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Coach catalog: Trooper Taylor and Ted Roof

Hey everyone. In my continued pursuit to bring you information you can get nowhere else -- even if it's pointless -- I now will share my thoughts about some of the Tigers' new football coaches.

I haven't met Tommy Thigpen. I still don't have a feel for Jeff Grimes.

I'll get through a few today. I'll augment as we move along.

  • Job: Offensive assistant (wideouts)

  • Age: 39

  • Previous job: Offensive assistant at Oklahoma State

  • Scouting report: He's a cheerful guy. Several times, I've happened upon him in the Athletic Complex and he's just singing to himself. He's a salesman -- always shakes hands and has something to say. High energy guy. He always seems like he's on a caffeine buzz. He's hilarious to watch with recruits. Taylor and fellow assistant Curtis Luper basically double team these guys. Taylor cuts up and Luper plays the my friend here is crazy role. Taylor uses a full-body laugh when he does. It reminds me of the way guys laugh in the NBA ... with arms and legs going.

  • Best quote so far: (asked how important recruiting is to his job security) "You'll be planting fruit for a living really fast. I don't want to be on the grapes. I like doing the football thing, myself."

  • Job: Defensive coordinator

  • Age: 45

  • Previous job: Defensive coordinator at U. Minnesota

  • Scouting report: You never know where he's coming from. He seems pensive at times, yet he'll crack enough jokes to keep him from being perceived as studious. I was surprised to see that he's only a few years older than Taylor -- they seem separated by far more than six years. Roof is old school. He clearly has been groomed by men who see football as a test of mental and physical fortitude. I don't foresee Roof being a big player on the recruiting scene. To be fair, I have a similar forecast for offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. I get the sense that Roof busted his butt "meeting the people" during his days at head coach at Duke (2002-07), but he doesn't seem inclined to do that now. It looks like strategy is his primary concern. He will be recruiting in Georgia.

  • Best quote so far: (asked if he'll be head-butting players) "I might be the only guy in Atlantic Coast Conference history to get either a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct penalty as a player, assistant coach and a head coach. Does that answer your question?"

Best of the teleconferences, 2/26

Post No. 1,076

Hey everyone. Nell Fortner and Jeff Lebo just held their teleconferences. I scribbled down a few highlights you may enjoy.

  • Team is 18-10 overall and 7-6 in the SEC
  • Tied with Mississippi State for 2nd in the West
  • Auburn plays at Mississippi State on Saturday night
  • Auburn beat Mississippi State by 15 points last week
  • Saturday's game will be televised on FSN

  • On the team surging of late: "It's nice to be able to play meaningful games at this time of year. They have put themselves in position to do that. I've talked to them about not looking three, four, five games down the road. The only thing you can control is what's up next. You're almost into March. It's exciting for our kids who haven't been in this position before."

  • On rebounding problems: "When the ball goes up, I can't make their arms longer. I can't make them wider. We have to be junkyard dogs."

  • On MSU: "We see ourselves. We can matchup with them better than the other teams that are a little bigger. We're mirror images. The difference is that they shoot the ball more from 3. They're averaging 31 or 32 (three-point attempts) over the last five games. Almost half of their shots come from the three point line. They've committed to playing small. When they put them all in there together, that makes it a hard thing to defend."

  • On why Auburn has been better since the 2-5 league start: ``We've been down in a lot of games. Our kids come back and continue to battle. That's probably maturity. The big key for us is that Tay Waller, at least since the Ole Miss game there, has been offensively a difference-maker out there."

  • Team is 26-2 overall and 11-2 in the SEC
  • Team already has clinched a share of the SEC title
  • A home win against Arkansas on Sunday (2 p.m.) wins the title outright
  • Auburn won by nine points at Arkansas in January

  • On F DeWanna Bonner coming out of high school: "She was already talented. She just needed to add more to the game. She was a layup shooter. She added that mid-range jumper. She added a three-point shot. She added so much to her game. That's what happens in college. She takes a lot of pride in her game."

  • On recruiting PG Whitney Boddie in 2004: "It was lucky for us. She wasn't playing summer ball. She was under the radar. We hit the ground running as soon as we got here. We were just fortunate that it was that kind of year in the Alabama high schools."

  • On F Chantel Hilliard, who was injured last weekend: "She should be ready to play."

  • On Auburn dropping to No. 7 in the AP poll after losing at Vanderbilt last weekend: "Auburn is the new kid on the block. We're not going to get as much respect or benefit of the doubt. We're building that. You keep building your reputation. I understand it. I don't have a problem with it. We just have to keep winning ballgames."

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

Questions? Comments? Post directly to the blog below or email me at

Auburn def. Ole Miss, 77-64

Post No. 1,075

Hey everyone. Welcome to Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum for tonight's epic battle between your Auburn Tigers and the Rebels of Ole Miss.

  • HABOTN Player of the Game
    C Korvotney Barber -- 13 points, 13 rebounds in 34 minutes

    Auburn 77, Ole Miss 64.

  • FOURTH TO @ 3:45, 2nd half
    Auburn leads, 70-57.

  • THIRD TO @ 7:41, 2nd half
    Auburn leads, 59-45. The Tigers are doing everything right on defense at the moment. They're rebounding. They're confounding the Rebels with some type of matchup zone deal. Ole Miss has gone scoreless on 10 consecutive possessions.

  • SECOND TO @ 11:41, 2nd half
    Auburn leads, 49-45. So Auburn is on a run early in the period. Then Speed Reed comes along, takes a few weak shots and now the rally is over. Ole Miss still is rebounding well. Not doing much else well.

  • FIRST TO @ 14:58, 2nd half
    Auburn leads, 47-43. The Tigers opened on a 9-0 run. They're scoreless in three possessions since then.

  • Thanks to "wtc" for stopping by to say hello at halftime.

    Bo Jackson is here. Proof:

    Ole Miss leads, 40-36.

  • FOURTH TO @ 3:34, 1st half
    Ole Miss leads, 32-25. Auburn now 1-for-12 from the perimeter. More interesting is the apparent decision to let Barber, a relatively poor passer, act as the offensive hub right now. They're dumping into him. As Ole Miss swarms him, Jeff Lebo is asking Barber to make the right pass out of the double team. It's not happening very often.

  • THIRD TO @ 6:54, 1st half
    Ole Miss leads, 26-23. Auburn currently is 1-for-9 from the perimeter. Maybe it's time to consider other options. The Tigers are rebounding, though. They're staying (almost) even because of put-backs and other second-effort deeds.

  • SECOND TO @ 11:49, 1st half
    Ole Miss leads, 19-16. I get the sense, without looking at statistics, that Ole Miss is not a very good defensive team. I've seen them miss several switches in the nine minutes so far. Auburn has been getting lovely looks.

  • FIRST TO @ 15:15, 1st half
    Ole Miss leads, 14-10. Ole Miss' point guard, freshman Terrico White, already has seven points and two assists. He's the guy who went off for 19 the last time these two teams played. I guess Jeff Lebo hasn't quite figured out how to stop the kid.

    PG -- Speed Reed of Houston, Texas
    SG -- Tez Robertson of Cincinnati, Ohio
    "SF" -- Tay (With A Tray) Waller of middle Georgia, USA
    F -- Rasheem Barrett of suburban Atlanta
    C -- Korvotney Barber of middle Georgia

  • Vincent Jackson, a former Auburn tailback, is here tonight. I'll try to get a picture of of him.

  • This is sooooo not a "white out." This is the worst SEC crowd of the season without a doubt.

Gus Malzahn Speaks, 2/25

Hey everyone. Auburn's "new" offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn spent some time Wednesday discussing a variety of topics that will interest you. Please take a peek.

NOTE: I will be updating this for the next few hours.

  • On the quarterback competition: "It's going to be wide open. Everyone is going to start new."

  • "There is no pecking order."

  • He has watched tape of all offensive players, but he wasn't assessing the way you might think: ``We're not going to go crazy with what they've done in the past. It was about positions."

  • He won't use a two-quarterback system: "We're a quarterback-oriented system. You've got to have a guy and you need a leader. We will have one guy."

  • On how important speed is at quarterback: "We don't have to have a 4.4 or 4.5 guy, but we need a good operator. We will have to have a quarterback who can make plays with his feet."

  • On the two freshmen quarterbacks (Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley): "They both have that it factor."

  • On the possibility of a freshman playing in 2009: "Every now and then, you'll find a special guy who can come in and do that. It's really hard for me to say that right now but both those guys are very talented quarterbacks."

  • On Chris Todd's availability: "It's hard to say exactly where he'll be. He wants to get out there this spring."

  • On the pace of his offense: "We're going to play faster than anybody in the country."

  • On why he assigns numbers (rather than letters/names) to skill positions: ``We go so fast. We try to take a lot of the wording out. It helps us call (plays) quicker."

  • There will be a designated "wildcat" guy. He said Mario Fannin is the top candidate among returning players, but Malzahn said he also plans to audition Dontae Aycock, Emory Blake and Travante Stallworth in that spot.

  • (UPDATED @ 4 p.m.) On how his offensive line will handle 80 plays per game: "We try to get our guys into basketball shape. I don't mean that as a soft word. Our guys are going to recover quickly. They're going to mentally and physically recover. Our offensive line will run more than any offensive line in the country."

  • (UPDATED @ 4 p.m.) On being open-minded during the game: "It goes back to taking what they give you. Last year, we were perceived as a passing team at Tulsa. At times, we were. Against New Mexico we threw for almost 500 yards. The next week, I think we ran for 300. They were playing two safeties. They were playing cover 2. We ran the football. It was common sense."

  • (UPDATED @ 4 p.m.) On what he ran at Arkansas in 2006: "That was kinda two offenses and two philosophies put together."

  • (UPDATED @ 4 p.m.) On his role in recruiting: "I'll have the state of Arkansas and Louisiana. At the same time, our main offensive recruits, I'll be helping with that and have a big part and influence in that."

  • (UPDATED @ 4 p.m.) He said (as a general rule) offensive tackles will be in two-point stances. Guards will be in three-point stances.

Jay Boulware Speaks, 2/25

You know the drill. Jay Boulware now will share his thoughts about his two areas of emphasis: Special teams and tight ends.

  • On the Tigers' coaches: "It's the best coaching staff I've ever been on -- and that includes when I was a (graduate assistant) at Texas."

  • On his first meeting with Gene Chizik, which was a job interview in early 2007: "Coach Chizik and I ended up talking for, gosh, it must have been 10-12 hours just talking ball. It was the best interview I ever had. It was one of those interactive deals where I’m telling him this is what we’re doing, he’s making suggestions and we’re talking things out. At that time I knew if I got offered this job I was going to take it, because I felt like he was going to give me an opportunity to be a better coach because he had suggestions that just made sense. I hadn’t had that in a long time, so I was really looking forward to maybe having the opportunity to work with him."

  • What can two men discuss for 10+ hours?: "Ball, baby. Ball."

  • Care to expand on that?: "It was very important to him to have someone that coach special teams the same way he coaches defense. Someone that does a nice job of having a teaching progression, that can coach every aspect of the game and make sure it’s detailed out and make sure it’s simple where the kids can understand. And he saw that I had that, I guess."

  • Boulware worked for Chizik in 2007 and 2008 at Iowa State.

  • On how guys from a 5-19 Iowa State program got jobs at Auburn: "We brought a lot of great players to Iowa State – we had a really good recruiting class. We played a lot of freshman. I think we had 33 freshman and sophomores in our two-deep, which is unheard of in the Big 12. I definitely believe we were making progress. I believe we got better. I think if you ask the majority of people, they saw a quicker, faster football team in our second year. We were just really young."

  • Boulware believes Auburn's special-teams unit was the SEC's best in 2008. He believes fans and the media fail to assess punt, punt return and kickoff return correctly: "Those three units that I saw, from the information that I gathered, were the best in the conference. And a lot of people don't realize that, because too often times, the media and maybe even fans, you judge how the special teams were based on what you saw the kicker do."

  • On what wasn't good about Auburn's special teams in 08: "The only area I felt like was deficient on this football team in that regards was your kickoff coverage unit. I felt like that could have been much more aggressive, much more physical, had much more of a presence in the games, where people felt like, 'Whoa, wait a minute, these guys are really getting down the field.'"

  • More on his holistic approach to special teams: "If Wes Byrum has a bad year, does that mean we played bad special teams? No, that means Wes Byrum had a bad year. That's what that means. What about the other 10 guys out there that are playing, and so forth and so on. That's my response to that. I think they played very good special teams."

  • On Clinton Durst, the walk-on punter who may or may not have quit ... and may or may not have a scholarship waiting for him: "He's on our football team."

Jeff Grimes speaks, 2/25

You know the drill. Jeff Grimes, hired away from Colorado in January, now will share his thoughts about the Tigers' offensive line.
  • On the personnel situation: "We have several guys that have some ability, and even more importantly, I think we have some guys that can create some competition. I can rip their fanny all I want but if they know they’re going to be on the field because they’re the best guy, in some cases, it’s not going to make a difference what I say."

  • On overall problems with depth: "It’s an urgent priority. We would have liked to have signed more. It just didn’t work out that way. We’d like to have at least 15, and preferably 17, offensive linemen on scholarship at all times. So we’re at 10 right now, and signed two. We’re not near where we need to be."

  • On the challenge of being physical from a two-point stance: "The way I’m going to coach this deal is that we’re going to be physical on every stinkin’ play. It doesn’t matter if it’s an inside run, an outside run, screen or drop-back pass. Our job is to be physical and finish every play to the whistle regardless of what it is."

  • He said Ryan Pugh will play center.

  • He made several references to Andrew McCain at right tackle.

  • He isn't using the start from scratch approach Malzahn discussed at quarterback. Here's why: "I don’t want to discount some of the things that have been done by some guys that have had success. We’ll certainly have a starting point but we’re not going to necessarily line up and say, ‘You guys are No. 1 until you lose the job.’ We’re going to say, ‘You guys have the opportunity to start out here,’ but this guy right here is right behind him and it may vary by day or by series."


All we have are the embers

Thanks to the 312 people who participated in our Tuesday night campfire.

We opened at 8:40. We closed at 11:17.

Topics included Jonna Chizik, David Oku, Dontae Aycock's highlights, drunk texting, Gene Chizik's chin and the dismissals at WNSP radio in Mobile.

Big ups to Tuesday's chat stalwarts: jhag, Will, David Oku (prior to BANHAMMERING), Kristina, FSJ, MonD, j-z, Z4Z, Jet, wakerider, Nanner, Michael (in two tours) and newcomer PJunkie.

A great time was had by all.

OK, so maybe he did move ...

Post No. 1,070

Hey everyone. That chatter about TB David Oku is at least somewhat accurate. The Lincoln Journal-Star is reporting that the coveted prospect has relocated to Lincoln, Neb., and enrolled at Lincoln East High.
“It had nothing to do with an emotional thing with a girlfriend,” Oku said of moving to Lincoln. “That had nothing to do with it. I’ve heard the craziest things, that she’s pregnant and all this. No, no. I came here because of school.”
So he moves six weeks into the final semester of his high-school career? Really?

Also, Nebraska's top-rated signee is a Texas tailback. Oku seemed pretty emphatic in that story that a career at Nebraska is hardly imminent.

My thought: Where are Oku's parents?

Hilliard's status clarified

Chantel Hilliard received some good news Monday when an imaging scan on her left knee revealed no damage.

The freshman forward was knocked from Auburn's win against Georgia on Sunday after an awkward collision. Her knee was hyper-extended, but the blow was directly to the kneecap. A hit from the side or a twist likely would have caused significant damage.

An Auburn spokesperson said Hilliard is considered questionable for the Tigers' game against Arkansas on Sunday.

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University.

An unlikely partnership?

In this nifty story from CNBC, former Auburn tailbacks Vincent Jackson and Ronnie Brown now are attempting to multiply their fortunes via the banking industry. The story says they have "become partners," but it's unclear how their two banks are related.

Brown is on the board of directors at Broward Bank of Commerce, which opened late last year. That bank is located in the northern Miami suburbs.

Jackson is on the board of directors at Burr Ridge Bank & Trust. That bank is located in the Chicago suburbs. It's unclear to me if the bank is open for deposits, but it has been cleared to do so by the FDIC.

This certainly seems like a curious time to be breaking into the banking business.

Deliberance (or is it deliberate?)

Post No. 1,067

Hey everyone. Not much happening (yet) on a chilly February morning, so why not talk about football?

TB David Oku of suburban Oklahoma City still hasn't made a decision about where he'll play college ball next season. I thought my Gannett-mandated furlough could spark some profound moments of clarity for the young man. I was wrong.

He's still mulling offers from Auburn, Tennessee, Syracuse and now Ole Miss.

So what's his timetable? Oku isn't saying. The first major recruit to play The Waiting Game, Pennsylania quarterback Terrelle Pryor, made his decision in mid March last year. Could Oku go that long?

As Al Borges would say: "Oh, you bet."

Since an official Auburn depth chart hasn't been released since November, this list includes my best guesses as to what it'll look like in late August:
  • Ben Tate, Sr.
  • Mario Fannin, Jr.
  • Onterio McCalebb, Fr. (from prep school)
  • Eric Smith, Soph.
  • Dontae Aycock, Fr.
  • Brandon Jacobs, Fr.

Can Oku crack that rotation? He certainly could. He's a shifty tailback whose quickness could help him overcome his underdeveloped body. Oku is not ready to bang with SEC linebackers right now. The same was true for Carnell Williams in 2001, though, so being slight isn't a deal-breaker. Williams couldn't hide his love for high-speed collisions and missed parts of his first two seasons with injuries.

Oku looks like a different kind of back to me. He tends to elude.

Auburn def. Georgia, 65-59

Post No 1,066

Hey everyone. Welcome to Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, where your Auburn Tigers are playing host to the Georgia Bulldogs.

    C Trevesha Jackson, 10 points, 2 rebounds
    Numbers weren't her contribution. Without Jackson on the floor, Georgia's Angel Robinson was nearly unstoppable. When Jackson subbed in (she is struggling with pain in her left knee) Robinson was far more subdued. That development changed the game.

    Auburn wins, 65-59. The Tigers now have a one-game lead over Vanderbilt with one game to go.

  • FOURTH TO @ 0:56, 2nd half
    Auburn leads, 56-53. Vanderbilt lost at Ole Miss earlier today, so the Tigers move into first place with a win here. I wonder if the players know that. Chantel Hilliard is out with a knee injury. Looked serious.

  • THIRD TO @ 7:32, 2nd half
    Georgia leads, 47-46. Auburn was up four points and Smalley fired an open three. She missed. The Bulldogs then went on a 7-0 run. That could have been a clinching turn of events for the Tigers. Instead, Georgia is right in the middle of this thing.

  • SECOND TO @ 12:33, 2nd half
    Auburn leads, 40-38. Same trends. DeWanna Bonner hasn't been a big force in this game yet. Is she going to change that?

  • FIRST TO @ 15:27, 2nd half
    Auburn leads, 38-35. Auburn has scored on five of its first eight possessions and Smalley is at the line for the ninth. Better offensive flow from the home team. Angel Robinson already has two put-backs this half.

  • HALFTIME NUMBER OF NOTE: Auburn shot 32.4% in the first half.

    Halftime entertainment: ZOOPERSTARS

    Georgia leads, 29-27. Considering how poorly Auburn is shooting, the Bulldogs can't be happy with this score. Angel Robinson is a problem I don't think the Tigers can or will mitigate.

  • FOURTH TO @ 3:59
    Georgia leads, 22-18. Auburn is shooting very poorly. Not sure of the percentages right now. I'd say they're in the 33-percent range. It looks like the usual array of shots, honestly. Georgia has a major advantage inside -- not necessarily on just size. Those girls are skilled.

  • THIRD TO @ 7:48
    Georgia leads, 17-16. Both teams are playing at a higher level now. Hilliard is in for good, it seems, because Trevesha Jackson is out with what appears to be a calf or quadriceps strain. That's an issue because Auburn doesn't really have anyone to guard Georgia's Angel Robinson in the post.

  • SECOND TO @ 10:48
    Georgia leads, 13-10. Auburn went through a 4-minute stretch without a bucket. Good shots not falling. Georgia's defense is pretty aggressive with the man-to-man. I'm not seeing the same kind of cunning I'd expect from Whitney Boddie. Seems more tentative than usual. I'm surprised to see Chantel Hilliard in so early. That must be Fortner sending a message.

  • FIRST TO @ 15:40
    Tied at 7. Bonner has scored all seven of Auburn's points. Tigers have rebounded well. Shooting appears to be an issue.

    PG -- Whitney Boddie of Florence, Ala.
    SG -- Allison "Alli" Smalley of Arab, Ala.
    SF -- Sherell Hobbs of Huntsville, Ala.
    "PF" -- DeWanna Bonner of Fairfield, Ala.
    C -- Trevesha Jackson of Auburn, Ala.

... And We're Back!

Post No. 1,065

Hey everyone. My Gannett-mandated furlough has ended, which means the HABOTN is back in the hizzle to rizzle your shizzle.

BIG UPS: It was mighty sucky to idly watch the HABOTN wither without the content we all crave. Several HOTTIES went well above and beyond the call of duty last week, providing their own updates and keeping this place moving along.

They deserve recognition. They get it now:

  • Jet -- fantastic live blog from the AU @ LSU men's game
  • Michael -- thrived even without material to play off of
  • Peter_Frankenschmidt -- upped his post count considerably last week
  • TarHeelTiger -- comprehensive body of work
  • Monica -- comprehensive body of work
  • jhag -- all over the place, but awesome as always
  • FSJ -- hung in there like your namesake
  • Dear Leader -- our version of Quick Draw McGraw
  • Luv -- great morning presence
  • AUMom -- came through with good stuff Thursday in particular
  • kathy -- also came through with good stuff on Thursday in particular
  • depressedAUfan -- bigger profile made me optimistic
  • kristina -- sick early in the week, stepped it up once health returned
  • Will -- made your presence felt more than ever before
  • ehyoutiger -- nice work

  • Criminal Type -- He has resigned and may not return for a long time. He claims to be a Man U hooligan and said he'd rather talk about "real" football on those message boards. I thought he was creepy anyway. Good riddance.

  • Thanks, of course, to everyone who read and hung around. Some people post a lot anyway (ie Hoopie, Scottie B, BigCat, Steve FC, mdaniel, NoVa Tiger, mobilz, scott from tucson) and stayed the course sans content. You all are awes, too.

I'll be live blogging the UGA @ AU women's game. That tips at 2 p.m. If you're going, wear pink. I will be.

SO WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?: Auburn won the men's SEC swimming & diving title for the 13th consecutive season. The women finished second by an eyelash to the Florida Gators. Matt Targett was named the SEC's top male swimmer. Richard Quick, Brett Hawke and Dorsey Tierney-Walker were named the league's top coaches.

Auburn men's basketball lost at LSU last night. The Fighting Lebos now are 6-6 in league play. Next game comes Wednesday at home against Ole Miss, which also is 6-6.

Auburn women's basketball, ranked No. 5, lost a close game at Vanderbilt on Thursday night. The Fighting Fortners now are 10-2 in league play. They're tied with Vanderbilt, but Vanderbilt now holds the tiebreaker. Next game comes today against Georgia, which beat Auburn last month.

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

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