Monday, August 31, 2009

La Tech Preview and Keys to the Game

By Eddie McCoy

Louisiana Tech, or more commonly called La Tech, is coming off a 2008 season which it improved from it's prior year record from 5-7 to 8-5 including an Independence Bowl win over Northern Illinois under then 2nd Year Head Coach Derek Dooley. La Tech started its season off last year at home by upsetting Mississippi State 22-14, so playing and beating an SEC team is something this squad has already attained and looking to repeat as it travels down to Auburn this Weekend for the Sept. 5th season opener. Let's take a closer look at La Tech's Offense, Defense and Special Teams:

This team returns 9 starters on offense that averaged 187.08 yards per game rushing (27th Nationally), 156.00 yards per game passing (102nd Nationally) and scored 24.62 points per game (72nd Nationally). Of the returning starters, they including its entire offensive line, quarterback (Ross Jenkins), All-WAC Running Back (Daniel Porter) and leading Wide Receiver (Phillip Livas), so this offense looks to be better than it was last year. The strength of their offense will be the running game. RB Daniel Porter was the leader of this offensive last season while he piled up over 1,100 yards while the passing game leaves a lot to be desired for, but quarterback Ross Johnson started the last eight games of the season leading them to a 6-2 record during that stretch while averaging 105 yards per game passing with 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions Johnson appears to be a game manager of the offense and tries to avoid making the big mistake that cost his team the game. I look for this offense to try and run the ball at the heart of our defense and take it shots down the field when there is a need to.

This team returns 7 starters to a defense that gave up 103.85 yards per game rushing (13th Nationally), 272.69 yards per game passing (113th Nationally) and allowed 23.69 points per game (52nd Nationally) last season. La Tech is returning it's entire front four on the defensive line that figures to be the strength of this unit while the Linebacking corps only returns one starter in Brian White and secondary returns two starting safeties including All-WAC player Antonio Baker. This defense plays to shut down the run but struggles to stop the pass and with all the new faces in the secondary at the corners position and two line backers, it would appear that passing the ball against them will come with a lot more ease than running it. I look for La Teach to come out and try to stuff Auburn's Running game and try and put pressure on Chris Todd and hope that they can either get to him or force him to make bad throws.

La Tech had some major losses on special teams from last season which include losing their starting punter, starting place kicker and their special teams coach. They do have one of the deadliest kick returners in the game in Phillip Livas who ranked 25th in the nation in Kickoff Returns and 7th in the nation in Punt Returns while returning 1 kickoff and 2 punts for touchdowns last season. I look for La Tech to lean on their return game to setup short fields for them while hoping to avoid the meltdown of a blocked kick in punting and placekicking situations.

Keys to the Game for Auburn
  • Eliminate Turnovers- Last season Mississippi State lost to La Tech because they turned over the ball 5 times. If Auburn is to not stumble, they will have to keep the turnovers to a minimum.
  • Vertical Passing Game- This La Tech defense is very vulnerable against the pass and Auburn needs to show that it has the ability to throw the ball down the field with success.
  • Stop the Run- La Tech has an offense that is solely reliant on the run. If Auburn struggles in slowing down Daniel Porter, it will make for a very long night for Auburn defenders.
  • Special Teams- Auburn needs to contain Phillip Livas and keep him from flipping the field and scoring.

Notes of Interest

  • Former Auburn player and now current La Tech quarterback backup Steven Ensminger could see the field in a position other than quarterback. He is currently listed as the backup punter and was vying for the starting position in spring practice.
  • LB Brian White, the lone returning starter at the linebacker position, suffered a concussion during fall camp that will limit the amount of time he plays this weekend, if he plays at all.

Stay tuned for my predictions along with Michael McCoy & Jay Skipworth.

Also, please drop us a line in the comment section and tell us what you think about the upcoming La Tech game.

War Eagle!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ring in the New, Bring Out the Blue

By Jay Skipworth

It’s the dawn of a new era on the Plains, ladies and gents. We are a mere few day away from getting a full view of what new Head Coach Gene Chizik and company have prepared Auburn for since arriving in December 2008.

New coaches – Check.

New offense- Check, sort of.

New quarterback – Sort of, again.

New season – War Eagle! Check! (Finally!)

So, I think it’s time for something different for the fans too. Let’s say good-bye to the All Auburn All Orange “tradition” from the previous days and welcome our (sort of) new look team to Jordan Hare with a sea of Blue.

That’s right. I’m talking about apparel. Don’t trash the orange; it’ll have it’s moment later. But for opening night against Louisiana Tech, let’s go all Blue.

If you are a sunshine pumper, call it the Blue Out to Blow Out La. Tech.
If not, think of this as an opportunity to look uber cool in the stands.

I admit – I’m not a fan of the all orange look. Never was. But that fierce looking Blue gets even my cynical bones rattling with excitement.
Also, when’s the last time you saw a “sea of orange” except for Kool-Aid land?

And what lives in the orange sea? Orange seahorses? Not very ferocious.
However, we all know what lives in the Deep Blue Sea (besides Samuel L.

Forget about “The Jungle.” Let’s make Jordan Hare the Deep Blue Sea of the SEC.

So, this is a call to arms, shirts, shorts, pants, and socks. Bring out the Blue on September 5.

Who’s with me?

Please visit the comment section and share your thoughts.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A New Hope

By Michael McCoy

When Red gives Andy Dufresne his treatise on hope in the The Shawshank Redemption, he could just as easily be speaking for SEC fans when he says hope is a dangerous thing, that it can drive a man insane. This is true of sports fans all across the world (a fan of English soccer club Arsenal hung himself a few months ago after his team was knocked out of the European Cup), but in America, nowhere do fans live and die with their teams more than in Southeast come Autumn, and Auburn fans did a lot of dying last season. Yet despite the lingering memories of last season's debacle and the lukewarm reaction to the hiring of Gene Chizik, as happens everywhere across the South come August, hope springs eternal. It's usually not rooted in any sane or rational notion except for the feeling that things can't be as bad as they were the year before. Auburn fans are fully aware of the limited means with which this current Auburn team is operating under (inconsistent QB play and overall depth), but that doesn't matter. Come September 5 and kickoff against Louisiana Tech, fans are going be screaming, "Warrrrrrrrr Eagle! Hey!" as loudly as ever. And that's okay. Like Red, the Greeks also viewed hope as a dangerous thing, but realized without hope there is only despair, and it drove them to great feats (see Marathon and Thermopylae).

So what can Auburn fans do but hope? Despite the Murphy's Law syndrome that seems destined to envelop our depth chart, other signs are more encouraging heading into the season, not least the seeming togetherness of this team. This is a situation that is often hard to get a read on in August, and sometimes it does not really manifest itself until later on in the season (the last half of the 2002 season comes to mind). But early signs are promising. They may prove a false dawn, but let's hope that will not be the case. Going back to Kodi's selfless behavior which I commented on a couple of weeks back and the reaction to it, this team just feels different. After my time working with Auburn from 2000-2004, I've learned not to underestimate the will of a unified team or to doubt the pride of a college football player. Sure, they can come off as (and in fact be) prima donnas a lot of the time, but they do usually take pride in what they do. Case in point, when I was walking around with the football team at Disney World while at the 2001 Citrus Bowl (at the end of the 2000 season), I happened to be wearing my Tiger Rags "Romp in the Swamp" shirt, celebrating Auburn's 36-33 victory over Florida in 1994. Unwittingly, I provoked a response from the players around me as they saw my shirt and thought back to the two times we had played Florida earlier that season, coming up well short both times. Travaris Robinson asked me to stop walking so that he could make out all that my shirt said and afterwards he and the other players looked at it and promised aloud to nobody in particular that they would not come up short against Florida next year. I remember thinking to myself at the time, "Sure fellas, whatever you say."

At that time, I knew Florida would be a prohibitive favorite to win the national championship in 2001 and that we had more than a few question marks heading into the season. Yet by Florida week that October, you could sense the possibility of the seemingly improbable. Our offense still wasn't clicking, but our defense was strong enough that if the offense could just make a few plays, we could be in the game heading into the fourth quarter. Reports of bad weather moving in on Saturday night to possibly slow down Spurrier's Fun 'n' Gun increased the sense of optimism pervading the team. Sure enough, the wind swirled all around the stadium that night, as did our defense, and the rain held off just long enough for Damon Duval to become the first (but not last) Auburn kicker to break Florida hearts this decade. Later on, I thought back to that evening at Disney World and the prophecy of T-Rob. Since then, I've learned not to flippantly dismiss the claims of a college football player when his pride has been wounded and his team is unified. It's why I knew at the end of the 2007 Cocktail Party after Georgia had rushed the field when scoring their first touchdown that they would get their comeuppance at the 2008 Cocktail Party. The same goes for the Iron Bowl in 2002. I'm sure my brother can share similar stories from his time at Auburn, particularly the 1997 Georgia game.

So temper your expectations all you want Auburn fans. Come 6:00 next Saturday evening, all the prognostications of Auburn's season won't mean a damn thing. You'll be thinking about the possibilities the next thirteen Saturdays may bring, not the impossibilities. It's in our nature as college football fans in the Deep South. After all, it's not a huge leap of faith to say that this team can win eight or nine games this season. Some fortunate things need to happen over the course of the year for that to happen, so let's hope that they do. If nothing else, let's hope that our guys show more than they did a year ago. I'd be surprised if they didn't. Just think back to what former Auburn fullback 'Smokin' Joe Frazier said in the locker room immediately after the 1994 Florida game: "Whatever the mind can conceive, and can believe, it can achieve!" Truly.

Please stop by the comment section and share your thoughts.

Auburn Football Insider Podcast Airs Tonight

Please join Jay Skipworth and myself tonight as we talk about the upcomming start of the season from 8pm-9pm CST. Also, feel free to call during the show at 646-649-1890. Thanks for listening to the show! Please follow the link below for the live show link:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Auburn Football Insiders Pocast Live Tonight, 8/19

Everyone, please join Jay Skipworth and myself as we welcome another special guest to the show, Ronnie Sanders who has worked for Terry Bowden, Tommy Tuberville, Nick Saban, Ron Zook and most recently Jeff Bower. Ronnie will be joining us on the show to talk about this upcomming season, his past experiences and his current projects which are the fan websites that he co-owns: (Auburn), (Alabama), (LSU), (FSU), (Oregon) and (Coaching Rumors and General Football). Below is a link to a profile of Ronnie:

Also, you can join the show by calling 646-649-1890 and you can listen live at the link below:

Thanks for listening and War Eagle!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Human Touch

By Michael McCoy

In the sixth line of the Auburn Creed, George Petrie states, "I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all." Petrie was speaking for past, present, and future generations of Auburn men and women, and today Kodi Burns helped to show that the kids are alright. By now, Auburn fans both far and wide have learned that Chris Todd has been named Auburn's starting quarterback for the upcoming season. Yet despite the large amount of interest this quarterback competition has generated in recent months, Chris Todd was merely a peripheral figure in tonight's unfolding drama. He'll have his time in the coming weeks and months. Front and center tonight, however, stood Kodi Burns, embodying the spirit of George Petrie's Auburn Creed over sixty-five years later.

The Auburn Creed speaks of things like hard work and honesty and truthfulness, without which one cannot win the respect and confidence of his or her fellow man. Kodi gamely faced the press after tonight's late practice to share his perspective on the events of the day. It was a remarkably articulate and intelligent perspective given that this young man had just seen his dream of playing quarterback for Auburn come to a bitter end. Kodi readily admitted to feeling jaded about last year's quarterback race and how it was handled (though he still handled that with class as well), labeling it 'nonsense', but he stressed that the new coaching staff had given him and everyone else a fair shot. He was thankful for that and, while disappointed, he is ready to do whatever else he can to help the team move on from here.

That process began earlier in the day before practice with what Coach Chizik termed a "truly, truly, inspirational" speech from Kodi to his teammates at the end of a team meeting. Kodi spoke of the love which he felt for each and every one of his teammates and he looked forward to having this team come together behind Chris Tood as its quarterback. When asked about the possibility of transferring, Kodi shrugged it off by saying, "I've been here two years. It's been a lot of ups and downs here at Auburn, and it's been a tough road. But I'm not the type of person who is going to run from it. I'm here. I love Auburn. I'm an Auburn guy. So even though things don't work out, I've got a lot to offer this team." I think we've seen something of the human touch the Auburn Creed speaks of in Kodi Burns tonight. Kodi continued, "Things happen for a reason...I'm not going to let the circumstances dictate the content of my character." We begin to see why Coach Chizik said earlier tonight that he couldn't be more proud of a player than he was today and how Kodi handled everything.

If Auburn goes on to have any kind of success on the football field this season, I'll look back to the events of tonight as the genesis of any such success. Nothing that happened tonight guarantees success in the coming months, but surely a foundation has been laid down to assure that this season's version of the Auburn Tigers will meet all challenges as a group of young men, Auburn men, working together and fighting for each other. Kodi is an Auburn man regardless of what the future holds for him on a football field, and his words and actions tonight exude the qualities George Petrie spoke of in the Auburn Creed, and because Auburn men like Kodi Burns believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it. War Eagle!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Auburn Insider Football Podcast- Live Tonight, 8/12

Guest Kevin Strickland, Sports Editor Pickens County Hearld joins Eddie McCoy and Jay Skipworth as they talk Auburn football.

Please click the link to listen to us live tonight from 8pm - 9pm CST.

You can join us live in the show by calling (646) 649-1890.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What to Expect the First Two Weeks of Practice

Finally, practice has arrived. It feels like it has been forever since we have had an “in season” practice. Let’s hope that we don’t have to go from November till August again without meaningful practices. I know we have Spring Practice, but it’s not the same. So now that practice is here, what should we expect in the first two weeks of practice?

Definitely don’t expect much the first week of practice, at least not until they put the pads on. The first week is more about making sure everyone is on the same page in knowing assignments and working hard on fundamentals and techniques since the NCAA mandates that the first four practices be with helmets only for player safety. When they don pads, they will have three practices in two days to get acclimated and then they will probably have the biggest practice of the fall on August 11th when they hold the First Scrimmage of the fall. That scrimmage will probably wind up being the biggest single practice of the fall because it will be the starting point to finalizing the depth chart and shaking out the contenders from the pretenders in the position battles, especially the starting quarterback race. I would imagine that after the scrimmage, they will release the first depth chart of the fall and that depth chart could contain some answers that we have had going into the fall, such as what position will Mario Fannin be listed at, which true freshman are battling for playing time and which ones are guaranteeing themselves redshirt seasons, but most importantly, which QB is already out of the race.

The second week features two “Two-A-Day” practices and two regular practices highlighted with Fan Day at the end of the week and a day off for the first day of class. The best thing we can hope to hear from that week is that we make it thru the week without sustaining any significant injuries. I would imagine that by fan day they will have a good idea who the starter at QB for the first game will be and most of the other position battles will be situated.

Personally I am looking forward to the quarterback race and how it shakes out. I have believed for quite some time that this staff has left the door wide open for Tyrik Rollison to come in and gain significant playing time as a true freshman. I am fully onboard the Rollison Express and I believe that he is good enough to come in and at least be equal to the talent we have right now at that position. I’m also crossing my fingers that we do not sustain injuries. We have no depth and cannot afford to be looking for stop gap solutions throughout the year. I’m also looking forward to hearing how the players are responding and enjoying practice. The more they are excited about it the better chances of this team coming together and playing some good football. I just want to get thru these first two weeks without any real surprises and get our depth chart more finalized.

I would like to think Jay G Tate and his HABOTN Blog for posting the practice schedule which I referenced. If you like Auburn Football, please check out his blog at the below link, you will not be disappointed:

What are you looking forward to seeing during the next two weeks? Please visit the comment section and share your thoughts.

War Eagle!

Auburn Football Insider Podcast airs Live Tonight

Please join me tonight with my special guest host Michael McCoy (my brother who was also a football manager from 2000-2003) tonight as we discuss Auburn Football and what to expect these first two weeks of practice and what it was like for both of us to go thru two-a-day's under two different coaches.

The show airs live tonight from 8pm - 9pm CST at the above link. Also, please call-in and join the discussion at (347) 826-9452.