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8.23.2008

Taking stock of the Tigers

Hey everyone. It's a rainy day here in Alabama's capitol city and there's no practice at Auburn. I could watch women's synchronized swimming with my wife. Or I could play the Wall-E game on Wii with my 6-year-old daughter.

I'll take Auburn football for $200, Alex.

I was able to see a lot of football practice before the team went into seclusion last week. I was able to develop some reasonably well-rounded ideas on several players. Here's a look at some popular guys and what I noted:

WR Mario Fannin: He didn't look good to me. The surgically repaired shoulder seemed to trouble him a lot. Remember that he's switching to a new position. I think he'll have a good chance to contribute during the season's second half. Why not before then? His shoulder clearly remains tender and he's running with the second- and third-team offenses. He has work ahead.

WR Chris Slaughter: The HOTTIES know that I've had an irrational appreciation for Slaughter dating back to last season. He arrived late for camp in 2007 (another Clearinghouse badge of excellence) and never really got into the rhythm of Al Borges' offense. He's having a much better camp this time around. Tony Franklin has been praising the heck out of Slaughter. I consider Slaughter the team's top break-out candidate.

DE Antoine "Hot" Carter: Stanley McClover was the last Auburn end I've seen who is this good at pass rush. Carter is so fast and quick that even a guy like Lee Ziemba, a franchise-type tackle, can't maintain contact with him. Carter's run-stopping ability remains a mystery -- he's still not a big player by any means -- but he's going to create a lot of problems for opponents on third down.

CB D'Antoine Hood: I may be in the minority here, but I think this kid is going to be very good. I'm just not sure 2008 is going to be a break-out season for him. He's slower and less "twitchy" than classmates Neiko Thorpe and Harry Adams. Still, Hood clearly has The Feel. Once he applies lessons learned through trial and error, he'll be a good one. I see him as a Jae Wilhite kind of player -- without the attitude. I mean that in a good way.

DT Zach Clayton: This is a tricky case. I watch him and I see tons of effort and violent hands. That's what assistant coach Don Dunn likes. That equals playing time. Still, some fellow writers whose opinions I value believe Clayton is no more than a standard DT. I'm really high on him. We'll see. Effort goes a long way in football.

DE Raven Gray: Gray (pictured at right) was supposed to be a superstar the moment he arrived. Instead, he was hobbling on crutches his first day at Auburn. The cause: December knee surgery. I haven't been impressed with Gray at all so far. His effort level didn't seem on par with more experienced ends like Coleman, Carter and Goggans. Gray was chastised often for not hustling, though that may be a function of simply not knowing Auburn's practice protocol.

With that said, he'll have to make major progress before emerging as an SEC-level contributor. There are plenty of alibis for Gray's problems. Many of them are plausible. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt ... for now. Consider him a third-team player until something changes.

CB Walt McFadden: He's a good player. He's a replacement for Aairon Savage, who is out for the season with a knee injury. McFadden is a guy who generally uses good technique. His brother, Bryant, plays defense with the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's very apparent that Walt McFadden studies and works hard to improve himself. He's a little short on athleticism. Still, he's going to be less bust-prone than many people believe. He's more than a stop-gap option.

RG Byron Isom: He shares some characteristics with McFadden -- both players are "replacements" for more high-profile teammates. Isom is playing in place of Chaz Ramsey, who is out with back problems. Isom is an interesting case because, at least to my untrained eye, Isom looks as good as Ramsey. Isom is remarkably strong and rarely loses leverage. He learns from mistakes. Isom doesn't appear to have great feet, though, which reduces his range to some degree. That isn't a huge deal at guard. I think he's a good one. If I was giving letter grades, I'd bestow a B.

**********

Check out "Frenchy Pierre" feeding the horse. He was one of several players who attended the team's annual event at Storybrook Farms, which provides provides equine-based therapeutic programs or children facing life-threatening illness, disabilities and grief.


Here's Andre Wadley (left, in the flesh!) and Harry Adams signing some autographs.

Questions? Comments? Post directly to the blog below or email me at jgtate@gannett.com.

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

29 Comments:

Blogger Jay G. Tate said...

If you're interested in a player I haven't mentioned, make a suggestion. I'll try to acquiesce.

3:46 PM  
Blogger scott from tucson said...

any chance that d'antoine hood is related to roderick hood? auburn's been getting tons of publicity out of the olympics. i wondeer if that will have much of an impact on auburn's swimming and track teams in years to come.

3:48 PM  
Anonymous ron mexico said...

What do you think about Byron Isom in comparison to Chaz Ramsey.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Jay G. Tate said...

Roderick Hood is D'Antoine's uncle.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Jay G. Tate said...

I'll add Byron Isom to the main entry.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Phormerly Phred said...

Frenchy P, Eric Smith

4:00 PM  
Blogger Jay G. Tate said...

I'll gather these up and make another post either later today or tomorrow.

I gotta write a Mike Blanc story for the print edition now ...

Auburn sent out a funny pic of Frency today. Heck, I'll post it now.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Bill Junior said...

Great post today. I really enjoy the blog, especially the insights regarding the players who have yet to see much game action on the Plains.

Any thoughts on Adam Herring and his long term prospects?

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Scott said...

Sad to hear about fannin. Seems like a perfect player for the offense.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Scott said...

Jay,

Can you give your best guesses on redshirts?

4:44 PM  
Blogger scott from tucson said...

liked the pic of pierre. my sister in colorado volunteers with a similar org. they do good work.

5:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jay, thoughts on M Mcneil and M Goggans?

5:29 PM  
Blogger Jay G. Tate said...

Fannin is going to have his time. It's just not this minute. There are too many good, healthy and experienced guys ahead of him right now.

I'll provide updates on the guys you all have discussed. Adam Herring probably will have to wait. I haven't watched him that closely because he's just so deep on the charts right now.

Saw his dad on HBO's "Hard Knocks." I thought it was Rick Majerus.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Phormerly Phred said...

I don't know anything. That's the presupposition of my thesis.

But, I still feel in my gut that Mario is going to have a good year. If he can stay healthy, I think his game performance will force the playing time issue. The coaches just won't have a choice.

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Will C said...

I think the people want to know who Swinton really is beyond the "here I finally am" preseason write ups. We'll see soon. I second that on Clayton. I think he's going to be an impact player, not to be confused with superstar. Your evaluation of Hood is also consistent with what Powers brings to the table athletically.

Nobody wants to touch the QBs????

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fannin has said a few times the shoulder hasn't bothered him even when he landed on it. He's also been wearing that motion limiting brace. So are you saying he's looked restricted in motion, or he's not looked like himself or what?

8:05 PM  
Blogger Phormerly Phred said...

William the Crudup: We've been talking about QBs for the last six months. Do you really want to?

8:53 PM  
Blogger Jay G. Tate said...

He just hasn't caught me eye so far. I don't know how to quantify it; he just doesn't stand out. I see him blocking with one arm, leaving his "bad" arm dangling. He doesn't seem particularly assertive.

I'm convinced that he'll be a good player. I just think maybe the switch to WR is more taxing than he initially believed. He's never told me that. Mario isn't the kind of kid who just chats freely and openly about himself, so it can be a challenge trying to get a read on him.

8:55 PM  
Anonymous crudup said...

Steady Phreddy. I know. I think we're all in agreement that right now we have a couple utilitarian QBs. I'm still standing by my quotes over the last month that Kodi will end up being a very successful Auburn QB. Keep in mind that even Jay Barker is a memorable Bama QB. Randy Campbell is a very memorable AU QB. Kodi is a much better talent.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Phormerly Phred said...

William the Crudup is what your name would have been were you a Scotish Warlord.

It's interesting to me that you brought up Randy Campbell. That dude couldn't pass gas and yet we did pretty well. Pat Dye's opinion of our spread is that it is a whole lot like his wishbone. My conclusion is, I don't think the QB really has to be a world beater and that all this Hem Haw has been about nothing.

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Crudup said...

Agreed. But there is a lot of gunslinging required in this offense. It's not sweep left and right like Dye ran. So they have to at least be able to think on their feet and eliminate as many brainfarts as possible.

One thing that does worry me is that Franklin admits that he doesn't really make adjustments based on what a defense shows. He's going to call his plays and call his plays. His goal is to lay the defense down with exhaustion. That worries me with teams like UGA, LSU, and even WVU on the schedule.

9:50 PM  
Anonymous hip-hopanonymous said...

My one big question is (and I know I'm getting waaaaayy ahead of myself here) what is the last team to win a NC with 2 "equal" QB's?

I dont recall it ever working. I'm not saying Franklin doesnt know what he's doing, but I also dont believe he is smarter than every OC either.

Good teams, and great teams, always have one true leader. I dont mean to be the turd in the punchbowl, but history aint exaclty in our favor. 2 QB systems usually end poorly. Just sayin'.

11:56 PM  
Anonymous wartiger84 said...

aight Jay, just so you know.nice job. i am a realitively new to your blog so i gotta give you credit..you haven't disappointed. Hate to hear that bout Mario Fannin. I heard alot of good things in the early spring. Hope he's able to make an impact

12:53 AM  
Anonymous hoopie said...

Jay.....nice job putting out some detailed insights on less hyped players.

I hope you are right about CSlaughter. I think the difference between a good and great season lies with the WR's ability to step up and make plays. We've got 12 or 16 wr's on the the team. Someone needs to step forward. Rod Smith is very dependable and can get to the ball, but until the rest of these WR's produce in a game, I'm concerned. Although Swinton is getting a lot of good reports, his lack of physical agressiveness looks like a fumble/dropped pass waiting to happen.

7:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jay,

Any chance that the coaches have waited until the practices are closed to install the "Mario Fannin package"? I think he will be much more comfortable on reverses (end arounds), direct snaps, quick screens from HB position, etc. Just a hunch, but I'm thinking you would have more confidence in him if we could see the closed practices. May just be wishful thinking on my part though.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Jay G. Tate said...

It's pretty clear that Fannin is on the third-team offense right now.

He's a Z or X. Those four guys are firmly ahead of him right now. I'm not saying it'll stay like that, but this is what it looks like:

Z: Rod Smith, Montez Billings, Mario Fannin/PPL
X: Swinton, Slaughter, Carr/PPL
Y: Trott, Hawthorne, (D. Adams/Winter)
H: Robert Dunn, T. Zachery, John Douglas ("power H")

9:24 AM  
Anonymous crudup said...

And those guys in front of Fannin have been playing WR for a long, long time. I still think Fannin's a pro style running back. The fumbles killed him last year. But when he had the ball things were happening. Don't like him returning kicks. He doesn't hit top gear as quickly as Davis and Lester types.

I've seen the argument where fans create this scenario that the players in front of Fannin serve as motivation. Don't believe that one either. Fannin's not a trouble maker and he's not lazy. But he's going to get the ball a few times this weekend and if he stays healthy he'll get it a little more down the road.

He's the one player besides Smith and maybe Hawthorne/Trott that you could go to time after time in the middle during a game because he can take it.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Jay G. Tate said...

I concur; Mario is not a trouble maker and he's not lazy.

He's playing behind guys who have been receivers since middle school. Mario switched three months ago.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Phormerly Phred said...

I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Thankfully, that won't be long now. Although, I am not expecting to see all that much of anything next Saturday.

1:04 PM  

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