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We need more Bandwidth Captain!

We’re about 1.5 hours away from what many now expect to be Marcus Lattimore’s announced decision to attend the University of South Carolina. Jay is there and countless others are hosting online forums to follow the action if not tonight, all day tomorrow.

I hope you have a stable broadband or better connection Auburn family, cause the excitement is generating heat the likes of which Charter Communications (in Auburn) hasn’t seen since…..ever?

She can't take much more Captain!

In other related news, and = / > the Lattimore speculation, Lemonier and Jones appear to be big questions marks now on most of the national wires, opting towards in-state choices over Auburn.

As we said earlier today, good luck sleeping tonight – and no, it won’t be Loco’s Trivia Night induced.

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A survey of sorts, Social Media and web usage related

If you’ve got 4-6 minutes of spare time and want to share your thoughts on a survey geared towards Social Media, web sites and how you use them, please check out this survey sponsored by outsourcing shop KPGS.

All I know about NSD I learned on Xmas Eve

In about 24 hours from now, most of what we now know about Auburn’s 2010 recruiting class will be confirmed. Of the approximately 24 players who have verbally committed, all signs point to that commitment being honored in ink when they sign and fax in their letters beginning Wednesday morning.

We already know 5-star JUCO player, Cam Newton, is enrolled as are four others who count towards the 2009 class.

We know that according to various and sundry recruiting publications, Auburn has a Top 5 class if NSD was today. And although few publications outside of the state will declare it so, we, the Auburn family believe this is the best overall class ever recruited to the Plains.

By tomorrow (actually today shortly after 5 pm CST), we’ll know if Marcus Lattimore leaves the Palmetto State in favor of Running Back U. And, if you’re so inclined and have the time, I recommend you take part in a full on NSD assault by participating in TWER’s 2nd Annual Signing Day LiveBlog Extravaganza.

So we know these things, and we suspect a few more, and are more hopeful for even a couple of more things….

I helped my son write a letter to Santa Claus this past November. And yes, I did it just prior to the Iron Bowl, and shortly after the last tasty tidbit of turkey passed my lips. My words to him, “Son, you may not get everything on this list, and you’ll probably get a few things not on the list, but you’ll certainly get more than most. And for all that, you should be thankful.”

I can’t help but notice the similarities to recruiting and lists and the verbal commitments of 18-year olds to the hopes of a young child at Christmas time. Add to the fray the uncertainty of these aforementioned 18-year olds who most likely have been passed through academic systems and coddled for much of their post pee-wee football years. In other words, they are about as predictable as March weather patterns in east central Alabama.

Auburn will get their share of prized recruits as expected. We’ll wait anxiously for the intentions of players like Lattimore, Lemonier, Coleman and Jones. We’ll even stick around to see if there are any “surprises” under the tree. And, we’ll no doubt give a passing nod to anyone who doesn’t sign but visits campus between now and mid-May and decides to walk on during the summer.

And then the real fun begins. The number of Christmas ’09 toys my son still plays with not even two months later? Roughly 50%.

The number of 2010 recruits who will make the grade, endure “voluntary” workouts, pass two-a-days in the hell that is Alabama late summer and then translate that into measurable and meaningful playing time in the Fall? Yeah, unknown.

But still, you have to hope. You have to look at this list and the promise of a better list and dream. It is fun in Auburn right now. It is electric in a way that can best be compared to the week in August when portable toilets and parking barriers get installed on campus. Partial skepticism about the coaching staff after the Outback Bowl near miss win has been replaced with a love affair Harlequin would envy: folks are plain excited about all the work Coach Chizik and company have done leading into tomorrow.

Coach Chizik, you’ve given us quite a list to keep us awake tonight. And, by making the old ball coach nervous in Columbia, you’ve put us in a prime spot for an early present at the end of today. Tomorrow holds lots of promise, most of which will hold true come, tomorrow.

Sleep well Auburn family. *Yeah right!*

Playground Picks

One of my very selfish and favorite elementary school memories was the daily ritual of picking teams for football at recess. I label it “selfish” because I enjoyed being the number one or two pick once the captains were chosen. A good day on Monday and you were assured a top spot on Tuesday and so on and so on. Multiple weeks of top picks did allow you the occasional bad day without too much penalty.

And so too the college football recruiting season plays out in the two weeks now leading up to national signing day.

Auburn sits in a unique position. The Tigers find themselves a Top 5 recruiting class by most of the popular choices for sites who conduct such things as ranking High School athletes. Add to that, Coach Chizik and staff still have some very high-profile, and ranked, players on the boards to close out before February 3rd.

Where I personally think the Auburn family needs to take a collective breath is, there are still over seven months before most of us see the 2010 Tigers take the field in meaningful combat.

All these recruits need to make it to campus. They need to get enrolled, schedule classes, make “voluntary workouts” and adjust to living away from home for the first time. They need to manage the wave of young women who are going to literally come out of the foundations of the surrounding buildings and attach themselves. They need to grow up in ways most of us don’t think about, and they need to do it in 100 degree Alabama heat with a humidity level approaching DevCon 1.

The Auburn coaches and Athletic Department knows all this and they are prepared. There are tutors and advisors and resources aplenty to help ease the transition. But much the way the US Military brings in recruits and gives them a collective, “welcome to the real world” in the form of basic training, the Auburn coaches will do the same to try and level out the collective ego’s of the newbies.

However! Landing a Top 5 class – and one in which I believe will be ranked much, much higher by sunset on Wednesday, February 3rd – makes transition to campus and sustainable winning a much higher probability.

What the casual observer needs to know is this: Auburn isn’t backing down from anyone. Not Florida, Texas, Southern Cal or even Alabama. Speaking of which, Florida, Texas and Alabama are consistently the three teams between Auburn and a number one ranking by the end of this recruiting season. A mere 0.10 points separates us from the other team in the state on Rivals, and a meager 0.30 keeps us from passing Texas on the same list. ESPN puts us in their fifth spot, but mainly because they have their own system which heavily relies upon their ESPN150 list.

What the more than casual observer needs to know is this: Auburn is filling long-term key needs with the rock stars of the consensus top ranked players. Auburn has enrolled or plans to enroll five players who are 4-star or better up front on the offensive line. Auburn plans to add five players in the “Offensive Firepower” positions (QB, WR, RB) who are 4-star or better. Auburn could add as many as five players in the Defensive front seven who are 4-star or better. The balance of our recruiting roster are 3-star players who have size and / or speed and just itching at the chance to be the next Darren Bates.

What the serious observer needs to know is this: well, you probably aren’t wasting your time reading a free site. Pleaseandthankyouverymuch.

Back to the folks who are reading this now. This is my list of top prospects which IMHO Auburn has the best opportunity to, (a) improve their ranking, (b) a better than average chance of signing and (c) could contribute almost immediately towards a better 2010 and beyond.

5-star RB Marcus Lattimore. Why I like him? Auburn’s competition is a South Carolina team with more questions for a running back than a standardized test.

4-star DE Corey Lemonier. Why I like him? Trooper Taylor is recruiting him. Enough said.

4-star DT Jeffrey Whitaker. Why I like him? Tracy Rocker is recruiting him and by all accounts Whitaker’s visit to the Plains was, “off the chain.”

4-star DT Byran Jones. Why I like him? The Mad Scientist Malzahn is recruiting him and similar to above, his visit to Auburn was impressive. He hasn’t visited Arkansas yet and he is an Arkansas native, but he could very well be in Orange and Blue this summer.

Anyone predicting Toomer’s Corner gets rolled on February 3rd? I am.

The lady isn’t even warming up yet

I don’t remember an off-season where so many coaching changes and controversial departures took place.

Auburn would do well to not laugh so much at Tennessee – with head coaches named at South Florida, Texas Tech and Southern Cal and a coach-to-be-named later in Knoxville, we still have a crop of assistants and coordinators ready for picking.

Joe previously graded Trooper Taylor tops in the Auburn coaching class, and if you think he’s not on some short lists as a full-blown offensive coordinator someplace that doesn’t begin with an “A”, you’re probably also discussing a mortgage for beachfront property in the suburbs of Tucson.

All these post season moves make folks nervous, especially coaches. That in turn makes Athletic Directors itchy and scratchy, and the result of nervous leadership? The good guys go looking. Maybe not overtly, but they’ll still drop a text message, phone call or facebook message to a close friend to say, “what are you hearing about [fill in the blank vacancy]?”

Now to be certain, Auburn has a team full of good guys in the coaching ranks. All the movement, changes, drama and press doesn’t affect the Boulware’s of the world. Nope, those guys know deep down they’re lucky to still be employed and that no one is going to answer their message with, “they’re talking about you!” So, they sit still. The good guys, the Taylor and Malzahn and Thigpen’s of the world, get nervous. Great athletes and subsequently coaches, are all more than a touch insecure, so they wonder if they should be looking?

We’re sitting on G, waiting on O when it comes to recruiting. Auburn has changed coaches after signing day before and it could happen again.

Somewhere off stage, maybe not on the Plains, but somewhere too close for comfort, our proverbial fat lady is powdering her nose.

India Garden spicing up the Auburn landscape

With football season partially over (No, it never ends on the Plains. Thank you.), Josephine and I ventured out to the newly opened, India Garden on Opelika Road. They took over the former location of Breezeway chicken fingers, effectively reducing the chicken finger joints in the area to just under 200.

What sprang up instead was a pure delight for adventurous and open-minded diners.

You probably won’t miss the place if you’re unsure of where exactly to go in the tangled heap of repurposed buildings on Opelika Road. The India Garden stands out as a colorful addition to the Auburn side of Opelika Road.

Inside, the decor is what you might expect: pictures of elephants, jungles, turbaned Indians and the Taj Mahal. A noted and pleasant exception is white linen tablecloths. The staff is very conversant and helpful about the menu. Our waiter was able to steer us away from ordering too much food as he described portion sizes and dishes.

We tried the vegetable samosas to start and followed that with Chicken Korma and Tandoori Chicken. We also added a side of Garlic Naan bread. The samosas were a very nice beginning, taking potatoes and peas and deep frying them. They weren’t greasy or heavy and instead allowed all of the spices in the potatoes to come through in balance.

Tandoori Chicken is a personal favorite and it arrived at the table on a sizzling bed of onions atop a very hot plate. With the Naan bread and rice, it really was an authentic, not too spicy and wonderful lunch.

Josephine’s Chicken Korma stole the show. The yellow gravy with cashews and almonds smelled divine and tasted even better. Again, served with rice and the Naan bread it was hard not to take it away from her after I wolfed down my tandoori chicken. As good as it was in the restaurant, it was even better the next day as leftovers.

Joe and Josephine both highly recommend India Garden the next time you’re looking to spice up your lunch or dinner plans. Don’t forget to try the Kingfisher beer, a staple of the Indian beer selection, while you’re there (time of day permitting of course!).

Proof that final grades are never, final

I could have also titled this one, “Be careful what you wish for.” Our recent post grading the 2009 Auburn Tigers coaching staff appeared destined for Auburn blog anonymity like so many of our others. Read, browsed and curiously passed through the consciousness of most Auburn fans out looking for nuggets on their favorite of pastimes. Unlike other blogs, Joe Auburn has enjoyed a nice click through rate over the past 2 years without many of the comments, and yes praise, other bloggers receive. We stared out our window at the Auburn landscape sighing and wishing for a thought here or there.

And then we decided to grade the coaches using a half-baked, but well-intentioned formula of our own creation. Well, we did have some help from long time friend, Sam Adams. Sam and I decided to try to strip out the emotion that accompanies our love of all things Auburn and well, makes for articles laced with irrational exuberance.

We did get our comments, all two of them and they both made us wince. The emails were even better.

….I’ve always read your blog because you didn’t puff it up with stats like you were trying out for ESPN or try and blow sunshine up our skirts. But this one made me mad. How can you dismiss all Coach Chizik has done using math that remains behind a curtain?

Ouch.

Good lord, i thought only bammers used numbers to their liking. you may as well go join them if your going to try and say our coaches did nothing all year because we didnt stack up to your liking in teh sec.

Not really what I was trying to do, and “bammer” comment aside, I do see a point here.

….if you’re going to use a formula to grade and then similarly rationale not having a failing grade since Auburn finished above .500, how can you then give Coach Chizik a “F”?

Excellent point. I blame Sam for this.

This makes zero sense and you should be ashamed. On one hand you give Chizik credit for intangibles in spades and then grade him out as a failure? ARe you going to flunk the team on A-Day if Auburn doens’t win?

Seriously folks, I understand how exciting starting 5-0 was; how fun following recruiting has been for the first time in, forever; how much we all enjoyed seeing towels waving, coaches showing genuine emotion and Tiger Walk losing some of the sterility it had gathered; but, last year was last year. Grading this year’s team based on last year’s debacle doesn’t make much sense either. At least not to me.

The truth is, we did finish with most of the SEC in the middle. If you displayed the conference on a bell curve, Auburn would be at the tail end. Meaning, Alabama, Florida and LSU distinguished themselves on one end and Mississippi State and Vanderbilt on the other. Six teams, SIX teams in the conference finished 7-5 pre-bowl game, including Auburn. Auburn’s record against those teams? One win, three loses. We did beat out the 8-4 Ole Miss squad which was somewhere up near the LSU band of our “curve.”

Simple plot: woeful story

So, the end of this tale is simple: redo the formula without the assistance of Sam Adams and since we’re creating a fictitious formula anyway, add categories for off-field intangibles, potential and for coordinators and the head coach, game planning/schemes.

Final grades, revisited below without commentary since we’re all probably sick of that anyway.

Trooper Taylor:  B+

Gus Malzahn, Jeff Grimes and Curtis Luper:  B

Ted Roof and Tommy Thigpen:  C

Tracy Rocker and Phillip Lolley:  C-

Jay Boulware: C- (again helped mostly by FG and PAT performance)

Head Coach Gene Chizik: C (76.9%)

At least now we know who the [expletive deleted] was who greeted Gene Chizik when he got off the plane last year.

My personal favorite….

Burnt Orange never looked so good

Some may call this “sour grapes” or “envy.” I call it just good ole sticking it to my ‘Bama friends fun. If you want to have your own version of fun at their expense the next few days, go check out the “Photos” section of our facebook fan page. We have four different Texas Longhorn photos you can save and add to your profile picture.

Within seconds of updating my facebook profile this morning I had two ‘Bama comments and twice as many Auburn supporters join the fun. It has been slowly building all day now. My smile has been in direct proportion. 😀

Words of caution: you may find yourself “de-friended” or “hidden” after changing your profile picture. Joe Auburn assumes no liability nor responsibility for the childish response to our fun.

Final Grades are in….

With the final-final-final celebration done at the Outback Bowl, and your 2009 Auburn Tigers finishing with 8 wins and 5 losses, it is time to “grade” the coaching staff. With a win percentage in the low 60’s that would translate in most public school settings to a “D” (or even a minus). Given how abysmal last year’s results were, it didn’t seem fair to label Coach Gene Chizik’s inaugural effort with such a poor letter grade. Right?

Well, results have to speak for themselves and just like each of us probably stayed up all night for several nights in a row for a final exam, if the end grade was anything other than an “A”, you were probably disappointed. That disappointment however didn’t change the final result and the result was based upon a “right or a wrong” answer in most cases. True, some exams were more subjective in nature, but even then you either knew what the professor wanted to see and gave it to them, or you didn’t. Your final grade in those matters probably reflected the same.

This just in…..Jerry has graded the offensive coaches and while I agree with the verbiage, I don’t think the letter grades quite match the production. It will be interesting to see how he grades the Defense and Special Teams.

As Coach Pat Dye once told me, “son if we graded effort, even Vandy would be an A+ team.”

So how did Joe Auburn grade the coaches? Well, the formula will be listed below, but in summary we used the SEC rankings in 31 different categories. Obviously, position coaches were only graded against those categories which were relevant, but head coach Gene Chizik’s grade was accumulated against all categories. If you’re the head guy, you have to be accountable and responsible for ALL the comings and goings on your team. We used the SEC and only 2009 because for starters, trying to compare against last year, or any year previous was just silly. There isn’t an apple to apple comparison to be found. We used the SEC for consistency and to have a measuring stick, and since we play in the SEC that seemed the most fair.

And now for the head of our class:

B (84%): Trooper Taylor, Wide Receivers Coach. Coach Taylor was more than just a smiling face with a mean chest bump and whirling towel. He produced the most underrated WR in the nation with Outback Bowl MVP Darvin Adams and helped turn T-Zach into a end-running machine. True, we saw nothing of much heralded recruits, Kodi Burns never really learned how to consistently block or run routes and there was the *ahem* recruiting stuff. But, on the field results speak for themselves and Taylor had a key piece in Auburn’s statistical ranking near the top in all offensive categories.

B- (81%): Jeff Grimes, Offensive Line Coach. Coach Grimes benefitted the most by Auburn being near the top in our Ripley’s Believe it or Not category: 3rd Down Conversions. He was also helped out by Auburn’s success in the Red Zone. Somewhat surprisingly, Auburn’s performance in Rushing Offense wasn’t enough to push Coach Grimes into the upper-stratosphere of “B” land, but the overall success of the offense kept the failing grade on 4th Down Conversions from hurting him too badly.

C (75%): Curtis Luper, Running Backs. You’d think having a workhorse like Ben Tate in your backfield would get you more love from the academic gods. If you did, you’d be thinking wrong. Scoring and total offense categories helped, but Time of Possession (of which the running game figures prominently) and 4th down conversions were some of the league’s worst. True, McCalebb was hurt for a good portion of the season and Eric Smith was practicing for a future in cage fighting, but again, on field results are the same crooked stick we’re all measured by here.

C- (71%): Gus Malzahn, Offensive Coordinator and QBs. Coach Gus was evaluated on all offensive categories as well as Turnover Margin. Considering the previously mentioned poor showing in 4th Down Conversions, TOP and near the bottom performance in TO Margin, Malzahn graded out as an average coach. He clearly demonstrates aptitude in Scoring and Total Offense, so his areas for improvement would be figuring out how to hold onto the ball when he needs to (both TOP and TO margin) and breaking through to pay dirt on short yardage or critical third downs. The biggest shocker to me was how well Auburn actually performed in Pass Efficiency – in the top 3 in the league. Um, can you say “down year for the SEC in the QB department”?

D (68%): Jay Boulware, Special Teams/TEs. Low and behold there is always that kid in class who says nothing and gives off the perception he could care less about tests, professors or classmates, only to surprise everyone at the end by NOT failing. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you our Bart Simpson: Jay Boulware. He was definitely helped by Auburn leading the league in Field Goals and PAT Kicking. Would anyone be surprised to know we were dead last in Punt Return Average though? Anyone, Bueller, anyone? Kickoff Returns settled in at a D grade too *yawn* tell us something we don’t know Joe.

The Prettiest Pigs at the Fair.

Tommy Thigpen, Phillip Lolley, Tracy Rocker and Ted Roof. All defensive coaches and all the owners of such statistical wonders like dead last in the league in Scoring Defense, Opponents 4th Down Conversions and Red Zone Defense. Close behind, meaning there was at least one other team worse than us, are: Opponents 1st Downs and Rushing Defense. Were it not for a middle of the pack showing against the league in Opponents 3rd Down Conversions, Auburn’s D this year would have ranked in the bottom half in EVERY single category of Defense. Of course, detractors would point to what we were left with post Tuberville or the fact that Josh Bynes, Craig Stevens, Neiko Thorpe and Daren Bates played every defensive snap against Northwestern. To which I say, “yeah but?”

Which brings us to two last points. One, Coach Chizik’s grade and two, the formula used for the grades. I’d highly recommend reading Coach Chizik’s grade and then pausing long enough to do several shots of your liquor-du-jour followed by a complete brain dump. After that, you’ll be ready, but forewarned: it all adds up to yet another humble Auburn blogger’s opinion.

F (55%) Coach Gene Chizik, Head Football Coach. queue the booing and hissing Despite meeting some optimistic preseason expectations, finishing 3-5 in the SEC and winning a bowl game in OT to cap off an 8 win season doesn’t get you much at Auburn. Iowa State would have been thrilled, and in fact, were thrilled with their season under first year head coach and former Auburn DC Paul Rhoads (who played largely with Chizik’s recruits). Try rolling out two more years of 8-5 and where do you think we’ll be? Look, I’m absolutely thrilled to have started 5-0, finish better than last year and have the makings of a Top 3 recruiting class. But, we also gave games to Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama. We had a near miss in the Outback Bowl and yes, I’m of the opinion that fortune and glory brings with it the responsibility of the overall record. That would sit squarely with Coach Gene Chizik. Intangibles? Coach Chizik has ’em in spades. If he read this article, I have no doubt he’s the kind of man (and coach) who would say, “yes, we finished middle of the pack against an expectation of winning every time we took the field.”

Please stop reading now….

The formula.

31 categories were used, covering every facet of the game. Coach Chizik was graded against every category, Coaches Malzahn and Roof were graded against only their respective squads and some overall statistics such as TOP, Turnover Margin and Penalties. Position coaches were graded against those categories which best fit their positions as well as Overall stats in Offense or Defense, as appropriate.

A “simple” points total was awarded in each category based on where Auburn finished against the league. Being in the top 3 teams earned 4 points, the bottom 3 teams earned 1 point and if Auburn finished #1 in the league, 5 points were awarded or dead last, 0 points. An average was then taken and divided by 4. Why 4? Because we felt finishing 8-5 was at least a “D” overall and so each passing grade added up to 4 (D+C+B+A=4).

For example: Coach Chizik’s grade read, the sum of 31 categories divided by 31 = 2.19, divided by 4 = 55% or F.

Clear as mud? You got it….

UNCONFIRMED: Caudle to App State?

UPDATE 1: Several students have told me they have seen Neil in and out of his apartment near campus this week.

Classes begin again at Auburn on Wednesday. The unconfirmed news on campus today is that Neil Caudle, backup QB, will transfer to Appalachian State. Caudle has battled injuries, coaches and fan perception since being a 2005 EA Sports Elite 11 QB coming out of High School and joining the Tigers.

Appalachian State is a perennial powerhouse in the FCS league and as some remember, knocked off Michigan several years ago.

If the rumor is true it would be safe to assume Cam Newton’s enrollment slides him into the starter slot at QB.

More to follow….