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Plainslinks looks for excuses (to talk football)

Mike Pelton is back on his old stomping grounds.

It’s been busy around here at TWER. We’ve talked about everything from basketball, to debuting not just one, but two musical tributes to Toomer’s oaks, all the way to the finer points of late-night animated genius, and everything in between. But something seems to be missing. Sure, we’ve talked about video game cover nominations and pictorial evidence of enigmatic phenomenon turned historical fact, but it seems like it’s been a while since we’ve talked some actual, on-the-gridiron football.

So let’s go Plainslinkin’ around the Internet (with opinions drawn) to catch up on some things we might have missed over the last week or so in the world of Auburn football and college football in general. After all, it’s early March.

— First off, of course, is the hiring of new Auburn defensive line coach Mike Pelton, pictured above in his havoc-wreaking playing days. Pelton was officially introduced on Wednesday, after having been rumored to be the main target of the coaching search since Tracy Rocker’s departure. He was hired only after candidate Clint Hurtt seemingly turned down Auburn to stay on the job at Louisville, but I’m not really sure how much better Hurtt’s resume was than Pelton’s to begin with.

If comparing him to Hurtt wasn’t enough, some have taken to comparing his resume to Tracy Rocker’s, to which I’d say that comparing a college coach to an NFL coach is about as fair as comparing a college player to an NFL player.

But I’m excited about Pelton and what he will bring to this coaching staff. He’s got experience in the southeast, coaching players including Demarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora at Troy from 2001 to 2006, and he has experience coaching with Gene Chizik at Iowa State from 2007 to 2008. And I’m sure that after moving around from Iowa State to Vanderbilt to Louisiana Lafayette over the past few years, he’s ready to settle into a long tenure — that he could do at his alma mater is likely a dream come true.

Pelton played defensive tackle, but at Vanderbilt last year his specialty was coaching the defensive ends, so it seems like he’s well prepared to coach up anyone and everyone across the front four. I can’t wait to see what he does with the massive potential of Lemonier, Eguae, Whitaker, and friends in the coming years. I can’t think of a better hire Chizik could have made right now, so instead of looking back to the past, I’m going to look forward to the future and Pelton is going to bring to Auburn.

— In case you haven’t heard, the NFL Combine happened last week. I’m sure you’re all sick and tired of hearing about 40 times and Wonderlic tests and constantly fluctuating mock drafts, so I’ll spare you the details. The main thing you need to know is that Cam Newton completed 11 more passes than Blaine Gabbert. Also, some Auburn people went into a tizzy when Cam said “the University of Auburn,” before immediately correcting his slip. Jay G. Tate could provide a possible explanation.

– Meanwhile, as you heard here first, Nick Fairley is in the running for the cover of NCAA 12, and needs your votes to make sure he grabs the honor. Go vote for him, not just because he is Nick Fairley and he deserves it, but also because he would become the first defensive player to be the cross-console cover athlete since Charles Woodson back in these days.

Equally newsworthy to Auburn people was the apparent snub of Cam Newton. The popular opinion is that it has something to do with the allegations against Cam and his public perception. But, honestly, Cam and his image are right in their wheelhouse when it comes to the demographic that EA is trying to strike with, and really, the same minute minority that would claim to not purchase the game just because Cam Newton is on the cover all would think the same thing about Nick Fairley.

It’s entirely possible that EA Sports just couldn’t afford Cam — it has happened before — or perhaps something with his Under Armour deal excluded him from being on it. But maybe the best explanation is that they were just done spending huge amounts of money on the endorsement. If Cam was left off just because of reputation, then where are the other big names, like Patrick Peterson and Casey Matthews? Perhaps this year they just wanted to go relatively small. After all, this is the same game that featured Jared Zabransky on the 2008 edition.

I’m just glad Nick got the nomination (I’m voting for him) and that we’re using Auburn player and “NCAA” in the same sentence and it’s good news for once.

— On a more serious note, word broke out earlier this week that Eric Smith was dismissed from the team, stemming from an arrest earlier in February. I’ve wanted to mention this for a while, because while I agree with the coaches’ decision that it was time to part ways, I certainly do not think Eric is a “thug”, and I’m certainly not “glad he’s gone”, as was murmured around the Auburn corner of the internet around the time of the dismissal. Obviously I wish Eric the best of luck, I hope he gets his legal situation squared away, and I hope he and everyone recognizes that he’ll always be an Auburn Tiger.

I always thought that a nice gesture from the coaches would be to let him come out to Pro Day so he’ll have some official numbers if football is still in his future somewhere — and I really hope it is — but I’m sure that won’t be able to happen for logistical or PR reasons. Regardless, best of luck to Eric.

— Elsewhere on the college football landscape, it has been a relatively busy few days for early March. First was the much hyped, supposedly “ground-breaking” story from Sports Illustrated and CBS News, which was apparently going to change the way we looked at college football forever. Instead, when Wednesday rolled around, it turned out to be a story not about slimy scouting agents in college football, or devilish under-the-table pay-for-play schemes, or even something that the NCAA may or may not be preliminarily investigating. Instead, after spending six months — six months — on the report and devoting an entire issue to it, they dropped to a resounding dud a special report about criminal records in major college football. The story may have been worth a read to someone who isn’t a fan of the game, or is from outside of the country, or has otherwise been held in a closed vacuum for a while, but to others familiar with both college football and the internet, it amounted to little more than the infamous Phillip Fulmer Cup that we’ve all been following for years.

But my problem with the report doesn’t even lie with the subject matter. It is at least a little newsworthy, I suppose. My issue is with the self-proclaimed “solution” that the report pushes forward. (A “solution”, by the way, to a problem that arguably doesn’t even exist. The report claimed that 7 percent of college football players have criminal records, but it does not offer context to it as to how many college basketball players or others have criminal records. Meanwhile, others have estimated that 9 to 11 percent of the general U.S. population has a criminal record, so you could argue that college football players are actually doing pretty good.)

The latter portion of the report pushes for colleges to apply in-depth background checks of the football players they’re recruiting, and applauds schools like TCU that already do so. Now, I’m all for coaches making sure that their recruits are the “right fit” for the team, but conference mandated background checks, as the article proposes, is taking it way over the top. The article asks:

Colleges profess a desire to know their students as well as possible. That would seem especially important with athletes, who are often the public face of a university. Why risk not checking? Why open a door to an enterprising reporter and a line of embarassing questioning that begins with, “Coach, did you know?” or “Why would you sign…?”

Excuse me, but isn’t every single bylaw the NCAA has ever set require that student-athletes be treated just the same as regular students? But now they’re suggesting that football recruits have their past investigated, when regular students who apply to the university do not? Something about that doesn’t work for me. And, as it asks, why risk a little embarrassment over answering a question? I’d say it has to do something with greater civil rights, or something.

The report, credited to both Sports Illustrated and CBS News, reported by six different reporters, and authored by at least three different writers in the by line, just goes to show what can happen when too many people get involved with a report and the swarm of answers from those involved clouds the questions that were asked in the first place.

— Finally, Colin Cowherd’s mystery school from early in the week apparently turned out to be Oregon, as the NCAA has some questions about Oregon sending a gross amount of money to Willie Lyles, the head of a “recruiting service,” in the wake of Lache Seastrunks signing with Oregon, while Lache’s mother says that Lyles told her that he was a “trainer”. Interesting, to say the least.

My only question is why is the skeazey recruiting agent at the center of attention and the family of the player are given the benefit of the doubt, when we all know that Cecil Newton forced Kenny Rogers into soliciting from Mississippi State, right? Right?

Photo via.

Keep Reading:

* What happened to the first Mormons to visit Auburn?
* The incredible “War Eagle” Vietnam photos of Auburn Man John Rochelle
* Best reaction to being named Miss Homecoming ever
* Rare candids of Pat Sullivan at the 1971 Heisman banquet
* My first meeting with Dean Foy
* Pompadours on the Plains: the 50s revival at Auburn
* The Great 1984 A-Day Race against Bo Jackson
* An interview with Auburn YouTube sensation Chris Lowe
* Former Auburn football player kills elephant with just a bow and arrow

* TWER interviews Paul Finebaum about Bo Jackson’s Heisman campaign

* Crowd shots from the 1973 Auburn-Florida game
* The Secret History of an Underground Iron Bowl

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