Saturday, August 17, 2019

14 Days to Kickoff! - Bo Nix

NCAA Football: Auburn A-Day John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Is this really interesting timing or what?

As we continue our march to kickoff, we take a look at the top 100 recruits to sign with Auburn of all-time*. The rankings are based on 247’s composite recruit rankings, which unfortunately only date back to 2000.

The Recruit

When Bo Nix committed to Auburn back in January of 2018, there was much rejoicing and merriment due to the legacy nature of the event. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that Bo Nix is really, really good, and may actually start his first college game at quarterback.

Here’s what AU Nerd wrote about him last year:

“Nix is the son of former Auburn great Patrick Nix who threw for almost 5,000 yards and over 30 touchdowns in his career. Since then, the elder Nix has joined the coaching ranks and this past season lead Pinson Valley to their first ever state title and an undefeated season. His son Bo was a major reason why as the young man completed 306 of his 472 pass attempts for 4,446 yards and 56 touchdowns. He only threw 7 picks and TWENTY of those passing touchdowns came in the playoffs. Oh and Nix put up those numbers despite missing four games with a lower leg injury.

I cannot overstate how important a commitment this is for Auburn. Quarterback is going to be a major position of need in 2019 once Jarrett Stidham more than likely goes pro. The Tigers have two guys I really like in Malik Willis and Joey Gatewood on board but as we have seen in the past, nothing is a sure thing at quarterback so you better have options. That’s exactly what the Tigers will have in 2019 with three outstanding young signal callers battling for the starting spot. Don’t be surprised if Nix ends up the victor, dude is that good.”

As for what he brings to the table from a scouting standpoint, Nix was one of the top players in the country for good reason. He’s got pretty much everything you want in a quarterback. Again, from AU Nerd’s commitment profile of him:

“Bo Nix is an elite quarterback prospect. He can make almost any throw and make it accurately. Not only does he have a live arm but he’s capable of ripping off a 50+ yard run as well. I personally love the way he handles himself in the pocket. He always keeps his eyes down field but is also able to avoid pressure, step up and make throws. He also excels throwing on the run which is a big part of Auburn’s offense. I personally believe he’s the best QB prospect in this class and if he was 1-2 inches taller would already be ranked in the top 10 overall. He’s seriously that good and should make the 2019 QB race fun to watch. If you have a chance to see Pinson Valley play next year, then put on your best Auburn gear and go watch this kid ball. He won’t disappoint.”

The Player

Now that he’s on campus, and now that he’s gone through one spring practice, this may actually happen. Nix could very well be a true freshman starting in the biggest game of opening weekend against Oregon. He looked the part at A-Day.

He’s currently locked in a battle for the starting spot with Joey Gatewood, but many believe that he’s got the edge in the race, and an announcement about a starter could come in the next couple of days.

Two weeks from now we could be watching Bo Nix take his first snaps in an Auburn uniform. It would be coming on the biggest stage in the biggest game of opening weekend.

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‘We’re a world ahead’: Auburn offensive line swears on strides made after building experience together

Kam Martin sees the difference, every time he tucks the ball away, when he starts to churn his legs, and his eyes dart up from under his helmet.

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Friday, August 16, 2019

15 Days to Kickoff! - Ben Obomanu

Battle for QB1: Between the Lines

There has been virtually no real information coming out of Auburn on the battle for the most important position on the field. As preseason hype ramps up for college football, every perennial powerhouse in the land is being scrutinized. What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? Who is going to take over for the departed in different positions? 

Auburn isn’t getting a ton of talk nationwide, and it isn’t because Auburn isn’t a powerhouse program. It’s the fact that the info gathered from the spring game months ago is still the only true, unadulterated insight anyone has into the quarterback battle between the two highly touted competitors, Joey Gatewood and Bo Nix. 

Here is a recap of the of the information we all know.

Gatewood is a physical freak, who gets compared to Cam Newton even though he doesn’t like it. The six-foot-five monster finally got on the field in the Music City Bowl game blowout last season and looked the part. Of course, so did absolutely every Auburn player on the field, except he was playing against an abused and bleeding Purdue team by the time he made a SuperCam dive towards the end zone.

Before an injury held him out last year, he looked lost against the Auburn defense, but so did every QB that played on A-Day. This year was quite different. Gatewood was 7 for 10, passing for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns in the first half, a solid stat line, and he did that without being able to show off his best asset, his running ability. 

Nix was 11 for 14 for 155 yards and 2 touchdowns, though he added an interception. However, he had complete command of the offense, pulling the defense offsides twice with one of those becoming a free play for a touchdown. What little we know about Nix’s fall camp is that the interception bug showed up again, even though one of those picks was attributed to his receiver.

Nix isn’t Gatewood’s size, and he may not have the speed, but Bo isn’t a statue in the pocket, and his predecessor, Jarrett Stidham, showed what just a bit of mobility could do in his time on the Plains. 

You’ve read this time and time again, but not many of the popular websites are really reading between the lines. 

First, of course, is the assumption that both players are going to play against Oregon. This has never worked for Auburn or for many teams across the nation. There’s a reason the old adage goes “if you have two quarterbacks, you have none.” This Oregon team isn’t an Arkansas State, a team that will push you just enough to get in good reps but is not quite good enough to put the game in jeopardy. No one has tried this more than Gus Malzahn, and no one has made it look worse. 

Auburn fans are naturally split on whom they believe is going to be the trigger man for the Tigers. While everyone wants to win, there are a lot of people who would like to see Nix be the man simply because of the nostalgia of having a No. 10 named Nix heading the offense.

Everyone agrees that Nix is the better passer, and the true freshman already has the polish of an upperclassman. Surely his father/coach had a lot to do with that. The spring game was very much like watching his father, Pat, in the no-nonsense-do-the-small-things way that won a lot of games for Auburn when dad Pat wore the Orange and Blue.

However, love him as fans might, he has a lot of things working against him that have little to do with his ability. 

First is the obvious: the Gus Malzahn offense has been at its best with a mobile quarterback. Debates run aplenty on this, and I believe that it has more to do with the individual players and their abilities than it does play calling. In the end, it’s not about having a mobile quarterback, but having the right player. Truth is, Gus has had only a few of those, and while they made him look really good, they artificially inflated a lot of opinions, possibly including Gus’ opinion of himself. Remember he’s now declared that he will again be calling plays. If that’s the truth, Nix is in trouble before Auburn even takes the field in Dallas. 

That may not sit well with some fans. But folks have to set their feelings aside and take a really objective look at a few things.

Auburn has tried to go with the field general under Malzahn several times now. It started with his first stint at Auburn, preceding Cam Newton, and continues today. Consider this: only Chris Todd and Jarrett Stidham were successful pocket passers, and both looked severely mediocre in crunch time.

There are a lot of factors to consider with a quarterback, such as the defense he played behind or the weapons around him. Yet, but in the end, the product from Todd to Barrett Trotter to Sean White to Stidham looked almost identical despite the fact that there was a gulf of ability between these guys, ending with Stidham who now looks the part of Tom Brady’s replacement in Foxboro. 

Auburn has had plenty of dual-threat quarterbacks come through the program. Some never saw the field. Unfortunately, some like John Franklin III and Jeremy Johnson did, and the resulting product wasn’t very good. So, it’s not that Auburn needs a dual-threat QB to succeed, especially when Gus calls plays. It has to have the perfect player, and Gus has to call the right plays for that guy, whomever he may be. The question is, can Gus call plays for anything other than the right dual-threat guy? 

Auburn has some great things going for it this season like the offensive line, which is supposed to be among the league’s best with five seniors. Auburn has a group of good backs, and Boobee Whitlow may be a breakout player this season.

However, at some point, Auburn is going to throw the ball. There is receiving depth as the Tigers have Eli Stove and Will Hastings coming back from serious injuries, although Anthony Schwartz had hand surgery and is doubtful for Oregon and Seth Williams was limited this week. Even a guy like Shedrick Jackson, who has yet to see the field, was held out.

In Auburn’s second scrimmage, drops were a serious issue. The quarterbacks apparently played a lot better, but drops got the best of them. On any other team, this wouldn’t be a surprise, considering the number of potential starters that are out. But at Auburn, there’s been a continual lack of development at that position under Kodi Burns. Auburn’s pass catchers looked incredible in the spring game, but their fall practice perfomance is troubling news, especially for Nix. If Gus is truly calling plays, there is little to no need for a field general. Gatewood is just as good at handing off the speed sweep, running the RPO and throwing the occasional play action pass to a wide open receiver. 

One other thing that is a serious strike against Nix is his dad, the very reason he is who he is. As a legacy QB who really wants to be at Auburn, Gus and Co. can roll the dice on Gatewood, knowing that Nix won’t pack his bags.

In today’s college football landscape, the transfer portal is busier than Atlanta’s MARTA at 5:00 PM on a Friday before game day. Switching it up, if Nix were to be named starter and play all twelve games, would Gatewood stay? To answer that, just take a look at Auburn’s recruiting at the QB position versus the current roster. 

The post Battle for QB1: Between the Lines appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

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Bid Day 2019

Bid Day 2019
Auburn women receive sorority bids at Bid Day 2019

View on YouTube

Auburn uses rare visit from SEC referees to simulate two-minute offense

Every second counts.

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Four Tigers Poised for Breakout Seasons

We’re now sixteen days removed from kickoff and while we’re counting down the days we’ll take a look at four young Tigers poised for breakout seasons.   (Bo Nix and Joey Gatewood will be poised for breakout seasons depending on who Malzahn names starting quarterback, but until that name is revealed we’re keeping the list […]

Four Tigers Poised for Breakout Seasons - Fly War Eagle - Fly War Eagle - An Auburn Tigers Fan Site - News, Blogs, Opinion and more.

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

16 Days to Kickoff! - Jason Campbell!

Getty Images

This article isn’t long enough to play all the highlights from 2004.

As we continue our march to kickoff, we take a look at the top 100 recruits to sign with Auburn of all-time*. The rankings are based on 247’s composite recruit rankings, which unfortunately only date back to 2000.

The Recruit

Jason Campbell was one of the first big recruits that I remember as an Auburn fan. Yeah, I watched games and cared and lived and died when crazy stuff happened in the 1990s but that was limited to Saturdays. Only when I got to be a young adult did I realize that there was an entire new realm of football to consume. AU Nerd obviously figured it out earlier than most, but recruiting was a way to follow football YEAR ROUND.

Anyway, I remember hearing about this guy. Jason Campbell. He was tall? And mobile? And could slang it? Yeah, sign me up. After the last couple of years of quarterbacking with Gabe Gross (great baseball player, not great quarterback), Jeff Klein (uhhhhh), and Ben Leard (actually pretty good, but just not great), the prospect of Jason Campbell was really refreshing.


It took quite some time for Jason Campbell to find his footing at Auburn. After redshirting in 2000 and watching Auburn go to the SEC Championship, Campbell got his chance to play as a freshman in 2001.

His first couple of games were really good, and very odd for Tommy Tuberville offenses when you look back. He let a freshman quarterback throw the ball 28 times in the season opener against Ball State. Game three was not great, as Dwight Freeney found a way to toss Jason Campbell around the Carrier Dome in the first game after 9/11. Nobody was pulling for Auburn and everyone reveled in our destruction to the Orangemen (as they were at the time).

JCam played pretty well over the next couple of weeks, but when top-ranked Florida came to town, he struggled against the Gators, going just 2-4 for 8 yards. Daniel Cobb came in and the defense carried the Tigers in a huge upset in the wind at home. A week later, Cobb started against Louisiana Tech and threw for 381 yards, 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, and Auburn escaped in overtime. Cobb’s luck ran out as Arkansas blasted Auburn after that, and aside from a Cadillac-fueled win over Georgia, Cobb didn’t do anything and the Tigers stumbled down the stretch.

2002 started with Daniel Cobb under center again, and Auburn lost the opener to USC. Campbell played sparingly over the first few weeks of the season, taking over for Cobb in a revenge win over Syracuse in double overtime, but he still didn’t get the start after that. Later on he came in against Florida and and teamed up with Ronnie Brown to nearly steal us a comeback win in Gainesville (THANKS DAMON DUVAL).

Finally — finally — in the home game against LSU the following week, Campbell took hold and control of the team. With Ronnie Brown taking over for Cadillac in the running game, JCam was able to work his way into a very reliable quarterback over the last few games of the year. Wins over Ole Miss (and Eli Manning), Alabama, and Penn State ended up on the slate, and he nearly had a perfect finish to the year (if only the refs would’ve called that Michael Johnson push-off on Horace Willis). In the Iron Bowl, Auburn’s only touchdowns came on Campbell touchdown passes, and his arm kept the Tide defense off balance from the start.

As his sophomore year came to a close, Auburn was poised for big things in 2003. With two years of experience under his belt, Campbell would have no trouble running the show and making sure that the high expectations were met on the Plains.


Somebody decided that it would be a good idea to promote two non-coordinators to run Bobby Petrino’s offense. Let me tell you, it’s not a super easy offense to run, and Campbell had to deal with the Nallsminger experiment making it tougher. Auburn scored 3 points in the first two games of 2003, and the offense never really picked up despite having both Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown healthy and ready to go.

Enter low expectations for Campbell’s senior year, as well as a new offensive coordinator.

Al Borges was JCam’s fourth coach in four years. That alone would never be easy on anyone, but here was a guy fighting for his place in the hearts of the Auburn family. In the opener against Louisiana-Monroe in 2004, Campbell threw an interception — and got booed. The next week he threw 3 touchdown passes for the first time in his entire career, and after that it was his arm that led the game-winning drive against defending national champion LSU.

Two weeks later, Auburn rolled into Knoxville and destroyed a top ten Tennessee team. Campbell led an offense that posted 31 first half points in the domination.

The next week he completed the longest play from scrimmage in Auburn history (an 87-yard touchdown to Silas Daniels), and then threw more touchdowns than incompletions in an evisceration of Arkansas.

Campell went 17-19 for 297 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Hogs, Auburn improved to 7-0, and over the final stretch of the season, he commanded the offense to an undefeated season. His completion percentages in 2004? Starting with the Tennessee game, when everything started to click, they looked like this:

69.6% vs Tennessee

72.2% vs La Tech

89.5% vs Arkansas

73.3% vs Kentucky

50% vs Ole Miss

81.8% vs Georgia

75% vs Alabama

77.1% vs Tennessee

68.8% vs Virginia Tech

In the SEC Championship, he went bananas, throwing for 374 yards and 3 scores, setting records and winning the MVP trophy.

After that he was named SEC Player of the Year. The redemption arc was real for the kid who’d struggled so much his first couple of seasons, and even received boos earlier in 2004. He improved his stock so much that he turned into a first round draft pick, one of four for the Tigers in the 2005 NFL Draft.

Over a journeyman NFL career, Jason Campbell spent time with the Redskins, Raiders, Bears, Browns, and Bengals, and threw for more than 16,000 yards in his career with 87 touchdowns.

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Camp Notes from the Plains.

Who is running ahead in the quarterback competition?

     War Eagle, everybody! The two-a-days portion of Auburn fall camp is nearly over, and next Auburn will begin with preparations for the season opener against Oregon. As always this time of year, there are a few surprises, and a few disappointments.

     First off, I must apologize for being awol in this space for the last 6 weeks. Real life and career intervened, and I was just not able to spend the time my usual season previews require. I suppose I could have thrown a few things together, copying from the opinions of others, but I don’t see the point in that. I have always tried to voice my own opinion, rather than just parroting the newspapers.

     As expected, the defensive line has won most of the wars up front in fall camp. Auburn has 3 starters that would have been NFL draft picks had they left school last spring, and Derrick Brown has been named a first team All-American on some lists this summer. There have been a few nicks and dings, but I’d worry if there were not, in fall camp.

     I’ve seen different philosophies in fall camp, depending upon the program and the situation there. Some coaches, particularly those whose team doesn’t have a lot of depth, will try to minimize the contact in August. The idea is that all hands need to be on deck in September. Others, I’m thinking of Tommy Tuberville, work the team as hard as they can in the fall, hoping to produce a team that will be tough all the way through November.

     Tuberville’s teams were notorious for stumbling wounded out of the gate, and struggling early. I’m remembering ugly wins over teams like Appalachian State and Wyoming, ugly losses to Southern Cal and Georgia Tech, and a narrow escape from Kansas State. Auburn lost early games in 2007 to South Florida, and Mississippi State at home, before regrouping. It is worth noting that Tuberville’s teams at Auburn had 20 wins in November, vs. on ly 10 losses. That’s with Georgia and Alabama on the schedule every year.

     Auburn will have new starting linebackers across the board this season, but by most accounts, the reason the defense has been so dominant in fall camp has been stellar linebacker play. In the middle, Kenny Britt knows the defense well, and this unit may well be faster and more athletic than the units that did so well the past 3 seasons.

     Auburn returns a veteran secondary, and it has been quite unusual to find any open receivers down the field in scrimmages. Auburn stumbled at times last season with grabbing and pass interference. I think with more experience, and with Wesley McGriff back coaching the secondary, those problems won’t manifest this season.

     With kicker Anders Carlson, and punter Arryn Siposs returning, Auburn should have great special teams in 2019. The only worry in fall camp has been a number of dropped punts. My vote is that whomever is dropping the least balls should start. Of particular note has been that Anders Carlson has been nailing the long field goal kicks, and the pressure kicks at the end of practice.

     Auburn should field a solid, all-senior offensive line this season. This unit was used and abused at times last season, but improved as the year went on. Depth remains a problem, but Auburn now has at least 3 backups they can turn to if injuries happen this season.

     One of the big surprises this fall for me, has been the play of Arizona State transfer H-back/tight end Jay Jay Wilson. I don’t think any of the preseason projected depth charts had him contributing much, this next season. I figured he’d need a year to get used to the physicality of the SEC, having come from the PAC-12. I was apparently wrong. From all reports, Jay Jay is very physical at the point of attack, and has great hands. If Wilson doesn’t start against Oregon, it will be because other guys on the team know the playbook better.

     Wide receiver might be the most disappointing group in fall camp. Word is that guys can’t get open, and that balls are being dropped regularly. Some of that is to be expected, as every one of Auburn’s projected starters have been held out for part, or all of fall camp, due to injuries. The speed guys like Eli Stove, Will Hastings and Anthony Schwartz have yet to have live reps, and Seth Williams has missed time as well.

     Auburn should be loaded at running back, next season. JaTarvious Whitlow is said to have improved since last season. Kam Martin is having a good camp. Malik Miller seems to have improved, and he’s long been Auburn’s most consistent pass blocker and receiver out of the backfield. Younger guys like Shawn Shivers, DJ Williams and Harold Joiner have done well in camp, also.

     All eyes are on the quarterback race between redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood and true freshman Bo Nix. Nix has been the first one on the field with the starters in recent days, and some in the press have anointed Nix as the starter for game one. I think I will wait on an official announcement from head coach Gus Malzahn. My concerns about Nix from the spring game remain, in that I felt like Gatewood did a better job of taking care of the ball while still being effective. We really haven’t seen Gatewood run the ball, except near the end of the Purdue game in the Music City Bowl. He made some boilermakers look silly!

     Oregon will likely sell out to stop Auburn’s running game. That’s pretty much true of any team playing against the Malzahn offense. If you allow the offense to run the ball and control the clock, it’s hard to keep up with Auburn on the scoreboard. It may be that the coaches believe that they will need the arm of Bo Nix to keep the defense honest. I worry, though. The guys Nix is practicing with now, won’t be the guys likely starting in Arlington in a couple of weeks.

     I suppose I’m remembering 2010. I remember that Cam Newton was not considered a polished passer, and teams early sold out to stop the run. By game 4, Auburn was running against those stacked fronts, and blitzes, and moving the ball on the ground, anyway. Auburn piled up the yards, and finished with both Newton and Michael Dyer going over 1000 years. I’d argue that Auburn has better runners and receivers on the roster now, than that year.

     I plan to get back into my regular swing of Thursday posts leading up to the start of the season, and I’ll be in place with an open thread for the Oregon game. Wow, I can’t wait for football season to start!

The post Camp Notes from the Plains. appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

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2019 Season Possibilities (using S&P+)

Auburn places nine players on coaches’ preseason All-SEC team

The Auburn football team had nine players picked to the coaches’ preseason All-SEC team released Thursday, including two on the first team and two on the second team before five loaded the third team.

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Gus Malzahn saw his Tigers pushed.

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