Tag:Auburn
Posted on: January 9, 2012 2:57 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 3:30 pm
 

Auburn hires Falcons' Brian VanGorder as DC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Gene Chizik has ended his search for a defensive coordinator to replace Ted Roof, and the name is one that's already plenty familiar -- and plenty welcome -- to Auburn fans.

Per the Atlanta Falcons' official twitter feed, team defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has informed Falcons' head coach Mike Smith that he has accepted an offer from Chizik and the Tigers to take over the same position at Auburn. VanGorder will replace Roof, who left under pressure for the coordinator's chair at UCF after three up-and-down seasons on the Plains.

"I personally want to thank Brian for all the hard work he put in for our football team and Atlanta," Smith said

VanGorder and Auburn released a statement confirming the move:

“This is a tremendous opportunity for me and my family at this point in my career, both professionally and personally, to become the defensive coordinator at Auburn. I’m looking forward to working at a school with the success and tradition of Auburn, and for a coach like Gene Chizik, who has led the program to a national championship. I’m very appreciative to the Atlanta Falcons and Coach Mike Smith for the experience of the last four years. It’s a great organization and will have continued success in the future.” 

"From the beginning of this process, I had one person in mind, and that was Brian," Chizik said in the statement. "He has achieved success at every level, both professionally and collegiately, which is a testament to his ability as a coach."

Though VanGorder has an extensive resume -- with assistants' stints for the Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars, and one season as the head coach at Georgia Southern -- VanGorder is best-known to SEC fans for his four-year defensive coordinating tenure under Mark Richt, one that produced some of the finest defenses at Georgia during the Richt era. He was awarded the 2003 Broyles Award after coaching the Bulldogs to a fourth-place finish in total defense. After finishing 49th his first year in Athens, the Bulldogs would improve to 15th in 2002 (winning the SEC and the Sugar Bowl) and rank in the top 10 the next two seasons.

Though VanGorder enjoyed less success with the Falcons -- averaging a bottom-half 18th-place finish in total defense his four years as the team's coordinator -- Atlanta did improve all four years of his time in Flowery Branch, slowly moving from 24th to 12th.

In any case, VanGorder's Georgia tenure alone ensures that he'll be greeted warmly by Auburn fans frustrated -- even during their 2010 national title run -- by Roof's defense's struggles against the pass and general inconsistency. Those struggles hit a low point in 2011 as the Tigers set a school record for most points allowed in a season and ranked 11th i nthe SEC (in front of only hapless Ole Miss) in total defense.

VanGorder will have his work cut out for him in restoring the Tigers to the defensive heights scaled during the Tommy Tuberville era. But it's hard to see who Chizik might have hired that would have any better shot at accomplishing it than VanGorder. Chizik still has to hire an offensive coordinator as well, but this first step in his coaching staff reshuffling has been a hugely positive one. 

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Posted on: January 9, 2012 1:07 am
 

QUICK HITS: N. Illinois 38 Arkansas State 20



Posted by Tom Fornelli


NORTHERN ILLINOIS WON. Things looked to be going Arkansas State's way early after the Red Wolves jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, but it was all Northern Illinois from that point on. The Huskies scored 31 consecutive points after that and cruised to victory in the GoDaddy.com Bowl to finish the season 11-3.

Chandler Harnish finished a strong career with the Huskies by throwing for 280 yards and 2 touchdowns, and receiver Martel Moore was easily his favorite target on the night. Moore finished the game with 8 receptions for 225 yards and a touchdown. For Arkansas State, quarterback Ryan Aplin had a tough night, throwing for 352 yards, but also throwing 3 interceptions.

WHY NORTHERN ILLINOIS WON. Simply put, after falling down 13-0 in the first quarter, the Northern Illinois defense just put the Arkansas State offense on lockdown. The Huskies outscored the Red Wolves 38-7 from then on. Mix in 3 interceptions by Ryan Aplin and 5 turnovers from Arkansas State, and you get a relatively easy victory for Northern Illinois

WHEN NORTHERN ILLINOIS WON. Arkansas State showed signs of life in the fourth quarter with a touchdown to cut NIU's lead to 31-20, but with 8:19 to play Aplin threw his third interception of the game and Dechane Durante took it 36 yards to the house to make it 38-20. Everything from that point on was just cosmetic.

WHAT NORTHERN ILLINOIS WON. The Huskies put a nice cap on a season that saw the school win its first MAC title, and also a nice end to a great career from quarterback Chandler Harnish. The Huskies also showed that they didn't lose a step under Dave Doeren took over for Jerry Kill following last season, and Northern Illinois looks like a school that will be a force in the MAC for the next few seasons.

WHAT ARKANSAS STATE LOST. This was a very good season for Arkansas State, going 8-0 in the Sun Belt to win the conference, but this wasn't the way the Red Wolves wanted the season to end. Still, with Gus Malzahn coming from Auburn to take over for Hugh Freeze -- and possibly bringing Michael Dyer with him -- the future still looks bright for the Red Wolves.

THAT WAS CRAZY. Giving your right arm for Gus Malzahn.



BOWL GRADE: C. I had high hopes for this one, as two fast-paced, high-scoring offenses were going to battle in Mobile, but there was never much doubt in the outcome. After Northern Illinois erased a 13-0 deficit with 31 straight points, even when Arkansas State got back into it in the fourth quarter, you never really got the sense that the Red Wolves would climb all the way back. So because of that lack of drama, it's hard to justify giving this one anything higher than a "C." 

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune 
Posted on: January 5, 2012 4:31 pm
 

Next year's BCS title odds released in Vegas

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The 2012 BCS national championship game is still four days away, which means it's entirely too early to start discussing the 2013 BCS national championship game, right?

Nonsense--particularly if you're the sort of college football fan who's paying attention to what Las Vegas is already saying about that 2013 championship. Blog Kegs n' Eggs has compiled the early national title odds released this week by the Caesars Palace sportsbook, and the favorite won't surprise anyone who's taken a look at their defensive depth chartLSU checks in at the top of the list at 3/1.

The Bayou Bengals are followed by USC, at 6/1 following the return of Matt Barkley. Alabama (7/1), Oregon (9/1), and Arkansas (12/1) round out the book's "top 5."

Here's the rest of the contenders as sorted by conference, with some commentary to follow:

ACC

Florida State: 18/1
Virginia Tech: 18/1
Clemson: 28/1
Miami: 90/1
North Carolina: 100/1
Virginia: 100/1
Georgia Tech: 100/1

BIG 12

Oklahoma: 18/1
Kansas State: 25/1
Texas: 30/1
Oklahoma State: 40/1
TCU: 50/1
Baylor: 75/1

BIG TEN

Michigan: 18/1
Nebraska: 30/1
Wisconsin: 40/1
Michigan State: 40/1
Penn State: 100/1
Iowa: 125/1

BIG EAST (WE THINK)

West Virginia: 50/1
Cincinnati: 75/1
Louisville: 100/1

PAC-12

USC: 6/1
Oregon: 9/1
Washington: 50/1
Stanford: 60/1
Arizona State: 75/1
Utah: 100/1
Washington State: 100/1
Cal: 100/1

SEC

LSU: 3/1
Alabama: 7/1
Arkansas: 12/1
Georgia: 15/1
South Carolina: 28/1
Auburn: 30/1
Florida: 35/1
Texas A&M: 60/1
Mississippi State: 75/1
Missouri: 75/1
Vanderbilt: 100/1

INDEPENDENT/NON-BCS

Notre Dame: 22/1
Boise State: 50/1
BYU: 100/1

The field is listed at 50/1. Comments:

-- Not that it's a surprise given that it's won five (and in four days, six) straight BCS titles, but still interesting to see the level of love for the SEC: four of the top six teams, half the 14-team conference at 35/1 or better, and only three teams (Ole Miss, Kentucky and Tennessee) are consigned to the field. (Incidentally, when was the last time Vegas offered national championship odds on Vanderbilt but not Tennessee? We're going on a limb to say "never.")

-- Is Michigan really going to enter 2012 as the Big Ten favorite -- Denard Robinson will be back, but there's major losses on both lines -- or is their status here just a result of the large numbers of Wolverine fans willing to bet on their favorite team? We're guessing the latter; of all the teams listed at 20/1 or better, they're the team we'd give the longest shot.

-- Other teams that might be overvalued: Alabama, who lose major chunks of their defense and offensive line; Notre Dame, because their schedule isn't getting any easier; and even at 75/1, Arizona State, because c'mon.

-- On the other hand, who might be undervalued? West Virginia should be even more explosive in year 2 of the Dana Holgorsen era, and the defense is young; TCU, who'll have the schedule strength to break into the BCS title game if they go undefeated again; and Virginia Tech, still with Logan Thomas at the controls and a cushy ACC slate. 

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Posted on: January 4, 2012 7:00 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2012 12:23 am
 

Report: Michael Dyer seeking transfer from Auburn

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's not official just yet. But it looks more and more like All-SEC running back and 2011 BCS title game MVP Michael Dyer has played his last game for Auburn.

CBSSports.com RapidReporter Jay Tate reported Wednesday that Dyer has asked for his release from the Auburn program and plans to transfer. The hotly-rumored destination for his services is Arkansas State, where former Tiger offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn was recently named the Red Wolves' head coach.

According to one Internet report, Dyer has already filed enrollment paperwork at the Jonesboro, Ark., school, but that report has been disputed by spokespersons at both Auburn and Arkansas State as well as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. An Arkansas native whose family still lives in the Natural State, Dyer could conceivably apply for a hardship waiver in order to play for the Red Wolves without sitting out the standard transfer penalty. (Whether such a waiver would be granted remains highly debatable.)

In Mobile, Ala. for the GoDaddy.com Bowl, both Arkansas State athletic director Dean Lee and ASU interim head coach David Gunn told the local Press-Register they had no information on any plans by Dyer to transfer to their program.

"There's nothing I can confirm or deny," Lee said. "I have no knowledge of anything in that regard."

Whether he lands with Malzahn at ASU or not, however, at this stage it seems unlikely Dyer will ever return to Auburn. Transfer rumors have dogged him ever since he was suspended for the Tigers' Chick-Fil-A Bowl win over Virginia, and with their volume reaching fever pitch Wednesday, it seems only a matter of time before Dyer, Gene Chizik or both make some kind of official announcement of their parting of ways. 

A former five-star recruit out of Little Rock, Dyer ran for 1,242 yards as a sophomore in 2011, his second straight 1,000-yard season.

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Posted on: January 1, 2012 1:07 am
Edited on: January 1, 2012 1:12 am
 

Auburn bookends up-and-down year with bowl win



Posted by Bryan Fischer

ATLANTA -- After every score Saturday night Virginia fans swayed back and forth singing their alma mater to the tune of 'auld lang syne.'

On New Year's Eve at the Georgia Dome however, it was the Auburn faithful who sang the actual song with gusto to ring in 2012 with a 43-24 win in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

"What a great win," head coach Gene Chizik said. "You can say it's the last win of 2011 or the first win of 2012. However you want to spin it, it was a great win. I couldn't be more proud of our players or our coaches."

Playing their final game in the waning hours of 2011 was not what some in the orange and blue were looking forward to. The program had been to the top, been perfect, nearly 12 months earlier but had tumbled down the mountain to 8-5.

The confetti and plush Chick-fil-A cows falling from the rafters in Atlanta were nice but it was unmistakably different from what was falling from University of Phoenix Stadium in January.

The victory, in many ways, bookended one of the most up-and-down years in school history.

"I've said many times that our future is extremely bright. We've got a lot of really good young players," Chizik said. "We've had a lot of highs this season and we've had some lows. The highs have been really high and the lows have been really low. But these guys always bounce back."

They had been through so much, Aubie the Tiger could have gone to the court house and changed his name to Teflon Tiger. NCAA investigations? Asked, answered and over. They were walloped at home by rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Top running back Michael Dyer was not with the team and rumors swirled all month about him transferring. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof departed for Central Florida and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn surprisingly accepted the head coaching job at Arkansas State.

Despite all that, the program wrapped up 30 wins in three years and are tied for the active lead with five straight bowl wins.

"Even though we didn't have a defensive or offensive coordinator, I give all props to Coach Chizik and the staff for holding us together," defensive tackle Gabe Wright said.

Chizik, who is a perfect 9-0 in bowl games as an assistant or head coach, had a little extra on his plate given that he was coordinating the defense.

"It was very challenging," he said. "(Virginia) was an offense that did a lot of things we hadn't seen all year long. You have a lot of obligations. To try and be a position coach, the defensive coordinator, to call the game and still make decisions on the sideline - to go for it, onside kick it, punt, whatever it is - that's a lot of moving parts."

Special teams - one area where the head coach usually helps oversees - was key to turning a tight game into a blowout. Down seven, Onterio McCalebb scored on a statue of liberty play. Instead of putting the defense on the field, Chizik called for an onside kick.

Well, was nudged into calling it.

"We told them before the game started that after we scored the first touchdown, we were going to do it," he said. "But I forgot because I was over getting mixed up with the defense. After the second one, one of the coaches came up and said we had to do it. The players were all in to it."

The defense set a school-record, though it's nothing for them to be proud of, by allowing 408 yards per game. It's one reason why Roof is in Orlando and Chizik now sits at a crossroads having to replace two coordinators.

Last season, it was Malzahn - not Chizik - who was credited for most of the Tigers success last season. He won the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant and his departure is one reason why, despite the amount of talent on the depth chart entering 2012, the future at Auburn still seems unclear.

How respected is Malzahn? He was the one, not the head coach, that was showered with Gatorade as the final few seconds ticked off the clock.

"That style of offense, they change up the reads and make it to where your run fits are important," Virginia head coach Mike London said. "Coach Malzahn does a great job and I wish him luck at Arkansas State."

"He's always going to be a great friend of mine and I'll always be very appreciative of him for what he's done for Auburn in three years," said Chizik. "I wish him the best, he's going to do a great job and be a great head coach."

Malzahn was aggressive and sped up the offense more than he had during the season. The Tigers' offensive output was so unusual that even normally sure-handed H-back Philip Lutzenkirchen dropped what would have been a touchdown pass in the 2nd quarter. The Auburn sideline took a few moments to stare in disbelief before snapping the ball again.

Starting quarterback Clint Moseley, who took over down the stretch run to close the season, injured his ankle early in the game. The offense didn't skip a beat with Barrett Trotter and Kiehl Frazier however, the former using his arm and the latter his legs to power scoring drives complete with misdirection and big plays. Fully healthy for the first time since October, wide receiver Emory Blake seemed to change the dynamics of the offense with his ability to stretch the field. The game's most outstanding player, McCalebb, had the team's longest run of the season in the second quarter.

"We just went out there and played hard," Lutzenkirchen said. "It felt good to get a win for the seniors."

The Cavaliers, who competed a remarkable turnaround in London's second season to come close to playing in the ACC title game, couldn't sustain momentum despite 428 yards of offense at nearly six yards a play. They missed a chance at the program's first bowl win in six years but did so without two of the team's best players, cornerback Chase Minnifield and linebacker Steve Greer.

"It's been a fantastic year for us," London said. "You get a chance to reflect on a lot of things. Right now this one stings a little bit. They played better than we did. We just regroup and get ready."

While London appears to have Virginia pointed in the right direction, there's still plenty that remains to be seen about the direction Auburn is taking. If the bowl game was any indication though, things will be just fine on the Plains.

"We just came out here and got the job done," said McCalebb. "People didn't give us much credit coming in. We knew we had to go out and do what we do."

Wright, a freshman defensive tackle who said he would ably step in for Nick Fairley on Signing Day in February, had a coming out party with a sack that setup the safety and was the only player who was able to get any pressure on quarterback Michael Rocco most of the night. Fellow frosh Quan Bray had a nice return after the safety and, despite his lack of attempts, Frazier left an impact by scoring two touchdowns in goal line situations.

"I've said it before, the future is extremely bright," Chizik said. "And this win gives a good idea of the direction we've been going in."

Bookended by success, Chizik will have to hope he's got a few more lessons ready to keep the program from taking two steps forward but one step back in 2012.

"We won some big games and we got beat in some big games," he said of the season. "There's a lot of teachable moments in there for our team."

Enough, he hopes, to carry over into next season as old acquaintances be forgot.


Posted on: December 31, 2011 11:14 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Auburn 43, Virginia 24

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

 

AUBURN WON: A Tiger offense that had been in second gear since September and was missing leading rusher Michael Dyer suddenly roared to life in Gus Malzahn's final game at the helm, scoring 43 points and racking up 454 yards, both season highs allowed (or are they lows?) for the Cavalier defense. But the story of the game was Auburn's dominance on special teams, where the Tigers blocked not one but two Virginia punts (leading to nine points), foiled a fake Cavalier field goal, successfully executed a surprise onsides kick and set up a field goal with a 62-yard Quan Bray kick return. The Tiger offense was the best it had been since Week 2 vs. Mississippi State, if not all season--but it also had the benefit of a lot of help.

WHY AUBURN WON: Those special teams played the largest role, but if the same Tiger offense that had shown up over the last half of the season had shown up in Atlanta, those special teams wouldn't have mattered for much. The difference was an unusual source for a spark: demoted backup quarterback Barrett Trotter, benched at midseason for Clint Moseley and not even considered a part of the team's bowl preparations with freshman Kiehl Frazier being groomed for a larger role. But Moseley left the game after just one series with an ankle injury, and Trotter stepped into hit 11 of his 17 passes for 175 yards and 1 touchdown.

Sure, the total yardage number isn't all that eye-popping. But Trotter only needed to make a couple of throws downfield -- the prettiest a 50-yard in-stride bomb to Emory Blake to set up a second-quarter touchdown -- to open up the Auburn screen and running games that had been bottled up since the early stages of the season, thanks to the lack of deep accuracy from the Tiger QBs (Trotter included). With everything in the playbook at his arsenal (including the read options Cam Newton used to great effect last season, thanks to Frazier's repeated successful cameos), Malzahn was unable to unleash the kind of offensive barrage that's made his name as a coach. 

Virginia's offense had its moments -- the Cavaliers had 435 yards of their own -- but with the Tigers clicking the way they were and the UVa special teams providing less than no help, they missed far too many opportunities to keep up.

WHEN AUBURN WON: Tiger placekicker Cody Parkey had a nice night, depositing five of his eight kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks, perfectly executing the onsides, and hitting 3-of-4 field goals. The last of those put Auburn up 43-24 with just over 8 minutes to play, and effectively ended the game.

WHAT AUBURN WON: Their fifth straight bowl game -- good for a share of the nation's longest bowl streak, tying Rutgers and Mississippi State -- and an eighth game for third time in Gene Chizik's three-year tenure. Given Auburn's schedule and the massive roster attrition following last year's run the national title, the Tigers can't feel disappointed about their 2011 effort.

WHAT VIRGINIA LOST: A chance at a first bowl victory since 2005, but given where the program was when Mike London arrived, the Cavs will happily take 8-5 and a Chick-Fil-A bowl appearance, we think.

FINAL GRADE: Though the outcome left the realm of doubt sometime during the third quarter, the ample offensive fireworks, aggressive coaching from both sidelines, and big plays made the game a breezy, enjoyable watch all the same. It wasn't the Alamo Bowl, but what is? B.

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Posted on: December 31, 2011 12:57 pm
 

Key Matchup: Capital One Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



A look at the key matchup that could determine the
 Capital One Bowl.

Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez, RB Rex Burkhead vs. South Carolina S Antonio Allen, S D.J. Swearinger

For most teams, the primary back seven defenders assigned to stop a lethally mobile quarterback and his No. 1 rushing option in the backfield would be a pair of burly run-stuffing linebackers. But South Carolina is not most teams. The Gamecocks run an unusual (especially in the SEC) 4-2-5 scheme in which the "Spur" -- kind of a safety, kind of a linebacker -- ranges back and forth between the front seven and the secondary, and his fellow safeties have more run-stopping duties than usual as the corners play man-to-man. 

Result? "Spur" and nominal safety Antonio Allen led the Gamecocks with 81 tackles, followed closely by safety D.J. Swearinger with 73. That performance earned Allen a second-team All-SEC nod from the league's media, even though Allen -- as you would expect from a player expected to both fly to the ball and play sharp pass coverage -- checks in a relatively light 6'2", 202 pounds. Likewise, if Allen's small by SEC linebacker standards, Swearinger's on the small side even by the SEC's safety standards at 5'10", 208. 

That's caused occasional problems against the power-running games of the SEC the past couple of seasons, but in theory it should be nothing but a positive against a Nebraska team that looks to get their most dangerous rushing threat -- Taylor Martinez -- out in space using the option and various keepers. Where Martinez is able to routinely beat slower defenders one-on-one, Allen and Swearinger's tackle total speak to just how effective they were making exactly those kind of stops against elusive rushers like Martinez.

But here's the bad news for the Gamecocks: the Huskers have Rex Burkhead, too, and aren't afraid of sending the junior battering ram straight ahead in much the same way Auburn spent their entire matchup with South Carolina pounding Michael Dyer into the line. Dyer carried 41 times, gained 141 yards, and powered the Tigers to a major upset; if Burkhead has similar success, it's easy to see him doing the same for the Huskers.

But if Allen and Swearinger can shut down Martinez, hold Burkhead's longer gains in check, and allow the rest of the Gamecocks to do their thing vs. the Husker run, Nebraska may not have much of a chance. As we wrote in our Keys to the Game, the Huskers went 9-0 when they topped 180 yards on the ground, 0-3 when they didn't. Allen and Swearinger will play a major role in whether or not they reach that benchmark.

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Posted on: December 30, 2011 5:08 pm
 

Rose Bowl Key Matchup



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A look at the key matchup that could decide the Rose Bowl. 

Chip Kelly vs. time to prepare

In addition to being a great matchup on the field, the Rose Bowl this season pits two head coaches who have experienced plenty of success early on in their careers as the men calling the shots. Both Bret Bielema and Chip Kelly have taken over for their respective mentors and taken their programs to new heights. Wisconsin is making a return trip to the granddaddy of them all while this is Kelly's third straight BCS game with an appearance in the national championship game to boot.

For Kelly though, this game presents yet another challenge to rise to the occasion and finally put Oregon over the top. He's lost just six games in three years running the team but, outside of a loss to USC this year, has found success fleeting against teams with weeks to prepare for the fast-paced offense that he signals in from the sidelines and is the biggest reason why they've been dominating Pac-12 conference play. Last season, Oregon was averaging 49 points per game but against Auburn's bend-but-don't-break defense they rushed for less than 100 yards and managed just 22 points. Boise State, Ohio State, LSU, the story seems to be a constant one. As much success as Kelly has had, it just hasn't come against teams with time to prepare.

When asked about that after the Pac-12 Championship game, Kelly noted that they were all pretty good teams Oregon faced. So is Wisconsin, with Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball and a top 10 defense. The Badgers won a down Big Ten this year but still will be a stiff test for the Ducks in Pasadena. They're big and physical and though it seems like the speed of the Oregon offense should be effective, history suggests that's no sure thing.

Kelly has plenty of weapons to use this game, with running backs LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner able to score from anywhere on the field and freshman De'Anthony Thomas a dynamic playmaker in space. Darron Thomas has had to throw it more than Kelly probably likes but he can get the ball into the hands of his playmakers. For some reason, the head coach hasn't been able to figure out the adjustments opponents have made against what he does game-in and game-out. There's been plenty of success and big games with this program and it's up to Kelly to finally get them over the hump, regardless what Bielema and the Wisconsin defense throws at him.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com