Posted on: August 18, 2011 5:18 pm
Edited on: August 23, 2011 3:45 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Auburn has announced which quarterback has won the battle to try and fill Cam Newton's oversized shoes this season. And that winner is ... Barrett Trotter.
While far from a household name outside the SEC, Trotter is in his fourth year as a redshirt junior and in his third year of offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's system. Even with only nine career passes to his name, that was enough experience to fend off challenges from redshirt sophomore Clint Moseley and true freshman Kiehl Frazier.
"Barrett has worked extremely hard to earn the starting quarterback job at Auburn University," Gene Chizik said in a statement. "Barrett understands the huge responsibility that comes with being the starting quarterback at Auburn and we are confident in his ability to lead this team."
But if Trotter has to deal with the pressure that comes with that "huge responsibility" (not to mention the shadow still cast by Newton), he's also been handed one of the most gilt-edged opportunities an FBS quarterback could ask for. Going back to his days at Tulsa, Malzahn's quarterbacks have never failed to deliver the statistical goods; even Chris Todd (whose arm strength might be described as "pedestrian" only if you're feeling charitable) somehow wound up setting a school record for touchdown passes and finishing third in the SEC in passing efficiency in 2009 ... and he'd only practiced under Malzahn for the length of one fall camp.
So as long as Trotter remains upright and avoids making enough killer mistakes to get benched -- and given enough time to learn the offense, the more athletic Frazier will look awfully appealing -- he's likely been handed the keys to a statistical fortune. If Auburn can avoid the kind of sub-.500 collapse that afflicted Texas last season, it's a safe bet that many, many more college football fans will know his name by the end of the season.
Posted on: June 27, 2011 1:59 pm
Edited on: June 27, 2011 2:50 pm
By Eye on College Football Bloggers
Occasionally the Eye on CFB team convenes Voltron- style to answer a pressing question regarding the wild, wide world of college football. This week's topic:
So Russell Wilson is transferring to Wisconsin. What does his decision mean for the Badgers? For the Big Ten race? For the Auburn team he spurned? Could it have an impact on the national title picture?Tom Fornelli: I think it puts Wisconsin right there with Nebraska in the role of Big Ten favorite, and considering the uncertainty surrounding T-Magic in Lincoln and the quarterback position there, Wisconsin may in fact be the favorite. We already know they can run the ball, and now they added a new dynamic to the offense they've never had before.
Adam Jacobi: I'd like to caution everyone from going overboard here. This will be Wilson's first year in the Wisconsin offense, and while Paul Chryst (pictured bottom right) is a solid enough coordinator to craft his offense around its strengths year to year, there's just naturally going to be an adjustment period.
Further, at what point, has Russell Wilson ever been a great quarterback? Sure, he threw the ball a lot at N.C. State, but he wasn't great at it; his passing efficiency last season ranked 62nd in the nation, right above Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz (who looked promising last year, sure, but no one's arguing he's "there" yet).
I'm willing to grant that Wilson is an upgrade over Wisconsin's returning quarterbacks, and that he makes the Badgers better than they were before. I just don't think setting high expectations on Wilson has ever been a recipe for success beyond eight or nine wins.
Chip Patterson: When Wilson exploded on the scene as a freshman in 2007, it was his playmaking ability and natural athleticism that caught his opponents off-guard and led to Wilson being named the ACC Rookie of the Year. But in 2010, it was a change in his game that helped the Wolfpack finish with their first nine-win season since 2002. Instead of scrambling to the sidelines, Wilson improved his pocket presence. He started stepping up in the pocket and hurting teams with his legs up the middle. Wisconsin doesn't need a dual-threat quarterback; it needs a competent one who will take what the defense gives the Badgers.
As Adam said, Wilson is not the most efficient passer. He also benefited last season from having a receiving corps made up mostly of tall pass catchers who could "go up and get it" when Wilson got in trouble (T.J. Graham was the only receiver on the two-deep last season under 6-foot-3). But there will be many upgrades that Wilson will get offensively in the move to Madison, most notably the availability of a dominant run game. Since his arrival at N.C. State, the Wolfpack have ranked in the bottom half of the ACC in rushing offense every single season. In 2010 Wisconsin's rushing offense ranked 12th nationally.
Wilson's addition answers perhaps the biggest question mark in Wisconsin's 2011 outlook. But his arrival also brings about new concerns, such as how his late addition might affect team chemistry or how quickly he can adjust to Paul Chryst's offense. The Badgers now become a favorite for the Leaders division, but there are still plenty of adjustments to be made before penciling them in for a return to Pasadena.
Jerry Hinnen: Well, no, it's too early to project the Badgers for a return trip to the Rose Bowl. But as I think Wilson's arrival puts Wisconsin firmly in that mix, I don't think we should undersell the importance of this decision, either. I don't know about "great" (to respond to Adam's question), and yes, he took a step back last year even as his team was taking a step forward. But in 2008 and 2009 Wilson was pretty damn good all the same: a combined touchdown-to-interception ratio of 48 to 12, a healthy 7.6 yards-per-attempt in that span, 640-plus rushing yards for good measure, All-ACC honors.
Much of Wilson's decline in efficiency can be attributed to N.C. State asking him to do too much, something we all know Wisconsin is most assuredly not going to do. The Badgers have already made the likes of Scott Tolzien and John Stocco into hyper-efficient stars, something Wilson's already proved himself more than capable of being with the Wolfpack. With the assets surrounding Wilson in Madison and the entire summer to bone up on Chryst's playbook now that he's already left his minor league baseball team, the Badger offense could be nearly as dynamic as it was in 2010.
And look at the Wisconsin schedule: no true road games until back-to-back dates at Michigan State and Ohio State in late October, and key dates with Nebraska and Penn State at home. If the Badgers can get past the Huskers and split the two October roadies, 11-1 and a second-straight BCS berth is right back in play. That's just not the case with Jon Budmayr under center, so, yeah, I think we're talking about a potentially major, national-sized impact -- maybe not crystal football major, but the next best thing.
(And as for the team on the other side of it, yes, Auburn could have used a player of Wilson's physical gifts during what looks like a rebuilding year. But as long as the Tigers have got Gus Malzahn (and two quarterbacks in Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley in their third year of his system to boot), there's only so far their quarterback play can slip; Wilson or no Wilson, they'll have bigger questions to answer than who's under center.)
Bryan Fischer: Going off what Chip said, Wilson's numbers are not the most efficient ones out there. He had to throw the ball 527 times last year, thanks in part to an inconsistent run game that had a few young running backs who tended to have trouble holding onto the ball. Toss in some wideouts that struggled and you get part of the reason he managed to only complete 58 percent of his passes last year. Still, you saw flashes of why he can be a threat with his arm and legs regardless of what talent is around him.
I still think it will take Wilson awhile to get adjusted to 1, playing football again after playing minor league baseball; and 2, Wisconsin's offense. With a big offensive line and very good running game, the Badgers won't need him to make plays right away but rather just be consistent with his play. He does hold the NCAA record for most pass attempts without an interception, and if he can take that part of his game to Camp Randall, I don't see why the Badgers won't be thinking about the Big Ten title game. I'm not ready to anoint them with Wilson coming in, but they certainly have a lot going for them now with an experienced signal-caller.
Posted on: April 19, 2011 4:42 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 4:55 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the SEC West, team by team. In alphabetical order:
ALABAMA: The two big headlines for Tide fans this spring were the quarterback battle between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims (pictured), and the unveiling of the new Nick Saban statue added to those of the school's first three national title-winning head coaches. As our own Dennis Dodd reported (and as you can hear for yourself in the reverent tone of this student news broadcast), the statue left the Tide faithful plenty satisfied; the quarterback battle, not so much, as neither McCarron nor Sims was able to create any real separation from the other. (How close were they? At A-Day, McCarron went 21-of-38 for 222 yards and one interception, Sims 19-of-38 for 229 yards and an interception.)
But as we pointed out in our Tide spring primer, who's at the reins of the offense isn't nearly as important as whether the offense can remain productive without Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, et al. With Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower each looking like terrors this spring in the linebacking unit and All-American safety Mark Barron showing few ill effects of his postseason pectoral muscle surgery (he returned a fumble 96 yards for a score at A-Day), the defense looks poised to live up the "best in the nation, or damn close" expectations. All the offense has to do is not screw things up, and the running game -- behind Trent Richardson, a dynamo on A-Day with 167 all-purpose yards, and a loaded line with former five-star right tackle D.J. Fluker beginning to fulfill his vast potential -- appeared ready to do the job nearly by itself.
The Tide still haven't found what looks like a go-to receiver in the wake of Jones' departure (Richardson led both sides in receptions and yards at A-Day), and the McCarron/Sims derby could be a distraction lasting well into the fall. But given the help either one will receive from the running game (and line) on display Saturday, none of that might matter.
ARKANSAS: The big question before spring started was simply "can the Hogs handle losing Ryan Mallett?" And though the Red-White game certainly isn't a guarantee, it's definitely an arrow pointed in the direction of "goodness, yes." Likely new quarterback Tyler Wilson averaged 9.7 yards per his 25 attempts, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His receiving corps -- on paper, the SEC's best, hands-down -- lived up to its billing, with Jarius Wright hauling in five balls for 157 yards and two scores. The White team defense had its moments, too, holding All-SEC candidate Knile Davis to just 44 yards on 16 carries.
The Hogs' spring wasn't perfect -- backup tailback Broderick Green went down for the year with an ACL tear -- and Bobby Petrino hasn't even officially named Wilson the starter yet. But with the quarterback position looking solid and the defense boasting its best spring in years, the loss of Mallett sure hasn't put much of a dent in the Hogs' new position as West challengers just yet.
AUBURN: The Tigers entered the spring looking for playmakers to fill at least part of the colossal void left by Cam Newton's and Nick Fairley's departures. And at defensive end, they may have found some; sophomores Corey Lemonier and Nosa Eguae both drew positive reviews throughout the spring, and previously little-used junior Dee Ford burst into the rotation with a big camp and a pair of sacks at Auburn's A-Day game. New line coach Mike Pelton said he was impressed by -- and would use -- all three this fall.
The rest of the defense didn't have a shabby A-Day, either, as they defeated the offense 63-32 in Gene Chizik's unique scrimmage scoring system. But most of the offense's efforts went towards polishing up the passing attack (tailbacks Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb combined for just seven carries), and those efforts didn't yield much in terms in terms of finding big-play potential. Tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen (pictured) won MVP honors for his 65 yards receiving and catching the lone touchdown of the scrimmage, and DeAngelo Benton added one 48-yard reception. But otherwise, offensive excitement was hard to come by, and Chizik afterwards called the quarterbacking from Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley "inconsistent." (The two will compete for the starting job into the fall.)
Under Chizik, Auburn hasn't made much of an effort to put on a show in their spring game -- the reviews on Newton's debut in the 2010 version were universally ho-hum -- but there still seems little doubt Gus Malzahn will look for much more explosiveness out of his attack come fall camp.
LSU: It's the same old story on the bayou. The Tigers entered spring hoping to finally put their quarterbacking issues to rest behind someone, be it incumbent starter Jordan Jefferson or someone else ... and left it with Jefferson still the starter and still on less-than-firm ground after an ugly 4-of-14, no touchdowns, one interception performance.
Well, less-than-firm ground with the LSU fanbase , anyway. Bayou Bengal supporters seem to have universally pinned their hopes on JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger, despite Mettenberger being mired at third on the depth chart entering the spring game. But you can't blame them when Jefferson struggled the way he did, Jarrett Lee averaged all of 4.5 yards per-attempt (with a pick, of course) and Mettenberger did this:
None of that made any difference to Les Miles and the LSU staff, who gave Jefferson the team's "Jim Taylor Award" for his spring effort and leadership. And quarterback or no quarterback, LSU showed how formidable they'd be all the same: Spencer Ware followed up his breakout Cotton Bowl performance with a huge spring, the secondary looks as airtight as ever even without Patrick Peterson, and there's plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball.
But unless Jefferson lives up to his coaches' faith in him -- and that spring game performance did little to assure anyone he will -- LSU's still going to have some headaches.
MISSISSIPPI STATE, OLE MISS: Despite their wildly divergent 2010 seasons, the question for both Mississippi schools was the same entering the spring: how would their defenses fare after losing several major contributors from last year?
In Oxford, that question was all the more important for last year's defense having been such a disappointment in the first place. And it got even harder to answer mid-spring when potentially the unit's best player, linebacker D.J. Shackelford, was lost for the year with an ACL tear. The Rebel defense had a successful spring game all the same, holding the two offenses to just 27 total points and scoring seven of their own on an Ivan Nicholas interception return. But coming against a Rebel offense in flux after seeing former JUCO Randall Mackey ascend to the likely starter's job (and former favorite Nathan Stanley leave the program), the jury will remain out despite the positive signs.
Up the road in Starkville, the news seemed more unambiguously positive: Dan Mullen said his defensive line "dominated" the Marron-White Game, producing 11 tackles-for-loss. The Bulldogs already seemed happy with their new linebackers, and that was before redshirt freshman Ferlando Bohanna blew up for eight tackles and a pair of sacks in the spring game. The secondary may remain a work-in-progress (State quarterbacks, including backup Dylan "Yes, That" Favre, combined to average a healthy 7.8 yards per-attempt), but the front seven looks like it shouldn't take too big a step back.
We'll cover the SEC East next week once the slowpokes at Kentucky hold their spring game this weekend.
Tags: A.J. McCarron, Alabama, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Barrett Trotter, Bobby Petrino, Broderick Green, Cam Newton, Clint Moseley, Corey Lemonier, Cotton Bowl, Courtney Upshaw, D.J. Fluker, D.J. Shackelford, Dan Mullen, DeAngelo Benton, Dee Ford, Dont'a Hightower, Dylan Favre, Ferlando Bohanna, Gene Chizik, Gus Malzahn, Ivan Nicholas, Jarius Wright, Jarrett Lee, Jordan Jefferson, Jordan Jefferson, Julio Jones, Kentucky, Knile Davis, Les Miles, LSU, Mark Barron, Mark Ingram, Michael Dyer, Mike Pelton, Mississippi State, Nathan Stanley, Nick Fairley, Nick Saban, Nick Saban state, Nosa Eguae, Ole Miss, Onterio McCalebb, Patrick Peterson, Phillip Lutzenkirchen, Phillip Sims, Randall Mackey, Ryan Mallett, SEC, Spencer Ware, spring practice, Trent Richardson, Tyler Wilson, What I Learned, Zach Mettenberger
Posted on: March 25, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2011 2:00 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Auburn , which started spring practice on Wednesday.
Spring Practice Question: Does Auburn have the playmakers to stay in contention?
In 2010, no team in America deserved the "big-play team" label more than Auburn. It's an easy argument, offensively speaking; the Tigers finished No. 1 among all BCS teams in yards per-play, first overall in yards per-pass attempt, and second overall per-rushing attempt. Cam Newton alone accounted for 46 plays of 20 yards or greater, or an average of more than three such players per game.
But it wasn't just the offense. The Tiger defense hemorrhaged yards and points at a rate far, far greater than any previous BCS championship-winning team, finishing a mediocre 60th in the FBS in total defense and 53rd in scoring defense. But led by Nick Fairley's constant presence in opposing backfields, the Tigers made up for it with an SEC- leading (and sixth nationally ) 99 tackles-for-loss. Combine that with a penchant for timely turnovers -- like Antoine Carter's famous strip-from-behind of Mark Ingram to keep Auburn alive during their first-half struggles against Alabama -- and the Auburn defense kept its head just enough above water (BCS title game excepted) for the offense to power its way to a crystal football.
Entering 2011, it's likely Auburn will need more of the same. The offense won't be built to grind out four-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust drives, not with Newton's third-down magic gone and four offensive line starters representing nearly 200 career starts having departed. (Not that Gus Malzahn has ever designed his offenses to plug away Wisconsin- style, of course.) The defense may not be able to get a whole lot worse in terms of down-to-down success, but it may not get much better, either, with all three members of the late-season defensive tackle rotation graduated, six of their top seven tacklers gone, the top three safeties departed (following Mike McNeil's involvement in the recent four-player armed robbery embarrassment), two senior defensive ends, etc.
All of that means that to either move the ball or get stops, Auburn will have to stick to the same big-play formula that worked so well in 2010. But this begs the question that's going to hang over the Tigers throughout spring practice: who's going to make those big plays? No Newton, no Fairley, no Carter, no Darvin Adams, no Terrell Zachery (the underrated big-play threat at wideout who averaged better than 14 yards a reception), no Josh Bynes, no Zac Etheridge ... where are those difference-making plays going to come from?
There's an easy answer for Auburn at running back, at least, where Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb form what should be one of the better inside-outside running combos in the SEC, if not the country. (Though both will need to stay healthy; Auburn's third option at tailback is likely to be true freshman Tre Mason.) But everywhere else, the "Help Wanted" sign will be in the window. A few candidates that will need to prove themselves up to the job this spring:
Corey Lemonier: The only returning starter on Auburn's defensive line is redshirt sophomore end Nosa Eguae, but it's the hotly recruited sophomore defensive end from south Florida who's most likely to emerge as a pass-rushing force in the vein of former Tiger greats like Quentin Groves. In any case, it's the ends that will have to fill Fairley's disruptive shoes; with nothing but new tackles on the inside, they'll have their hands full focusing on plugging up opposing running games.
Trovon Reed: Another member of the Tigers' well-regarded 2010 recruiting haul, Reed was on track to play a sizable role last fall as both receiver and Wildcat quarterback before an injury in fall camp forced him to redshirt. Emory Blake is a nice start, but there would seem to be room in the Tiger receiving corps for a poor man's Percy Harvin- type rushing/receiving threat; if healthy, Reed needs to show he can fill that role.
Neiko Thorpe: One of the few bright spots in Auburn's disastrous 5-7 2008 campaign, Thorpe was expected by many on the Plains to develop into a lockdown, All-SEC corner after a freshman season that saw him hold down a starting job from Day 1 and make freshman all-conference. It hasn't happened, as Thorpe has spent much of the past two seasons getting beaten deep and watching other players (Walt McFadden, Demond Washington) emerge as Auburn's best one-on-one cover guys. Now Ted Roof has moved Thorpe to safety, both to take advantage of Thorpe's size (6'2", 185) and provide cover at one of Auburn's thinnest positions. If the position switch doesn't generate some big plays out of the Auburn secondary, it's not easy to see what will.
Thanks to three years of savvy recruiting by Chizik and Co., there's no shortage of candidates for the playmaking roles Auburn so desperately needs. But it's one thing to put those candidates on a roster; it's another to see them perform on the practice field, the spring game, under the lights. If players like those above aren't putting their best foot forward this spring, it's hard to see how Auburn doesn't fall out of contention in their follow-up season in the most cutthroat division in college football.
Tags: Alabama, Antoine Carter, Auburn, Barrett Trotter, Cam Newton, Clint Moseley, Corey Lemonier, Darvin Adams, Demond Washington, Emory Blake, Gus Malzahn, Josh Bynes, Kiehl Frazier, Mark Ingram, Mike Dyer, Mike McNeil, Neiko Thorpe, Nick Fairley, Nosa Eguae, Onterio McCalebb, Percy Harvin, Quentin Groves, SEC, Spring Practice Primer, Ted Roof, Terrell Zachery, Trovon Reed, Walt McFadden, Wisconsin, Zac Etheridge
Posted on: November 1, 2010 5:20 am
Edited on: November 1, 2010 9:00 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Check out Heisman front-runner Cam Newton, taking a little time on this holiest of holidays* to not take himself too seriously and dress up as the hardest tooth fairy to tackle in college football history:
Also shown: Sexy Backup Quarterback Nurse Clint Moseley.
Oh, and rest assured that the rest of the Tigers, currently in line to play for the BCS Championship Game, also had fun dressing up in this Halloween contest:
You will never unsee reserve guard Bart Eddins in his Daisy Dukes. SPECIAL "YOU WILL ONLY GET THIS IF YOU ARE OVER 36" REFERENCE: Maybe we should call him "Catherine Block"!
Starting tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen goes the Toy Story route with his Woody costume. As with the last 10 minutes of Toy Story 3, some tears for the loss of childhood innocence may need to be shed here.
This is starting defensive end Antoine Carter as Jamaican Olympic hero Usain Bolt. If Carter left anything less to the imagination, this entire blog would be designated NSFW.
Chris Humphries, a reserve linebacker, impersonating Auburn strength coach Kevin Yoxall. Publicly making fun of one's own S&C coach -- particularly for his height -- is, um, "brave." We expect Humphries to vomit from conditioning every day for the rest of the season, and it will have been earned.
Auburn center Ryan Pugh as... well, the shorts say Reno 911!'s Lieutenant Dangle, but the tie and stache say 3/4 of the cast of Super Troopers. Pick a sheriff reference and stick with it, Pugh!
Auburn kickers, as the Fruit of the Loom cast. Except for the apple. Apple's the best part, because of the apple-core hat. This will probably cost someone a starting job. Okay, that's not really cause for stripping someone of their spot on the 2-deep*.
Top score, Tigers. The "dress up as a lady" costume is a time-worn staple of Halloween, so any shock factor is usually self-imagined at best, but Eddins' "sexy" "cowgirl" is both ironically brilliant and horrifying -- especially when he lets that belly hang, as any proper big man ought to. And seriously, Humphries, yours S&C coach is authorized to make you suffer in the name of conditioning. Don't give him a reason to do it! It never ends well!
*Actually, we're told it's nothing of the sort. We apologize for the error in holiness.