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AU’s McNeal Craps All Over Ex-Coordinator Roof

Fresh off a good defensive showing against LSU — you could argue it was Auburn’s first good defensive showing of the year — at least one Tiger is ready to roar.  Safety Demetruce McNeal gave credit to new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder for AU’s surprisingly play on Saturday while simultaneously throwing his ex-coordinator, Ted Roof, under the bus for last year’s defense:


“Last year we weren’t coached very well.  We weren’t as smart as players as we are this year with a change on defense.  Last year, we put on kind of a clown show, a lot of guys not doing their work and not going their job.  This year we just detailed our work.”


McNeal failed to explain why Auburn’s defense tackled like clowns against Clemson, Mississippi State and Louisiana-Monroe earlier this month… with Roof way up north at Penn State for all those games.  Perhaps it took three games for VanGorder’s defense to click and the Tigers have now turned a corner of sorts.  Or perhaps Auburn simply played with emotion and inspiration due to the death on Saturday of 23-year-old student-assistant Joe Bagwell.

Either way, McNeal’s shots at Roof are about as rough as you’ll hear — on the record — from a player regarding one of his ex-coaches.  Of course, McNeal’s comments also reveal that last year’s Tigers were incapable of “doing their work” without someone forcing them to do it.  That doesn’t say much for McNeal or his 2011 teammates, either.

UPDATE — Gene Chizik was asked if his team knew of Bagwell’s death before or during Saturday’s contest and he replied: “Not that I’m aware of.”

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AU’s Bell Says VanGorder Has Laid Down The Law

Defensive back T’Sharvan Bell says it’s clear who’s in charge of Auburn’s defense these days.  New defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has already given his new troops a wake-up call… and he’s explained to them who to come to when there’s a question about playing time or practice reps.

Bell told The Montgomery Advertiser:


“He laid down the ground rules.  He said I’m not compromising with anybody.  It was going to be his way or no way.  That kind of lit up everyone’s eyes that this guy is for real.  That’s what we needed.  We needed someone who is straightforward and is going to tell you the truth…

He says if you want to know the truth, come to my office, and I will tell you.  That’s what we need… somebody to tell us this is how it is.  He says this is what needs to be, this is what you need to do and we need that and everyone has taken to him.”


Bell says the reaction has been positive, though “it’s tougher than everybody has expected.”

What does this one player’s comments say about former defensive coordinator Ted Roof?  Maybe that players didn’t always know what was going on and why.  That doesn’t appear to be the case under VanGorder.

But attitude and a clear chain of command aside, VanGorder will ultimately be judged by how well his Tigers play defense.  Not by his methods (whether they’re popular or not).

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AU, Chizik Searching For A New Secondary Coach

Say goodbye to the last assistant coach with Tommy Tuberville ties at Auburn.  The school announced yesterday that secondary coach Phillip Lolley would be moving into an administrative role with the program, creating the third coach search Gene Chizik has had to undertake since the end of the regular season.

“We appreciate Coach Lolley and the contribution he has made to the Auburn football program in his various roles over the years,” Chizik said in a press release.  “We look forward to him continuing to help with the program’s success in his new capacity.”

Already being mentioned as a potential replacement is one Willie Martinez.  Martinez served as secondary coach under new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder at Georgia before succeeding him in that role in 2005.  After being dismissed in Athens, he moved on to Oklahoma for two seasons before being replaced there by Bob Stoops’ brother Mike this offseason.

In addition to Lolley’s successor and VanGorder’s replacement of Ted Roof, Chizik has also hired Scot Loeffler to replace offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

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Chizik, Malzahn Making Final Plans For Bowl Game

Saturday’s Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia will feature Gus Malzahn’s departure from Auburn and Gene Chizik’s return to his defensive coordinator roots.  Both men are already making plans.

According to tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, his offensive coordinator has big things in store for the Cavaliers.  “He’s going to throw the book at them,” he said of Malzahn’s gameplan.  Malzahn will take over as Arkansas State’s head coach after the bowl.

Chizik, meanwhile, is filling in for departed D-coordinator Ted Roof.  And he always coached from the pressbox as a coordinator in the past.  Any chance he coaches from on high Saturday?  Uh, no.

“Really and truly, my plan is to be on the sideline,” Chizik said.  “I’d give it 90-10.”

“That’s going to be the challenge for me, obviously.  Even when I was a defensive coordinator before all those years I never called a game before from on the field.  Obviously, I’m going to have to be involved in the total aspect of the game — third downs, fourth downs, ‘are we going to go for it?’  I feel like we’ve got a pretty good plan in place, but when everything starts flying fast out there, sometimes it gets pretty hairy out there.  But that’s going to be my plan right now.”

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Chizik Goes Up-Tempo With His Defense

Auburn safety Demetruce McNeal can tell a big difference in practice since head coach Gene Chizik — a former D-coordinator his own self — has taken over for Ted Roof’s old unit during bowl practice:

“It has been so much up-tempo with him.  You can see the big difference between him and Coach Roof.  Roof was kind of calm and tried to set things down.  Coach Chizik comes in the meeting room and everybody just stops.  I can tell a big difference now from the linebackers from when Roof was here.”

Chizik is running the defense as AU prepares for Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.  He’s also searching for two new coordinators… one of whom apparently won’t be Florida State’s Mark Stoops.

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A Case For Malzahn’s Departure

Following the news that Gus Malzahn would leave Auburn for the head coaching job at Arkansas State, it took mere nanoseconds for the internet/talk radio world to start suggesting big troubles on The Plains.

In my car for much of Wednesday, I can tell you that the national talk radio shows had a common theme yesterday and it went a little something like this: “With Malzahn and Ted Roof both leaving for lesser schools, you have to wonder if something bad is going on behind the scenes at Auburn.”

Apparently, most of those folks haven’t spoken to anyone at Auburn.  I have.  And the Roof and Malzahn departures should not be lumped together in any way, shape or form.  Roof saw the writing on the wall after three consecutive years of unimpressive defensive numbers and jumped at a chance to work with an old colleague, doing the same job at UCF.  His move saved his own neck.

Malzahn — it appears — is simply trying to further his career.  As we suggested yesterday, he might see that his offense needs a top-flight quarterback to really work in the SEC.  (Urban Meyer learned the same thing at Florida.)  So maybe he felt it was better to leave now than wait another year and possibly see his stock drop further.

Perhaps he simply wanted to get back to familiar surroundings.  We never know what role family issues play into these types of moves. 

And speaking of family issues, Malzahn’s wife’s viral video moment might have played some role in preventing him from landing a bigger gig this year, but to be fair, his wife could have shot a bird at Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler following last year’s BCS title game and it would have had zero impact on her husband’s job search.  Malzahn was hot last January.  Now, he’s not.  His wife’s video only became an issue because Malzahn’s stock had already dropped.

In the end, perhaps Malzahn simply made what he believes to be the best move to land himself a better head coaching job down the road.

Think about it.

Malzahn was mentioned as a potential candidate at Ole Miss.  Instead of getting a serious look from UM, he saw Arkansas State’s Hugh Freeze land that job after just two years in Jonesboro… and only one as the school’s head coach.  Granted, Freeze had been on the Rebel staff under Ed Orgeron and had made some Oxford contacts, but it’s not hard to imagine Malzahn reaching the conclusion that it’s easier to land a head coaching job when you already have a head coaching job.

If Malzahn had stayed at Auburn, he would be in control of the offense and at the mercy of his team’s defense.  Gene Chizik would make the big picture decisions. 

At Arkansas State, Malzahn will run the show.  In effect, he’ll control his own destiny.  Entirely.  In an area he knows.

Push through the smoke stirred up by messageboards and talk show hosts yesterday and Malzahn’s decision — especially considering the fact that he erred by turning down Vanderbilt last year — actually seems to make some sense.

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SEC Headlines – 12/8/11 PM Edition

1.  Patric Young put on a one-man show for Florida’s hoops team last night.

2.  Put in context, South Carolina’s 3-5 start might not be as bad as it seems.

3.  Vandy fans have bought 8,800 of the 10,000 tickets allotted to them by the Liberty Bowl.

4.  Gene Chizik says he’ll act as Auburn’s defensive coordinator during Chick-fil-A Bowl preps.

5.  Chizik put out a press release today praising the work of outgoing coordinator Ted Roof.

6.  Alabama defensive back Mark Barron says he never got over his team’s loss to LSU and he’s eager for the rematch.

7.  If LSU beats Alabama next month, every Tiger class since the freshmen of 2000 will have one at least one set of BCS championship rings.

8.  When Wake Forest faces Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl, the Deacons will be trying to prove something to the SEC.

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SEC Headlines – 12/8/11 AM Edition

1.  Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne says he didn’t like having to fire Mike Sherman over the phone after news of the decision began to leak.  (A&M shouldn’t have fired Sherman in the first place, but we’ll have more on that when they make their hire.)

2.  This report — and there have been several varying takes on this subject — claims that Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain backed out on a deal with Memphis.

3.  Some homecoming, Alabama was upset 74-62 last night at Dayton, Anthony Grant’s alma mater.

4.  Bad statistical numbers finally caught up with ex-Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof.

5.  Running back Knile Davis says a positive attitude helped him get through rehab for his injured ankle.

6.  The awards keep rolling in at LSU.

7.  Despite all that offseason work with John Lucas down in Houston, MSU’s Renardo Sidney likely isn’t “draftable under any scenario right now.”

8.  Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze — just named the Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year — plans to discipline by “accountability groups.”

9.  Two names that popped up on the UM rumor mill pre-Freeze: Phillip Fulmer and Jimmy Johnson.

10.  Isn’t wasn’t pretty, but Florida bested Arizona 78-72 at the O-Dome last night.

11.  Georgia Tech won at Stegeman Coliseum for the first time in 35 years last night, 68-56, sending Georgia to its fourth-straight loss overall.

12.  Think Steve Spurrier’s recruiting well at South Carolina?  For the second year in a row his team features the SEC’s Freshman of the Year.

13.  Tennessee’s Jeronne Maymon needs to start working the glass a bit more.

14.  Festus Ezeli was back in the lineup and Vanderbilt got back in the win column with an 87-83 victory over Davidson.

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SEC Headlines 12/7/2011 Afternoon Edition

1. Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain is reportedly closing in on the head coaching job at Memphis.

2. Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof is reportedly headed to the same job at Central Florida.

3. Auburn returns to the practice field Monday.

4. One A.P. voter will have LSU No. 1 on his ballot – almost regardless of the outcome against Alabama.

5. Stewart Mandel on the “Plus-One” plan: “If you’re the commissioner of another conference who places any priority whatsoever on giving your member schools an opportunity to compete for championships, you have no choice at this point but to support expanding to four. ”

Extras - 

6. SMU’s June Jones will be the next head coach at Arizona State. Or maybe not..



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AU loses CB Bell For The Season

Fresh off a 45-7 beatdown at Georgia — that could have actually been worse had Mark Richt not taken his foot off the gas — the Auburn Tigers are now facing a new problem in their secondary.  Junior cornerback T’Sharvan Bell is out for the season after suffering a major knee injury on Saturday.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof says Bell will be sorely missed by a unit that’s already had its share of struggles.

“(Bell) means a lot to our defense, not just the way he plays, but the things he provides us off the field.  I really have a lot of respect for him, and how much he’s grown.  I’m really proud of him and love him and it’s just ad that that happened.

Who will replace Bell in Auburn’s secondary is anyone’s guess.  According to The Opelika-Auburn News, at least four players’ names — Ryan White, Jonathon Mincy, Jermaine Whitehead and Robenson Therezie — have been kicked around as possible fill-ins.

The Plainsmen already rank dead last in the SEC in pass defense, allowing 216 yards per game through the air.

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