Everyone always says that the first football game of the season is like Christmas, the night before like Christmas Eve, and this year Auburn fans will have a big prime time matchup against Clemson waiting under the tree.
But when you think about it, maybe the beginning of football season is more like Hanukkah — or at least fall camp is. On Tuesday, Auburn lit the first candle on the football menorah when players reported to the complex, and then another with the first day of practice on Wednesday. They’ll be crossing another landmark when they go full pads on Monday, and another when a starting quarterback is named (it will happen eventually, I promise), all building up to the Georgia Dome and the season opener.
Or maybe the start of football season is like New Year’s, and all of August is just a really long, really hot New Year’s Eve.
Whatever it is, it’s here—and by it, I don’t mean the season, but the season before the season. Fall camp is under way, and we’re here to put it under the microscope, with all the best notes and quotes and plenty of opinion and analysis interjected in between.
First, take the time to visit and thank your local beat writers — including Ryan Wood, Joel Erickson, and Charles Goldberg — because the reporting is all theirs. It’s a thinned-out cast at the moment (strange times to be on the AU beat), but in the midst of their own version of realignment the coverage is just as outstanding as ever.
As you might expect, the first day back was all about fresh faces arriving, former players departing, and — as always — the quarterbacks. Let’s get to it:
Zeke Pike is no longer on the team and plans to transfer to another school, according to Gene Chizik. Chizik didn’t offer much in the way of details, simply saying that Pike would not be returning and that that decision was made within the last week or so.
As recently as SEC Media Days two weeks ago, Chizik was saying that Pike could return to the team if he were to do “everything we’ve asked him to do.” It appears impossible to know whether Pike took another misstep back home in Kentucky or if the Auburn coaches had a change of heart / philosophy, but we can hope Pike gets his academic and athletic careers back on track somewhere, and with a full serving of eligibility remaining, anything is still possible for him.
I’ve ranted (and ranted and ranted) about the Zeke Pike situation many times before, so consider this my Pike soapbox swan song… but I still don’t like how this whole thing went down, or how Chizik portrayed the discipline he doled out.
I hope Pike will have the opportunity to be in school somewhere this semester and not fall behind academically. As far as we know, 7-10 days ago — three weeks before the beginning of fall semester — Pike’s entire collegiate career was in the limbo that was Chizik’s hands. Now the 18-year-old has less than 20 days to find, attempt to enroll in, and adjust to a new school to spend his next four years at — which is kind of a major life decision. I get that Pike had plenty of chances to do good and make things work at Auburn, but for a coaching staff or anyone to hold a kid’s academic career hostage like that over football just doesn’t seem right.
It’s silly to think that any kid would have to take a setback in their studies because a victimless “crime” supposedly (arguably) hurt a football team’s “image.” But that’s exactly what happened until and unless Chizik, or anyone in the department, tells us that there’s more to the story.
Jonathan Wallace actually is on the team, and he is impressing people. The freshman QB has been praised by just about everyone at the athletic complex over the last two days, which may come as a surprise to some unfamiliar with the eleventh-hour three-star signing-day steal.
It started with senior linebacker Daren Bates on Tuesday. He was asked about freshmen catching his eye over the summer: “Even the freshman quarterback, you see that he can be the leader in the near future, the way he can go out and operate even with the veterans on the offense,” Bates told reporters. “They might mess up and he’ll be the first one to try to correct them. I like that.”
On Wednesday, Wallace drew even more rave reviews, even from his fellow quarterbacks.
“He really cares,” said Clint Moseley. “He wants it as bad as pretty much anybody I’ve been around. He’s definitely got the right attitude to play football at this level. He’s got it figured out already. That’s what really stood out to me, is his work ethic and attitude.”
As far as what kind of reps Wallace is getting through the first day of fall camp, Kiehl Frazier says that he and Moseley split reps with the ones, while Wallace got mostly every snap with the B-team. Obviously, if you’re in a position battle you want to have reps with the first-team, but in Wallace’s case, it’s helpful to take every snap you can. On the B-team, Wallace doesn’t have to split reps with anyone. For a yougn quarterback, each one of those snaps is precious experience.
Speaking of Wallace, you can see our Surveying the Recruits profile of the Central-Phenix City stud here. (And you can expect that series to continue now that fall camp is under way.)
ETC, ETC. Auburn is still waiting on a couple of enrollees from the 2012 signing class. Darrion Hutcherson and JaQuay Williams have been delayed with academic eligibility issues. Each should be around by the end of fall camp.
And in the best news of the day, Shon Coleman reported to camp at 305 pounds, cleared to play by doctors after his long bout with cancer, and in fit, gameday shape. He took the field with his teammates and practiced on Wednesday.
Photo via Todd Van Emst.
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