Auburn update, 6/24
Hey everyone. I'm on vacation these days at points north: Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. The high point will be a trip to Kings Island, the big amusement park in suburban Cincinnati, later this week. I love me some summer. I'm aiming to break my personal record of 12 consecutive rides on the Vortex, an iron coaster with two regular loops, one cobra loop and a two-twist corkscrew. Good times.
I know it's Auburn you want to hear. So let's get into athletic-related business.
**The Board of Trustees officially will greenlight the long-awaited arena project on Friday. The projected cost will be around $90 million. Construction is supposed to begin next summer. It's a worthwhile project for a variety of reasons. Beard-Eaves Memorial is a dump, yet it's where the university holds its graduation. Lovely. That's the last place many parents see after paying for their kids to attend Auburn for four/five/six+ years.
Of course, the basketball teams could use new digs. I'm not convinced that a new arena is going to pull Auburn from this current hoops malaise, but that's not why this project is critical. It's just time Auburn has a respectable basketball facility. Period.
**Cliff Ellis and former Alabama coach David Hobbs are finlaists for the job at Coastal Carolina. I enjoy that for some reason.
**New Auburn president Jay Gogue stopped by the Advertiser last week for an informal talk about several topics. I promised not to publish anything from that meeting until after he takes office in mid July, but I can say that Gogue won't be the athletics lightning rod that Ed Richarson was. Gogue thinks that athletic directors should handle athletics, which seems like a reasonable approach to me. That's not to say that Richardson ever usurped Jay Jacobs' power, but at times it seemed like Richardson wanted to take an active role in the department's overall design. I don't think Gogue wants to do that.
**I saw a "T The Coach" bumper sticker on I-65 the other day and had quite a laugh. I think he's the last coach in the SEC to get his own little one-letter sticker. I hope Tuberville slaps one on his car. Knowing him, though, he's more likely to throw an "S The Coach" for kicks.
Neither one will happen. Just saying…
ON THE RANKINGS:
I like grading on a scale of 1 to 5.
5 is best.
3 is SEC average.
1 is a long-term project or someone who could play in NAIA right now.
I post two grades for each player: current score (college peak score)
2006 overview: Brandon Cox held the job throughout the season, with mostly positive results. He showed extreme toughness in the win against LSU, when he took a hard hit on a scramble and played through an epically nasty lower-leg bruise. It caused him problems for another month. He still played most of the time. His season took an abrupt swoon in the Georgia game. He was intercepted four times, completed 4 of 12 passes and was sacked four times. Auburn had team-wide issues that day. Cox wasn't the only one struggling against the Bulldogs. Blake Field, a sophomore last season, played in three games. He completed 8 of 9 passes. His playing time came in meaningless situations. Steven Ensminger and Neil Caudle spent the season on the practice squad.
2006 depth chart:
STARTER – Brandon Cox
BACKUP – Blake Field
REDSHIRT A – Neil Caudle
REDSHIRT B – S. Ensminger
My projected 2007 depth chart
STARTER – Brandon Cox 4.0 (4.25)
BACKUP 1 – Neil Caudle 2.0 (4.0)
BACKUP 1a – Blake Field 2.0 (3.0)
BACKUP 2 – S. Ensminger 2.0 (3.5)
TO BE DETERMINED – Kodi Burns 1.5 (tba)
The franchise player: Cox. Duh. He's been starting for two full seasons now, and he's made significant improvements. His pre-snap adjustments always were good. His throwing decisions weren't consistent early in his career, but Cox rarely forces the issue these days. The problem with Cox is that he doesn't have much arm strength. His value is concentrated in his administrative skills and track record of not hurting his team. Opposing safeties are able to cheat up in more of a run-defense mode because they're not worried about Cox busting them with deep throws. Still, Cox is a good player. Most coaches would love to have a experienced kid like that under center.
The next generation: The trendy pick is Arkansas freshman Kodi Burns, who was one of Auburn's big-name recruits. He's allegedly a mobile quarterback who, unlike Cox, can throw authoritatively beyond 25 yards. There is talk of Burns immediately moving into a Tim Tebow-style role this season – running a few plays as a complement to Cox's drastically different skill set. I haven't seen Burns play. It takes someone pretty special to make a difference in the SEC that early. I saw some great things and hideous things from both redshirt freshmen during spring ball. Caudle has outstanding arm power. His accuracy is pretty good, but he'll attempt high-risk throws too often. Same for Ensminger. They both have a lot of ability. I can't make firm assessments on the depth chart until Burns gets on the field. I don't see how Blake Field is going to maintain his spot on the depth chart.