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JMR last won the day on October 4 2021

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  1. Don’t know, of course, but one thing some teams do is widen the splits a little to put that rush end further from his target and change his path a little. Hamm can also line up a hair more off the LOS, which gives him a little more time to intercept the DE. He may need to adjust his pass set, meaning put his outside foot further back to speed up his weight transfer. He could, of course, just get quicker, but that ain’t likely.
  2. Something I meant to mention in TITIS this week....Ole Miss came into the game third in the nation in rushing yards per game, averaging 263. Interesting (to me, anyway) how they had done that. OC/QB Coach Jeff Lebby, whom Auburn tried to hire shortly after Harsin taking the head job, has been really good at creating easy blocking angles for his offense. He successfully did the same thing at UCF when Josh Heupel was head coach there. Going into the game, I was curious to see how Derek Mason would attempt to neutralize that. As it turns out, (I should have realized this going in), Mason has historically played his linebackers deeper than most coordinators do. The philosophy there is that he may give up a yard more on inside runs, but he'll not give up bigger plays outside the offensive tackles, which is where most "explosive plays" in the run game happen. Anyway, that theory held up very well in the Ole Miss game, somewhat evidenced by Zakoby McClain's 14 tackles and the AU defense holding the Rebel Black Bears to over 100 yards below their season rushing average. Just thought that was an interesting point about the game.
  3. Something I left out unintentionally: I was impressed by the schematics of the little swing passes to Shivers. He had just enough speed to put the safety assigned to cover him in a bad pursuit angle. That was a well thought-out scheme. And credit to Bo for putting the ball on a small target.
  4. Talking with my friend Doug Saturday morning, I found myself calling the LSU game “pivotal” for Auburn and Coach Harsin. It was just a casual conversation about the upcoming game, but once the game was over, I felt even more strongly that this game was something of a milestone in Harsin’s rebuilding of the program. Auburn passed that milestone in rather splendid fashion. No, we are certainly not “there” by any means, but we aren’t where we started, either. To go to Baton Rouge on a Saturday night and take down a desperate LSU and 90,000 of their fans is no small accomplishment. Had Auburn lost that game, it would certainly not mean Harsin’s process had failed, or even that it was behind schedule. But a win would mean the process was moving along as planned. There is pretty much NEVER a football game where some things could have been done better. But there are certainly games where there is more good than bad, and more often than not, those games end up in the win column. This one, as most are, was a test, and Auburn passed the test. Led by Bo Nix in possibly his best game as an Auburn quarterback, the AUBURN Tigers met every challenge with confidence and tenacity. There were some disappointments for sure, but nobody folded his tent and accepted a loss. We’ve all heard the phrase “A football team reflects the personality of its coach.” I believe we are seeing that with Bryan Harsin. Harsin seems to be as focused as any coach I can remember, and focus is HUGE in football. I think it’s important, as we watch the team grow from game to game, to keep in mind that Harsin is constantly “coaching.” Not just the players, but the coaches as well. If we look closely at the offense and the defense, changes from the Penn State game to the LSU game are obvious. In play calls on both sides, and, of course, in players themselves. Look closely. If you’re not seeing it, you’re missing something very important. I’m sure it’s obvious by now that I’m happy with what I saw Saturday night. I hope you are too. There are extreme challenges ahead in the coming weeks, and there will be disappointments in terms of wins and losses. But what matters at this point in the process is that we get better every day and every week. So far, that is happening. With “progress” in mind, here are some things I think I saw in the LSU game…… Bo Nix was as sound in his fundamentals as I have seen him since he’s been at AU. Despite a strong pass rush from an LSU team leading the nation in sacks, he set his feet most of the time, and delivered a catchable pass. The tendency to overthrow everything was gone. His body language both on the field and on the sideline showed confidence and determination. It was a pleasure to watch. The offensive line is still a work in progress, but as a whole, they are getting better. There were some missed blocks, and there were some “blocks” that were actually WORSE than “missed”. But there were far more successes than failures, which I think is progress. Nix was under pressure often, and pulled off some miracle escapes, but a good bit of the time, he actually had a clean pocket. Although the stats don’t show it, I thought the run blocking was the best it’s been this season. LSU came into the game determined to stop the run, and they did that with numbers until they wore down late in the game. I don’t know what is going on with Tank Bigsby. He is running hard, and does not appear to be injured, but he hasn’t been quite as effective recently as earlier. Hopefully he will get back on track soon. Special teams took a step back this week, maybe a couple of steps. Anders Carlson was not as reliable as usual, and failed to put “touch” on the onside kick attempt. For what it’s worth, I thought the onside kick was a good call, and I liked the plan. Unfortunately, the execution failed. The “overly casual” handling of the kickoff in the end zone by Donovan Kauffman was almost very costly, but will provide a great teaching point going forward. Lastly, we had a field goal attempt blocked. LSU’s plan for that was excellent. They overloaded the offensive left side, meaning every AU blocker on that side had to step down to block the defender to his inside. That left the outside guy unblocked, he timed his rush perfectly, and got there easily. That happens now and then. More frightening to me was the fact that Austin Troxell failed to step down, and had LSU’s outside guy not gotten a hand on the ball, the LSU lineman who beat Troxell inside would have blocked the kick anyway. Time for Coach Harsin to apply some of that laser focus to special teams and the coaches who “own” those. Dropped passes continue to plague the passing game. I counted at least six. As the competition ramps up each week, those seemingly small things matter more and more. Auburn DC Derek Mason continues to play very conservatively. Lots of cushion afforded the LSU receivers through most of the game, then press man on fourth and long. Strange stuff. Mason did get more pass rush this week than in past games, typically lining up five or six defenders in the box, but sending mostly three and occasionally four. Colby Wooden played a tremendous game, both in pass rush and in defending the run. Lots of effort by the DL, and that effort affected the outcome of the game. Derek Hall seems to be quickly growing into his potential as a pass rusher. Still more foolish penalties than we can afford. Discipline takes time and repetition to learn; I believe we will get there eventually. Young Jarquez Hunter continues to impress. Running back is supposedly the easiest position for a young guy to play, but Hunter’s maturity and toughness continues to surprise me week after week. Tight ends. Need I say more? Hard to believe we have discovered after all these years that the tight end is actually an eligible receiver. Huge game this week, with the Dawgs coming to town. Georgia is very good, certainly one of the most talented rosters in college football. I watched most of their game with Arkansas. Arkansas, despite their wins over aTm and Texas, is hardly a great football team. They are well-coached and play hard, but they are not blessed with tons of four and five stars. They dug themselves into a 21-0 hole in the first quarter against Georgia, and the beating was on. Obviously, Auburn doesn’t match up with Georgia in terms of talent and depth. But I believe we are at least close to the point where we can make it a football game. As I keep saying, the important thing is that we are a little better this week than last week. It will be a good measuring stick to see where we are, and I’m looking forward to it. War Damn!
  5. Just when we’d begun to worry about the fact that new Head Coach Bryan Harsin seemed to be moving at an uncomfortably slow pace in assembling a staff, he has proven those worries to be unfounded. Personally, I’ve enjoyed the fact that, unlike the “search” for a head coach, the hiring of staff has been subject to very little speculation and media coverage. While we all want to know what’s going on, and would love a bombshell announcement of a complete staff replete with highly successful and widely respected coaches, that’s not really practical. What IS practical is assembling a group of coaches who know their craft, are known to work their tails off, and are the kind of men you would want teaching and mentoring your own kid, both on and off the field. And the “judge” of those qualities is the Head Coach. So far, in my opinion, Bryan Harsin has done a great job of that. Let’s start with Defensive Coordinator Derek Mason. I am personally delighted with this hire. Mason is widely regarded as an exceptionally intelligent defensive guy, one of the top defensive minds schematically in college football. On top of that, he is a tireless worker, a high-character guy, and one whom kids love to play for. Hired by Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, and quickly promoted to DC there by David Shaw, Mason quickly earned a sterling reputation in the profession. Anxious to prove his mettle as a head coach, Mason took a bad job, becoming head coach at Vandy. Now, I look back and remember that James Franklin somehow managed to win at Vandy, and wonder why Mason couldn’t pull that off. They are two very different people, with very different approaches to competing at this level. Franklin is an outstanding coach, and is willing to push the rules to the edge of the boundaries. Mason is also an outstanding coach, but is prone to follow the letter of the law. Big time college football is not pure, as we all know. You can probably read into those statements and understand the difference in the two. Bottom line, I am genuinely excited about Mason joining the Auburn staff. The players will love him, as he is smart, tough, and not afraid to fight, both physically and figuratively. Bottom line, GREAT hire, and one I’m impressed with Harsin for making. I have no doubt that Mason and Harsin are working hand-in-hand to assemble a defensive staff. Harsin is primarily an offensive guy, and he will expect Mason to run the defense. To that end, the two of them have so far brought on Jeff Schmedding as ILB coach, and former Auburn DB Zac Etheridge as CB coach. Schmedding was DC at Boise last year, after 15 years in various defensive positions, including DC, at FCS power Eastern Washington. Etheridge was cornerbacks coach at Houston last season, after spending a year in the same position at Louisiana under Billy Napier. A team captain on Auburn’s National Championship team in 2010, Etheridge worked in various roles at Penn State, Georgia Tech, and Western Carolina. Now to the offense. Hard to evaluate Mike Bobo as OC. For one thing, during his years at UGA, Mark Richt was the head coach. Richt is an offensive guy, and old college QB, and a bit of a QB “whisperer” himself. So with the outstanding QB play Georgia enjoyed during Bobo’s time there, it’s tough to know how much of that was Bobo, and how much was Richt. I think that’s what drove Bobo to take the job at Colorado State…..a chance to do it on his own. I think the fact that Bobo was able to convince OL Coach Will Friend to leave a prestigious program like Georgia to join him at Colorado State says a lot about Friend’s regard for his friend. Friend was extremely successful at UGA, and even at Colorado State. After Bobo was let go at CSU, Friend ended up at Tennessee, where he was not quite so successful. Word from a Tennessee staffer is that Friend was not allowed (by the Head Coach) to hold his players accountable, a recipe for disaster. In any event, now that Bobo is once again part of a premiere program, at our own Auburn, he has Friend once again at his side. Friend was a two-time All-SEC offensive guard at Alabama, and in my opinion, one of the premier offensive line coaches in college football. I’ve been very impressed with his effort so far on the recruiting trail, as he has already made offers as far out as the class of 2022, and as far away as Seattle. I fully expect a very different look for the offensive line under his tutelage. Former Auburn great Cadillac Williams has been retained as running backs coach. one-time NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, Caddy has the credentials to open doors on the recruiting trail. It’s impressive that a young guy with limited coaching experience was able to convince Harsin and Bobo that he should be retained. Harsin has brought on another former Boise coach in Tight Ends Coach Brad Bedell. Bedell has six years of NFL playing experience, which will surely help him on the recruiting trail. Harsin’s (and Bobo’s) offense uses multiple tight ends, and Auburn happens to be well-stocked at that position. They like to use the tight ends to manipulate leverage on the edge, and have done so very well in the past . It will be fun to see if they are able to bring that heretofore missing element to the AU offense. Harsin has also filled some key off-field staff positions in his short time in the wheel house, including Strength Coach Jeff Pitman. The strength coach is always a key position on a football staff, as he and his staff spend more time with the players than any coach on the staff. That position is absolutely critical to setting expectations of the players. Pitman was S&C Coach for Harsin at both Arkansas State and Boise, so the two have spend 8 years together. In total, Pitman has more than three decades of experience in the field, and his former players speak extremely well of him. Staff turnover is always a difficult time in a program. Players form attachments to their coaches, and so do fans. But the Head Coach absolutely has to put together a staff that he believes will give him the best chance to be successful. I’ve been impressed with the way Harsin has gone about this difficult task, and the results so far. Lots to look forward to. So far, I'm happy! Tracy Rocker Hire: I wanted to amend my original post to include some thoughts on the hiring of Tracy Rocker. To be honest, I was not happy at first. One of the greatest Auburn players of my lifetime, and an outstanding coach, Tracy Rocker has pretty much never pulled his weight on the recruiting trail. To be fair, recruiting isn't for everybody. I have friends who actually got out of coaching because they couldn't stomach being greeted at a kid's door with "What y'all gonna give me?". I can understand that. Unfortunately, that's a part of the game today. After thinking on it a while, I'm ok with the hire, mainly because it had to have been approved (maybe even initiated) by Derek Mason. Mason has spent years in the SEC East with Rocker, and I'm sure knows the man better than any of us. Plus, with Rocker's son an outstanding pitcher on the Vandy baseball team, I suspect the two have talked on occasion. If Mason is in favor of having Rock on his staff, who am I to object? Besides, he is an OUTSTANDING teacher of DL technique (something we have been missing), and a terrific on-campus recruiter. Bottom line, if Mason is for it, I'm all in!
  6. Tim, watching Game One, I felt like the WR group was gonna be a strength of the team, with some experienced guys and some very capable newcomers. I have been a little disappointed with the progress since then. The blocking effort has actually been pretty stellar, but the route-running and actual receiving has been more spotty than I expected, and the newbies have apparently dropped out of the plan. I can certainly understand some hesitation about playing the rookies (like Capers) against uga, in only the second game, but how else are they going to contribute and improve their skills? Bottom line, there have been multiple factors at play affecting the "performance" of the WR group, including poor pass protection, Bo missing open receivers and/or not seeing open receivers, dropped balls that were catchable, and occasional predictability, wherein our personnel and alignment revealed the planned play. Truthfully, although we don't like to consider it, it's still early, and things (at every position) are likely to change, either for better, or for worse. Time will tell.
  7. About the running backs: I agree about Shivers. Love the kid, but he's not built to be a feature back. Don't know what the deal was with MAR. Hopefully we will get to see him one day. The guy I'm excited about is Bigsby. His timing was a little off, but he's much quicker and faster than I thought. If he is the worker he's reported to be, we will see a ton of him before the season is over.
  8. I was (obviously) impressed with Seth on the fifty-fifty balls, but thought he might have had a couple he didn't get. I'm high on Schwartz, Stove, and even young Capers, but Bo seems to get fixated on Seth at times. Hopefully that will work itself out. I thought our DL started out way too tentative. Whether that was due to UK's OL being good, inexperience, butterflies, or what, I don't know. But I thought the guys I mentioned came on quite a bit later in the game. Kentucky's OL actually began to wear down (IMO). And the DL play after UK had a first down inside the two was actually pretty stout. That doesn't apply to everybody, of course, but those I thought didn't exactly distinguish themselves shall remain nameless until they've had chance to redeem themselves.
  9. Auburn Tiger fans, please enjoy a Christmas (and New Year's Day bowl) edition of the AU Football All-Access Podcast..... The stocking stuffers include favorite Christmas movies, the very exciting hire of Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris, a peek at the Early Signing Day haul of Auburn football recruits, the overall Auburn football vibe, and more. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podca...uid=http://auburnfootballallaccess.com/?p=460 http://traffic.libsyn.com/auburnallaccess/AUFAA_Podcast_Episode_210_Christmas_Edition_12.24.2019.mp3 Podcast: Play in new window | Download Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | RSS
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