Category Archives: Auburn’s Cast of Thousands

“I’m searching for a word here,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s incomprehensible.”

Dude, the word you’re looking for is “Auburn“.

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Auburn, “a place of football oddities”

Here’s a good piece from David Wunderlich about how Gus and Boom aren’t exactly what we expect.  To wit,

… There is just one potential worry spot, though. Muschamp has done his best work in battling spread schemes. There have been a few exceptions here and there, but that’s his calling card. AU was 2-0 against Urban Meyer during Muschamp’s DC stint in 2006-07, his Texas defenses were all great (though less great in a rebuilding 2010) while facing almost exclusively spread offenses in the Big 12, and he shut down Johnny Manziel in the second half of a win over A&M in 2012.

Oddly, he’s not been as great at stopping more traditional offenses despite being a Nick Saban disciple. If you look at the highest yards per play allowed against FBS competition in his time at Florida, you find Alabama at No. 1 (2014) and No. 11 (2011), 2013 Florida State second, LSU at third (2011) and tenth (2013), and Georgia at fifth (2013) and sixth (2014). Mark Richt has been a particular thorn in his side, dropping 37 and 45 points, respectively, on his 2006-07 Auburn defenses.

That’s not to say that Muschamp was a bad hire for Auburn, but he’s going to be facing Alabama, LSU, and Georgia every year. You can add Arkansas and its paleolithic offense to that list as well. The marriage of Malzahn and Muschamp will almost certainly prove to be a wildly successful one, but it’s going to take both of them at times to keep the wins coming in.

Auburn has a formerly pass happy guy now known for the run and a Saban acolyte who stops the spread but isn’t as good against the pro set…

All worth considering.  But you know there’s one consistency about Auburn that nobody’s really talking about – the Tigers’ tend not to live up to high preseason expectations.  I’ll be curious to see if Gus manages to rise above Auburn’s lofty top ten rankings in 2015.

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Rodney Garner has a way with words.

It’s probably not politic to describe one’s coaching style at Second Chance U as “thug love“, so Garner’s latched on to a new catch phrase.

… Rodney Garner, the Tigers’ associate head coach and defensive line coach, is busy doing one of the things he does best. It’s unofficially called de-recruiting, and he’s letting prized freshman defensive end Byron Cowart, the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2015 class, have it. Cowart has the body of a five-year NFL veteran but is still learning the ropes at the college level.

Garner, who has recruited and coached his share of first-round NFL draft picks, is pushing Cowart much the same way he did Marcus Stroud and Richard Seymour when Garner was at Georgia.

“Hey, there’s the No. 1 player in the country right there,” Garner chortles. “At least, he’s supposed to be. He’s getting coached like everybody else. I guarantee you that. He’s being talked to like he never has been before.

“Gotta decruit. Most important thing you do.”

Decrootin’.  I’m sure he’s got a lot of former bosses slapping their foreheads and saying “why didn’t I think of that?” about now.  That’s why he makes the big bucks, I suppose.

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Ayy! Number Onnee! You’re the Duke! You’re the Duke!

The rehabilitation at Auburn isn’t going smoothly, it seems.

D’haquille Williams didn’t see the end of Saturday’s scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Two days after his return to the practice field, Williams was seen being taken out of the stadium on a golf cart before the second scrimmage of preseason camp ended.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn attempted to downplay the situation claiming the senior receiver didn’t get banged up during the 100-play scrimmage.

“I don’t believe he left,” Malzahn said. “We took him out. He was out there. He got to play some.”

Gus wants to make it clear we all know who’s in charge.

I’m sure ongoing turmoil surrounding your best offensive player is no big deal, though.

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And on the sixth day, he reinstated.

If you had yesterday in the when-will-Gus-Malzahn-allow-Duke-Williams-back-to-practice pool, congrats.

Oh, but he’s not starting yet, no siree.

“Obviously, there’s going to be some catching up to do,” Malzahn said. “We’ve got guys who have been to practice that we feel very good about, and he’s in the process of playing catch-up. He’s at the bottom of the depth chart, and he’s going to have to earn his way back up. He understands that.”

Nudge, nudge.  Wink, wink.

Wait.  You doubt Gus’ sincerity?  He strenuously objects to your skepticism.

Malzahn dismissed the notion that Williams was being given more chances because he’s one of the Tigers’ most talented players.

“I try to keep the same standard for everybody. That’s how we operate around here,” Malzahn said.

It’s Second Chance U, dude.  We’ve never doubted you on that.

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I think they’re gonna need a bigger rabbit’s foot.

Give Bill Connelly a little credit.  As more and more people keep rushing to the exit door labelled “Auburn, playoffs bound“, Bill takes a more measured tack in describing Auburn’s prospects.

Auburn allowed more than 40 points per game in its five losses, and Malzahn elected to replace coordinator Ellis Johnson with Muschamp, the former Florida head coach. Muschamp’s Gator defenses were stout, and now he doesn’t have to worry about that pesky “managing the offense, too” thing.

With the way Malzahn has been recruiting, it’s easy to connect these dots. Malzahn offense (which should be prolific no matter who’s in uniform) plus Muschamp defense (angry and aggressive no matter what) plus star athletes equals success. And that makes sense.

But I do wonder if we’re rushing things. Malzahn and Muschamp should be able to create a high baseline, but with turnover on offense and potential depth issues on defense, are we really sure this team is better than Bama?

There are good reasons to ask that question:  (1) lots of turnover on the offensive side of the ball (depending on whether Williams returns to Gus’ good graces in time, they could be down to four returning starters); (2) depth issues on defense; and (3) speaking of Muschamp defense…

One other interesting variable: Muschamp vs. tempo. As Florida’s head coach, he employed a plodding offense that seemed like it was designed to buy time for the defense. Now he will be working opposite one of the most potent offenses in the country. His defense will be on the field more, which could create the need for more depth … which he might not have until 2016.

And in the end, that’s how you get to talking about karma and mojo in trying to analyze Auburn’s 2015.

It’s not impossible to see a top-five caliber Auburn running the table, easing by LSU and Arkansas on the road and finishing with home wins (probably dramatically) over UGA and Bama.

I’m struggling to picture that. While I’m not a betting man, I would have long ago learned not to bet on Auburn regardless. They turn when you think they’re going to twist, zag when most teams would zig.

But a team with normal karmic ebbs and flows, ranking somewhere in the top 10 or 15, would probably lose at least a couple of games here. In fact, despite a No. 11 projection, the Football Outsiders Almanac 2015 (college-only version available for only $6 in PDF form) gives the Tigers only a 15 percent chance of finishing 10-2 or better. And no, mojo is not one of the projection factors.

It’s worked for Malzahn before, so who am I to say it won’t again?  But I think I’ll wait and see first before I rush to the exit.

(By the way, one thing about Bill’s stats that’s starting to drive me crazy is the way Georgia keeps popping up as the team that administered the worst beat down on an opponent’s 2014 schedule.  First Mizzou, now Auburn.  Sheesh, guys… how could you lose to Florida?)

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“We have to claim those championships. It’s the law.”

Don’t ever change, Auburn fans.

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