Category Archives: Auburn’s Cast of Thousands

Like a rock

Lemme see if I’ve got this straight:  one of Gus Malzahn’s keys to the hire of his new defensive coordinator was “stability“, so he’s brought on a guy who’s on his fifth job in six years.  (It would have been six for six, but he was out of a job in 2012.)

I guess when you’re on your third DC in three years, anything looks more stable.

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One man’s bold predictions…

As those sorts of columns go, this one’s actually kind of thought-provoking.

Start with this:

1. Tennessee will beat Alabama for the first time in a decade

It’s no surprise to regular readers I’ve been high on this year’s Volunteers for some time. Tennessee returns 18 starters, including a potentially dynamic quarterback in Joshua Dobbs, from a team that lost four games by a total of 16 points last year. The Vols will no doubt have Oct. 15 vs. the Crimson Tide circled on their calendar, and this is the year they finally get over the hump. It’s been a while. The last time Tennessee beat Alabama (2006), Mike Shula and Phillip Fulmer were the two head coaches. But unless the still-unresolved off-field controversy engulfs Butch Jones at some point (and there’s no evidence thus far that it will), this will be a memorable year in Knoxville.

Eh, maybe.  I still want to see Booch’s team climb the mountain first.  Yeah, they lost some close ones last year, but the point is they lost them.  And if he’s right that Alabama’s defense will be better than it was last season, that’s quite the mountain to climb.

But my real question is how hard will the Vols sell out for this game?  If they really give it everything they’ve got and lose, what kind of shape will they be in for their next game, which, although it’s against a team they’ve handled of late, will be their fifth conference game in a row?

Tennessee’s November is what Tennessee’s November usually looks like, so if Georgia is going to win the East, the Vols had best get dinged up before then.

And then there’s this:

5. Auburn will post its second straight losing SEC record

The Tigers improved toward the end of the year last season; that’s pretty much indisputable. And to their credit, they did not quit after a disastrous early-season slide. Trouble is, Auburn still has no answer at quarterback and did not upgrade after changes on the defensive coaching staff. Picking up Vanderbilt on the SEC schedule helps, though Texas A&M and Mississippi State are the only other likely wins on the Tigers’ conference slate. LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama are almost certain losses. Arkansas might be the swing game. A loss in that one would put the Tigers at 3-5 in the league. With a loss to Clemson in the opener (a virtual certainty), Auburn would finish 6-6. Though I’m not 100 percent certain it will happen, I’ll be consistent in what I’ve said in the past. If Gus Malzahn doesn’t win at least eight games this year, he’s done.

Would Auburn really do that?  If Chizik can get fired two seasons after winning a national championship, nothing’s really out of the question on the Plains.

The thing is, the Tigers usually do their best when nothing is expected out of them.  And that’s certainly the case in 2016.  Then again, I look at this schedule and only see seven wins right now.  To notch that eighth one, Gus is going to have to upset somebody.  Even if he doesn’t, is 7-5 bad enough to cost him his job?

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Auburn with a lake vs. Auburn

It suddenly dawned on me that the Auburn/Clemson game could be a lot of fun to watch.

Meanwhile, Auburn has more questions than answers at many of its positions.

For one, a newcomer could be Auburn’s starting quarterback when Clemson comes to the Plains. Auburn’s identity could also change at several position groups, including the entire defense with the addition of five new staff members, including former Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.

Steele was fired at Clemson after West Virginia knocked off the Tigers 70-33 in the 2012 Orange Bowl.

Deshaun Watson facing the Auburn defense does not promise to generate a low-scoring result.

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“It wasn’t just the quarterback last year.”

I guess if you’re a head coach making $4 million a year who’s coming off a disappointing season, “I’m a football coach, not a CEO” is the new black.

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Gus surrenders.

This is what comes of being in the same division with Nick Saban and Les Miles.

If Greg Sankey had a sense of humor, he’d call up Malzahn and tell him he had some good news and some bad news:  Auburn’s moving to the East, but so is Alabama.  Oh, and by the way, the Tigers’ permanent cross-division rivalry game will be against LSU.

Of course, this follows in the fine Auburn tradition of Tuberville dropping FSU from the schedule as soon as he took the job.  As the head coach on the Plains, if you can’t beat ’em, walk away from ’em.

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When you’ve got three quarterbacks…

Gus Malzahn is so pleased with Auburn’s quarterback competition that he’s invited a fourth kid to transfer for a shot at immediate playing time.

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Back to the garage for the Gus Bus

I know it’s only a spring game, but even with that in mind, I have to think that Auburn’s teams’ offenses going a combined 1 for 22 on third-down conversions isn’t particularly happy news for Malzahn.

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UPDATE:  Nor is this.

Auburn’s A-Day crowd is among the best in school history, but it still managed to be the least-attended spring scrimmage of the Gus Malzahn era.

An estimated crowd of 45,723 watched the game, ranking sixth overall in school history for an A-Day scrimmage. It’s the worst number since 2012, when 43,427 showed up to watch Gene Chizik‘s final spring as the Tigers’ head coach.

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