Auburn update, 6/28
I'll just go through this in notebook form, a tip of the cap to Peter Gammons. The guy is a pro's pro. I hope the aneurysm he suffered on Tuesday morning is nothing more than a short hiatus for this generation's greatest baseball writer.
*Auburn added two new administrators to its athletic department on Tuesday. They'll act as liaisons with the NCAA, which is becoming a very important thing in the world of big-time college athletics.
One of them, Rich McGlynn, has an interesting background:
McGlynn comes to Auburn from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) where he was employed since 2001. Most recently, McGlynn served as the Associate Director of Membership Services. He previously was an Assistant Director of Membership Services and a Student-Athlete Reinstatement Representative within the Enforcement Services arm of the NCAA.
Prior to his work at the NCAA, McGlynn was the Commissioner of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference from 2000-01 and was a legal specialist for the New Jersey General Assembly Majority Office (2000-01) and Office of Counsel to the Governor of the State of New Jersey (1999-00).
The unspoken message to the NCAA: We're hiring one of your own, an enforcement guy no less, so you can trust that we're doing the right things. People hate on Jay Jacobs a lot, but this is a shrewd move. Give him credit. Also give credit to Mark Richard, Auburn's former NCAA compliance guy who now has moved up to a more influential position within the department. He played a role in the hire as well.
*Greg Smith, the massive JUCO noseguard who re-signed with Auburn in February, still is working to gain academic qualification. Smith told AuburnSports.com last week that he passed his final class. Auburn's czar of student-athlete academics, Virgil Starks, is preapring to send Smith through the NCAA Clearinghouse right now.
Some within the program are mildly concerned about Smith's ability to qualify. Keep an eye on that.
I think it's a mistake for Auburn fans to expect great things out of Smith this fall. We need to see how he handles Kevin Yoxall's conditioning program first. I can't see Smith playing more than three consecutive snaps at his current weight. Two-a-day workouts are only 35 days away ...
*Loyal readers know that I'm mostly immobile after undergoing ankle surgery on 6/12, so I haven't been able to attend any volutary workouts at Auburn. Bryan Matthews, AuburnSports.com magnate, says freshman WR Tim Hawthorne has been a regular (voluntary) attendee and is exhibiting a refined work ethic.
I stand by my earlier prediction that both Hawthorne and fellow freshman wideout Chris Slaughter will be excellent players sooner rather than later.
Back in early June, I visited offensive coordinator Al Borges and shared my opinions about some of his players. He finds these analyses funny, I would as well, but Al knows how to change opinions with a smile on his face.
Anyway, I was giving him a hard time about Gabe McKenzie. He signed in 2005 out of a Mobile high school. Some felt McKenzie was an excellent tight end; others believed he would be more influential at defensive end. Auburn elected to keep him on offense. McKenzie spent last autumn on the scout team.
Borges, surprised that I'd question McKenzie's value at tight end (behind the up-and-coming Tommy Trott), showed me approximately 20 video cut-ups of McKenzie spring work.
I'll say this: Gabe McKenzie is one heck of a hitter. When he fires off the ball and into Auburn's DEs, the offense wins a lot of those encounters. McKenzie really pops people, knocking them up and away from the play. And this wasn't against walk-ons; I watched McKenzie aggravate Marquies Gunn and Quentin Groves repeatedly.
Is McKenzie ready to be a major tight end in the SEC right now? Probably not. I have changed my mind on the kid, though, and I now believe he'll be quite useful down the road.
Speaking of Al, I thought of him the other day during the Brasil-Ghana match. Brasil midfielder Ronaldinho plays with such an infectious enthusiasm. The guy doesn't have a bad day.
Same for Al. He's one of those rare people whose contentment seems tangible. Football needs more people like that. It gets eerily serious far too often. I've been in busy emergency rooms that had a lighter mood than the Auburn Athletic Complex at times, and that's not a compliment.