So I was away for a few days, and while you can’t say much happened on the Auburn athletics front, there’s a handful of developments well worth catching up on. A rundown:
— First of all, Mike Slive and the SEC dodged … not a bullet, but maybe a hard-thrown kickball in a game of dodgeball, or something, when Fox allegedly showered the Big 12 with a mountain of potentially fake money and Texas A&M decided to stay at home in the new Texas Longhorn League presented by the University of Texas intact. (Are they calling it something else?)
As I’ve said ad nauseum, I didn’t see how what the Aggies offered the SEC–a greater share of the Texas gulf coast market, a natural rival for LSU and Arkansas–outweighed what they took away from the league, i.e. another share (and eventually two after the inevitable addition to the SEC West) to pay out of a static TV revenue pool, greater travel costs for most members, fewer games (especially in football) against traditional SEC rivals, a general dilution of the league’s identity, brand, and focus. It wasn’t worth it. Thank goodness whoever’s running Fox Sports is apparently the biggest philanthropist this side of Andrew Carnegie and that the Aggies are willing to be bullied. Crisis averted.
— Auburn’s in-state recruiting push has continued to pay dividends as they’ve earned a commitment from Mobile-area defensive end JaBrian Niles (pictured above). Niles is a stocky, strongside end at 6’2″, 265 who maaaaaaaaybe could develop into a tackle. He collected 72 tackles and eight sacks as a junior and loves him some Tracy Rocker. (Who doesn’t?) He’s a high-end three-star at Rivals and a three-star at Scout, but they may be selling him short based on his offer sheet: Alabama, Florida, Florida St., Ole Miss, our old defensive buddies at Texas Tech. (Niles has also claimed a USC offer.)
I don’t think you wind up that hotly-pursued if you can’t play, and ESPN accordingly gives him four stars and a grade of 80. Their evaluation:
He flashes good initial quickness, but needs to be more consistent as he can at times be a step late in his get-off. He does a good job of using his hands to create some separation. For the most part plays with good pad level and can use that stout base to hold his ground. Will squeeze down and stay square and does a good job on containment and seems to read plays well. He is a solid tackler and has a good motor. Does not display great straight-line speed, but moves well and flashes a solid short-area burst to the ball. As a pass rusher he likes to take a wide rush and will show the savvy nature to be able to counter inside … Niles is a solid end prospect who can be productive versus the run and pass.
Chizik and Co. promised early on they were going to build their recruiting classes around the best in-state talent they could get their hands on, and Niles is just one more example of how well that strategy is working. Whatever the gurus might say, this is a big, big pickup for Auburn.
— Niles’s commitment came in the wake of an Auburn summer camp that attracted several big-name players from around the region and earned a few players most notably, perhaps, Niles’ fellow Mobile DE Devaunte Sigler–an Auburn offer. Jonathan Rose also made noises about committing soon, as I think pretty much everybody who’s following Auburn recruiting by this point expects him to.
There’s a little more on the camp here.
— Auburn’s women placed 12th (their second-best finish ever) and the men 37th at the NCAA national track-and-field championships, but the big story was that Auburn’s two big hopes for individual national titles–Marcus Rowland in the 100 meters and Joanna Atkins in the 400 meters–both came up a little short. Atkins, the defending national champion in the 400, came in third after coming out a little too strong in the first 200 meters. Rowland placed eighth after some truly rotten luck–he injured himself only 40 meters into the final while running side-by-side with eventual winner Jeff Demps of Florida. (Yes, the running back.)
Both will, at least, get another shot at it next year.
That’s about the extent of things. Back in full WBE force tomorrow.