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Notes from the Beat, 8/30

Shaun Kitchens, making that whole "Tommy Trott, but better" prediction look good already.


[takes deep breath]


We’re celebrating with a quickie look over the coaches’ comments from yesterday and a smattering of links. Don’t forget to visit the beat guys who made this series possible: Andy Bitter, Jay Tate, Andrew Gribble, Charles Goldberg. Onwards:

— Not that it’s surprising at all that Josh Bynes would follow up “eight ain’t it” by setting “SEC championship or bust” as the team’s official goal, but it’s still nice to know that kind of confidence is there.

— Oh man, so Reed’s most recent injury absence for a different injury than the first one? On the one hand, it’s good news that it’s not the first one just getting filed under “nagging,” but on the other, two separate knocks in one fall camp a year after an injury-truncated senior season of high school … this is not so much going to earn Reed the “durable” tag.

Reed is saying he’s still going to play against Arkansas St. (though I’ll personally be fine if he takes the evening off, barring a tie game in the third), and of course there’s an excellent chance this is just one of those things and that labeling Reed “brittle” or whatever at this stage is undiluted paranoia. But we’re still technically in the offseason until Saturday at 6, and what is the offseason for if not undiluted paranoia?

— Reading Antoine Carter’s “mystery box” comments, you get the feeling that Newton’s probably not quite in the role of unquestioned pillar of team leadership just yet; if you don’t know what you’re getting from a guy, emotionally, do you feel like you can really rely on him from a leadership standpoint?

But you know what? Quarterback or not, that shouldn’t be his role anyway. A leader, yes, but the leader shouldn’t be the guy who’s been on campus for 10 months. Ziemba’s been here three years. Pugh’s been here three years. Fannin four. There’s Kodi “Man Stuff” Burns over there in the slot, for crying out loud.  And that’s just the offense!

The point is that I’m not sure I’m buying the “Newton = born leader” talk just yet. But I don’t see why Auburn should have to in the first place.

— So … the coaches consider Aairon Savage and Zac Etheridge both versatile enough to play either safety position but have Mike McNeil slotted in at free safety exclusively? If you needed any more evidence that Savage and Etheridge are going to be the first choice pairing if both are healthy–besides the fact that Ted Roof just never seems to be all that enthused about McNeil and, again, hasn’t said a word about him in weeks–there you go. Can’t see Chizik and Roof throwing away the element of “which safety is which?” in their defensive scheming voluntarily, can you?

— I thought about writing an “5 Questions We Still Don’t Have Answered” post this week, but will probably pass since I don’t really have anything new to say about the punting battle, and I’m not sure I could go past 3 anyway.

But I know what No. 1 with a bullet would be: who the hell’s going to start at defensive tackle? We know Zach Clayton, Nick Fairley, and Mike Blanc are all in the mix, and now we know that all three of them have been cross-trained to play either the noseguard (i.e. the one-tech position) or the tackle (i.e. the three-tech). And we know, unsurprisingly, that Jeff Whitaker is working exclusively at the one-tech–the position he was born to play–and Kenneth Carter exclusively the three-tech.

But who’s starting? Who’s the first guy off the bench? Would Whitaker be the first guy if we need to get the first-string nose a breather, or one of the other three veterans? We don’t know. Or at least, I don’t think we do. And I’m betting we don’t find out until Saturday.

— SPOILER ALERT: I’ve sent off my response to al.com’s blogger roundtable, and my answer to the first question posed was “cornerback,” for reasons that will appear over there in time and that I’ll get into further here at WBE later in the week. But hearing both Chizik and Roof rave about T’Sharvan Bell’s work in the offseason is mighty encouraging. I’m not convinced just yet that Thorpe/Washington is going to be an upgrade over McFadden/Thorpe. But if Bell lives up to this kind of praise, I don’t have any doubts that he’ll be a big, big improvement at nickelback over Washington learning the ropes as he goes.

— Dude, a 31-point spread? Uh, look, I’m (almost) as optimistic about this Auburn team as the next guy, but the Red Wolves aren’t that cruddy. I don’t see much in the beaten-Texas A&M-took-Iowa-to-the-wire track record that makes me think things are going to be quite that easy. But I guess I can hope.

— Of course Burns’s “man stuff” and “I wanted one … in fifth grade” quotes about Scootin’ Newton are funny, but for my money, the unintentional comedy of Gene Chizik squarely, straightforwardly assessing the injury risk of our starting quarterback riding a moped around campus is much, much funnier still. Yeah, this going to be a good year.

Photo by Van Emst.

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