Easy come, easy go. The headline story from last night: sorta-freshman sorta-lineman Aubrey Phillips is no longer with Auburn’s football team in any capacity. Though Andy Bitter there declines to say whether Phillips is still in school, other sources have made it clear that Phillips is not taking classes and has likely returned to his hometown of Olive Branch, Miss. Chizik left the door open for Phillips’s return, but without even the slightest word of progress on Phillips’s undefined medical issues, the guess here is that he will not be back to Auburn.
As for how big a loss this is, well, if Phillips was anything other than an offensive lineman it wouldn’t be all that big at all; Phillips wasn’t part of Auburn’s original signing class, wasn’t going to play this year even if he’d been healthy, and barely had enough practice time to show the coaches what they’re missing, much less the folks in the Auburn peanut gallery. Can’t miss what you never really had, right?
Well, sort of, but Phillips was an offensive lineman, and a talented one at that. If he’d stayed healthy, he’d have been as likely as anyone on the roster to have claimed one of those starting jobs in 2011 when the line has to be rebuilt MacGyver-style from paper clips, candy wrappers, and 9-volt batteries. This is one less body for Grimes to work with between now and then, one less chance for Auburn to have an SEC-caliber lineman ready to go when 2011 rolls around. In that sense, yeah, this is maybe a bigger deal than the midseason departure of a late-arriving transfer freshman probably feels like.
Elsewhere on the beat. Not surprisingly, kickoff coverage was a major topic of discussion in Chizik’s Wednesday press conference. The problem, according to the Chiz, isn’t schematic or effort-related or even necessarily due to the unit having seven (!) walk-ons on it: Auburn’s just not tackling. We’ll see what happens Saturday, but, uh, maybe it’s that walk-ons (with all due respect) don’t tackle as well? Derrick Locke is giving me the serious heebie-jeebies.
Hey, look who might even see some time on offense if Trooper Taylor’s to be believed. Taylor also had this to say about the timing of Frenchy’s return:
The sad thing is people think that he came back just because of the punt return deal. But that just coincided with the time that coach Chizik allowed him to come back. It had nothing to do with, ‘We better have a punt returner. We better put him back there.’
“He had a chance to practice and compete for it that week and he just did the best job. It just worked out that way.
Speaking as one of the people who thought it did have a lot to do with Auburn’s desperation for a punt returner: fair enough. But you know, Jay Boulware’s “the job’s still open … you want to call him the king when he just did his job” comments from a couple weeks back had a lot to do with that little misconception.
This Andy Bitter post is the usual torrent of information. Highlights not already covered:
— Phillip Lolley wasn’t able to offer a prognosis on Walt McFadden’s Saturday readiness, though he did confirm that McFadden has been participating in a “limited” fashion in practice and that Demond Washington would get the start if McFadden can’t go.
— Chizik confirmed that the coaches have “roll[ed] the dice” and let practices get much more physical this week. I have to say, I don’t envy the coaches wanting to run their football team a particular way and just not having the sheer number of bodies available to do it. There’s a quality, in-depth look at Ted Roof’s problems with the Auburn numbers game from Jay G. Tate available here.
— Curtis Luper said that McCalebb is almost full speed after getting “blip-blapped” on last week’s kickoff return. Taylor said that Quindarius Carr has “a little bit more money in the bank. He can withdraw. Before, he had to put some deposits, and he did that.” If there’s a more quotable pair of assistants in the country, I’d love to see ’em.
— Jeff Grimes confirmed that Bart Eddins has made a permanent (for now) move to guard, and that Jared Cooper has become the backup center. Grimes is happy with both of those guys and with Byron Isom, who’s been more “focused” since the suspension.
There’s even more, but I’ve already gone past the point of exhausting my fair use quota. Click.
Kentucky. The “scuttlebutt” out of Lexington is that it’s true freshman Morgan Newton, not Will Fidler, that will get the start for the ‘Cats Saturday. Either way, I have this nagging suspicion that Randall Cobb will end up taking more snaps than either one, meanign that Auburn’s preparations this week will probably be a bit muddled, as A Sea of Blue‘s Tru explains in his thoughts on the UK QB situation:
In the end, I expect both QB’s to get a number of snaps against Auburn unless one clearly separates himself early. Auburn will have to prepare not only for a traditional drop-back passer, but a dual-threat quarterback and Randall Cobb in the bargain. It is an interesting problem for Ted Roof, the Auburn Defensive Coordinator to solve. One thing is for sure — the ‘Cats will look different on Saturday than they have looked all season.
Greaaaaat. Brooks did say yesterday (in addition to holding court alongside on Chizik on the topic of Twitter, because apparently a reporter somewhere has a story he’s working on) that Kentucky’s not going to abandon the pass entirely.
Krootin’ quickies. WRAS has your latest non-official evidence that Michael Dyer will be choosing Auburn. Shon Coleman got his fourth star and a big leap up the Rivals rankings, as expected–Rivals now ranks him the 76th-best player in the country and Auburn’s top commitment. Also making a big move was D.J. Howard, whose Rivals grade went from 5.5 to 5.7–that’s a bigger deal than going from a 5.7 three-star to 5.8 four-star, if you care about such things, and I don’t blame you if you don’t–and they now rank him the No. 27 athlete in the country, just four slots away from four-stardom.
“Serial Repeat Violator.” It’s not just the new album from Queensryche, it’s the University of Alabama in the eyes of the NCAA, as you’ve probaby read by now. Surprisingly enough, I actually don’t blame Alabama fans who are cheesed off at the NCAA this go-round, since the punishment doesn’t entirely fit the crime and the NCAA’s reasoning behind it does strike me as a little on the flimsy side.
That said: the NCAA Committee on Infractions can’t make much more clear, can they, how much they hate the Tide’s guts? Official statements like “abysmal infractions track record” and “extensive recent history of infractions cases unmatched by any other member institution in the NCAA” don’t leave a lot of room for interpretation. I think the main thing to take away from this story is this: the Tide has been warned, and however fair you do or do not think their Textbookgate treatment has been, they will not find much mercy if they’re dragged in front of the COI again.
Pollin’. Auburn remains in the BlogPoll at No. 24; bloggers prove smarter than non-Harris voters yet again. The Tigers came in at No. 5 in the SECPP, one spot ahead of Arkansas, which in a “power poll” strikes me as a bit odd, but hey, I’m not complainin’.
I don’t know whether to recommend this or not. “This” meaning Malcolm Gladwell’s exploration of the consequences of playing football as it relates to brain function for the New Yorker. On the one hand: like everything Gladwell writes, the piece is chockful of information and incisive quotes, expertly written, and on a subject we can all stand to understand more fully. It feels like the sort of thing football fans should read.
On the other, his central analogy comparing football fans and football games to the brutal men who fight dogs and dogfights is D.O.A. in my opinion, for blindingly obvious reasons (football players, on some level, choose football), and feels a little like a cheap ploy to make me feel icky and guilty over being a football fan. I’ll quickly second Gladwell’s call of finding some way of making the game safer and do my best to remember exactly how much Auburn’s players are sacrificing each week before offering criticism (the article is required reading for boo birds, if you ask me), but the sport of football existed long before anyone really cared about it and would continue to exist even if no one spent a dime on it. If we as football fans are complicit at all in the violence of the game, we’re not that complicit.
Etc. You can vote for an Auburn senior in one of Athlon’s cheerleader contests … If you think this is about anything other than selling truckloads of magazines to flattered SEC fans, you’re wrong; it’s still the best league in the country thanks to the Tide and Gators, but the muddle from teams 3-9 means I also think the conference is a shade overrated this year … speaking of the Conference Wars, some cool ATS stats from the Wiz.
Photo via al.com.