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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Changes ahead for Cam Newton in Carolina Panthers’ training camp

How's Cam Newton's passing arm? The Carolina Panthers will start answering that question on Tuesday, when the NFL team's players report for training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

How’s Cam Newton‘s passing arm?

The Carolina Panthers will start answering that question on Tuesday, when the NFL team’s players report for training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

The former Auburn star had surgery on his throwing shoulder to repair a partially torn rotator cuff on March 30, and he didn’t attempt a pass in the offseason until June 26, almost two weeks after the Panthers’ offseason program had ended.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera is expecting Newton to have limitations as training camp begins, although the quarterback did make his annual pre-camp journey to Baltimore with the Panthers’ receivers last week.

“I do know Cam’s up in Baltimore with the group of the guys throwing, so apparently his shoulder must be fine,” Rivera told the Charlotte Observer on Wednesday. “I look forward to seeing him on Tuesday, as I look forward to seeing the rest of the guys.”

After earning the NFL MVP Award in 2015, when the Panthers lost one regular-season game and reached the Super Bowl, Newton had the worst passer rating of his career last season. Carolina crashed to a 6-10 record and the cellar of the NFC South after winning three consecutive division titles.

Rivera shared with Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated how he addressed Carolina’s downturn.

“I have a friend who recently had a heart attack, and I called him and said, ‘I’m so sad that this happened to you,'” Rivera said. “And he said, ‘Ron, it’s not really what happened to me, it happened for me,’ basically telling me that he had to change, there are things he had to alter. Well, it’s the same thing for us. The way he put it to me made me realize 2016 didn’t happen to us, it happened for us.”

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

The Panthers’ changes started with the offensive plan and the personnel around Newton.

Defensive coordinators took a lesson from Denver’s plan against Newton during the Broncos’ Super Bowl victory over Carolina. Denver hit Newton early and often, and Newton’s propensity to transform from a quarterback to a power runner in zone-read plays and when his shaky pass protection started to crumble played into that scheme throughout 2016.

So in the offseason, the Panthers signed Matt Kalil away from the Minnesota Vikings in free agency to play left offensive tackle. In the NFL Draft in April, Carolina used its first two picks on speedy running backs who provide quick-strike options in the short-passing game – first-rounder Christian McCaffrey of Stanford and second-rounder Curtis Samuel of Ohio State.

“We went out and made some moves in free agency to help shore-up the offensive line,” Rivera told SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier this month. “Then we go out and feel like we have to continue to put playmakers around him. We went out and found a very versatile, explosive running back who had a tremendous college career, and, hopefully, that translates to the NFL, in Christian McCaffrey. We went out and got Curtis Samuel out of Ohio State, a very explosive vertical back.

“That’s something we want to continue to do. And yes, there are some things we want to do in terms of getting the ball out of Cam’s hands and putting it in the hands of the playmakers. And those two young guys, they’re not going to be just the primary targets. We’ve got a tremendous slew of targets on our team, starting with Jonathan Stewart and being able to run the ball. One thing we found in 2013, 2014 and 2015, we went around and looked at what we did running the football, and how much that translated to victories for us. …

“We’ve got what we feel like has the potential to be an explosive offense. And, yes, a lot of the idea is to take the pressure off our quarterback and take some of the hits off of him as well.”

On his Instagram account over the past week, Newton has indicated he plans to wake up those who are “sleeping” on him this year.

>*>>i think jts time to to wake you K1LLAs up who been $LEE[?]1NG on me[?]< <*< #iWmW -1OVE #shineTHRUtheSHADE

A post shared by Cam Newton (@cameron1newton) on

“i had someONE tell me…. >>i FELL OFF< < owww i needed that"[?] -DRAKE #iWmW -1OVE #shineTHRUtheSHADE

A post shared by Cam Newton (@cameron1newton) on

“NO WEA[?]ON FORMED AGA1N$T ME $HALL [?]RO$[?]ER” -isaiah 54:17 #iWmW -1OVE #shineTHRUtheSHADE

A post shared by Cam Newton (@cameron1newton) on

Carolina kicks off its four-game preseason schedule on Aug. 9 against the Houston Texans.

Changes ahead for Cam Newton in Carolina Panthers’ training camp

How’s Cam Newton’s passing arm? The Carolina Panthers will start answering that question on Tuesday, when the NFL team’s players report for training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Auburn fall camp position breakdown: Quarterbacks

A review of Auburn's quarterbacks entering fall camp

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

No matter how much it’s viewed as a foregone conclusion, Auburn has not officially named Jarrett Stidham its starting quarterback and will open fall camp with a competition for the starting job.

How long that “competition” lasts – Gus Malzahn insists it is legit – remains to be seen but it’s already been determined it’ll be shorter than last year.

With all that said, Stidham is going to win the job and Sean White is going to be the backup.

Sean White ‘ready to compete’ for Auburn QB job

Malik Willis impressed the coaching staff in the spring and while in an ideal world a third-string quarterback would probably redshirt, that’s not set in stone just yet.

Departed: Jeremy Johnson, Woody Barrett (transferred to Copiah-Lincoln C.C.)

Returning starter: Sean White, redshirt-junior

Other returning players: Jarrett Stidham, redshirt-sophomore; Malik Willis, freshman; John Franklin III, redshirt-senior

Summer arrivals: N/A

Outlook: Stidham will be the starter and Auburn’s passing game will see a massive improvement.

The Tigers had no ability to stretch the field consistently last season, particularly in the last five games. That all changes with Stidham, who was one of the best deep passers in the country while at Baylor in 2015.

This doesn’t mean all problems are instantly solved in the passing game or that Stidham has nothing to work on, only that Auburn’s quarterback play will improve.

Stidham has not faced the level of competition he’ll see in the SEC this season and more games will allow better defensive coordinators, who have far greater talent than in the Big XII, to prepare for what he’s able to do.

RELATED: Post-spring QB analysis

White is a more than serviceable backup when healthy. He’s efficient and will rarely lose the team the game, but he simply doesn’t have the arm strength or accuracy Stidham does.

There’s no guarantee Willis redshirts this season, though it would make sense. He’s a true dual-threat but hasn’t played quarterback for very long.

John Franklin III has moved to receiver full time but in the event of extreme emergency or for a trick play, could be called upon at quarterback.

Fall camp position preview: RB | HB/TE

Battle to Watch: Technically, the starting job is undetermined so for however long that is the case, that will be the focus of fall camp.

Keep an Eye on: Stidham. Auburn’s season will rely on quarterback play and what he’s capable of doing.

Projected two deep:

Jarrett Stidham (6-foot-3, 214 pounds)
Sean White (6-foot, 211 pounds)

Auburn fall camp position breakdown: Quarterbacks

A review of Auburn’s quarterbacks entering fall camp

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


SECcountry.com

Lessons won: What Auburn football learned in loss to Clemson last season
SECcountry.com
“I think a lot of people watched that game and just wondered what was the envisioned light at the end of the tunnel for Auburn,” ESPN college football analyst Cole Cubelic said. “There were a lot of people scratching their heads, confused as to not
10 reasons to be optimistic: Underrated linebackers247Sports



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247Sports Take: Harris to Auburn – 247Sports


247Sports

247Sports Take: Harris to Auburn
247Sports
With Harris in the fold alongside a couple other snot-bubble seekers in 2017 signees Tadarian Moultry and Kenney Britt make for a hard-hitting second level for years to come. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Harris has the traits to play right away for Gus

Auburn picks up commitment from 2018 linebacker Michael Harris

For the third time in four days, Auburn has picked up a verbal commitment.

Boom! 4-star LB commits to Tigers – 247Sports


247Sports

Boom! 4-star LB commits to Tigers
247Sports
Three weeks after telling the Auburn staff in private he wanted to be a Tiger, he made his commitment official on Monday — just a day after wrapping up an overnight visit at the school. "It's a great environment," Harris said. "And it's a nice place
BREAKING: Michael Harris commits to Auburn over Ohio State, GeorgiaSECcountry.com



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Georgia linebacker Michael Harris commits to Auburn

Auburn landed another big piece to its defensive puzzle

Georgia linebacker Michael Harris commits to Auburn

Auburn landed another big piece to its defensive puzzle

Auburn landed another big piece to its defensive puzzle on Monday when Tucker, Ga., four-star linebacker Michael Harris committed to the Tigers.

Harris, the nation’s No. 11 inside linebacker and No. 241 overall recruit, was in Auburn for its cookout on Saturday and stayed until Sunday. He’s the second linebacker to choose Auburn this weekend, joining Decatur standout Josh Marsh.

Harris’ offers included Georgia, Ohio State, Alabama and more. He is Auburn commit No. 10 for this class.

Harris was thought to be an Ohio State lean earlier this year.

“What’s keeping me from committing to Ohio State is Auburn,” the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Harris said at Big Cat Weekend. “I feel like Auburn has put more time in me than Ohio State.”

Harris’ mother attended Big Cat Weekend as well in early June.

“She loves it,” Harris said. “This is where she wants me to go. It’s close to home and she can be from point A to point B.”

This post will be updated.

Check out Harris’ junior highlights when he was at Lovejoy High.

Sean White working hard, ‘ready to compete’ for Auburn QB job

"He looks great. I know he feels great. And he's just ready to compete."

Sean White’s Instagram post on June 17 was his first since early May.

It was a picture of White celebrating an Auburn win with the caption, “Forget all the reasons it won’t work, and believe the one reason it will.”

While White is the underdog in the Tigers’ quarterback competition, the redshirt junior has been working hard this summer while preparing to compete for Auburn’s quarterback job when the Tigers begin fall camp July 31.

The 6-foot White is up to about 215 pounds after being listed at 200 pounds last year and has trained some with longtime private quarterback coach Ken Mastrole in addition to his work during Auburn’s summer workouts.

White spent time with Mastrole this past weekend, the second time he’s worked with Mastrole since the Tigers finished spring practice in April.

“He looks great. I know he feels great. And he’s just ready to compete,” Mastrole said. “He’s always had to compete. And I know how college football gets sometimes and how fans get sometimes, but the awesome part about Sean is that he blocks all that out and just plays. He just plays because he loves everything about the university and loves everything about Auburn, and I think he’s worked extremely hard to get back to this point. And a lot of credit needs to go to their strength staff. Sean came back and he’s put on more weight. He looks thicker. And he’s hitting personal bests from my understanding in terms of whatever they’re doing in the weight room and in terms of functional strength training.”

Though White’s competition for the job, Jarrett Stidham, excelled during the spring and is already being talked about nationally as a potential dark horse Heisman candidate, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has been adamant that White will have a “legitimate” opportunity to compete with Stidham during fall camp.

White will be back as a full participant after being limited during the spring while continuing to recover from the broken forearm he suffered during the Tigers’ Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma.

Auburn was 6-1 in games White was healthy and played from start to finish last year. In those seven games, the Florida native completed 71.5 percent of his passes and threw eight touchdowns with just one interception.

“The biggest comfort for me right now is we have quality depth at the quarterback position,” Malzahn said. “Jarrett Stidham is a very talented young man. I think that’s a common sense deal. What he’s done since he’s been at Auburn is just his leadership. He’s really done a good job of trying to win over his teammates, and he’s got a great work ethic. Sean White, I’m very excited about Sean White. When Sean White’s healthy, he plays at an extremely high level. Last year when we got on that roll, that six-game winning streak, he was leading the league in completions and quarterback efficiency.

“We’ve got two of the better quarterbacks, I feel like, and we’ve got a young one named Malik Willis that is a freshman that really caught my eye in the spring. So the exciting thing for me is we’ve got depth. Like I said, that’s been our Achilles’ heel the last two years.”

In total, White has only posted on Instagram four times since May 3.

One post was the one on June 17. The most recent was on July 10, seemingly a reaction to an SEC Network graphic from earlier that day that had Auburn among the schools that have already decided on its starting quarterback.

The caption of White’s post read simply, “Trust the process.”

“He has a great mindset,” Mastrole said, “and he’s just ready to compete.”

Sean White working hard, ‘ready to compete’ for Auburn QB job

“He looks great. I know he feels great. And he’s just ready to compete.”

Auburn commit Josh Marsh persevered to earn shot with Tigers

The speedy linebacker from Decatur High went from a relatively unknown recruit to an SEC commitment in one day.

Josh Marsh wanted to make sure he was at his best when he performed in front of Auburn coaches.

With that in mind, the Decatur High 2018 linebacker opted not to make a trip to the Plains last summer due to a hip flexor issue. His decision paid off. Marsh, at full health, went to the Tigers’ camp Friday, ran a blazing 4.43-second 40-yard dash, got an offer and committed before leaving campus.

“I said, ‘If I want to go, then I want to put on a show,’ ” Marsh told AL.com. “I was praying hard and putting it all on God. He just blessed me in that. I went down there and did good. I was just faithing it and believing that God was going to bless me. I put in the work and the dedication, but you never know. So, I believed in God that He was going to bless me and that I was going to do good, and that’s what happened.”

RELATED: AL.com featured Marsh in the spring

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Marsh led the state in tackles last season with 206 in 12 games and he made 150 stops in 10 games as a sophomore. Marsh received interest from Auburn during the offseason, but truly caught the eye of Tigers assistants when he initially clocked the 4.43. Marsh said that linebackers coach Travis Williams was “all excited” about the time. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was asked to clock Marsh’s second dash and he recorded another 4.43.

“After I ran 4.43 again, they came over, met my parents and watched me the rest of the camp,” said Marsh, a member of Decatur’s 4×100-meter relay team. “After it was over, they asked us to come to coach (Gus) Malzahn’s office.”

Malzahn extended an offer, which Marsh described as “mind-blowing” experience.

“I was kind of speechless and didn’t know what to say,” Marsh said. “He got up to walk out of the room and see if coach Steele was ready for me. I was with my mom and dad and said, ‘I want to commit, but I don’t know how this works.’ They were like, ‘Neither do we; we’ve never been in this situation. Just tell him.’ Coach came back and we started talking and I said, ‘I want to come play ball here. I want to commit.’ He was taken off guard a little bit. He was like, ‘OK, I’ll go talk to the other coaches, and after today’s over, I’ll tweet out a ‘Boom’.’ “

Marsh said he has shut down his recruitment and will not take visits to other schools. A three-star recruit per the 247Sports Composite, Marsh counted Louisville, Wake Forest, Purdue, Memphis and Colorado State among his offers prior to the Auburn camp.

“I’m done (with recruiting); this is it,” Marsh said. “Every Saturday that I can, I’ll be at Auburn for home games.”

Marsh said that the Auburn staff hasn’t nailed down a position for him, instead referring to him as a “defensive athlete.”

“I’m 210, so I can put on 10 more pounds and play outside linebacker,” Marsh said. “Or I can put on five pounds and play like a Star (a nickelback/linebacker hybrid). Or I can stay the same weight and play safety. Since I ran the 4.4, it kind of opened up options in where they can put me, because now they know I can move and that I’m not a standard linebacker who has to stay in the box.”

Even with more than 48 hours having passed since his commitment, Marsh was still in a state of awe reagarding his situation.

“I haven’t slept much the past two nights,” he said. “I just lay and bed and am like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is real.'”


Auburn commit Josh Marsh persevered to earn shot with Tigers

The speedy linebacker from Decatur High went from a relatively unknown recruit to an SEC commitment in one day.

AL.com All-Access: How long before Nick Saban or Gus Malzahn hires Hugh Freeze?

College football coaches love to hand out second chances. The coaches at Alabama and Auburn both have reasons to give Freeze a shot when the time’s right.

AL.com All-Access: How long before Nick Saban or Gus Malzahn hires Hugh Freeze?

College football coaches love to hand out second chances. The coaches at Alabama and Auburn both have reasons to give Freeze a shot when the time's right.

Nobody believes in forgiveness like college football coaches. They routinely hand out second chances to talented individuals who’ve made mistakes/violated rules/committed crimes/broken commandments.

So who will be the first kind soul to lift up the fallen Hugh Freeze – Nick Saban or Gus Malzahn?

It would make sense for Saban to add Freeze to his army of analysts because no coach has given the Alabama coach more fits. Freeze beat Saban in 2014 and 2015 and took a serious run at a three-peat last season.

After Alabama shut out Ole Miss in 2013, the Rebels came back to hang 23 and 43 points to beat the Tide in 2014 and 2015 victories and 43 more points in last year’s Alabama comeback victory.

Part of Saban’s genius is his willingness to learn from past mistakes and defeats. While he’s already hired former Ole Miss offensive coordinator Dan Werner as an analyst, Freeze was the boss of the Ole Miss operation, which was the biggest threat to Alabama within the conference the last three years.

Despite Freeze’s personal and professional failings, Saban has the clout to forgive and forget.

Malzahn has a more personal reason to reach out to Freeze and help him in his hour of need. The two men are friends. It’s interesting in hindsight to remember that their friendship was the basis of the last question asked of the Auburn coach during his SEC Media Days session in the big interview room.

The question: “Gus, I know you’re pretty good friends with Hugh Freeze. He’s obviously got a challenging situation where they can’t play for a title or a bowl game. How do you think he’s going to handle that?”

Malzahn’s answer: “You know, I mean, Hugh is one of my good friends in this business. He’s one of the good guys in college football. And you know, they’re going to be extremely talented on offense, and their new
defensive coordinator was our co-defensive coordinator last year, so I expect them to have a very good team.”

Of course, that was before Houston Nutt forced Freeze to resign.

At the moment, Freeze doesn’t look like one of the good guys in college football, but real friendship shouldn’t be situational. One of Malzahn’s primary tasks as the Auburn coach is trying to beat Alabama.

Who knows more about that subject – and happens to be out of work at the moment – than Freeze?

It’s probably too soon for anyone to touch the radioactive Freeze until the NCAA Infractions Committee finishes laying waste to the Ole Miss program. Freeze could be subject to a show cause making him unemployable for a period of time.

There’s also a chance Freeze made other personal mistakes that could become public knowledge.

But when the time comes, some college football coach will overlook his misdeeds and give Freeze a chance to begin his rehabilitation. There’s no one better to hand him that second chance than Saban. Unless it’s Malzahn.

Louisiana cornerback target Derek Turner calls Auburn ‘top school’ after visit – SECcountry.com


SECcountry.com

Louisiana cornerback target Derek Turner calls Auburn 'top school' after visit
SECcountry.com
Welcome to SEC Country's daily Auburn football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. In this edition, we talk to an out-of-state defensive back who calls Auburn his leader. Also, what's the latest on Caleb Tannor and
UGA recruiting: In-state OLB target Caleb Tannor set to decideDawgNation



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Auburn center Austin Wiley out 4-6 weeks with stress fracture

Auburn center Austin Wiley has a stress fracture in his left leg and will be sidelined for the next four to six weeks, the school announced Monday morning. No surgery is required.

Could Auburn land a commitment today? More from recruiting weekend

Auburn landed two commitments on Friday in Hoover junior receiver George Pickens and Decatur linebacker Josh Marsh.

Auburn landed two commitments on Friday in Hoover junior receiver George Pickens and Decatur linebacker Josh Marsh.

Could more come today? Lithonia, Ga., defensive end Caleb Tannor is picking between Auburn and Georgia. But he hasn’t said when he will announce today. It will come on his Twitter feed. It could be this morning or later.

Tannor spoke to AL.com’s James Crepea this weekend about his recruitment.

10:15 a.m. EDIT – Tannor has committed to Georgia, per reports.

Another recruit to watch is Tucker, Ga., four-star linebacker Michael Harris. Auburn leads for Harris and he could be on commit watch soon.

11:45 a.m. EDIT – Auburn got a commitment today from Michael Harris

Back to the commitments Friday. Pickens is a 6-foot-5 junior with a ton of potential. He caught my eye when I went to Hoover’s spring practice because he looks the part. Other college coaches took notice. He got his first offer that day from Jacksonville State, but the SEC and other FBS coaches sure caught wind of him. Soon, Auburn offered and Friday, he committed.

Marsh, a three-star recruit, wasn’t as well-known by the recruiting junkies as he was by his production, which AL.com’s Daniel Boyette noted in a feature this spring. Marsh showed up to Auburn’s camp and, according to an onlooker, ran a 4.5 and dominated drills. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Marsh profiles as a safety or nickel at the next level.

More content from Auburn this weekend. 

From Gary Estwick, Auburn offered 2020 Jackson-Olin linebacker Quanderrius Robertson. Auburn also offered Hewitt-Trussvillle 2020 receiver Dazalin Worsham

We thought Jensen Beach, Fla., safety Jamien Sherwood would commit to Auburn, but Auburn still leads.

Ex-Alabama running back commit Damien Pierce made a visit to Auburn

Alabama leads, but Auburn in mix for 2019 DE King Mwikuta

Auburn leads for 3-star DB Derek Turner

In-state standouts Seth Williams, a WR from Paul Bryant in Tuscaloosa, visited Auburn and spoke about its family feel. He didn’t visit Alabama, so it seems like Auburn is making him a high priority. Mobile Christian DE Andres Fox, who has Alabama and Auburn tied atop and LSU not far behind, also made a trip. Austin RB Asa Martin was there as well.

Could Auburn land a commitment today? More from recruiting weekend

Auburn landed two commitments on Friday in Hoover junior receiver George Pickens and Decatur linebacker Josh Marsh.

Auburn football: The countdown continues, Kasey Cooper shines again – SECcountry.com


SECcountry.com

Auburn football: The countdown continues, Kasey Cooper shines again
SECcountry.com
Welcome to SEC Country's daily War Eagle Wakeup, a rundown of everything happening in Auburn football and Auburn Tigers athletics with Lauren Shute. Here's a look at what you might have missed on Friday and over the weekend: …

and more »

Auburn opponent preview: Ole Miss

Auburn’s Week 6 matchup got a little more interesting last week. Rather than facing Hugh Freeze’s sixth Ole Miss team, they’ll be facing interim coach Matt Luke’s first.

Auburn opponent preview: Ole Miss

Auburn’s Week 6 matchup got a little more interesting last week. Rather than facing Hugh Freeze’s sixth Ole Miss team, they’ll be facing interim coach Matt Luke’s first.

Auburn opponent early scouting report: Arkansas

An early look at Auburn’s trip to Fayetteville

Auburn opponent early scouting report: Arkansas

An early look at Auburn's trip to Fayetteville

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

Arkansas

Game date & time: D.W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Oct. 21 at TBA

2016 record: (7-6, 3-5 SEC)

Coach: Bret Bielema, fifth year at Arkansas (93-50, 25-26 at Arkansas)

Betting line: Auburn by 7

Returning starters: 6 offense, 5 defense, 1 specialist

Most important returning players: QB Austin Allen, C Frank Ragnow, DL McTelvin Agim, DB Josh Liddell

Most critical departures: RB Rawleigh Williams III, WR Keon Hatcher, WR Drew Morgan, TE Jeremy Sprinkle, LT Dan Skipper, LB Brooks Ellis, DL Jeremiah Ledbetter

Insight from Arkansas beat reporter Tom Murphy (@TomMurphyADG):

  1. How has Paul Rhoads changed the Arkansas defense?
    Bret Bielema had been considering switching to a base 3-4 for a while and Rhoads had gone through a transition in that vein as head coach at Iowa State. Rhoads biggest contribution might be in their states of mind, as the Razorbacks defensive players have spoken about having more fun and enthusiasm playing for Rhoads after a rough year with coordinator Robb Smith in their ears.
  2. How much of a priority has improving the offensive line been this offseason?
    I’d say it was the top priority on offense after the Hogs allowed 35 sacks last season. The Hogs might take a step down at left tackle, where Colton Jackson appears to be the heir apparent to Dan Skipper, but the other four spots should be improved with returning starters LG Hjalte Froholdt, C Frank Ragnow, RG Johnny Gibson and RT Brian Wallace. Jackson has a big upside but much to learn. The Razorbacks also think they have better quality depth to shore up a position of weakness a year ago.
  3. Who will be Austin Allen’s top targets?
    Senior slot guy Jared Cornelius would be the most logical choice to lead the team in catches after a couple of strong seasons. Junior college transfer Brandon Martin is expected to make early contributions as a physical 6-4, 215-pounder. Redshirt freshman Jordan Jones has a chance to be the top deep threat, while sophomores La’Michael Pettway and Deon Stewart should make strides. Don’t count on junior college tight end signee Jeremy Patton for quickly emerging as an Allen favorite.
  4. What would it take for Bret Bielema to be on the hot seat this season?
    Not qualifying for a bowl game would certainly turn up the heat on his seat, and another 7-win season wouldn’t exactly be celebrated. If the Hogs win eight games, I’d qualify that as a moderate success given the lack of returning starters and the relentless SEC West slate.
  5. A win for Arkansas would mean? A loss for Arkansas would mean?
    A win over Auburn would mark a small measure of revenge for that 56-3 beatdown of last season, but the lingering effects of that game had a lot to do with the changes the Razorbacks have undergone this offseason. A loss to the Tigers at home would be Bret Bielema’s second at Razorback Stadium to Gus Malzahn in three tries and his fourth loss in five games head to head. Not a good record. Both men say it’s just another game, but I think there’s a different level of desire when it comes to Arkansas-Auburn.

Arkansas center ‘not over’ blowout loss at Auburn in 2016

Auburn story lines:

  • Keeping streak alive or rebounding from LSU
    Chances are Auburn will either be a on a substantial win streak or will have just lost at LSU the week before. Either way, the Tigers will need to way to stay in contention in the SEC West.
  • Trap game
    This is the second of a three-game road stretch and Auburn will have a bye week before heading to Texas A&M. Arkansas will be coming off a trip to Alabama and at the midpoint of a 10-game stretch to end the season. The Razorbacks could be an overlooked opponent.
  • Getting to Austin Allen
    When he has protection, Allen can be absolutely lethal. Arkansas had a brutal time protecting him last season and will have a new left tackle but four returning starters an offensive line that could not protect Allen against Auburn.
  • Remember the pregame antics of last year
    The fracas on the Auburn logo before last year’s mauling was one of the more unusual things to happen in this largely forgotten rivalry. The Tigers didn’t take kindly to it and went on to dismantle the Razorbacks.
  • Gus Malzahn back in Fayetteville
    The significance of Malzahn return to Arkansas diminishes slightly with each return trip but it still carries more meaning on a personal level than most other SEC road games.

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

Arkansas story lines:

  • Recovering from Alabama trip
    Arkansas will be coming off a trip to Tuscaloosa that will likely be a loss. Depending on the South Carolina game a week earlier, there’s a chance the Razorbacks could be 0-3 in the SEC entering this game.
  • Redemption
    Last year’s game was one of the most lopsided beatdowns in SEC history and led to changes on the coaching staff. Not to mention Arkansas players provoking the pregame scuffle on the logo.
  • A Paul Rhoads defense
    The former Auburn defensive coordinator has taken over the Arkansas defense, which has but one direction to go in many categories after last season.
  • Replacing Rawleigh Williams III
    At this point, Arkansas will have determined its top rusher but losing Williams to a career-ending injury in the spring was a brutal blow.

An Auburn win would mean:

Heading into an open week by likely staying in the thick of the race in the SEC West. Regardless of Auburn’s record entering the game, a massively important four-game stretch in November awaits.

An Auburn loss would mean:

Potentially back-to-back SEC loses, depending on the LSU game the week earlier and entering an open week in a bad spot. With the Razorbacks expected to finish in the bottom half of the division and already a touchdown underdog at home, this would be a brutal defeat for the Tigers.

Auburn opponent early scouting report: Arkansas

An early look at Auburn's trip to Fayetteville

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

Arkansas

Game date & time: D.W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Oct. 21 at TBA

2016 record: (7-6, 3-5 SEC)

Coach: Bret Bielema, fifth year at Arkansas (93-50, 25-26 at Arkansas)

Betting line: Auburn by 7

Returning starters: 6 offense, 5 defense, 1 specialist

Most important returning players: QB Austin Allen, C Frank Ragnow, DL McTelvin Agim, DB Josh Liddell

Most critical departures: RB Rawleigh Williams III, WR Keon Hatcher, WR Drew Morgan, TE Jeremy Sprinkle, LT Dan Skipper, LB Brooks Ellis, DL Jeremiah Ledbetter

Insight from Arkansas beat reporter Tom Murphy (@TomMurphyADG):

  1. How has Paul Rhoads changed the Arkansas defense?
    Bret Bielema had been considering switching to a base 3-4 for a while and Rhoads had gone through a transition in that vein as head coach at Iowa State. Rhoads biggest contribution might be in their states of mind, as the Razorbacks defensive players have spoken about having more fun and enthusiasm playing for Rhoads after a rough year with coordinator Robb Smith in their ears.
  2. How much of a priority has improving the offensive line been this offseason?
    I’d say it was the top priority on offense after the Hogs allowed 35 sacks last season. The Hogs might take a step down at left tackle, where Colton Jackson appears to be the heir apparent to Dan Skipper, but the other four spots should be improved with returning starters LG Hjalte Froholdt, C Frank Ragnow, RG Johnny Gibson and RT Brian Wallace. Jackson has a big upside but much to learn. The Razorbacks also think they have better quality depth to shore up a position of weakness a year ago.
  3. Who will be Austin Allen’s top targets?
    Senior slot guy Jared Cornelius would be the most logical choice to lead the team in catches after a couple of strong seasons. Junior college transfer Brandon Martin is expected to make early contributions as a physical 6-4, 215-pounder. Redshirt freshman Jordan Jones has a chance to be the top deep threat, while sophomores La’Michael Pettway and Deon Stewart should make strides. Don’t count on junior college tight end signee Jeremy Patton for quickly emerging as an Allen favorite.
  4. What would it take for Bret Bielema to be on the hot seat this season?
    Not qualifying for a bowl game would certainly turn up the heat on his seat, and another 7-win season wouldn’t exactly be celebrated. If the Hogs win eight games, I’d qualify that as a moderate success given the lack of returning starters and the relentless SEC West slate.
  5. A win for Arkansas would mean? A loss for Arkansas would mean?
    A win over Auburn would mark a small measure of revenge for that 56-3 beatdown of last season, but the lingering effects of that game had a lot to do with the changes the Razorbacks have undergone this offseason. A loss to the Tigers at home would be Bret Bielema’s second at Razorback Stadium to Gus Malzahn in three tries and his fourth loss in five games head to head. Not a good record. Both men say it’s just another game, but I think there’s a different level of desire when it comes to Arkansas-Auburn.

Arkansas center ‘not over’ blowout loss at Auburn in 2016

Auburn story lines:

  • Keeping streak alive or rebounding from LSU
    Chances are Auburn will either be a on a substantial win streak or will have just lost at LSU the week before. Either way, the Tigers will need to way to stay in contention in the SEC West.
  • Trap game
    This is the second of a three-game road stretch and Auburn will have a bye week before heading to Texas A&M. Arkansas will be coming off a trip to Alabama and at the midpoint of a 10-game stretch to end the season. The Razorbacks could be an overlooked opponent.
  • Getting to Austin Allen
    When he has protection, Allen can be absolutely lethal. Arkansas had a brutal time protecting him last season and will have a new left tackle but four returning starters an offensive line that could not protect Allen against Auburn.
  • Remember the pregame antics of last year
    The fracas on the Auburn logo before last year’s mauling was one of the more unusual things to happen in this largely forgotten rivalry. The Tigers didn’t take kindly to it and went on to dismantle the Razorbacks.
  • Gus Malzahn back in Fayetteville
    The significance of Malzahn return to Arkansas diminishes slightly with each return trip but it still carries more meaning on a personal level than most other SEC road games.

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

Arkansas story lines:

  • Recovering from Alabama trip
    Arkansas will be coming off a trip to Tuscaloosa that will likely be a loss. Depending on the South Carolina game a week earlier, there’s a chance the Razorbacks could be 0-3 in the SEC entering this game.
  • Redemption
    Last year’s game was one of the most lopsided beatdowns in SEC history and led to changes on the coaching staff. Not to mention Arkansas players provoking the pregame scuffle on the logo.
  • A Paul Rhoads defense
    The former Auburn defensive coordinator has taken over the Arkansas defense, which has but one direction to go in many categories after last season.
  • Replacing Rawleigh Williams III
    At this point, Arkansas will have determined its top rusher but losing Williams to a career-ending injury in the spring was a brutal blow.

An Auburn win would mean:

Heading into an open week by likely staying in the thick of the race in the SEC West. Regardless of Auburn’s record entering the game, a massively important four-game stretch in November awaits.

An Auburn loss would mean:

Potentially back-to-back SEC loses, depending on the LSU game the week earlier and entering an open week in a bad spot. With the Razorbacks expected to finish in the bottom half of the division and already a touchdown underdog at home, this would be a brutal defeat for the Tigers.

The Countdown to Kickoff: The SEC’s best No. 40

There are 40 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 40 in SEC football history is Kentucky running back Sonny Collins.

The Countdown to Kickoff: The SEC’s best No. 40

There are 40 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 40 in SEC football history is Kentucky running back Sonny Collins.

AL.com is counting down to the 2017 SEC football season on Sept. 2 by presenting the No. 1 player to wear each number 1 through 99 in the conference’s history. There are 40 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 40 is Kentucky running back Sonny Collins.

Georgia running back Herschel Walker has been the SEC’s career rushing leader for 35 years. That’s the longest any player has held that record, and it’s such a span that football fans today might have a difficult time naming any of the ball-carriers that were No. 1 in rushing yards in the SEC’s history before Walker.

The player who held the conference’s top spot for career rushing the longest before Walker was Tulane’s Eddie Price, the only player to reach 3,000 rushing yards in the SEC’s first 42 seasons.

The second to do so – and the player who replaced Price in the No. 1 spot – was Kentucky’s Sonny Collins.

Collins compiled 3,835 rushing yards for the Wildcats to surpass Price by 720 yards.

Collins started his record-setting career with 502 rushing yards as a freshman. Then came three seasons as a first-team All-SEC running back.

In 1973, Collins led the SEC with 1,213 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns to earn the SEC Player of the Year Award. He was the first African-American player to receive that honor as he became Kentucky’s first 1,000-yard rusher.

In 1974, Collins was officially the SEC’s leading rusher again, although Mississippi State’s Walter Packer had more yards. The conference’s leading rusher has been determined by yards per game annually since 1970, and while Packer had 24 more rushing yards than Collins, he also played in two more games in 1974.

In 1975, Collins’ 1,150 rushing yards came in second in the SEC to the 1,307 of Florida’s Jimmy Dubose, who was the conference’s Player of the Year.

In the 41 seasons since he last carried the ball for the Wildcats, Collins has been passed by Walker and eight other players to rank 10th on the SEC’s all-time rushing list entering the 2017 campaign.

Runner-up at No. 40: South Carolina linebacker Eric Norwood  

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

Like 2013 Team, 2017 Tigers Have Something to Prove

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Like most of you, I was shocked to hear the news that Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze had resigned Thursday. His abrupt departure has dominated college football news over the weekend and so we won’t belabor the story. However, in case anyone was out of town the last three days without TV or internet service, and would like to have a complete review of the situation, check out Acid Reign’s comments from his latest post here.

The breaking news came during the Auburn Takeover of the SEC Network. Many were watching the 2013 Auburn – Georgia game known as, “The Prayer in Jordan-Hare.” All 14 SEC schools select their own 24-hour schedule which often include classic games from the past. Auburn chose six football games for rebroadcast three of which came from the 2013 season.

SEC Champions, the 2013 Tigers lost the national championship game to Florida State. It was a tough and disheartening ending to what had seemed like a dream season. Yet never before had the Auburn family been more proud of an Auburn football team.

The Tigers finish the season ranked No. 2 in the country in both the AP and Coaches poll. However, that was not much consolation for a bunch of young men who traveled so far in that comeback season. Winless in conference play in 2012, Auburn started out being picked to finish near the bottom of the South Eastern Conference. Instead the Tigers won the SEC and came within 13 seconds of being crowned national champions.

What they and their coaches accomplished in such a short time was nothing less than miraculous. They captured the nation’s imagination, gave their fans hope, and restored Auburn to national prominence.

I never thought that a team could steal my heart from my favorite team – the 1963 Tigers led by Jimmy Sidle and Tucker Frederickson. Not the ’72 Amazins, not the great Pat Dye teams of the 80’s, not the undefeated teams of ’93 and 2004, not even the 2010 National Champions could do that. But this team did it. And not only for me but I suspect for thousands of other Auburn fans as well.

The team came from the very bottom to scale to the pinnacle of College football’s greatest heights. After a  disappointing 2012 year, the Tigers were determined to prove all their naysayer’s wrong …. which brings us to the 2017 team.

Coach Malzahn said during SEC Media Days that he sense’s for the first time the same kind of determination amongst this year’s bunch. After falling short last year and ending the season with a blow out loss in the Sugar Bowl, Malzahn said the current team feels like it too has something to prove.
 
Combine that with the fact Auburn may have it’s best quarterback depth since 2014 and the Tigers may well be set to have another special year. The journey starts Sunday when the Tigers begin fall camp.  

***
Video of “Prayer in Jordan-Hare.”

The post Like 2013 Team, 2017 Tigers Have Something to Prove appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

Auburn’s Matt Gilchrest calls Barbasol experience ‘dream come true’ after 10-under finish

People don’t usually know the names of the sponsor’s exemptions into PGA Tour events. But the galleries at the Barbasol Championship knew Matt Gilchrest.

‘Auburn’s always going to be a home’ – Kasey Cooper’s curtain call – Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site


Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site

'Auburn's always going to be a home' – Kasey Cooper's curtain call
Auburn Tigers Official Athletic Site
Kasey Cooper homered for Team USA in her final at-bat at Auburn's Jane B. Moore Field. July 23, 2017. By Jeff Shearer AuburnTigers.com. AUBURN, Ala. – For a player who enjoyed a storybook career, it's only fitting that Kasey Cooper's final at-bat at
Kendall Veach embracing potential position change for Auburn softball ahead of 2018 seasonSECcountry.com



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Auburn offense could see the ‘biggest difference’ at tight end/H-back

A preview of Auburn's H-backs and tight ends heading into fall camp.

AL.com will be previewing each of nine position groups leading up to the start of Auburn’s fall camp on July 31. The second installment in the series reviews the H-backs and tight ends.

Chandler Cox is back for a third year as a starter in the backfield as Auburn’s H-back.

Entering his junior season, Cox has become one of the vocal leaders on offense and now he might get more touches than his four carries for 15 yards with a touchdowns and four catches for 41 yards.

“I mean he’s like a quarterback back there,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “He has great experience. You’ll see (offensive coordinator) Chip (Lindsey) utilize those guys a little bit differently than we have in the past. That may be the biggest difference you see offensively than what we’ve been: Utilizing the tight end and the H-backs and getting those guys more involved.”

Jalen Harris returns at tight end, where Sal Cannella brings a different skill set to the position than Auburn has had in a few years.

Departed: N/A

Returning starters: Chandler Cox, junior; Jalen Harris, junior

Other returning players: Keenan Sweeney, junior; Sal Cannella, sophomore

Summer arrivals: John Samuel Shenker

Outlook: Starting with H-back, Cox is the lock starter and will get nearly all the snaps, just as Jay Prosch did in 2013.

“He has his A-game every day,” Malzahn said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anybody that can bring the energy consistently and it’s not fake energy. He’s got it. He’s got that ability to effect everybody and he’s earned that respect from his teammates.”

Cox is a fine lead blocker for Auburn’s run game but still has room to improve in pass protection, particularly with the Tigers preparing to do much more in the passing game with Jarrett Stidham.

If for any reason Auburn needed to play another H-back, Keenan Sweeney will be the backup on paper but Harris or freshman John Samuel Shenker might get the nod in a longer term scenario.

At tight end, Harris can only see his production in the passing game increase from his two catches for 16 yards and two touchdowns last season. At 228 pounds, Cannella is more in the mold of a receiver than an extra blocker and how he was lined up on A-Day indicates he’ll be split out more.

It’s a position Lindsey has a history of utilizing far more than Malzahn ever has and should see a spike in production compared to what Auburn tight ends have done in the past five years.

“Jalen Harris has really came on and Sal Cannella is a guy that very impressed us,” Malzahn said. “So Chip’s going to use a tight end more. We see so many more odd fronts and so running the football-wise you definitely need that. We feel very good.”

Shenker has been compared to the late Philip Lutzenkirchen and if he displays those skills in fall camp it’s possible he plays as a true freshman rather than redshirts.

Post-spring depth chart analysis: HB | TE

Battle to Watch: Whether tight end is a battle or a rotational situation based on play call will be interesting to gauge in fall camp. During spring practice Auburn used personnel packages that had Cox, Cannella and Harris, two of the three and just one. That’s not unusual by any means, but it shows there won’t be only one way for them all to see the field.

Keep an Eye on: Cannella is a far different mold than Auburn tight ends under Malzahn or most anywhere else for that matter. The junior college transfer is going to be used in the passing game and how quickly he proves capable in games could dictate how vast that position expands.

Projected two deep:

H-back:
Chandler Cox (6-foot-1, 239 pounds)
Keenan Sweeney (6-foot, 237 pounds)

Tight end:
Jalen Harris (6-foot-4, 252 pounds)
Sal Cannella (6-foot-5, 228 pounds)

Fall camp position preview: RB

Auburn fall camp position breakdown: H-backs/Tight ends

A preview of Auburn’s H-backs and tight ends heading into fall camp.

Auburn’s Daniel Carlson recounts record 2016 performance against LSU

Daniel Carlson made 6-of-6 field goals and accounted for all 18 of Auburn's points in a win against LSU last season that was a turning point for both programs.

Watch video

One game stood out to Daniel Carlson more than the rest last season, and it’s easy to understand why.

Of Auburn’s 13 games in 2016, Carlson will particularly remember the team’s 18-13 win against LSU at home on Sept. 24. That night, in front of an announced crowd of 87,451 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Carlson single-footedly accounted for all 18 of Auburn’s points in what proved to be a season-altering game for both programs.

“That was a special one because one, I was on the field a lot, so that’s always fun, and just how the game ended up being the field goals being the deciding factor,” Carlson said at SEC Media Days. “It was very special to me and very special to the team because it was a turning point for us and a big game.”

Auburn entered that game just 1-2 on the year after dropping its opener against eventual national champion Clemson and then losing to Texas A&M at home the week before LSU came to town. That night, Carlson was 6-for-6 on field goal attempts — tying a school record for made attempts in a game originally set by Al Del Greco in 1982 — including a long of 51 yards.

Carlson’s fifth field goal of the night, a 37-yarder early in the fourth quarter, gave Auburn the lead for good.

LSU’s Chark: ‘There’s no telling’ what would be different if touchdown counted vs. Auburn

“It was fun to be able to do my role, and it wasn’t anything amazing that I did, I don’t think,” Carlson said. “I’m just expected to go out there and make those field goals. I just stayed a little busier than usual.”

While Carlson’s performance sparked a six-game winning streak for Auburn, which finished the season with a Sugar Bowl berth, it also drastically impacted LSU’s season.

Following the loss — which came after a wild finish that saw a potential winning touchdown catch by LSU’s D.J. Chark overturned because the play came after the game clock expired — LSU fired longtime coach Les Miles and named Ed Orgeron the interim coach before eventually promoting him to full-time head coach in late November. Miles spent 11-plus seasons with LSU and guided the program to a national title in 2007, but the Auburn loss doomed him after he entered the season on the hot seat.

“It’s a tough business,” Carlson said. “Nobody’s happy with losing, and Coach Miles is obviously a great coach — he recruited me out of high school some — but it’s unfortunate to see him go, but that’s just how competitive the SEC is nowadays.”

Auburn’s Daniel Carlson recounts record 2016 performance against LSU

Daniel Carlson made 6-of-6 field goals and accounted for all 18 of Auburn’s points in a win against LSU last season that was a turning point for both programs.

Daniel Carlson did something this summer that made him more nervous than any kick

When it comes to making a pressure kick, Daniel Carlson said, you can always rely on experience.

Auburn opponent preview: Mississippi State

After playing its SEC home opener in Week 2 last season, Auburn won’t get to it until Week 5 this year when it hosts Mississippi State at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn opponent early scouting report: LSU

An early look at Auburn's trip to Baton Rouge, where AU hasn't won since 1999.

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

LSU

Game date & time: Tiger Stadium, Oct. 14 at TBA

2016 record: (8-4, 5-3 SEC)

Coach: Ed Orgeron, first year (22-29, 6-2 as interim head coach at LSU)

Betting line: LSU by 4.5

Returning starters: 8 offense, 5 defense, 1 specialist

Most important returning players: RB Derrius Guice, DE Arden Key, LG Will Clapp, LB Donnie Alexander

Most critical departures: RB Leonard Fournette, WR Malachi Dupre, WR Travin Dural, C Ethan Pocic, DL Davon Godchaux, LB Kendell Beckwith, CB Tre’Davious White, S Jamal Adams

Insight from LSU beat reporter Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger):

  1. How has Matt Canada changed the LSU offense?
    The change is still on-going – and will be all season – but changes are certainly happening. He’s, for the most part, eliminating the fullback position, creating an H-back by merging the tight ends and FBs. You’ll see more multi-receiver formations, too, and a lot more jet sweeps and QB run-pass options. Basically, he’s turning an old-school, I-formation scheme into a spread offense, with a variety of formations and a ton of pre-snap motions and shifts.
  2. Is there reason to believe Danny Etling can lead this offense effectively?
    There are reasons, but they’re not the ones fans want to hear. He’s smart, experienced and accurate. Etling doesn’t possess the intangibles of many highly ranked quarterbacks behind him on LSU’s roster – arm strength, speed, elusiveness – but he’s well ahead of many of them above the shoulders. 
  3. More than only on the field, how has Derrius Guice filled in for Leonard Fournette as a leader of the program?
    Guice spoke about this at length during SEC media days. He doesn’t have a choice, he said, he’s got to be a leader. Guice is more outgoing and likable than Fournette, a louder presence off the field and in the locker room.
  4. Do you foresee any lingering effects of Arden Key’s spring absence?
    Not necessarily. Several other LSU starters missed spring, too. That’s a yearly thing, it seems. The concern lies in preseason camp. He’ll miss much, or all, of camp, too, recovering from the shoulder surgery. In fact, Ed Orgeron said that he’s not confident enough to say that Key will be ready for the season opener.
  5. A win for LSU would mean? A loss for LSU would mean?
    I tend to believe that this year’s Auburn-LSU, for how early it is in the season, will determine the team that’s still in the hunt to challenge Alabama for the SEC West title. The winner is still in it. The loser is eliminated. It’s a big one, and it’s in Tiger Stadium. A victory for LSU could propel it into a torrid season-ending stretch in which it plays five straight conference games – three on the road.

Auburn story lines:

  • Losing streak in Baton Rouge
    Auburn has not won at LSU since the 1999 Cigar Game. Gus Malzahn has never won at LSU. If this is a night game, and it should be, then Tiger Stadium will be in its usual lively form. Expect silent counts and lots of hand signals.
  • Start of a three-game road stretch
    Auburn’s season will hinge on the second half and it opens with games at LSU, Arkansas and Texas A&M. If the Tigers get through this stretch unscathed the Georgia and Alabama games will shape up to be as big as 2013.
  • Pass protection
    Arden Key is one of the best defensive ends in the country. It’ll be up to Braden Smith and whoever wins the battle at left tackle to keep Key in check. Also expect quick routes to attempt to neutralize LSU’s defensive front.
  • Pettway vs. Guice
    Derrius Guice and Kamryn Pettway will battle it out along with Georgia’s Nick Chubb for who’s the SEC’s best back.
  • Pecking order in SEC West
    There’s a chance both teams enter this game either 5-1 or 6-0. Who wins will have a huge say in who contends in the SEC West.

LSU’s win streak against Auburn in Baton Rouge ‘crazy’ to Derrius Guice

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

LSU story lines:

  • QB play
    Danny Etling is expected to retain the starting job to start the season. Whether that continues with two touted freshmen on the roster will depend on how Etling handles a new offense in the first six games, but LSU should be 5-1 or 6-0 heading into this game.
  • Ed Orgeron’s first full season
    Oregeron had a good run as interim coach but anything less than a 5-1 start and questions will begin to be raised about whether retaining him was the best move.
  • Opening of brutal second half of season
    LSU will be coming off a road trip to Florida and an intense game there. But the opponents it faces in the final six games include Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee and Texas A&M. The season is won or lost in this stretch.
  • Les Miles
    Because last year’s game ended so wildly and led to the ousting of Les Miles, in revisiting it there will undoubtedly be attention on Miles and where he is now.

D.J. Chark: ‘There’s no telling’ what would be different if touchdown counted vs. Auburn

An Auburn win would mean:

Staying in contention in the SEC West and finally ending the losing streak in Baton Rouge. It will more than likely require an all-around performance or some heroics from either Jarrett Stidham, Kamryn Pettway, a wide out or the defense as a whole.

An Auburn loss would mean:

Dropping in the pecking order in the SEC West and making the games at Arkansas and Texas A&M all the more vital to win to stay in contention. Not to mention the prolonging of the losing streak at LSU.

Auburn opponent early scouting report: LSU

An early look at Auburn’s trip to Baton Rouge, where AU hasn’t won since 1999.

The Countdown to Kickoff: The SEC’s best No. 41

There are 41 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 41 in SEC football history is Mississippi State tailback Tom "Shorty" McWilliams.

AL.com is counting down to the 2017 SEC football season on Sept. 2 by presenting the No. 1 player to wear each number 1 through 99 in the conference’s history. There are 41 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 41 is Mississippi State tailback Tom “Shorty” McWilliams.

Three SEC No. 41’s are in the College Football Hall of Fame. Mississippi State’s Tom “Shorty” McWilliams isn’t one of them.

But the MSU No. 41 did a couple of things that eluded the collegiate careers of the three Hall of Famers – Ole Miss fullback Charlie Flowers and tailback Parker Hall and Alabama center Vaughn “Cisco” Mancha.

McWilliams earned first-team All-SEC recognition after all four of his seasons at Mississippi State, and he was the SEC Player of the Year, receiving the award as a freshman in 1944.

What McWilliams’ resume lacks that the other three No. 41’s have, in addition to College Football Hall of Fame membership, is first-team All-American recognition – at least while playing in the SEC.

Flowers was a unanimous All-American in 1959, when he led the SEC in rushing and scoring, even though LSU’s Billy Cannon won the Heisman Trophy that season. Hall was a consensus All-American in 1938, when he had one of the great seasons recorded by an SEC player – leading the nation in return yards, points and yards per carry, placing second in interceptions and finishing third in rushing yards. Mancha was a consensus All-America as a sophomore in 1945, when the Crimson Tide capped an undefeated season with a Rose Bowl victory.

McWilliams was a first-team All-American choice, too, but that recognition came in the 1945 season, when he played for the U.S. Military Academy.

With World War II raging, McWilliams transferred from MSU to West Point to play for a team often cited as the greatest in college football history. The 1945 Army team featured 1945 Heisman winner Doc Blanchard and 1946 Heisman winner Glenn Davis. The Cadets ran up a 9-0 record by outscoring their opponents 412-46 in 1945.

With World War II over, McWilliams returned to Mississippi State in 1946 and handled the tailback duties for the Bulldogs’ Tennessee-style single-wing attack for three more seasons.

McWilliams’ request to resign from the Army to return to MSU was initially denied by Major Gen. Maxwell Taylor, the superintendent of the Academy, who said the player had been given “a particularly lucrative financial offer from a certain quarter” to go back to Mississippi State. It wasn’t until September 1946 that McWilliams’ request was granted. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, their season didn’t kick off until Sept. 29.

“Shorty” wasn’t short: He stood 6-foot-3.

Runner-up at No. 41: Ole Miss fullback Charlie Flowers

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

The Countdown to Kickoff: The SEC’s best No. 41

There are 41 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 41 in SEC football history is Mississippi State tailback Tom “Shorty” McWilliams.

Former Auburn star Kasey Cooper hits home run in return to Jane B. Moore Field

The final game of Kasey Cooper’s Auburn career, a loss to Oklahoma in Game 2 of a Super Regional on May 27, ended with her in the on-deck circle.

4-star defensive lineman Caleb Tannor will pick Auburn or Georgia on Monday

In the last day before he announces his decision between Auburn and Georgia, Caleb Tannor is spending Saturday night on the Plains.

4-star defensive lineman Caleb Tannor will pick Auburn or Georgia on Monday

In the last day before he announces his decision between Auburn and Georgia, Caleb Tannor is spending Saturday night on the Plains.

In the last day before he announces his decision between Auburn and Georgia, Caleb Tannor is spending Saturday night on the Plains.

The four-star defensive lineman is “very, very close” to deciding and has set Monday as when he’ll announce his commitment.

“It’s been good, good visit,” Tannor said on Saturday, “good time for me to finalize my decision.”

Tannor claimed not to have a leader as of Saturday afternoon and will discuss things with his family on Sunday. He couldn’t say what the deciding factors will be.

“To be honest, no, (I don’t know where I’ll commit yet),” he said. “I have one more day to decide though. Sunday we’re going to go to church, hopefully make the right decision. …

“Right now I couldn’t even tell you (what the deciding factors will be). I don’t even know, to be honest, I’m just going to have to sit back, think about it with my (family).”

Both schools are looking at the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Tannor as an edge rusher, with the Tigers recruiting him as a Buck and Bulldogs as an outside linebacker.

On his last visit, Auburn was emphasizing the on-the-field aspect to Tannor.

“They just showed me what I’ll be doing if I came here at the Buck position, things like that,” he said. “(And) show some love, some extra love.”

Even after committing, Tannor said he “definitely” will visit both schools in the fall.

In listing what he likes about Auburn, Tannor said the same things existed in Athens.

“Great facility, great coaches, real good connection, feels like home,” he said. “Same as Georgia, that’s why it’s a neck-and-neck race. Both of them is providing the same things for me, we’re just going to have to see. … That’s home for me, if I choose Auburn. If I choose Georgia, that’s home for me.”

Auburn ‘at the top’ for 3-star safety Jamien Sherwood

Auburn is firmly in the lead for Jamien Sherwood.

Auburn is firmly in the lead for Jamien Sherwood.

After visiting the Plains for a third time, the three-star safety prospect said the Tigers are in front of his top five.

“With Auburn, it’s still the same, at the top of my list,” Sherwood said Saturday. “Very excited with the program and the coaches and we’re just going to go from here on out.”

Sherwood, who also visited during Big Cat Weekend in June, plans to make his commitment at the “beginning of August.”

Auburn leads with Florida and Miami as schools he’s also visited three times and Michigan and Oregon once each. Indiana is also “tied” with others.

“It’s basically a split between all those schools really,” Sherwood said.

Sherwood, a Jensen Beach, Fla. native, was hoping to visit Oregon or Michigan again before making his commitment but said the cost of flying was too expensive. He may visit Miami or Florida next week.

He wouldn’t say Auburn was the team to beat but Sherwood still had a positive feeling about the coaching staff.

“With Auburn, I can feel they’re actually genuine with it, it’s not just an act,” he said. “They are who they are. Even when you’re texting, we talk on the phone, I can still feel the same amount of energy I feel in person.”

Auburn ‘at the top’ for 3-star safety Jamien Sherwood

Auburn is firmly in the lead for Jamien Sherwood.

4-star running back Dameon Pierce plans official visit to Auburn after season

Since decommitting from Alabama two months ago, four-star running back Dameon Pierce has visited Auburn, Georgia and Florida.

Since decommitting from Alabama two months ago, four-star running back Dameon Pierce has visited Auburn, Georgia and Florida.

Pierce enjoyed his second visit to the Plains and said Auburn will “of course” be a schools he takes an official visit to after the season.

“(I’ll commit) anytime after the football season,” Pierce said. “I’m focused on my high school season right now. Really waiting for all that to clear out. After that it’s all gas no brakes after that.”

Auburn, Florida, Georgia and LSU are all in the mix for Pierce, who does not have a leader at this point.

“It’s kind of fluctuating right now in between Auburn, Florida and Georgia right now,” he said Saturday. “I’ve got to take a visit to LSU soon and I got to get up to Georgia again and hopefully I’ll have an answer.”

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Pierce left the door open to being an early enrollee but stressed he plans to take official visits to all four schools after the season.

“It depends on when I make my decision,” he said. “If I make my decision before the second semester of school, of course I’ll be an early enrollee.”

For Auburn specifically, Pierce likes the coaching staff, specifically running backs coach Tim Horton.

“What you see is what you get from Auburn,” Pierce said. “I love it. … As soon as you walk in you got somebody greeting you at the car. You can’t beat that. You feel like you’re already home. It’s a home away from home basically. Anybody would be glad to be here.”

4-star running back Dameon Pierce plans official visit to Auburn after season

Since decommitting from Alabama two months ago, four-star running back Dameon Pierce has visited Auburn, Georgia and Florida.

Lack of made putts keeping Auburn alum Blayne Barber down Barbasol leaderboard

Blayne Barber finished his third round at the Barbasol Championship a little before noon on Saturday. He could have gotten out of the sweltering heat immediately and gone home, which for him and his family is actually just a few…

Alabama leads for 2019 4-star defensive end King Mwikuta but Auburn ‘always in the mix’

Alabama leads for 2019 four-star defensive end King Mwikuta but Auburn is "always in the mix."

Alabama leads for 2019 four-star defensive end King Mwikuta but Auburn is “always in the mix.”

The LaGrange, Ga. native visited Tuscaloosa on Friday and Auburn on Saturday and while the Crimson Tide are still in the lead, things could change.

“(Alabama) still stand (as the leader) but like I said, Auburn always in the mix,” he said. “I ain’t going to name out no number right now, but Auburn always in the mix.”

Mwikuta said the upcoming season, after which he plans to make his commitment, is going to play a big role in his decision.

“I can say one thing, it’s going to be this season,” he said. “If this season (Auburn) show me the things that I’m looking for, not only just winning the championship, but just showing me what can they do also like on and off the field. I’ll be looking forward to (that) and then I’ll be making my decision around that time.”

Mwikuta said he’s “real close” to committing to a school, but at the same time is not going to announce his decision until December at the earlier, if not for a year.

“I’m trying to wait till signing day but I’m itching,” he said. “So I want to go ahead and make that decision soon. Maybe this time next year or either this coming December.”

The 6-foot-4, 232-pound defensive end enjoyed his trip to the Plains and met with Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, defensive line coach Rodney Garner and linebackers coach Travis Williams.

He plans to visit Auburn for “every home game if I can” this fall.

As of now, Auburn is looking at Mwikuta as a Buck but he would prefer to be a strong-side end in college.

“They say Buck but I’d rather prefer to put my hand in the dirt,” Mwikuta said. “Just for me by my standpoint just looking and doing stuff into what I’m doing. It don’t matter. Say I come here, (I’ll say) ‘Coach you want to put me in the 4i (technique), I’ll play anything.’ It don’t matter to me.”

Alabama leads for 2019 4-star defensive end King Mwikuta but Auburn ‘always in the mix’

Alabama leads for 2019 four-star defensive end King Mwikuta but Auburn is “always in the mix.”

Auburn leads for 3-star defensive back Derek Turner

Auburn leads for three-star defensive back Derek Turner and the Louisiana native plans to commit to a school as soon as the end of the month.

Auburn leads for 3-star defensive back Derek Turner

Auburn leads for three-star defensive back Derek Turner and the Louisiana native plans to commit to a school as soon as the end of the month.

Auburn leads for three-star defensive back Derek Turner and the Louisiana native plans to commit to a school as soon as the end of the month.

Turner was among the contingent of recruits to visit the Plains for this weekend’s camp and cookout.

“Auburn is my top school right now and then Ole Miss and South Carolina,” Turner said after his visit. “(Auburn secondary coach Greg) Brown is recruiting me the hardest.”

Turner said he plans to make a commitment within a few weeks.

“Probably end of the month,” he said. “Either end of July or early August.”

Turner said he enjoyed his visit to Auburn and spending time with secondary coach Greg Brown, who was the first coach to offer him a scholarship.

“Coach Brown is guy I’ve known for a long time,” Turner said. “That’s a guy I really want to play for. … I’ve been trying to get up here for the last couple of months. I think I did pretty well, he taught me some new things so it was pretty good.”

The 5-foot-10, 182-pound Turner plays safety at West Feliciana High School in Saint Francisville, La. but is being looked at as a cornerback for the Tigers.

“Because I’m more physical at the line,” Turner said. “(Brown) said I had tremendous speed so he wants to work with me at corner. But it’s kind of a good transition because it helped me in the corner position. Although I play safety in high school, it’s going to help me.”

Kamryn Pettway leads vaunted Auburn running back corps

A review of Auburn’s running backs heading into fall camp

Kamryn Pettway leads vaunted Auburn running back corps

A review of Auburn's running backs heading into fall camp

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

Few Auburn players have their starting spot solidified heading into the season more than Kamryn Pettway.

The redshirt-junior did not take one snap in a scrimmage during spring practice. He’s too valuable and everyone knows what he can do, which usually involves knocking a defender backwards.

In a complete 180 from last year, Auburn has not only a starter and 1,200-yard rusher back but also a backup who would be a starter for most other teams in Kerryon Johnson.

Auburn had multiple 1,000-yard rushers in 2013 and 2010 but the last time Gus Malzahn or Tim Horton had multiple 1,000-yard backs in the same season was 2006 at Arkansas with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Pettway and Johnson are capable of it but durability has been an issue for both.

Who emerges as the third back is the only major question mark for the position group entering fall camp.

Departed: Stanton Truitt (transferred to North Carolina)

Returning starter: Kamryn Pettway, redshirt-junior

Other returning players: Kerryon Johnson, junior; Malik Miller, redshirt-freshman; Kam Martin, sophomore

Summer arrivals: Devan Barrett

Outlook: It’s important to underscore exactly how drastic a difference the feeling is at running back compared to a year ago.

While Jovon Robinson and Kerryon Johnson were cause for optimism, Auburn lost Peyton Barber and Roc Thomas. Then Robinson was dismissed before fall camp started, Johnson is the presumptive starter and Kamryn Pettway was not even considered among the top three backs and didn’t get a carry in the season opener.

Now, Pettway is the backbone of a backfield that is the strongest unit on the offense if not the entire team. He is expected to surpass the 1,224 yards and seven scores from last season before departing for the NFL.

Pettway says Heisman season ‘very possible’

Johnson is a threat in his own right after posting 895 yards with 11 scores in 12 games last year. He should see more opportunities in the passing game this season and more than likely remains the top option at Wildcat.

The one similarity to a year ago is uncertainty at the No. 3 spot, where Malik Miller, Kam Martin and true freshman Devan Barrett are going to battle it out in camp.

Battle to Watch: The No. 3 spot on the depth chart is wide open entering fall camp.

Miller appeared on the verge of taking the role before a knee injury ended his season a year ago. Martin still needs to prove durability and add some size to his listed 182-pound frame.

In an ideal world, Auburn would redshirt Devan Barrett if he’s the fifth running back as carries will simply be hard to come by. But he enters fall camp as a potential sleeper for the No. 3 spot.

RELATED: No. 3 RB ‘still highly up in the air’

Keep an Eye on: Malik Miller. He was on the cusp of having a prominent role before a knee injury against ULM ended his true freshman season.

Projected two deep:

Kamryn Pettway (6-foot, 235 pounds)
Kerryon Johnson (6-foot, 212 pounds)

From Notre Dame to Boise State, the top 10 teams Auburn football has never played – SECcountry.com


SECcountry.com

From Notre Dame to Boise State, the top 10 teams Auburn football has never played
SECcountry.com
The topic of first-time ever matchups picked up steam in the past week thanks to arguably the biggest name in college football — Notre Dame. Auburn has never played the Fighting Irish, but the schools' two athletic directors have both recently said

Why did Auburn offer Quanderrius Robinson, who is he and will Alabama counter?

Why did Auburn offer Quanderrius Robinson, who is he and will Alabama counter?

Quanderrius Robinson has enjoyed quite the week. First, Auburn football offers him Friday after watching a private workout on campus. And on Saturday, Robinson, a future recruiting gem in the Class of 2020, was scheduled to work out for Alabama football.

Could this be another #WarEagle and #RollTide recruiting competition at Jackson-Olin?

 “(Alabama) is already texting me, making sure he can (still) come workout with them,” said Tim Vakakes, Robinson’s high school coach at Jackson-Olin. “Word travels fast.”

Robinson will play free safety this fall at Jackson-Olin, a Birmingham City School which enjoyed a resurgence last season (8-3), reaching the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season. Robinson was a backup on the team, playing outside linebacker behind Montez Coleman and learning from fellow linebacker TD Moultry, now at Auburn.

Now it’s time for Robinson to shine on Friday nights. Vakakes said Robinson was moved to defensive back because of necessity, but expects him to end his prep career at linebacker.

RELATED: Auburn signee ready to tackle job security of coach Gus Malzahn

Jackson-Olin 31, Parker 21: Mustangs score first playoff berth since 1999

RELATED: RELATED: Under Armour All-America Game adds Coynis Miller of Jackson-Olin

“He doesn’t have a list of favorites,” Vakakes said. “He doesn’t have a favorite college team. He’s just very new to all of this. This was his first visit to a college campus. Everything is real new, so he’s very bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Smiling and just enjoying the process. But his process hasn’t even started yet.

“He’s got to make some football plays. He has no film. But it doesn’t take (colleges) long to see potential. When you’re 6-4 and 200 pounds and can move like him, that’s definitely potential.”

Jackson-Olin, seven seasons removed from a winless season, has enjoyed back-to-back high-profile recruits. Alabama and Auburn fought long and hard over Moultry, and defensive end Coynis Miller, who this fall will be a senior, can pick his SEC school of choice.

And now, Robinson could join the list.

“Everybody is absolutely in love with the kid because of the way he handles himself,” Vakakes said. “I hope that he sees that gets you somewhere; shaking hands with a firm handshake, looking in their eyes. Being humble. Being the hardest worker.

“(At Jackson-Olin), we’ve had to slow him down in the weight room because he works so dag-on hard. So I’m hoping all that, and the work ethic he learn from T.D. will rub off on his him and his teammates.”

Why did Auburn offer Quanderrius Robinson, who is he and will Alabama counter?

Why did Auburn offer Quanderrius Robinson, who is he and will Alabama counter?

Auburn opponent early scouting report: Ole Miss

An early look at Auburn's last game before a pivotal three-game road stretch.

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

Ole Miss

Game date & time: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Oct. 7 at TBA

2016 record: (5-7, 2-6 SEC)

Coach: Matt Luke, interim

Betting line: Not yet posted

Returning starters: 5 offense, 6 defense, 2 specialists

Most important returning players: QB Shea Patterson, WR Damore’ea Stringfellow, LT Greg Little, DE Marquis Haynes, LB DeMarquis Gates

Most critical departures: QB Chad Kelly, RB Akeem Judd, TE Evan Engram, LB Tony Conner, DE Fadol Brown, LB Rommel Mageo

Insight from Ole Miss beat reporter Antonio Morales (@AntonioCMorales):

  1. What does Matt Luke bring to the table as a coach?
    He’s an alum and was on Hugh Freeze’s staff for all five seasons, so he has a good understanding of the program and the current team. A former assistant said he related to the players and the other side of the ball well. He was also on an Ole Miss team that went through a postseason ban during his playing days, so he can relate a bit to what these players are going through.

  2. With both an NCAA investigation and coaching search going on, what does success look like for Ole Miss this season?
    I think if they were to go 6-6 it would be a success. The players already know they can’t play in the postseason and the coach who most of them committed to resigned a week and a half before camp. Luke is a first-time head coach and there’s two new coordinators. It’s likely the Committee on Infractions hands down its decision during the season, too. There’s so many unknowns around the program, so if they manage to get to six wins, which would be an improvement over last season with a first-time coach, I think that would be a success.

  3. What has a change in coordinators brought to the field?
    The word that keeps getting brought up with new defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff is simple. He says it, players say it, coaches say it when describing his scheme. If that approach has Ole Miss’ defensive players thinking less and playing faster, then it’s a good one, but McGriff has a tough job on his hands. Ole Miss’ offense went fast under Freeze, but it operated at an even faster pace this spring. Phil Longo is dedicated to tempo and it took the offense a couple of practices to get used to it. So he’s bringing speed and urgency to the that side of the ball.

  4. How has Shea Patterson progressed this offseason?
    He obviously had the great debut against Texas A&M, but didn’t have as much success against Vanderbilt and Mississippi State in the final two games of last season. He looked more poised in the spring game and was taking more of what the defense gave him. Against Vanderbilt, there were times he was leaving the pocket when it wasn’t necessary. He’s a good athlete, so I think the next step for him  is playing within the offense and using his athleticism when it’s necessary, and he seemed on his way to that during spring ball.

  5. A win for Ole Miss would mean? A loss for Ole Miss would mean?
    Save for a potential win at Alabama, I don’t know what  would be bigger upset victory for Ole Miss than Auburn. It’s just not a great matchup for the Rebels. They aren’t great against the run and Auburn has two standout running backs and a really good offensive line. The season is Luke’s audition for the head coaching job, and a win at Auburn would certainly help him as a candidate as well.

Auburn story lines:

  • Win streak
    Not to be too presumptuous but Auburn will undoubtedly be favored in its first three SEC games, meaning the Tigers could be heading into this game with at least a three-game win streak and perhaps still undefeated at 5-0. To reach the midpoint of the season at 5-1 or 6-0 would keep Auburn in the thick of the national conversation.
  • Pass defense
    Just as the week earlier will be a gauge for Auburn’s receiving corps, this game will be a barometer for the pass defense. Nick Fitzgerald will have just tested the Tigers and then comes Shea Patterson in a new-look offense. Entering the season, these are the toughest back-to-back opposing quarterbacks for Auburn.
  • Running game
    Ole Miss was the worst rush defense in the SEC last season. Expected Kamryn Pettway, Kerryon Johnson and whoever has emerged as the third back to see a lot of touches.
  • Mid-season evaluation
    Everything will be evaluated at the midpoint of the season, particularly with a pivotal three-game road stretch coming up.
  • Austin Golson
    The fifth-year senior offensive lineman has played his old school twice before but with Ole Miss embroiled in an NCAA investigation, in which he may have testified based on reports of former players being interviewed, Golson has been and will be a player of interest to Rebels fans.

Early scouting reports: Georgia Southern | Clemson Mercer MissouriMississippi State

Ole Miss story lines:

  • Season-long coaching audition
    Matt Luke enters the season as an interim coach at am embattled program in the midst of scandal. If he has any success Ole Miss will have to consider retaining him, as LSU did with Ed Orgeron. If not, the coaching search rumors could be in full effect.
  • Back-to-back games in Alabama
    The Rebels will be coming off a trip to Tuscaloosa that could be absolutely brutal. With so many unknowns at this point, there’s no way to gauge whether Ole Miss will enter this game 3-1, 2-2 or 1-3, but the Tigers should be favored regardless.
  • NCAA investigation
    Where the NCAA process stands at this point could again be a season-long distraction. If Ole Miss has met with the Committee on Infractions by this point, stories could drop at any time.
  • Wesley McGriff
    The former Auburn secondary coach is in his first year as defensive coordinator and should have the Rebels improved by default after they ranked 13th in total defense in the SEC and 14 against the run.
  • Shea Patterson’s development
    Patterson will be the face of the program from now on as long as he stays in Oxford. For as big a test as he’ll be to Auburn’s secondary, the Tigers should pose an equally tough test for the sophomore.

An Auburn win would mean:

More than likely a 3-0 start to SEC play and either 5-1 or 6-0 record at the midpoint of the season. Either should have the Tigers ranked in the top 15 or top 10 nationally but 6-0 could have Auburn in the top 5.

An Auburn loss would mean:

A simply unacceptable result. There is no way a team entering the season with so much optimism, more than likely having success to this point, can lose to a program that’s defined by scandal for the past several years with an interim coach at the helm.

Auburn opponent early scouting report: Ole Miss

An early look at Auburn’s last game before a pivotal three-game road stretch.

Finally healthy, ‘freak’ cornerback Jamel Dean will have chance to start for Auburn

Jamel Dean has not seen the field in his first two years at Auburn after redshirting in 2015 and missing 2016 due to a knee injury.

The long wait is almost over for Auburn defensive back Jamel Dean.

After sitting out his first two years on the Plains — the first while redshirting due to NCAA transfer rules, the second due to a season-ending knee injury during fall camp — Dean is primed to compete for the starting cornerback job opposite Carlton Davis when Auburn opens fall camp July 31.

“Jamel Dean, if he stays healthy, last year he was in the mix to start,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said at SEC Media Days. “He is in a good spot. He’s getting healthier; I think he’s probably 90-95 percent right now, so very excited about him.”

It has been a long process for Dean, who transferred to Auburn two years after Ohio State declared him medically ineligible in spring 2015 following multiple knee injuries in high school. Once rated as a four-star prospect and the No. 31 cornerback in the country coming out of Cocoa, Fla., Dean will finally have an opportunity to see the field this fall.

While sophomore Javaris Davis, who burst onto the scene last fall and was impactful in the secondary while appearing in all 13 games with five starts, appeared to have a starting job secured at the end of spring, that no longer seems to be the case entering the fall. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Dean was limited throughout the spring while still recovering from last fall’s injury, but he was cleared for the summer and is near full health ahead of fall practice.

Promising Auburn cornerback back healthy, still very fast

“Jamel is great player,” senior safety Tray Matthews said. “He’s an amazing athlete, fast, strong, big. He will compete and nobody is a starter right now. Coach Steele, he wiped down the board and we start over. So, there’s no starters. He definitely has a chance to start. We don’t have guaranteed jobs. People in the NFL don’t have guaranteed jobs, so we don’t’ either.”

Though Javaris Davis showed he can hold his own against SEC receivers — even earning SEC All-Freshman honors — he is a smaller cornerback at a listed size of 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds. That’s where Dean could hold a bit of an edge, as his larger frame provides Auburn with a rangier, physical option opposite Carlton Davis, himself a 6-foot-1, 203-pound corner.

Add in a reported 4.28-second 40-yard dash with Auburn this summer — just eight months removed from tearing his ACL and while wearing a knee brace — and Dean is an intriguing piece to Auburn’s secondary this fall.

Meet the 10 fastest Auburn players

“Jamel Dean is a freak,” Matthews said. “It’s a DB in a linebacker body. He’s so athletic. He’s going to be a big asset to the team as well.”

While Matthews declined to divulge some of Dean’s other measurables from the summer, the senior safety and team leader added that Dean is “doing some amazing things that people that size don’t do.”

The question remains whether Dean will finally be able to put all those injuries behind him and remain healthy for the season opener on Sept. 2 against Georgia Southern. While he’ll have an opportunity to push Javaris Davis for the starting field corner job, Malzahn appeared confident that the coaching staff will find more than one way for Dean to contribute this fall.

“He’s one of our faster players,” Malzahn said. “He’s got long arms like Carlton, he’s very coachable and he has a chance to be one of our best special teamers. Last year, before he got hurt, we were really thinking that he was going to be an impact player on special teams, so that’s big.”

Finally healthy, ‘freak’ cornerback Jamel Dean will have chance to start for Auburn

Jamel Dean has not seen the field in his first two years at Auburn after redshirting in 2015 and missing 2016 due to a knee injury.

Auburn opponent preview: Tigers open conference play at Missouri in rematch of 2013 SEC title game

Auburn and Missouri have met on the football field twice in the history of the two programs — first in the Sun Bowl in 1973 and next in the SEC Championship game in 2013.

NFL training camps opening with question marks for some state players

The Arizona Cardinals will become the first NFL team hold a full team practice at training camp this year on Saturday in Glendale, Arizona. Over the next eight days, all the other NFL teams will join them as they begin the countdown to the 2017 regular season.

NFL training camps opening with question marks for some state players

The Arizona Cardinals will become the first NFL team hold a full team practice at training camp this year on Saturday in Glendale, Arizona. Over the next eight days, all the other NFL teams will join them as they begin the countdown to the 2017 regular season.

The Countdown to Kickoff: The SEC’s best No. 42

There are 42 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 42 in SEC football history is Tennessee guard Bob Suffridge.

The Countdown to Kickoff: The SEC’s best No. 42

There are 42 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 42 in SEC football history is Tennessee guard Bob Suffridge.

AL.com is counting down to the 2017 SEC football season on Sept. 2 by presenting the No. 1 player to wear each number 1 through 99 in the conference’s history. There are 42 days until the first Saturday of the SEC football season, and the No. 1 42 is Tennessee guard Bob Suffridge.

Bob Suffridge’s coach at Tennessee, Gen. Robert Neyland, called the guard “the greatest lineman I ever saw.”

As a pulling guard in the Volunteers’ single-wing attack, Suffridge cleared the way for two SEC Player of the Year award winners – George Cafego in 1938 and Bob Foxx in 1939.

On defense, Suffridge played for a unit that gave up 75 points in 33 games.

Suffridge earned All-SEC recognition in all three of his varsity seasons and was a first-team All-American each year, too. As a sophomore, Suffridge was on United Press’ All-American team. As a junior, he narrowly missed consensus recognition as he was a first-team selection for four of the nine organizations used by the NCAA at the time to compile the consensus All-American squad. In 1940, Suffridge was a unanimous All-American – a first-team choice of all nine consensus selectors.

As a senior, Suffridge also received the Knute Rockne Memorial Trophy, an award that hasn’t been presented in two decades but at the time was given to the collegiate lineman of the year.

During Suffridge’s three seasons, Tennessee went 18-0 in SEC play and won all 30 of its regular-season games.

Although the Volunteers’ 1938 team finished second in the final Associated Press poll to TCU, it’s in the discussion as one of the SEC’s greatest teams. Tennessee pinned the only loss on Clemson, Alabama and Oklahoma that season, with the Volunteers beating the Sooners 17-0 in the Orange Bowl to cap an 11-0 campaign. The Vols lost their next two bowls in showdowns between undefeated teams – falling to Southern Cal 14-0 in the Rose Bowl for the 1939 season and 19-13 to Boston College in the Sugar Bowl for the 1940 season.

Suffridge is one of the two SEC players to wear No. 42 who is in the College Football Hall of Fame, along with Ole Miss quarterback Charlie Conerly.

Runner-up at No. 42: Ole Miss quarterback Charlie Conerly

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

2018 Decatur linebacker Josh Marsh becomes Auburn’s second commit of the day

One day, two commits.

Decatur linebacker Josh Marsh commits to Auburn

Auburn landed its second commitment of the day Friday

Decatur linebacker Josh Marsh commits to Auburn

Auburn landed its second commitment of the day Friday

Auburn landed its second commitment of the day Friday in Decatur linebacker Josh Marsh.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Marsh led the state in tackles last season with 206 – the ninth-highest total in state history.

Marsh earned his offer Friday and announced his commitment. Auburn held a prospect camp on Friday and issued several offers, including to 2020 Hewitt-Trussville receiver Dazalin Worsham and 2020 Jackson-Olin linebacker Quanderrius Robinson.

Marsh joins Hoover 2019 receiver George Pickens as new verbal pledges. He is a three-star recruit. Other offers included Louisville, Memphis, South Alabama, Troy, Wake Forest and Army per his 247Sports profile page.

Marsh becomes the ninth commitment of this class for Auburn. Check out the list.

Read a profile from Marsh this spring.

Check out Marsh’s highlights.

Despite missed cut, Auburn junior Trace Crowe sees Barbasol as learning experience

Nobody on the Lakes Course at Grand National was happier to see play suspended due to darkness Thursday night than Trace Crowe.

2019 Hoover WR George Pickens commits to Auburn

One of Auburn’s biggest recruiting weekends of the year started off with a “Boom!” from coach Gus Malzahn.

Hoover junior receiver George Pickens commits to Auburn

Auburn added a class of 2019 commitment on Friday

Auburn added a class of 2019 commitment on Friday from a local standout.

George Pickens, a rising junior receiver from Hoover High School, committed to Auburn while on a visit Friday, he told reporters on scene and then confirmed to AL.com.

The 6-foot-5 Pickens blew up this spring, earning his first offers from schools including Auburn, Kentucky and Jacksonville State. He is a four-star recruit ranked as the No. 107 prospect nationally in the 247Sports composite. This is Auburn’s first 2019 commit.

He figures to play a bigger role in the Hoover offense this fall along with senior receiver Shedrick Jackson, who committed to Auburn earlier this summer.

Auburn targets receiver George Pickens

This post will be updated.

Check out Pickens’ highlights.

Hoover junior receiver George Pickens commits to Auburn

Auburn added a class of 2019 commitment on Friday

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