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Notes from the Beat, 9/21

Back this week, apparently. I'm as surprised as you are.

First off, an apology you’re getting this Tuesday morning rather than Monday afternoon, but I had a dentist’s appointment yesterday and some errands to run … and unfortunately, “dentist’s appointment and errands to run” means a six-and-a-half-hour round trip for your humble Auburn Blogger.Yay reservation living!

But I’m here now, and like the Clemson game, that’s in the past. Getting into the breaking news of the past two days:

— A.J. Greene, as you know, is out for the season with the ankle injury suffered Saturday night. It must be a massive, massive blow for him personally; to put in the kind of effort he had to have put in this spring, summer and fall to go from “scout team fodder” to “starting right tackle” and then  see it all go up in smoke after just 2 and 3/4 games has to be devastating. It’s possible he could earn a medical redshirt and sixth year–if Auburn plays a 13th game, the 3/13 games played ratio is right on the medical waiver borderline–but that’s far from a certainty. Here’s wishing him the very quickest possible recovery and a big senior season.

That said, from the Auburn football perspective, this is something Auburn can probably recover from without too much damage. Greene was probably the most easily-replaced member of the line, since–while he’d done pretty well for himself in first three outings of the season, the two critical holding calls notwithstanding–we already knew there wasn’t a ton of separation between him and John Sullen to begin with. It’s a tough blow from a depth perspective, no question, and there might be a bit of a step back since we know the coaches did pick Greene in the end. But the way I see it, the standard set at right tackle the last couple of years isn’t so high that Sullen can’t reach it.

(As an FYI: Brandon Mosley is now your backup right tackle as well as the backup left tackle.)

— Auburn players have now won back-to-back SEC Defensive Player of the Week awards, which is just what we’d expected from the defense we all knew would have to carry the team until the offense got up to speed. Right? (Seriously, part of me thinks we ought to be more optimistic now than we were when the season started. We know even the best offenses can go through wild, random ups-and-downs, and that a team that has to rely totally on that offense might have fall prey to some inexplicable results from time-to-time. If we have a consistent, week-in, week-out defense, though–and the evidence of Weeks 2 and 3, if not Week 1, is that we do–our offense is going to have a chance to win just about every game for us. I’ll take that.)

— I have to say, I don’t know what to make of Cam Newton’s forced, awkward interview with the beat hacks on Sunday night, or specifically, the “go ask Malzahn” response when asked why the ball hadn’t been spread around more. It’s probably nothing, just a bad day at the practice office or fatigue at having to meet with the press yet again. Again: probably nothing. But I can’t help but wonder, just a touch, if Newton is maybe chafing just a bit at not being asked to do more in the passing game.(Of course, if that’s the case, I’m siding with Malzahn; Newton’s interception rate on downfield balls is too high right now to have him try it any more often than he is, in my opinion.)

— Surprising everyone who saw him knocked cold in overtime on Saturday, McCalebb is apparently concussion-free and will play on Saturday. Good news for the team, certainly, and no doubt Auburn’s team doctors have cleared him to play or we wouldn’t be having this conversation  … but I’d be lying if I said my gut reaction to seeing a player knocked unconscious one week and being back on the field the next week wasn’t “that’s not necessary.”

— Forgive me an aside (that maybe should be its own post), but: that goes double when you hear the news that former South Carolina great Kenny McKinley is dead of apparent suicide at the age of 23. Remember that this is coming right on the heels of the Penn player who committed suicide and was later found to have suffered from the same form of long-term brain damage that is apparently rampant amongst former high-level football players. Obviously, there’s no evidence yet (and there likely never will be) that McKinley suffered from CTE, but if you don’t find the suddenness of his death chilling in the wake of the other stories that have appeared recently regarding football players, brain damage, and depression, you’re made of steelier stuff than I am.

So: let me re-emphasize I am not questioning the decision of Auburn’s doctors regarding McCalebb. If they say he’s fine, he’s fine. I’m just taking this opportunity, while we’re on the topic, to ask that Auburn take the absolute, utmost possible caution with head injuries. And that Auburn commemorate Kenny McKinley’s life and career is some fashion on Saturday; thoughts and prayers are, of course, with his family.

One final note and I’ll move on: you would think that playing in the face of these kinds of risks would excuse players like Clemson’s Jamie Harper from being  labeled a “scared” “p***y” by his team’s fans … but you would be wrong. Sadly, sadly wrong. Not that I feel I have to ask, but please, Auburn fans, remember this the next time you feel inclined to question a player’s commitment or “manhood,” for lack of a better term.

— I think we all though that Craig Stevens had a rough outing Saturday night. So it’s not surprising that Ted Roof also felt he had a rough outing Saturday night. So it goes: the rust had to be knocked off sometime. The sooner, the better.

— If Trovon Reed’s knee still isn’t more than “80 percent“, I’d rather he not take any carries–not even two–away from Dyer, McCalebb, Newton, or even Fannin, thanks. Sorry, Trovon. Your time is coming. But it ought to be when you’re fully, totally healthy.

— Mario Fannin may end up at H-back, says Chizik … meaning he’s probably already there. Terribly tough break for him (and I’d still like to see him get 5 carries at tailback here and there, if we can), but I don’t think anyone’s really surprised by that at this point.

— Lastly, Auburn got leapfrogged by a couple of teams (Stanford and Arizona, in particular) in the AP poll. Which, hey, whatever; those teams have some really impressive wins on their ledger. If Auburn can handle their business against South Carolina, things should even out.

Photo by Van Emst.

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