Thursday, July 9, 2020

LOCKED ON AUBURN: Examining The Game Day Culture of Auburn Football

Alabama v Auburn Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

On today’s Locked On Auburn, Zac Blackerby and Painter Sharpless of ESPN 106.7 discuss the culture of Auburn football, Cam Newton’s signing with the Patriots, and what’s next for college football.

You can hear the full conversation below.

You can hear Locked On Auburn on College and Mag or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Auburn football: Week 2 matchup vs. UNC unlikely to happen

Auburn football will no longer be playing in the 2020 Chick-Fil-A kickoff game. As we get closer to when the college football season was originally scheduled to happen, more news keeps rolling in about how the upcoming season will be different — if it even happens at all. The obvious reason for the assumed delay […]

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Sneak Peek: The LSU Tigers

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Champions-Louisiana State Celebration Russell Costanza-USA TODAY Sports

How do the national champions follow up an incredible 2019 season?

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be taking a quick look at every Auburn opponent on the 2020 schedule.

2019 Record: 15-0

2020 Signing Class: 4th (3rd SEC)

Head Coach: Ed Orgeron (5th Season)

Key Departures:

  • QB Joe Burrow - 402/527 (76.3%) 5,671 yds 60 TD 6 INT
  • RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire - 215 carries 1,414 yds 6.6 avg 16 TD 55 rec 453 yds 8.2 avg TD
  • WR Justin Jefferson - 111 rec 1,540 yds 13.9 avg 18 TD
  • TE Thaddeus Moss - 47 rec 570 yds 12.1 avg 4 TD
  • LT Saahdiq Charles
  • C Lloyd Cushenberry
  • DT Rashard Lawrence - 28 tackles 6.0 TFL 2.5 sacks 3 PBU FR FF
  • OLB K’Lavon Chaisson - 60 tackles 13.5 TFL 6.5 sacks 2 PBU FF
  • LB Jacob Phillips - 113 tackles 7.5 TFL sack PBU FF
  • LB Patrick Queen - 85 tackles 12.0 TFL 3.0 sacks INT 2 PBU FR
  • S Grant Delpit - 65 tackles 4.5 TFL 2.0 sacks 2 INT 7 PBU FR FF

Key Returners:

  • WR Ja’Marr Chase (Jr) - 84 rec 1,780 yds 21.2 avg 20 TD
  • WR Terrace Marshall Jr (Jr) - 46 rec 671 yds 14.6 avg 13 TD
  • LB Damone Clark (Jr) - 50 tackles 4.0 TFL 3.5 sacks
  • DB Kary Vincent Jr (Sr) - 47 tackles 2.0 TFL 4 INT 8 PBU
  • CB Derek Stingley Jr (So) - 38 tackles TFL 6 INT 15 PBU FR
  • S JaCoby Stevens (Sr) - 92 tackles 9.0 TFL 5.0 sacks 3 INT 6 PBU


On September 30th, 2017, Ed Orgeron’s LSU Tigers lost at home to Troy. It was the 2nd loss in three weeks and things were starting to get uncomfortable for Coach O just five games into his first full season as the Tigers’ head coach. Rumors of infighting between the head man and offensive coordinator Matt Canada were rampant. With a trip to the Swamp up next and Auburn coming to town a week later, it sure seemed like a possible Ole Miss redux was underway in Baton Rouge. Ed O was once again the joke of the SEC.

But not for long.

LSU has lost exactly five games since that Troy upset. They rallied to beat Florida and Auburn in successive weeks and finished 9-4 in 2017. LSU followed up with a 10 win season in 2018. Then in 2019, Coach O and the Tigers went out and won the whole damn thing behind the most prolific offense in college football history.

Ain’t no one laughing now except Coach O.

What LSU accomplished in 2019 was remarkable. Joe Burrow transformed from mediocre QB that needed max protect every other snap to a Heisman winner who excelled at getting his playmakers the ball behind 5 man protections. It was an offense that was downright unstoppable, only scoring less than 35 points once in 2019. But even in that one contest against Auburn’s stout defense, LSU still put up over 500 yards of offense.

I mean just look at those numbers. Joe Burrow threw SIXTY touchdown passes. Ja’Marr Chase caught TWENTY touchdowns. Justin Jefferson had ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN receptions. Terrace Marshall missed 3 games and still caught THIRTEEN touchdowns. Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for more yards than any AU running back last season and would have finished #2 in receiving for Malzahn’s Tigers. Just insanity.

But can they do it again? Joe Brady, former no name NFL analyst turned offensive wunderkind, is gone to the NFL. Long time stud defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is now the head coach at Baylor. Fourteen members of the 2019 national champions were drafted in the NFL.

Winning championships is hard. Winning multiple championships is much harder. Just ask Larry Coker, Gene Chizik, Mack Brown, Jimbo Fisher and countless others who reached the mountain top only to see their programs crumble underneath them. Will Coach 0 join them or is this only the start of his ascension?

Fortunately for LSU, elite talent remains, it’s just unproven. Myles Brennan has the daunting task of replacing Joe Burrow. A former blue chip prospect, Brennan has patiently waited his turn and folks in Baton Rouge think highly of his upside. But he won’t be as good as Burrow this fall. The question is how big a step back does LSU’s offense take from Burrow to Brennan?

Luckily for LSU’s new starting QB, plenty of skill talent remains. Yes, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Justin Jefferson and Thaddeus Moss are all gone. But the nation’s best wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase is back as is former 5-star Terrace Marshall Jr. LSU also returns two former 5-star running backs in John Emery and Tyrion Davis-Prince along with former blue chip Chris Curry. There’s also an assortment of young WR talent that looks poised to make an impact including 5-star freshman Kayshon Boutte.

Oh and they signed one of the freakiest athletes of the 2020 class in Arik Gilbert. Seriously, this kid is absurd and will be a bone fide stud in LSU’s offense.

Probably the most underrated piece of that LSU offense last season was its offensive line. The Tigers often relied on only 5 man protections and this unit was outstanding all year HOLDING up against elite pass rushes. However, four starters have departed with right tackle Austin Deculus the lone man returning. There’s definitely plenty of talent up front it’s just about getting it to gel quickly enough to execute the Tigers RPO heavy offense.

On defense, Dave Aranda is gone and a familiar face has returned to roam the Tigers sidelines. Bo Pelini is back in Power 5 football following five years as head coach at Youngstown State. He took the Penguins to the FCS National Championship his 2nd year but was unable to replicate that success in his following 3 campaigns. Under Pelini, LSU will be transitioning back to a four man front meaning some pieces on this defense will have to adjust to new responsibilities and positions this fall.

Up front, LSU is loaded as always. K’Lavon Chaisson, Rashard Lawrence and Breiden Fehoko are all gone but plenty of talent returns. The Tigers have some big fellas to eat up the middle in guys like Tyler Shelvin, Saiki Ika and Glen Logan. On the edge, LSU will have to make some adjustments transitioning from 3-4 OLBs to 4-3 DEs. There are a lot of different faces that will get looks at this position but keep an eye on former JUCO TE prospect T.K. McClendon. Ed O has been consistent in praising his development and the scheme change better fits his skillset. He could be a breakout player for this Tiger defense in 2020.

One of the positions hardest hit by attrition was linebacker where Patrick Queen and Jacob Phillips both decided to leave for the NFL following the 2019 season. Luckily for LSU, they landed one of the premier grand transfers on the market in former North Dakota State star Jabril Cox. He will likely earn a starting role on the outside while someone like Damone Clark takes over at the MIKE.

Two starters depart in Thorpe Award winner (lol) Grant Delpit and cornerback Kristian Fulton. But arguably the nation’s best corner, Derek Stingley Jr, returns along with nickel back Kary Vincent Jr and safety JaCoby Stevens. Former Auburn commit Cordale Flott looks to be the incumbent at the corner spot opposite Stingley while former AU target Maurice Hampton likely fills in for Delpit at safety. The Tigers also signed the #1 CB in the nation in the 2020 class in Elias Ricks who could easily see time early on the back end of LSU’s defense.

2019 was a magical season for LSU. They put a fun brand of football on the field and used it to obliterate most every opponent that stood in their way. But 2020 will likely provide a few more stumbling blocks. So much production is gone and with two brand new coordinators, it’s hard to see LSU repeating in 2020. Auburn gets the defending champs at home this fall. If Gus Malzahn is ever going to beat Ed Orgeron, it better be this year.

War Eagle!

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Watch Bo Jackson’s 1987 press conference in Auburn announcing his decision to play for the Raiders

It’s so strange to go back to see what people thought when he did it. Because once he did, and once the success that was bound to happen happened — when the Bo we knew became the Bo everyone knew, it just totally turned into a cause for celebration and cartoons and awe and endless endorsements and cultural cachet, and who in the world would have ever questioned BO JACKSON?

But, man, they did. There was just about that “Football is a hobby” line… it was too much for people. Listen to the ‘How Dare You’ in these questions. Listen to Finebaum’s tone. And listen to Bo just being Bo. Joking about Iran Contra. Leaving weightlifting to the weightlifters. Wishing he could make money off of fishing, too.

There’s some more. But the machine cut off. If you’d like me to try again, feel free to support the cause. Thanks!

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Isolated Thunderstorms today!

With a high of 88F and a low of 72F.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Auburn football: 4 former Auburn commits that went on to play for the Tigers’ biggest rival

Recruiting is a big deal in the state of Alabama and college football’s biggest rivals often duke it out for recruits. The Iron Bowl is one of the biggest rivalry games in all of sports and the hatred between Auburn and Alabama is the stuff of legend. That rivalry doesn’t just apply when the two […]

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Sneak Peek: The UMass Minutemen

Massachusetts v Northwestern Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Auburn’s last chance to tune things up before a daunting 2020 season finale.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be taking a quick look at every Auburn opponent on the 2020 schedule.

2019 Record: 1-11

2020 Signing Class: 102nd

Head Coach: Walt Bell (2nd Season)

Key Departures:

Key Returners:

  • QB Andrew Brito (RJr) - 93/170 (54.7%) 830 yds 7 TD 6 INT
  • RB/WR Cam Roberson (Sr) - 116 carries 360 yds 3.1 avg 2 TD 16 rec 63 yds 3.9 avg
  • WR Jermaine Johnson Jr (So) - 37 rec 272 yds 7.4 avg 2 TD
  • WR Zak Simon (RJr) - 32 rec 355 yds 11.1 avg 2 TD
  • LB Cole McCubrey (Sr) - 84 tackles 4.5 TFL sack 2 PBU FF
  • LB Mike Ruane (Sr) - 66 tackles 1.5 TFL 2 FR
  • LB Chinedu Ogbonna (Sr) - 30 tackles 9.0 TFL 2.0 sacks INT PBU FR


It was an unpleasant first season for Walt Bell. Per SP+, UMass was literally the worst team in football last season. Unlike Akron, they at least got a single win but otherwise it was a miserable 2019 campaign for the Minutemen. It looks unlikely that 2020 will be any better (unless they cancel the season I guess).

The one positive piece for this UMass offense last season was running back Bilal Ally who rushed for just over 850 yards and 7 touchdowns. Unfortunately, he decided to transfer leaving behind a pretty weaponless offense.

Bell’s offense attempted to dink and dunk its way down the field with little success. They rotated through three different QBs with little success none averaging over 6 yards an attempt. Andrew Brito is back and with no spring it is likely he will be the starter but it wouldn’t be shocking to see someone else there by the end of the season. Bell did have a decent signing class including JUCO QB Kyle Lindquist. But to be honest, not really sure where any of the offense is going to come from this fall.

On the other side of the ball, Tommy Restivo is taking over as the defensive coordinator following Aazaar Abdul-Rahim’s departure. He thankfully has some nice pieces to work with in 2020. Considering this defense was ranked dead last per SP+ it can only go up from here!

The strength of this defense, if there is any, is in the front 7 specifically at linebacker. Pass rusher Chinedu Ogbonna flashed some nice potential in 2019 and MIKE backer Cole McCubrey returns as well. Unfortunately for the Minutemen, star corner Isaiah Rodgers is now an Indianapolis Colt so there’s some rebuilding to be done in the secondary as well.

Gonna be honest, I don’t have a ton to say about UMass. The gist is they are a really bad football program right now and Auburn is likely to rest a lot of starters before the final two weeks of the season. Maybe we will get to see some guys like Chayil Garnett or Sawyer Pate sling the rock around. I don’t know, I just know this will be a bloodbath.

War Eagle!

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Auburn basketball: Tigers offer trio of AAU teammates

Auburn is taking no breaks in pursuing some of the top talent in the class of 2022. Bruce Pearl and his staff are working hard to pursue some of the top prospects in the class of 2022. This week, Auburn basketball has offered scholarships to three rising juniors at a variety of positions. The state […]

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Auburn Football Recruiting: Decisions Looming

5-star offensive tackle Amarius Mims |

Things are about to get busier for Auburn on the recruiting trail.

Ever since Landen King’s commitment in early June, things have gotten quiet on the trail for the Auburn Tigers. Two top targets, 4-star WR Christian Leary and 4-star BUCK Keonu Koht, committed elsewhere but otherwise not much has happened, good or bard, for the Tigers in the recruiting world.

That could soon be changing.

Two Auburn targets are set to make decisions this week. Another major target has pushed up his commit date, Auburn is still waiting on pulling off an anticipated flip and chances are always good someone decides to pop out of nowhere.

It all gets started today when 4-star LB Jamon Dumas-Johnson announces his decision. The Tigers were late to offer but made it to his final 5. However, it doesn’t appear the Tigers have made Dumas-Johnson a priority at this time and the race has become a three team one between Georgia, Florida and Maryland. The Dawgs have all the momentum and look to be the likely selection this afternoon.

The more interesting decision happens this weekend when 4-star S Kamren Kinchens chooses between Auburn, Miami and Texas A&M. Consensus is that his pick will either be the Tigers or Canes. Last month, I felt really good about Auburn’s chances. My confidence has since dropped and this appears to be a toss up. Confidence is high in Coral Gables they will keep the playmaking safety home but folks on the Plains still like their chances. Personally, if I had to put in a pick it would likely be for Miami but with really low confidence. I don’t expect this recruitment to end either regardless of Kinchens decision this Saturday.

5-star OT Amarius Mims has long been near the top of Auburn’s wishlist and the Tigers remain in pursuit. He had stated for months that he would wait to announce in October but things have changed. Over the weekend, Mims revealed on social media that he now plans to announce on August 15th.

I still think he’s all Dawg though Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee all remain in the race. This would obviously be a monumental pull for new Auburn OL coach Jack Bicknell if he could pull it off but odds are good the nation’s #2 ranked OT is staying instate. What could prove more interesting for Auburn fans is what happens after Mims makes his decision. If he doesn’t pick the Tigers, does Auburn finally pull the trigger and offer instate tackle Rod Orr? Auburn is still after 5-star Tommy Brockermeyer and 4-star Savion Byrd so they can still be picky but both look like uphill battles at the moment. Might Auburn decide to take the safer bet to ensure they get another talented offensive tackle prospect in this class?

A lot of attention remains on 3-star Adonai Mitchell. The buzz is the Ole Miss commit is far from solid and will soon be reopening his recruitment. Auburn, Georgia and Texas are all involved and hoping to make a move on the Tennessee native. The Tigers look to be the favorite and it would not be a surprise to see Mitchell’s name on Auburn’s commit list by the end of the month.

Finally, one of Auburn’s top targets, 5-star LB Smael Mondon, dropped his top 5 over the weekend.

It’s been known for months now that Auburn, Georgia and Tennessee are the top contenders but Florida and LSU are interesting additions. The Gators especially are a team to watch as the nation’s best linebacker has very close relationship with their linebacker coach Christian Robinson. Mondon has reiterated multiple times that it’s his relationships that will matter most when he makes his decision. Auburn is a top contender due to how close Mondon is with linebacker coach Travis Williams. Some see Auburn as the leader, others like Tennessee and some still believe there’s no way Kirby will let him leave the state. This recruitment looks far from slowing down anytime soon.

War Eagle!

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Sneak Peek: The Arkansas Razorbacks

Missouri v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Hogs aren’t very good

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be taking a quick look at every Auburn opponent on the 2020 schedule.

2019 Record: 2-10 (0-8)

2020 Signing Class: 30th (11th SEC)

Head Coach: Sam Pittman (1st Season)

Key Departures:

  • QB Nick Starkel - 96/179 (53.6%) 1,152 yds 7 TD 10 INT
  • TE CJ O’Grady - 33 rec 372 yds 11.3 avg 3 TD
  • DE Jamario Bell - 17 tackles 5.5 TFL 4.5 sacks FF
  • DT McTelvin Agim - 38 tackles 8.5 TFL 5.0 sacks FR FF
  • LB De’Jon Harris - 101 tackles 6.5 TFL sack 2 PBU 2 FR 2 FF TD
  • S Kamren Curl - 76 tackles 4.0 TFL 2.0 sacks 2 INT 2 PBU 2 FR 2 FF TD

Key Returners:

  • QB Feleipe Franks (GS) - 188/322 (58.4%) 2,457 yds 24 TD 6 INT (@ UF in 2018)
  • RB Rakeem Boyd (Sr) - 184 carries 1,133 yds 6.2 avg 8 TD 19 rec 160 yds 8.4 avg
  • WR Mike Woods (Jr) - 33 rec 423 yds 12.8 avg 4 TD
  • WR Treylon Burks (So) - 29 rec 475 yds 16.4 avg
  • WR Trey Knox (So) - 28 rec 385 yds 13.8 avg 3 TD
  • LB Bumper Pool (Jr) - 94 tackles 6.5 TFL 0.5 sacks 5 PBU
  • S Joe Foucha (Jr) - 87 tackles TFL INT 4 PBU FR


On April 1st, 2012, Bobby Petrino took that fateful motorcycle ride. Following the crash, his affair was revealed and on April 10th he was fired. In four years under Petrino, Arkansas went 34-17 overall and 17-15 in the SEC with two trips to NY6 bowls. Since Petrino’s ouster, Arkansas has gone 37-62 and 13-51 in conference play. Three times the Hogs have gone winless in the SEC and only once have they put together a winning conference record.

It ain’t been fun to be an Arkansas fan for awhile now.

Under new Auburn offensive coordinator Chad Morris the program cratered. In one and three quarter seasons as the Hogs head coach Morris won only 4 games, none against a Power 5 team. The last time they accomplished that feat was a victory over Ole Miss in 2017 in late October. It’s been awhile.

But hope has been renewed in Fayettville. Arkansas elected to make the biggest gamble hire of the offseason stealing away the nation’s best OL coach from UGA in Sam Pittman and naming him head man. I am skeptical of the move but Pittman is an outstanding recruiter and put together a solid staff hiring Kendal Briles as OC and Barry Odom as DC. The bar he needs to clear is also pretty low, just win an SEC game or two.

To do so, Arkansas needs MUCH better quarterback play. Morris played roulette at the position in two seasons unable to find anyone competent. In fact, the last time Arkansas had a QB start every game was in 2016 when Austin Allen was the man in charge. That looks likely to change in 2020 though as the Hogs signed former Florida Gator Feleipe Franks this past offseason.

Franks is a bit of a wildcard. He has some tremendous moments before quickly following with a very boneheaded decision. He was improving though under Dan Mullen. After a solid 2018 season, Franks started the 2019 campaign strong completing 76% of his passes and throwing for almost 700 yds. But an injury sidelined him for the year and he lost his job to Kyle Trask. Now he’s the trigger man for the Hogs and is unquestionably the most talented player at that position for Arkansas since Tyler Wilson.

Morris didn’t leave the offensive skill cupboard bar for Franks and Kendal Briles. Rakeem Boyd had a breakout junior season in 2019 and elected to return for his senior year. A thousand yard rusher, Boyd is a load coming out of the backfield at 215 lbs and should see more creases under Briles spread style of offense.

Out wide, Arkansas’s three top receivers return. Both Treylon Burks and Trey Knox were former blue chip recruits who had strong freshman debuts and look poised for big sophomore seasons in 2020. Woods is Arkansas’s leading returning receiver following a 400+ yard sophomore season. This trio along with Boyd give Franks plenty of weapons this fall. Morris did a lot wrong at Arkansas, recruiting offensive skill talent was not one of them.

Where I expect Pittman to have the biggest impact for Arkansas is up front. An elite OL coach and recruiter, Pittman was the man behind those behemoth lines of Brett Bielema and was almost unbeatable on the trail for the Dawgs. It will take some time but don’t be surprised if the Hogs are once again fielding good offensive lines. I am just not sure that happens in 2020.

Arkansas lost some talented players off that 2019 defense. Two were drafted in 3rd round pick defensive tackle McTelvin Agim and 7th round selection safety Kamren Curl. Leading tackler De’Jon Harris is gone as well along with pass rusher Jamario Bell. Odom has some serious rebuilding to do on this side of the ball.

The good news is he does return rising star Bumper Pool. The former blue chip prospect had an outstanding sophomore season tallying over 90 tackles with 6.5 going for a loss. Both were good for 2nd and 3rd on the team respectively. He has some help on the backend as well with former AU target Joe Foucha returning. I was a big fan of the Louisiana native coming out of high school and he’s blossoming into a top end SEC safety in Fayetteville. But there are a lot of holes elsewhere on the defense heading into 2020, especially on the defensive line.

Arkansas is going to be bad again in 2020. It’s hard to see otherwise. But the room for improvement is so large that Pittman doesn’t need to accomplish a lot to get Hog fans excited for the future. If Arkansas can steal a single SEC victory and put together 4+ wins, that would be a successful debut for Pittman. The sexy hires rarely pay off these days so maybe it’s Arkansas that ends up making the best hire of this offseason. All I know is Pittman better have his boys ready when they come to Jordan-Hare this fall because you know Gus and Chad are going to look to pile on as many points as possible. My guess is it won’t be a fun November afternoon for Arkansas, something that has become pretty common these days for Hog fans.

War Eagle!

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Scattered Thunderstorms today!

With a high of 83F and a low of 71F.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Auburn football: Senior quarterback chooses transfer destination

After former top 50 recruit Joey Gatewood decided to enter the transfer portal in late 2019, Auburn football was undeniably short on scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. Because of that, walk-on quarterback Wil Appleton was able to rise to third on the Tigers’ depth chart after true freshman and RS freshman Cord Sandberg. Appleton, a […]

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Auburn football: Potent rushing attack and strong O-line should make Kentucky a tough out

Auburn hasn’t lost to Kentucky in over a decade but how do the two teams match up in their week five game at Jordan-Hare Stadium? After posting their first 10-win season since 1977, the Kentucky Wildcats took a slight step back this past season. Still, the team was able to win eight games and ended […]

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Sneak Peek: The Mississippi State Bulldogs

Washington State v Oregon Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Pirate is in the SEC

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be taking a quick look at every Auburn opponent on the 2020 schedule.

2019 Record: 6-7 (3-5)

2020 Signing Class: 28th (10th SEC)

Head Coach: Mike Leach (1st Season)

Key Departures:

  • QB Tommy Stevens - 97/161 (60.2%) 1,155 yds 11 TD 5 INT 83 carries 381 yds 4.6 avg 4 TD
  • WR Deddrick Thomas - 30 rec 401 yds 13.4 avg 2 TD
  • WR Stephen Guidry - 30 rec 387 yds 12.9 avg 5 TD
  • OL Stewart Reese - 37 game starter (Transferred to Florida
  • DE Chauncey Rivers - 43 tackles 8.0 TFL 5.0 sacks 2 PBU FF
  • DT Fabien Lovett - 19 tackles 2.5 TFL sack (Transferred to FSU)
  • LB Leo Lewis - 65 tackles 5.5 TFL sack 3 PBU 2 FR FF
  • CB Cam Dantzler - 40 tackles 2.0 TFL 0.5 sacks 2 INT 8 PBU FR FR
  • CB Jarian Jones - 12 tackles 2 PBU FR (Transferred to FSU)
  • S Jaquarius Landrews - 77 tackles 0.5 TFL INT 8 PBU
  • S Brian Cole - 67 tackles 7.5 TFL 2.0 sacks INT 2 PBU 2 FR FF

Key Returners:

  • QB K.J. Costello (GS) - 269/413 (65.1%) 3,540 yds 29 TD 11 INT
  • QB Garrett Shrader (So) - 88/153 (57.5%) 1,170 yds 8 TD 5 INT 113 carries 587 yds 5.2 avg 6 TD
  • RB Kylin Hill (Sr) - 242 carries 1,350 yds 5.6 avg 10 TD 18 rec 180 yds 10.0 avg TD
  • WR Osirus Mitchell (Sr) - 29 rec 430 yds 14.8 avg 6 TD
  • DE Kobe Jones (Sr) - 30 tackles 7.0 TFL 4.0 sacks
  • DL Nathan Pickering (So) - 30 tackles 7.0 TFL 4.0 sacks
  • LB Erroll Thompson (Sr) - 84 tackles 3.5 TFL 0.5 sacks 2 PBU FR FF


Your school has not technically started a coaching search until Mike Leach is linked to it. Over the past few years, it seemed every single major head coaching opportunity that came available included the Pirate amongst its top candidates. There was even major smoke that Tennessee had closed the deal but the AD at the time was fired before it could be completed and Phillip Fulmer chose Jeremy Pruitt instead. But this offseason it finally happened. Mike Leach is now in the SEC.

Unsurprisingly, it did not take long for Leach to make waves. In attempt at making a joke about his wife being stuck at home with him for an extended period of time due to COVID-19, Leach tweeted out an image of a woman making a noose. Turns out that type of imagery isn’t a great look for someone as the new head coach at a school in the state of Mississippi. That tweet was used as the impetus for starting defensive tackle Fabian Lovett to transfer away. Later, Jones joined him in the portal and both landed in Tallahassee.

Interestingly, they wanted to transfer to Ole Miss with Jones even tweeting his commitment to the Rebels at one point. However, the move was nixed reportedly due to concerns over tampering. It should be noted that two former State coaches are now on the Ole Miss staff and both happen to be the players former position coaches.

No rivalry does a better job of just flat out hating each other like those two Mississippi schools.

However, arguably the most important transfer for State this offseason is not who left Starkville but who decided to transfer in. Leach’s Air Raid system is predicated on having quick trigger man at QB who operates best throwing the ball 40+ times a game. That man is not Garrett Shrader who was forced into starting action last season where he showed the ability to hurt defenses with his legs but threw some absolute ducks from the pocket. That’s why Leach’s signing of K.J. Costello is so important.

Costello started for Stanford in 2017, 2018 and the start of 2019 before a leg injury sidelined him for the year. He was incredibly productive in 2018 throwing for over 3,500 yards while posting a QB rating of 155. He will have the opportunity to put up video game numbers under Leach while allowing Shrader to redshirt and develop more as a passer. This State team was in danger of winning maybe 1 conference game in 2020 before landing Costello in my pretend expert opinion. Probably the most important offseason pickup in the conference.

The other major win for Mississippi State this offseason was the return of Kylin Hill. A thousand yard rusher in 2019, Hill elected to return to Starville for one more season instead of taking his talents to the NFL. Under Leach, he will have a chance to demonstrate his ability as a pass protector and receiver both of which are highly valued skills for RBs in the NFL these days.

Even with Costello and Hill in Mississippi State’s backfield, I am very skeptical Mississippi State’s offense will be any good this fall. Three of the Bulldogs top four receivers are gone. Osirus Mitchell is the lone returner and while he has a nice skillset he’s far from a proven commodity in the SEC. Two other offseason additions in Alabama transfer Tyrell Shavers and JUCO signee Malik Heath should give the Bulldogs a boost at wideout but this is a major question mark for Leach’s offense hading into 2020.

Just two years ago, Mississippi State had the #1 defense in the country per SP+. But pretty much every major contributor to that unit over the past two seasons is gone. Plus Mississippi State is breaking in a new defensive scheme. Long time San Diego State assistant Zach Arnett is set to bring Rocky Long’s 3-3-5 scheme to Starkville. That’s not going to be an easy transition considering the lack of spring ball. Even more so considering the amount of talent that has departed.

The good news is Mississippi State has recruited well at defensive line in recent cycles. Starter Kobe Jones returns a long with a host of talented youngsters. Nathan Pickering, a former top 100 prospect in the 2019 class, looks set to have a breakout sophomore campaign. He was 3rd on the team in sacks despite only seeing a limited number of snaps last fall.

At the 2nd level of Arnett’s defense, Mississippi State returns their leading tackler from 2019 in Erroll Thompson. The Alabama native will have a chance to shine in this new 3-3-5 system though there are questions about who will play beside him. In the secondary, a bunch of new faces are expected to step up with the departures of Cam Dantzler, Jarian Jones, Jaquarius Landrews and Brian Cole.

I don’t think Mississippi State will be very good in 2020. They could surprise me especially if Costello lives up to the hype and some of these new WR additions prove to be impact players. But State is undergoing some major scheme restructures on both sides of the ball and doing so without the benefit of spring practice. Throw in the amount of proven production that is no longer on the roster, it’s just hard to image the Bulldogs being all that scary this fall. However, I got a feeling this trip to Starkville is going to be MUCH more concerning in 2022 when Leach has had time to restructure this roster to his liking. No matter what though Mississippi State will at least be interesting to watch this fall with the Pirate walking the sidelines.

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What is Auburn (according to Jeopardy)

November 26, 2019 was a red-letter day in the illustrious history of orange and blue-tinged “Jeopardy” episodes.

Bo Jackson and Cam Newton were adjacent answers — or questions, or whatever — in the “After Winning The Heisman” category.

Yep, not one, but two Auburn references — back to back. Pretty impressive.

Since 2014, hardly a year has passed between at least passing references to the Plains on the longstanding quiz show, be it a question (or answer or whatever) about Cam or, yes, the Kick Six.

Here’s a look at every instance (that we know about) of Auburn stuff popping up on that iconic blue screen during the past decade.

One of the most unusual references was 2010 national championship question on a 2017 episode, and no one got it right — technically, not even Alex.

In late 2016, thinking that Auburn was in the Pac-12 cost a contestant named Justin $2,000, and on a true Daily Double no less:

Earlier that year, fact checkers deemed the irony of a school’s colors not matching the color it’s kinda sorta named for worthy of the “College Colors” category:

You could almost hear the tsk, tsk, tsk in Alex Trebek’s instant “no” when poor Terry thought Auburn’s nickname was the Crimson Tide that January:

A few weeks before that, just before Christmas 2015, saw what was arguably the show’s most direct tip of the trivia hat toward the city of Auburn itself:

It only took the guy a second to get this one right…


Mack Brown wishes…

During a 2011 “Colleges and Universities” Daily Double, Alex complimented Auburn’s pigskin prominence while simultaneously insulting contestant Christopher’s grasp of the gridiron in what was decade’s first orange and blue blip on the “Jeopardy!” radar.

Auburn and “Jeopardy!” have also crossed pop cultural paths beyond questions and answers in recent years.

There’s been a contestant or two from the Loveliest Village in the past 10 years, including an Auburn University English professor who offered a “War Eagle!” in her “Hometown Howdy” promo.

In September 2014, “Jeopardy!” legend Ken Jennings included wearing “an Auburn cap” in a multiple choice quiz question about religious expression. A few weeks before that, Lee County native Elizabeth Williams, who went viral for referencing “Cheers” in her Final Jeopardy answer, said she’d actually wished she’d written “War Eagle.”

“Jeopardy!” isn’t the only game show with a rich Auburn history; an almost uncanny number of Auburn fans seem to have come on down on “The Price is Right” over the years. And you can’t forget “The Feud.”

from The War Eagle Reader