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Notes from the Beat: Hawthorne leaves, Cam Newton, etc.

Well ... it's always nice to see athletes excited about getting their degrees, right?
Well ... it's always nice to see athletes excited about getting their degrees, right?

Goodbye, Tim. Best of luck. The above screenshot is from Tim Hawthorne’s Twitter feed, after the news broke yesterday that Hawthorne has graduated and has left Auburn’s football team, effective immediately. Whatever else you want to read into Hawthorne’s tweets, this much is clear: he’s ready to move on.

And honestly, who can blame him? Hawthorne’s four years in Auburn have been nothing but one disappointment after another, with virtually none of them–the accident that killed his friend, the injuries, the coaching upheaval, the foot injury last summer that derailed his last shot–of Hawthorne’s own doing. Jay G. Tate:

Hawthorne always was one of my favorite guys. He’s very bright, thinks about what he says before saying it and wasn’t afraid to be honest. I remember asking him about the problems during 2008. He’d just shake his head, acknowledge that stuff was messed up and try to give you some insight. I never saw him in a bad mood.

With that said, I think the accident he endured several years ago on I-85 changed him forever. He was forced to face a lot of stuff you’re not ready to face at 19 years old. He seemed distracted after that, maybe not as into football as before.

Unfortunately there’s not much Hawthorne can do to rewrite his on-field career as something other than just another one of Tubby’s mid-decade recruiting busts, but it’ll always deserve that off-field events asterisk. If he was unhappy in Auburn, I’m happy that he’s got his degree and gets a chance to take whatever his next step is. Godspeed.

Newton? If the Hawthorne story is the headliner this a.m., the “buzz” story for this weekend is that former Tebow heir and five-star JUCO quarterback Cam Newton will be taking an official visit to Auburn over the weekend and according to Beaver could even commit in the near future in the event of an offer.

The “cons” to signing a five-star, 6-6, 250-pound, 4.5 40 complete joke of an athlete to play quarterback usually wouldn’t be nearly enough to outweigh the pros … but Newton has some pretty serious cons, starting with the arrest for stealing another student’s laptop that got him the boot from Florida. (There’s a little more info from the Oklahoma perspective here.) Charges have since been dropped, but however much you do or don’t buy Newton’s claims of innocence, he represents a huge risk for Chizik and Co.’s reputation for “family” and putting together the Auburn program the right way. Signing a high-profile legal refugee like Newton is one thing; signing him and then having him run into further legal trouble at Auburn would be the sort of black eye that would take a long, long time to heal.

On top of that, I don’t think there’s much question that bringing in a JUCO QB at the last minute isn’t going to sit too well with Auburn’s current quarterbacking corps, Caudle in particular. Newton’s got two years to play two, so Rollison, Moseley, and Trotter would all still have their junior and senior years to battle for the starter’s job if they couldn’t get past Newton … but if you’re Caudle, how on earth can you spin the courtship of Newton as anything other than a message from Malzahn and Chizik that they don’t think he can get it done? For a guy who’s bided and bided and bided his time and who–I’ll go ahead and say it–I’m hoping on a personal level wins the 2010 job, that’s a tough, tough hand to get dealt.

But of course, Auburn’s coaches can only take so much of that into consideration. It’s not “win at all costs,” but we all know it is “win at all reasonable costs,” and if Newton genuinely represents Auburn’s best chance at having a difference-maker at quarterback in 2010 and 2011, Caudle’s feelings and the other QB’s two years of potential backup-dom are reasonable costs. If Auburn’s coaches are willing to sign off on Newton, I’d have a hard time arguing with them–especially when you consider that the thought of combining a freak like Newton (a five-star coming out of high school even 2007, Tebow’s backup as a true freshman, and now Rivals’ No. 1 JUCO for this class) in Malzahn’s offense. I’d prefer to not have to roll the dice on a guy with Newton’s past, but if Chizik and Co. tell me it’s OK, it’ll be OK.

Smith. We still haven’t talked about Eric Smith here at WBE, have we? He’s still working on his academics, still a part of the team, still even an option for the Outback Bowl … unless his grades come back today and he’s ineligible. Even he does come through this in good academic standing, piling this on top of the assault incident was not a good idea. The guess here is that he’s hanging by the slimmest of threads.

As for who’s replace him for the bowl game … John Douglas has typically taken over Smith’s blocking duties when he’s not in the game, but who’d run Smith’s receiving routes, I don’t honestly know unless Fannin shifts over.

AFTERNOON UPDATE (from Jeremy): The Little Bowling Ball will not be going bowling. Academically ineligible. As for filling he’s shoes -Douglas, Fannin and probably Lutzenkirchen.

Gayden. File under gun-jumping: the size of Auburn’s February Signing Day bunch is still TBD, since as it turns out Roszell Gayden is still “working towards getting in.” Gayden will obviously be a huge addition whether he enrolls in January or enrolls later, but it would equally obviously be a huge help if he can get in early and keep that spot in the 2010 class open.

The one other open-ended question from Wednesday’s mini-Signing Day: whither Ken Adams? The JUCO TE/DE and 2008 Auburn signee was supposed to be deciding between Tennessee and Auburn midweek. Now he appears to have put things off, but I have to wonder if that changes his relationship to Auburn–if he can’t back-count into the 2009 class by enrolling early, are Auburn’s coaches still going to be as high on him?

Still more. It’s been a busy last couple of days for Auburn news, so hitting the highlights:

— Not only is Mike McNeil pretty much back at full speed on the practice field, Cameron Henderson is practicing again as well. Good for him. It’s going to be a long way back.

— Antonio Coleman was named a third-team All-American by the smartest guy in college football. (Well, smartest aside from that “Notre Dame No. 7” thing.)

— Auburn has a huge lead for athlete/future corner Ryan White …

OK, this is funny, I went to find White’s Rivals page to link up, and it turns out he’s committed. That’s cool.

— Antoine Carter is getting his face tattoos removed. I’m dead serious when I say I wish we got more reports like this out of the beat.

— Remember Taikwon Paige? Not getting his grades in order ended up being a big, big mistake: he’s landed at Toledo.

Andy Bitter’s story on Moseley and Trotter is well worth your time. Is it my imagination, or does Malzahn seem a little higher on Moseley? (Speaking of which: I’m now desperately hoping Auburn gets a commitment from C.J. Mosley, just to set the Guiness Record for most Mosleys/Moseleys on one football team.)

— DeAngelo Benton has a 3.0. That’s freaking awesome. Also at the bottom of that Bitter link: Jeff Grimes sounds a lot more excited about the JUCO linemen he’s got coming in than the young linemen he’s got.

— OK, I was hoping to get a post on last night’s 76-72 Auburn hoops loss to Florida St. done–the short version is that Auburn’s got to start turning their overwhelming advantage in shots taken into an advantage on the scoreboard, but that as frustrating as yet another close loss is Auburn’s still at least moving forward–but the Mrs. WBE and I are getting ready to take off to Albuquerque for the weekend and that’s not happening.

Enjoy your weekend; I’ll be back Monday with a report from the THRILLING EXCITEMENT that I’m sure will be the New Mexico Bowl showdown between Fresno St. and Wyoming.

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