It was scrimmage time for Auburn football once again on Saturday, and if we didn’t learn quite as much as we did the first go-round,there’s still a few developments worth commenting on.
Reporting from the scene (or, unfortunately, from somewhere nearby) were Andy Bitter (one two), Charles Goldberg (one two), Jay Tate (one), Bryan Matthews (one two), Evan Woodbery (one), and Andrew Gribble (one two). Straight information is theirs, commentary is mine.
— The quarterback race is over. It’s become all-but-impossible to find anyone with any kind of informed opinion on the matter who believes that anyone but Newton will be Auburn’s starting QB this fall. Phillip Marshall, Matthews, assorted insiders and message boarders … it’s unanimous. Sometimes the consensus opinion is off, but rarely is an opinion this consensus that off. Newton’s the man.
And if you need to know why, please put the 2 of “Malzahn came away form the scrimmage more annoyed by the quarterbacks’ mistakes than pleased with their successes” and the 2 of “Neil Caudle said he made Demond Washington’s highlight film” together. With all due respect to Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley–by all accounts both having good springs and serious starting candidates down the road–the only true potential competitor for Newton this season was Caudle. And if he’s still throwing picks every scrimmage, forcing Malzahn to pull his hair out, and generally not cutting it, then there’s not really any competition here.
Like I said: it’s over.
— This just in: Auburn’s offense is going to be good this year. Like, they’re going to rate it R and make it extremely popular with 17-year-olds on Friday nights, because it’s going to be freaking terrifying.
Exhibit A is, of course, Newton, who’s scoring on draws even when all the defenders have to do is touch him. Exhibit B is Mario Fannin, who we all knew all along wasn’t going to give away his last best opportunity to be the starting Auburn running back, and sure enough appears to making the most of it.
But it’s Exhibit C–the receivers–that have me really excited. Last year we had Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery and bupkis. This year Emory Blake is drawing raves from Chizik, DeAngelo Benton is consistently popping up in the “who had a good day” column, and even aside from those two (and Q-Carr, Kodi, eventually Trovon Reed, etc.) Adams appears ready to take things to the next level after slithering his way for a big TD. Assuming the line lives up to its billing and Newton’s able to get the ball to these guys, will there be any holes left in the offense to fill?
— It’s been kind of a tale of two corners this spring, hasn’t it? One one hand, you’ve got Neiko Thorpe, who’s been about as invisible the past few weeks as it’s possible for a multi-year starter to be. If Thorpe’s ready for a bounceback season, we sure haven’t heard much about it.
But on the other, you’ve got Demond Washington. Washington had P-Marsh predicting an All-SEC season even before spring began, has since shown up in recaps all over the place, and kind of capped things with a pair of interceptions on Saturday. The plan for replacing Walt McFadden was originally for Thorpe to take the next step and become the team’s No. 1 lockdown corner, but maybe Washington will take care of things himself. (Or, hey, best-case scenario: they both rise to that McFadden level. I could live with that.)
— The beat writers (Tate in particular, it seems) were steamed–and not without reason–that the AUfficial Auburn Twitter feed was relaying information mid-scrimmage while the media was kept juuuuuuuust outside the stadium. To not be able to do one’s job and then discover the program that’s keeping you from doing it is doing the job for you has to sting.
But that said … even speaking as an ex-journo, I don’t see it as that big a deal. Should reporters be allowed to watch the scrimmages and practice? Yeah, I think they should. Do I understand the effort to keep them out? Not entirely, no. But I’m assuming the motivation behind that decision–as Chizik explained last spring–isn’t to keep hidden the information the Auburn Twitter feed was releasing; we’ll all find out who scored, who threw picks, who got sacks, etc. eventually. What Chizik and Co. want to prevent (I’m assuming) are the subjective critiques that the media can provide with access. It’s one thing for us all to know via Twitter that Neil Caudle threw an interception; it’s another for a beat hack to say (as they might) that Caudle looked terrible at the scrimmage and was in danger of losing the backup’s role to an impressive-looking Trotter. The AU Twitter feed’s never going to give us that second approach, so I think we can excuse the Powers That Be on charges of hypocrisy in this particular instance.
Again: I really don’t think any beat writer would bother saying anything so nasty after practice that college football players couldn’t handle it. They ought to have access. But it’s also Gene Chizik’s team, and if he’s worried that outside commentary could affect the way his team practices, he’s within his rights.
Photo by Leffie Dailey.