So, yeah, about that. As you’ve no doubt heard/bewailed by now, Gene Chizik apparently has no plans to replace Chris Todd as Auburn’s starting quarterback. However:
“We still think Chris gives us the best chance to win,”
isn’t the most overwhelming endorsement ever and
2. would you put it past Chizik to just flat-out lie to the press, start Caudle, and then say something to the effect of “After a strong week of practice for Neil and going back over the film, we felt that it was time to make a decision at quarterback that blah blah blah”?
The odds are overwhelmingly in favor of Todd starting and finishing Saturday. There’s no doubting that. But I’m leaving the door open a crack for something else, because at this point, I have an awfully hard time believing things are going to be different with Todd at the helm this week than they’ve been for the last three.
Confirmation. The other quote of note from Chizik’s Sunday press meeting:
On Onterio McCalebb: “We try to use him in the game some. He tries to make a cut and it hurts him. It has taken away a little bit from what we want to do.”
So, yes: McCalebb is definitively not himself, and that absence has definitively changed the way Auburn’s offense is being called and run. Aside from Todd’s collapse, McCalebb’s downturn is probably the biggest difference between the Auburn offense that drove all over the place at Tennessee and the one that drove over a cliff in Baton Rouge. (Remember: the wideouts were already mostly nonfactors in Knoxville.) A quote from McCalebb himself here.
Not 2008. Antonio Coleman:
“This is not last year’s team. It’s a whole different team, a whole different scenario. We won’t let it go downhill. It’s not going to be like last year. We’re going to keep our heads up and go out there and fight week after week.”
Good to hear, and yeah, maybe I’m a sucker, but I believe him. I’ve pointed this out before, but if you remember the quotes in the wake of the 2008 Vanderbilt and Arkansas games, the stuff coming out of Auburn’s collective mouths is genuinely different this year. How much that will matter I don’t know, but it’s something.
Other notes from that Bitter post:
— Roof said Auburn was mostly pretty good but gave up “five big plays.” That’s better than mostly giving up big plays and having five plays that were mostly pretty good–and I maintain that neither Roof nor Auburn’s defense have been deserving of the kind of scorn that so many Auburn wags have heaped on them–but it’s not like this is anything new: the D had the exact same problem against West Virginia, Miss. St., Tennessee. Whether you allow TDs via one 70-yard run or a 10-play, 70-yard drive, they count for six points all the same.
— Chizik and Malzahn have discussed getting Fannin more carries at tailback. Given that McCalebb isn’t himself: yes please.
— You can read about this elsewhere, too, but Caudle’s saying all the right cliched things about potentially replacing Todd. Say this for Chizik: he’s got his guys well-prepped to face the microphones, doesn’t he?
That does kind of sum it up. K-Scar on one fateful Auburn first-half possession:
First down: Ontario [sic] McCalebb tiptoed out of bounds after a short gain, leaving yards on the field. He can’t be 100-percent healthy.
Second down: LSU offsides gave Auburn 5 free yards.
Repeat second down: Kodi Burns ran for a first down, but got tackled for a short gain with lots of green grass ahead if he could make one man miss. He couldn’t. Burns didn’t look full-go, either.
First down: An LSU blitzer ran around McCalebb to strip the ball from quarterback Chris Todd, who doesn’t look fine, despite what Chizik says. Auburn recovered but suffered a big loss.
Second-and-long: A screen fooled no one.
Third-and-long: Todd floated a nice pass down the middle. It would’ve been a first down – had true freshman Emory Blake not dropped it.
Fourth down: Punt.
Scarbinsky’s point is a little double-sided: he ultimately assigns responsibility for Auburn’s failures to Malzahn, but also makes a half-dozen excuses for him. Ah, the Auburn Paradox at work: is Malzahn struggling because he doesn’t have a lot to work with or does it look like Malzahn doesn’t have a lot to work with because he’s struggling? Wait-and-see.
Etc. Eric Smith will be charged as a juvenile in his assault case. Just so you know.
Photo by Van Emst.
Wow, I sure hope you are right about the QB situation. You “leaving the door open a crack” is pretty much the only ray of hope I have. I am at the point that I am wondering what it is going to take for Todd to lose the job. I don’t have any illusions about Caudle saving our season but good night I have not seen many games worse than I saw Saturday night by a QB (and it was the THIRD bad game in a row). I don’t think any position or player on the team would get this much leniency.
If anyone is not getting enough of a beating on Saturday, please tune in to the Redskins on Sunday/Monday. They are your NFL Auburn. The similarities last night were comical. Drive, drive, penalty, drive, turnover. Still some small thread of hope, hang in there, we can do it, good job D, drive, drive, sack, sack, turnover. Ballgame.
I would like to see Caudle play the entire Furman game. Todd could use the rest mentally and physically. Let’s see if the passing game could get the WRs more involved and have throws more than 20 yards downfield. Auburn should be able to run the ball at will against FU, so this would be an ideal time to work on the passing game.
the info, each time i hear it (then don’t see as much) when the coaches say “we are going to try and get Fannin more touches” is frustrating. I understand he is prone to lapses in focus and will drop the ball, but his explosive upside is well worth the risk to me. McCalebb is very good for a true frosh. but he has a lot to learn in the runnin game and unless he just out right beats folks to the corner he doesn’t get very far. he has not been very shifty. no jukes or attempted jukes and if anyone touches him in the slightest he goes down. i excepct to see he really do well in the future but lets coach him up and let E. Smith and Fannin have the ball more. Give Fannin McCalebb’s carries (or at least half of them) and let E play the h-back, or keep Fannin at h-back and let E have the carries. there is too much talent not being used on every play if both of those boys are not in the game. those two and Tate make a heavy load to stop every down. Jerry, as you pointed out in the knee-jerk, the few plays at the end we Fannin was getting the ball he avg. 9 yrds a carry….um….yes please.
Alex P in Smyrna G says
I have a very limited football acumen. That said, I have a hard time heaping so much of the blame on Todd. Looks to me like receivers and routs that were wide-ass open for five games are now covered up. Adams has vanished. Todd’s arm strength doesn’t look like an issue to me right now either.
Regarding McCaleb: THANK YOU GENE FOR CALLING THE UP-BY-FOUR-TD FAKE PUNT VS BALL STATE. GREAT JOB!
And if OM was nicked AT ALL and we know Mario doesn’t get enough touches as it is, why on earth not let Fanin take McCalebs place and split the carries with Tate? As awesome as McCaleb’s speed and shiftiness are, they are all he has when healthy. Take those away and he’s what? A live tackling dummy for the SEC DTs. No thanks.
I’m agreeing withg Mpg’s point about Eric Smith. He seems an under-used asset. I guess he’s not a do-it-all-feature-back type, but he seems to make plays. Would like to see him get consistent touches. Especially if McCalebb’s ailing.