season.

There isn’t an exact dateduring fall camp when Auburn plans to name its starting quarterback for the 2017 season.

During a pair of radio interviews on Thursday, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said he doesn’t have a “specific date” for when competition between Jarrett Stidham and Sean White will end.

“We don’t have a specific date once fall camp gets here,” Malzahn said onthe Cole Cubelic show Thursday morning. “Obviously, earlier (is) better than later, but we’ll give everybody a fair shot and we’ll name a starter when the appropriate time comes.”

Gus Malzahn not ready to address ‘disparity’ between Jarrett Stidham, Sean White

Throughout the spring and even after Stidham went 16 for 20 for 267 yards with five carries for 17 yards and a touchdown on A-Day, Malzahn and offensive coordinator Chip Lindseymaintained their plan was to allow White, who was limited following surgery on his broken right forearm, a chance to compete for the job once fully healthy.

“The good thing about Sean, he was able to be at every meeting, he was able to do all the specific individual drills that Chip wanted,” Malzahn said on Cubelic’ show. “Chip got some information regarding how he processes things and with the 7-on-7 and really working with his mechanics. So, we got some pretty good information.”

How Chip Lindsey is changing Auburn’s offense with RPOs

Last year, Auburn held the longest quarterback competition of Malzahn’s college coaching career and named White the starter on the afternoon of Aug. 25 after 21 practices and just nine days before the season opener with Clemson.

RELATED:How Jarrett Stidham is approaching Auburn QB competition

Malzahn told Smashmouth Radio on 99.1 The Gamethat he feels good about the “quality depth” Auburn has at quarterback and will balance preparing Stidham, the presumptive favorite, while also giving White an opportunity to win the job back.

“You just got to give everybody a fair chance,” Malzahn said. “That’s why Sean White, he did some very good things this spring. He was only able to do the 7-on-7 aspect, no team things with his arm the way it was. Malik Willis is a young guy that really came on and really I thought had a good spring.

“But we’ll take it to fall camp and we’ll figure out who the best one is; but the good thing is right now I feel like we have quality depth.”

Auburn opens the season against Georgia Southern on Sept. 2.

No. 11 Auburn baseball starts crucial series vs. No. 14 Arkansas without RHP Casey Mize

The series Auburn will play this weekend against Arkansas is one of the biggest in the program’s recent history.

Kyle Davis expected to return for Auburn’s fall camp

Davis missed all of spring practices with what head coach Gus Malzahn called “personal business.”

Kyle Davis expected to return for Auburn’s fall camp

Davis missed all of spring practices with what head coach Gus Malzahn called “personal business.”

Kyle Davis is expected to return to Auburn’s football team before the 2017 season begins.

The sophomore wide receiver missed all 15 of Auburn’s spring practices with what head coach Gus Malzhan called “personal business.” During a radio interview with Cole Cubelicon Thursday, Malzahn was asked if he expected Davis back for fall camp in August.

“Yeah, we do,” Malzahn said. “We expect him back and ready to go.”

Auburn yet to reveal its start date for fall camp.

The 6-foot-3, 213-pound Davis caught 12 passes and two touchdowns for the Tigerslast season. He ranked third on the team with 248 receiving yards.

When contacted by AL.com last month, Davis’ father declined to say what the issue was. The following week Auburn wide receivers coach Kodi Burns said he wasnot concerned about Davis missing time.

“We’re rooting for Kyle,” Burns said. “It’s personal matters and all those things. We’ll just see when it happens.

“I think he can pick up in the fall. He’s a guy that, you know, played some last year. So he understands the offense and kind of what we do. I know we tweaked a few things, but I think he’ll be fine.”

Auburn opens the 2017 season at home Sept. 2 againstGeorgia Southern.

3 Auburn softball players arrested on marijuana charges

Auburn softball players Haley Fagan, Makayla Martin and Brittany Maresette were arrested early Thursday morning, according to the Auburn Police Department.

A Juggernaut in the Making!

A day offensive review

Two receivers, only one defender in the same zip code. Stidham found Hastings on that play, for 50+ yards!
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! Today, we’ll take a look at what we might expect to see out of the Auburn offense in 2017. In the past decade, when Auburn could run the ball, offensive records tended to fall. When the running game sputtered, the passing game usually could not pull its weight, and the team would tail off into mediocrity, or worse.

     I would be shocked if Auburn isn’t once again very good at running the football. The Tigers should field a solid line, salty lead blockers and Auburn has a very good assortment of running backs, as well as several mobile quarterbacks. Frankly, Kerryon Johnson ran at will on A-day, before an ankle injury. Less-known backs like Malik Miller and C. J. Tolbert did well in the absence of Johnson and starter Kamryn Pettway. However, Auburn will eventually face strong front sevens, like LSU, Georgia and Alabama. When the running game gets slowed down, will Auburn be able to make teams pay through the air?

     We saw a number of positive signs, on A-Day. Route drills that didn’t give receivers or quarterbacks much of a chance in the past, were gone. So many times last year, it seemed like there was one primary read, and if the quarterback didn’t throw that one, receivers would basically stop running. This spring, guys finished their routes, and there seemed to be an actual progression in the quarterbacks’ heads. The second team line could not get to starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham, and if they threatened to, Stidham was able to dump the ball off safely and cleanly. Just as importantly, a lot of first down passes were called. Even on just a 5 yard hitch, it’s a lot easier to grind out a first down from 2nd and 4 or 5, than to make 10 yards on 3 runs.

     It all begins up front, on both sides of the ball. Auburn’s starting unit acquitted itself very well against a dangerous front seven, on A-Day. Center Austin Golson is in his 3rd year starting at that spot, and is a veteran presence. Darius James moved into the starting left tackle spot after several games last season, and just won’t give it up! Guard Braden Smith slides out to right tackle, this season, but it is not a new position for him. He’s played tackle in the past, and should be a dominant player.

     The question marks are at guard, and to a lesser extent, depth across the line. Sophomore Mike Horton is the likely starter at right guard. He was the first guy off the bench, last season, and did a good job. The left guard spot seems to still be wide open. I saw a lot of sophomore Kaleb Kim at that spot, but others played there, as well. Kim is penciled in as the backup center, it’s worth noting. There is some still raw talent in reserve, such as Prince Michael Sammons, Prince Tega Wanogho, and Bailey Sharp. However, unlike much of the past decade, Auburn really doen’t have a cupboard with 12-15 guys that are ready to go. The Tigers will try to shore up the depth with a couple of graduate transfers this fall. From Jacksonville State, center Casey Dunn arrives. From Florida State, the Tigers get guard Wilson Bell. As a part-time starter for FSU, Bell is expected to compete immediately for the starting role.

      I’m sure readers are used to my constant grousing about Auburn’s H-back and tight end depth, so I won’t belabor that, too much. This year actually has better prospects, with juniors Jalen Harris and Chandler Cox. Those two played big-boy ball, on A-Day. Transfer Sal Canella came in and played this spring, as well. He doesn’t seem big enough to play on the line, but as a lead blocker for wide receiver screens, he did a good job on A-Day. He’s also a threat in the passing game, with good hands and decent speed.

     Receiver play the past couple of seasons has frankly hamstrung the offense. Guys in the playing rotation have been selected for their blocking capabilities, and of course, I don’t feel like the route trees were helping them at all. We’ve also seen a number of dropped passes over the past two years. Finally, Auburn had 4 true freshmen in the playing rotation last season, which doesn’t help, either.

     This spring, there is a lot of new material on the receivers’ plates. There are more routes, and there is more complexity. Receivers have to learn option routes, as well. If a slant route is called, and the defender steps inside, into the way, both the receiver and quarterback have to check off to a fade or an out route, instead. Miscommunication could result in turnovers.

     The good news is that all of the quarterbacks that threw on A-Day were trying to hit their receivers in stride. There was an emphasis on ball placement, and I saw a lot fewer drops in warmups. I don’t think I saw ANY drops by the receivers, during the game. Drops were on the backs, this time. Both Nate Craig-Myers and Darius Slayton thrived on catching deep balls, and were fearless. The defense just flat could not cover Will Hastings.

     Auburn has seen a lot of attrition in the running back corps over the past couple of seasons, but still has talent there. Starter Kamryn Pettway feels like he has a legit shot at winning the Heisman. When healthy, he is danged difficult to tackle, to be sure! Pettway was held out of A-Day, and we got to see a good bit of junior Kerryon Johnson, early. KJ is one of those “complete” backs, who is elusive, has speed, can catch, and can block. He’s had to play nicked up for most of his career, and I hated to see him suffer an ankle injury on A-Day.

     I was impressed with all of the backs down the depth chart on A-Day. The guy that impressed me most in this group was Malik Miller. This was another guy that just refused to go down, at times.

     I’ve often said, and I still believe, that a spread offense can’t work without a capable quarterback to distribute the ball. When Auburn has had that, records have fallen. When Auburn doesn’t, the offense really goes into the toilet. In a spread, there are often only 5 blockers in the box. If the outside receivers aren’t going to get the ball, then the defense can cheat, and bring 7, 8 or 9 guys into the box and strangle the whole business.

     I liked what I saw at quarterback, this year. The receivers have been given better plays to work with, and Jarrett Stidham found them running free repeatedly. He showed good accuracy, good recognition, and most importantly, he didn’t put the ball into bad spots. I think he’s really going to have a great fall, and this offense can go far and fast, with all of the talent in the starting spots.

     I remember the wishbone days, and the quarterback was key then, too. Defensive coordinators learned to pack the box, and hit the quarterback, no matter what. And during that era, quarterbacks got worn down. Likewise, in a passing era, frustrated defensive coordinators are going to do the same thing. Blocking with 5? We’ll send 6 or 7. Blocking with 6? We’ll send 7 or 8. Hit the quarterback.

     And so, in a 12 to 13 game season, it stands to reason that the quarterback is going to take some damage. Thus, a team with championship aspirations has to have more than one quarterback, ready to go. The past couple of seasons, Auburn became very dysfunctional on offense, when the starting quarterback was hurt or ineffective. This year, I feel like Auburn has 3 different guys that can move the offense effectively. Even if there is an injury back there this season, I’m confident that things can keep rolling. Jarrett Stidham, Sean White and Malik Willis all showed the arm and the accuracy to keep the passing game going, on A-Day. Let’s hope we don’t end up needing all three, this fall.

The post A Juggernaut in the Making! appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

A Juggernaut in the Making!

A day offensive review

Two receivers, only one defender in the same zip code. Stidham found Hastings on that play, for 50+ yards!
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! Today, we’ll take a look at what we might expect to see out of the Auburn offense in 2017. In the past decade, when Auburn could run the ball, offensive records tended to fall. When the running game sputtered, the passing game usually could not pull its weight, and the team would tail off into mediocrity, or worse.

     I would be shocked if Auburn isn’t once again very good at running the football. The Tigers should field a solid line, salty lead blockers and Auburn has a very good assortment of running backs, as well as several mobile quarterbacks. Frankly, Kerryon Johnson ran at will on A-day, before an ankle injury. Less-known backs like Malik Miller and C. J. Tolbert did well in the absence of Johnson and starter Kamryn Pettway. However, Auburn will eventually face strong front sevens, like LSU, Georgia and Alabama. When the running game gets slowed down, will Auburn be able to make teams pay through the air?

     We saw a number of positive signs, on A-Day. Route drills that didn’t give receivers or quarterbacks much of a chance in the past, were gone. So many times last year, it seemed like there was one primary read, and if the quarterback didn’t throw that one, receivers would basically stop running. This spring, guys finished their routes, and there seemed to be an actual progression in the quarterbacks’ heads. The second team line could not get to starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham, and if they threatened to, Stidham was able to dump the ball off safely and cleanly. Just as importantly, a lot of first down passes were called. Even on just a 5 yard hitch, it’s a lot easier to grind out a first down from 2nd and 4 or 5, than to make 10 yards on 3 runs.

     It all begins up front, on both sides of the ball. Auburn’s starting unit acquitted itself very well against a dangerous front seven, on A-Day. Center Austin Golson is in his 3rd year starting at that spot, and is a veteran presence. Darius James moved into the starting left tackle spot after several games last season, and just won’t give it up! Guard Braden Smith slides out to right tackle, this season, but it is not a new position for him. He’s played tackle in the past, and should be a dominant player.

     The question marks are at guard, and to a lesser extent, depth across the line. Sophomore Mike Horton is the likely starter at right guard. He was the first guy off the bench, last season, and did a good job. The left guard spot seems to still be wide open. I saw a lot of sophomore Kaleb Kim at that spot, but others played there, as well. Kim is penciled in as the backup center, it’s worth noting. There is some still raw talent in reserve, such as Prince Michael Sammons, Prince Tega Wanogho, and Bailey Sharp. However, unlike much of the past decade, Auburn really doen’t have a cupboard with 12-15 guys that are ready to go. The Tigers will try to shore up the depth with a couple of graduate transfers this fall. From Jacksonville State, center Casey Dunn arrives. From Florida State, the Tigers get guard Wilson Bell. As a part-time starter for FSU, Bell is expected to compete immediately for the starting role.

      I’m sure readers are used to my constant grousing about Auburn’s H-back and tight end depth, so I won’t belabor that, too much. This year actually has better prospects, with juniors Jalen Harris and Chandler Cox. Those two played big-boy ball, on A-Day. Transfer Sal Canella came in and played this spring, as well. He doesn’t seem big enough to play on the line, but as a lead blocker for wide receiver screens, he did a good job on A-Day. He’s also a threat in the passing game, with good hands and decent speed.

     Receiver play the past couple of seasons has frankly hamstrung the offense. Guys in the playing rotation have been selected for their blocking capabilities, and of course, I don’t feel like the route trees were helping them at all. We’ve also seen a number of dropped passes over the past two years. Finally, Auburn had 4 true freshmen in the playing rotation last season, which doesn’t help, either.

     This spring, there is a lot of new material on the receivers’ plates. There are more routes, and there is more complexity. Receivers have to learn option routes, as well. If a slant route is called, and the defender steps inside, into the way, both the receiver and quarterback have to check off to a fade or an out route, instead. Miscommunication could result in turnovers.

     The good news is that all of the quarterbacks that threw on A-Day were trying to hit their receivers in stride. There was an emphasis on ball placement, and I saw a lot fewer drops in warmups. I don’t think I saw ANY drops by the receivers, during the game. Drops were on the backs, this time. Both Nate Craig-Myers and Darius Slayton thrived on catching deep balls, and were fearless. The defense just flat could not cover Will Hastings.

     Auburn has seen a lot of attrition in the running back corps over the past couple of seasons, but still has talent there. Starter Kamryn Pettway feels like he has a legit shot at winning the Heisman. When healthy, he is danged difficult to tackle, to be sure! Pettway was held out of A-Day, and we got to see a good bit of junior Kerryon Johnson, early. KJ is one of those “complete” backs, who is elusive, has speed, can catch, and can block. He’s had to play nicked up for most of his career, and I hated to see him suffer an ankle injury on A-Day.

     I was impressed with all of the backs down the depth chart on A-Day. The guy that impressed me most in this group was Malik Miller. This was another guy that just refused to go down, at times.

     I’ve often said, and I still believe, that a spread offense can’t work without a capable quarterback to distribute the ball. When Auburn has had that, records have fallen. When Auburn doesn’t, the offense really goes into the toilet. In a spread, there are often only 5 blockers in the box. If the outside receivers aren’t going to get the ball, then the defense can cheat, and bring 7, 8 or 9 guys into the box and strangle the whole business.

     I liked what I saw at quarterback, this year. The receivers have been given better plays to work with, and Jarrett Stidham found them running free repeatedly. He showed good accuracy, good recognition, and most importantly, he didn’t put the ball into bad spots. I think he’s really going to have a great fall, and this offense can go far and fast, with all of the talent in the starting spots.

     I remember the wishbone days, and the quarterback was key then, too. Defensive coordinators learned to pack the box, and hit the quarterback, no matter what. And during that era, quarterbacks got worn down. Likewise, in a passing era, frustrated defensive coordinators are going to do the same thing. Blocking with 5? We’ll send 6 or 7. Blocking with 6? We’ll send 7 or 8. Hit the quarterback.

     And so, in a 12 to 13 game season, it stands to reason that the quarterback is going to take some damage. Thus, a team with championship aspirations has to have more than one quarterback, ready to go. The past couple of seasons, Auburn became very dysfunctional on offense, when the starting quarterback was hurt or ineffective. This year, I feel like Auburn has 3 different guys that can move the offense effectively. Even if there is an injury back there this season, I’m confident that things can keep rolling. Jarrett Stidham, Sean White and Malik Willis all showed the arm and the accuracy to keep the passing game going, on A-Day. Let’s hope we don’t end up needing all three, this fall.

The post A Juggernaut in the Making! appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

How Chip Lindsey is changing Auburn’s offense with RPOs

Chip Lindsey is changing Auburn’s offense by increasing the use of RPOs, a deceptive style of plays that have helped spur an increase in offensive production across college football.

How Chip Lindsey is changing Auburn’s offense with RPOs

Chip Lindsey is changing Auburn's offense by increasing the use of RPOs, a deceptive style of plays that have helped spur an increase in offensive production across college football.

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Chip Lindsey is changing Auburn’s offense by increasing the use of RPOs – run-pass options – a deceptive style of plays that have helped spur an increase in offensive production across college football by challenging some of the fundamental principles of playing defense.

Auburn utilized some “non-traditional” RPOs in the past, according to coach Gus Malzahn, withthe pop pass being among them.

The addition of RPOs should make Auburn more explosive, particularly in the passing game, which had its worst year since 2012 and second-worst ever for Malzahn, without fundamentally altering the core “run, play-action” offensive identity.

“That was kind of part of the plan anyway,” Malzahn said. “We’re traditionally one of the best rushing teams in our league and to be able to hurt defenses when they roll an extra guy down and cheat the box, that’s something (Lindsey)’s got a little expertise in.”

How Chip Lindsey changed Auburn’s offense this spring

To understand why Auburn believes RPOs will lead to more success on offense you need to comprehend the inherent challenges they pose to defenses and how they differ from traditional plays.

An RPO is a run play, first and foremost, and has the appearances of one to the defense as the offensive line blocks downfield as such. This is what challenges opposing linebackers and secondaries, who for ages had been taught keys as to offensive line blocking dictating whether a play was run or pass.

“The RPO world, if you will, it really is more for controlling second-level and third-level defenders,” offensive line coach Herb Hand said. “The thing where it impacts you is you don’t want to have (offensive linemen) downfield, obviously, on a forward pass. … For us, with the way we put an emphasis on our level-one blocks, our double-teams and moving level-one defenders, it’s been timing up pretty good in terms of having a run called and having a downfield pass.”

Where the deception comes in is if the quarterback, who has much more freedom in decision-making in RPO-based offenses than Malzahn typically allows his signal callers, decides to pass instead of handing the ball off. It is that decision, based mostly on pre-snap reading of the defense, that is the crux of an RPO and has been used to great success by some of the most high-powered offenses, including at Baylor, whereJarrett Stidham was one of the most accurate and productive deep passers in the country as a true freshman in 2015.

“Some of the RPO stuff that we’re doing right now is just really comfortable,” Stidham said after Auburn’s first spring scrimmage. “I felt really comfortable with it because at Baylor most of the offense was RPO. I think it’s going to be good for us and add another element to our offense.”

Auburn adds ‘a lot of passing plays’ under Chip Lindsey

If the defense loads the box, with a safety rolling down or outside linebacker/Nickel moving inside, the quarterback’s pre-snap read would likely dictate to pass rather than run.

Receivers are not asked to block for long, if at all, or RPOs because they’ve got to run routes should the quarterback elect to throw.

“Adding the run- pass options have been good for my guys just to get some more balls on run plays and also some deep shots that we’re doing now,” wide receivers coach Kodi Burns said. “It’s been a really good situation so far with coach Lindsey coming in, calling the offense and putting in some RPOs for our guys to make some more plays out in space. …

“When you’re telling receivers, you don’t always have to block on a run play, that’s always a positive thing. … We’ve been successful all the time running the ball, but now it just adds another dimension. If you run an open box, now we have some passing options off the run game that have been really good.”

Jarrett Stidham says ‘there’s a lot of weaknesses’ he’s working on

Of course, there is greater complexity to executing RPOs consistently.

First, because the offensive line is run blocking, they run the risk of being an ineligible man downfield on a pass play. That has beena point of emphasis for officials and will continue to be the more rampant RPOs become at the college level, which allows offensive linemen to block three yards downfield compared to just one yard in the NFL.

“You don’t know when they’re going to pass it,” center Austin Golson said. “Like (in Auburn’s first spring scrimmage), I got a lineman downfield on an RPO. It’s just one of those, you got to take a guess I guess. I’m told to run my play; but normally the ball is going to be out, so I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal.”

With that run blocking, the quarterback is not dropping back in protection even if they choose to pass. If the defense covers the receivers well, the quarterback must improvise with little or no pass protection.

“You just have to understand that as a receiver,” Burns said.

The only offensive players who don’t have much of a change at all in RPOs are running backs, who either get to carry the ball as expected or could end up in protection or a passing route.

“It’s been very similar to what they’ve done in the past,” running backs coach Tim Horton said. “Obviously, some of the terminology is a little bit different but so far so good.”

RELATED: Jarrett Stidham developing chemistry with Auburn RBs

Then there’s the chess match with opposing defenses, which know an RPO is possible and can disguise plays before the snap with deception of their own. A defense can bait a quarterback into throwing against a loaded box pre-snap but drop seven or eight into coverage or into running against a four or five-man box pre-snap but crash inside after.

How Jarrett Stidham is impacting Auburn’s defense this spring

Having an experienced defensive coordinator in Kevin Steele should help Auburn in this regard, given his expertise in defending against RPOs like those used by Texas A&M and Ole Miss.

“(Texas A&M will) give a play-action fake and have routes on one side and a screen on the other,” Steele said. “So, you’ve got to be able to execute to the right, to the left and be sound in the middle.”

How much Lindsey utilizes RPOs to test opposing defenses will be one of the major changes to Auburn’s offensive to be seen this fall.

“I’m excited about what we’re doing and the direction our offense is headed,” Lindsey said. “One of the things we want to do in the spring is identify who we are in 2017. Each year you build the offense around the guys you have that year. … We’re still learning our team and what we’re getting really good at, but we have a better idea now of who can do what and what direction we want to head offensively.”

Clint Myers still waiting for Auburn’s offense to explode entering weekend series at South Carolina

After Wednesday’s 7-3 victory over Kennesaw State, Clint Myers was asked whether or not he was frustrated about Auburn’s inability to blow a game open and truly rout a team.

Auburn is only thing stopping lifelong Crimson Tide fan Pierce Quick from already committing to Alabama – SECcountry.com

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Auburn is only thing stopping lifelong Crimson Tide fan Pierce Quick from already committing to Alabama
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Auburn football: Tigers giving back in community, stealing wins on the diamond – SECcountry.com

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NFL Draft: The All-Time All-SEC First Round

How many SEC players have been chosen with the first pick in the NFL Draft? How about the second? What about the 13th? A week from today, NFL teams will make their first-round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. Will one start an SEC player on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame? It's happened 13 times. Here's a fantasy NFL Draft featuring the SEC player who had the best NFL career from each of the first 32 draft positions.

NFL Draft: The All-Time All-SEC First Round

How many SEC players have been chosen with the first pick in the NFL Draft? How about the second? What about the 13th? A week from today, NFL teams will make their first-round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. Will one start an SEC player on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame? It’s happened 13 times. Here’s a fantasy NFL Draft featuring the SEC player who had the best NFL career from each of the first 32 draft positions.

Andalusia youngster hangs out with Cam Newton on Make-A-Wish trip

The group of Make-A-Wish children who attended a Charlotte Knights game with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on April 8 included a youngster from Andalusia.

The group of Make-A-Wish children who attended a Charlotte Knights game with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on April 8 included a youngster from Andalusia.

Carmello Hill, a 7-year-old second-grader at Andalusia Elementary School, and his family flew to Charlotte, North Carolina, to hang out with the former Auburn star.

Special pre-game ceremony earlier tonight with @CameronNewton, @CLTKnightsHomer & @MakeAWish_CWNC.
Photo credit: @laurawolffphoto. pic.twitter.com/rBPAAFryft

— Charlotte Knights (@KnightsBaseball) April 9, 2017

Michele Gerlach told Mello’s story for the Andalusia Star-News this week.

Mello was diagnosed with embryonalrhabdomyosarcoma, a malignant soft-tissue tumor formed from embryonic skeletal muscle tissue, which would ordinarily grow into skeletal muscles. He’s been in remission since July.

In Charlotte, the youngsters visited Bank of America Stadium, where each had been issued a locker in the Panthers’ dressing room. In each locker was a Panthers’ jersey with Newton’s No. 1 and the child’s name on it. Gift bags were in the lockers, too.

The children went on the field, ran pass patterns for Newton and did some football drills.

In the evening, they went to the baseball game with Newton to help throw out the first pitch and watch the Chicago White Sox’s Triple-A affiliate play the Norfolk Tides in an International League game.

Skylar Hill, Mello’s mother, said Newton “was very nice.”

The trip was made possible by Make-A-Wish Alabama, which grants wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Andalusia youngster hangs out with Cam Newton on Make-A-Wish trip

The group of Make-A-Wish children who attended a Charlotte Knights game with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on April 8 included a youngster from Andalusia.

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Auburn football: Offensive line looking to develop communication … – SECcountry.com

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While some teammates skip trip, Brandon King happy to go to White House with Patriots

New England Patriots safety Brandon King knew some people would have negative reactions about the NFL team becoming the first to visit President Donald Trump at the White House for the traditional trip of champions on Wednesday. But that didn't stop the former Thompson High School star and Auburn alumnus from attending.

New England Patriots safety Brandon King knew some people would have negative reactions about the NFL team becoming the first to visit President Donald Trump at the White House for the traditional trip of champions on Wednesday.

He doesn’t want to hear it.

After playing at Thompson High School and Auburn, King earned a place on the Patriots as an undrafted rookie in 2015. King posted video from the White House on his Instagram account on Wednesday and wrote: “Worked my ass off to be able to take this trip, and for the amazing opportunity to be here with my teammates and coaches. Winning the Super Bowl was an accomplishment that I’ve been working for since I was 5 years old.”

King warned: “Negativity will get blocked.”

Worked my ass off to be able to take this trip, and for the amazing opportunity to be here with my teammates and coaches. Winning the Super Bowl was an accomplishment that I’ve been working for since I was five years old. No one knows how much work was put into this because you didn’t do it. Fair warning negativity will get blocked. Thank you big shout out to @philipppleininternational for the threads!

A post shared by Brandon King (@_king205) on Apr 19, 2017 at 9:30am PDT

While King and 33 of his teammates were at the White House, several other players didn’t make the trip, including quarterback Tom Brady.

On Wednesday morning, Brady said a “personal family matters” would keep him from attending the ceremony. Brady also did not attend when the Patriots visited President Barack Obama in 2015, again citing family issues.

In his address to the team, the president didn’t mention Brady, who has led the Patriots to five Super Bowl victories, including on Feb. 5, when he helped New England overcome a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to capture a 34-28 overtime victory against the Atlanta Falcons.

FoxNews: MOMENTS AGO: POTUS honors #SuperBowl champions the New Engand Patriots. pic.twitter.com/z6DGZzCl9T … https://t.co/65YNyprgJ3

— White House Insider (@House_Insider) April 19, 2017

Brady became the seventh New England player to say he would not attend the White House ceremony.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower, a former Alabamastandout who also skipped the Patriots’ previous trip to Washington, D.C., had said he’d had enough White House visits, having gone twice after the Crimson Tide won BCS national championships.

The other five players — running back LeGarrette Blount, defensive end Chris Long, defensive tackle Alan Branch, tight end Martellus Bennett and safety Devin McCourty – had cited differences with Trump’s policies.

But those players weren’t the only ones who were eligible to attend who did not.

Mark Daniels, the Patriots beat writer for the Providence Journal, reported punter Ryan Allen, wide receiver Danny Amendola, offensive lineman Chris Barker, linebacker Trevor Bates, running back Brandon Bolden, cornerback Malcolm Butler, safety Patrick Chung, offensive lineman Jamil Douglas, offensive lineman Chase Farris, wide receiver Michael Floyd, linebacker Jonathan Freeny, running back Tyler Gaffney, defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton, safety Duron Harmon, offensive lineman Tre Jackson, cornerback Cyrus Jones, running back Dion Lewis, wide receiver Devin Lucien, offensive lineman Shaq Mason, linebacker Barkevious Mingo, cornerback Logan Ryan, tight end Greg Scruggs, defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, running back James White and wide receiver DeAndrew Whitedid not attend.

Bennett, Blount, Floyd, Gaffney, Jackson, Long, Mingo, Scruggs and DeAndrew White are no longer on the team.

“It’s interesting,” New England owner Robert Kraft said on “The Today Show.” “This is our fifth Super Bowl in the last 16 years, and every time we’ve had the privilege of going to the White House, a dozen of our players don’t go. This is the first time it’s gotten any media attention. This is America. We’re all free to do whatever’s best for us. We’re just privileged to be in a position to be going.”

Butler was a college standout at West Alabama. Jones and DeAndew White, who was on the New England practice squad last year, played at Alabama.

Two other players with Alabama football roots attended with King – defensive end Trey Flowers of Columbia High School and cornerback Jonathan Jonesof Auburn.

The Patriots’ visit to the White House came on the same day that former New England tight end Aaron Hernandez was found dead in his prison cell. Authorities said Hernandez hanged himself. He was serving a life sentence for murder.

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

While some teammates skip trip, Brandon King happy to go to White House with Patriots

New England Patriots safety Brandon King knew some people would have negative reactions about the NFL team becoming the first to visit President Donald Trump at the White House for the traditional trip of champions on Wednesday. But that didn't stop the former Thompson High School star and Auburn alumnus from attending.

New England Patriots safety Brandon King knew some people would have negative reactions about the NFL team becoming the first to visit President Donald Trump at the White House for the traditional trip of champions on Wednesday.

He doesn’t want to hear it.

After playing at Thompson High School and Auburn, King earned a place on the Patriots as an undrafted rookie in 2015. King posted video from the White House on his Instagram account on Wednesday and wrote: “Worked my ass off to be able to take this trip, and for the amazing opportunity to be here with my teammates and coaches. Winning the Super Bowl was an accomplishment that I’ve been working for since I was 5 years old.”

King warned: “Negativity will get blocked.”

Worked my ass off to be able to take this trip, and for the amazing opportunity to be here with my teammates and coaches. Winning the Super Bowl was an accomplishment that I’ve been working for since I was five years old. No one knows how much work was put into this because you didn’t do it. Fair warning negativity will get blocked. Thank you big shout out to @philipppleininternational for the threads!

A post shared by Brandon King (@_king205) on Apr 19, 2017 at 9:30am PDT

While King and 33 of his teammates were at the White House, several other players didn’t make the trip, including quarterback Tom Brady.

On Wednesday morning, Brady said a “personal family matters” would keep him from attending the ceremony. Brady also did not attend when the Patriots visited President Barack Obama in 2015, again citing family issues.

In his address to the team, the president didn’t mention Brady, who has led the Patriots to five Super Bowl victories, including on Feb. 5, when he helped New England overcome a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to capture a 34-28 overtime victory against the Atlanta Falcons.

FoxNews: MOMENTS AGO: POTUS honors #SuperBowl champions the New Engand Patriots. pic.twitter.com/z6DGZzCl9T … https://t.co/65YNyprgJ3

— White House Insider (@House_Insider) April 19, 2017

Brady became the seventh New England player to say he would not attend the White House ceremony.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower, a former Alabamastandout who also skipped the Patriots’ previous trip to Washington, D.C., had said he’d had enough White House visits, having gone twice after the Crimson Tide won BCS national championships.

The other five players — running back LeGarrette Blount, defensive end Chris Long, defensive tackle Alan Branch, tight end Martellus Bennett and safety Devin McCourty – had cited differences with Trump’s policies.

But those players weren’t the only ones who were eligible to attend who did not.

Mark Daniels, the Patriots beat writer for the Providence Journal, reported punter Ryan Allen, wide receiver Danny Amendola, offensive lineman Chris Barker, linebacker Trevor Bates, running back Brandon Bolden, cornerback Malcolm Butler, safety Patrick Chung, offensive lineman Jamil Douglas, offensive lineman Chase Farris, wide receiver Michael Floyd, linebacker Jonathan Freeny, running back Tyler Gaffney, defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton, safety Duron Harmon, offensive lineman Tre Jackson, cornerback Cyrus Jones, running back Dion Lewis, wide receiver Devin Lucien, offensive lineman Shaq Mason, linebacker Barkevious Mingo, cornerback Logan Ryan, tight end Greg Scruggs, defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, running back James White and wide receiver DeAndrew Whitedid not attend.

Bennett, Blount, Floyd, Gaffney, Jackson, Long, Mingo, Scruggs and DeAndrew White are no longer on the team.

“It’s interesting,” New England owner Robert Kraft said on “The Today Show.” “This is our fifth Super Bowl in the last 16 years, and every time we’ve had the privilege of going to the White House, a dozen of our players don’t go. This is the first time it’s gotten any media attention. This is America. We’re all free to do whatever’s best for us. We’re just privileged to be in a position to be going.”

Butler was a college standout at West Alabama. Jones and DeAndew White, who was on the New England practice squad last year, played at Alabama.

Two other players with Alabama football roots attended with King – defensive end Trey Flowers of Columbia High School and cornerback Jonathan Jonesof Auburn.

The Patriots’ visit to the White House came on the same day that former New England tight end Aaron Hernandez was found dead in his prison cell. Authorities said Hernandez hanged himself. He was serving a life sentence for murder.

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

While some teammates skip trip, Brandon King happy to go to White House with Patriots

New England Patriots safety Brandon King knew some people would have negative reactions about the NFL team becoming the first to visit President Donald Trump at the White House for the traditional trip of champions on Wednesday. But that didn’t stop the former Thompson High School star and Auburn alumnus from attending.

What is John Franklin III’s role on Auburn special teams?

John Franklin III has a role on Auburn’s special teams, but it might not be as a returner.

What is John Franklin III’s role on Auburn special teams?

John Franklin III has a role on Auburn's special teams, but it might not be as a returner.

Watch video

John Franklin III has a role on Auburn’s special teams, but it might not be as a returner.

The quarterback-turned-receiver was amongfour players working on punt returns for Auburn during the spring.

Special teams and running back coach Tim Horton said Franklin has a “big role” on Auburn’s special teams, but he’s considerably behind Stephen Roberts and Ryan Davis.

“We kind of thought, maybe let’s check him out as the punt returner,” Horton said before a meeting of the Marshall County Auburn Club in Guntersville on Tuesday. “But right now those other two are just better than he is. But he will be a very good special teams guy for us.”

Franklin, who opened spring at quarterback but moved to wide receiver, had four catches for 19 yards on A-Day and played while playing with the backups and third-teamers.

5 Auburn players who lost the most from spring practice

During special teams periods of spring practices Franklin worked with the gunners and took reps attempting to down punts inside the 10-yard line.

It would not be out of the question to see Franklin as a vise on punt return teams, possibly as a decoy or on a trick return play that could be used to get the ball in his hands.

“He’s just got so much speed that we need to get him on the field,” Horton said, “and I think he’ll be good.”

John Franklin III catches touchdown in first Auburn spring scrimmage

Franklin did not speak publicly during the spring so his thoughts on changing positions and plans after graduating this summer are unclear.

The former junior college transfer previously stated he would consult with his family about his plans for the 2017 season.

Auburn looking for Darius Slayton to be a leader at wide receiver

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Auburn’s third running back spot ‘still highly up in the air’

Auburn is still trying to establish a pecking order in the backfield behind leading rushers Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson.

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Auburn has proven commodities in Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson out of the backfield heading into 2017, but with spring in the rearview mirror and summer workouts less than a month away, there remains uncertainty behind that tandem on the Tigers’ depth chart.

At the onset of spring, running backs coach Tim Horton’s main goal was to establish a third option at the position for 2017. While Malik Miller, Kam Martin and C.J. Tolbert competed for that spot through 15 practices, a hierarchy was never fully established.

“That one’s still highly up in the air,” Horton said Tuesday in Guntersville before speaking to the Marshall County Auburn Club.

Miller returned this spring after missing most of last season due to a left knee injurythat required surgery and sidelined him for the final eight games of his freshman season. He finished the year with 16 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown in three appearances, including a career-best 45 yards and a touchdown against ULM.

Miller’s injury opened the door for Martin, who was a late arrival in the summer but finished the year with 320 yards and three touchdowns on 44 carries. Martin worked this spring to pack on more weight after arriving on campus at 5-foot-10 and 172 pounds. He’s now up to 188 pounds.

Tolbert, a walk-on from Dadeville, pushed Miller and Martin for playing time throughout the springand impressed Horton and some teammates with his hard-nosed running style at just 5-foot-7 and 187 pounds.

The ongoing competition had Horton bouncing back and forth in his head who was at the head of the pack on any given day during spring practices.

“To be honest, there’s one day that I left the practice field and said, ‘hey, it’s C.J. Tolbert,'” Horton said of the third running back spot. “Then the next day I’d leave and say, ‘no, it’s Malik Miller.’ Then the next day I’d leave and say, ‘no, it’s Kam Martin.’ I don’t know that we had one really separate themselves, and I think if we had to play tomorrow, it would probably be a combination of all three.”

Malik Miller looks the part of Auburn’s RB3

Each of the three backs had an opportunity to make a case on A-Day on April 8, and while Miller had the best day on paper — eight carries for 42 yards and a touchdown while splitting time with the White and Blue team offenses — Horton doesn’t want people reading too much into the spring game running back distribution. Martin had eight carries for 30 yards but also dropped a deep wheel route from Jarrett Stidham in the first half, while Tolbert totaled nine carries for 30 yards on the afternoon.

“The way it worked out is they almost all played identical plays,” Horton said, adding that some played more with certain personnel groupings than others.

So, the search for the team’s third running back — which is necessary for depth purposes in case both Pettway and Johnson miss any time due to injury like they did last season — will continue into the fall. Miller, Martin and Tolbert will be given an opportunity to earn the spot, but Horton also said incoming freshman Devan Barrett — a four-star recruit who will arrive on campus next month– will be given a chance to compete for playing time.

“I think that, at least for me as the running backs coach, (the third running back) will be something that’s my big question in the fall,” Horton said.

Auburn’s third running back spot ‘still highly up in the air’

Auburn is still trying to establish a pecking order in the backfield behind leading rushers Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson.

Auburn football: Reliving the spring game, taking on Kennesaw State – SECcountry.com

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