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June 29, 2012

Emory Blake, Corey Lemonier, Philip Lutzenkirchen will be Auburn’s representatives at SEC Media Days

The SEC released the three ambassadors for each football team at SEC Media Days, and the names coming out of Auburn should surprise no one.

Wide receiver Emory Blake, tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen and defensive end Corey Lemonier will represent the Tigers at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., on July 18. SEC Media Days run from July 17-19, and as part of the expanded schedule with 14 teams, Auburn has the late-afternoon time slot on the event’s second day.

Both Blake and Lutzenkirchen have been Auburn’s representatives at SEC Media Days before, taking the honors last July. Instead of Nosa Eguae, though, Lemonier’s breakout season landed him on the list for this go-around.

Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, of course, will also be in attendance.

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2012 SEC MEDIA DAYS 

ALABAMA

  • Barrett Jones                        C              6-5          311         Sr.           Germantown, Tenn.
  • Damion Square                     DE           6-3          285         Sr.           Houston, Texas
  • Michael Williams                  TE            6-6          269         Sr.           Reform, Ala.

ARKANSAS

  • Knile Davis                             RB           6-0          226         Jr.            Missouri City, Texas
  • Tyler Wilson                          QB           6-3          220         Sr.           Greenwood, Ark.
  • Tenarius Wright                   ILB           6-2          252         Sr.           Memphis, Tenn.

AUBURN

  • Emory Blake                          WR          6-2          197         Sr.           Austin, Texas
  • Corey Lemonier                   DE           6-4          240         Jr.            Hialeah, Fla.
  • Philip Lutzenkirchen           TE            6-5          256         Sr.           Marietta, Ga.

FLORIDA

  • Jon Bostic                              ILB           6-1          243         Sr.           Wellington, Fla.
  • Mike Gillislee                        RB           5-11        201         Sr.           Deland, Fla.
  • Lerentee McCray                 LB           6-2          247         Sr.           Ocala, Fla.

GEORGIA

  • Abry Jones                            DE           6-3          309         Sr.           Warner Robins, Ga.
  • Jarvis Jones                           OLB         6-3          241         Jr.            Columbus, Ga.
  • Tavarres King                        WR          6-1          192         Sr.           Mount Airy, Ga.

KENTUCKY

  • Matt Smith                             C              6-4          296         Sr.           Louisville, Ky.
  • Collins Ukwu                         DE           6-5          258         Sr.           La Vergne, Tenn.
  • Larry Warford                      OG          6-3          343         Sr.           Richmond, Ky.

LSU

  • Odell Beckham, Jr.               WR          5-11        183         So.           New Orleans, La.
  • Zach Mettenberger             QB           6-5          222         Jr.            Watkinsville, Ga.
  • Eric Reid                                SAF         6-2          208         Jr.            Geismar, La.

OLE MISS

  • Mike Marry                           ILB           6-2          248         Jr.            Clearwater, Fla.
  • Donte Moncrief                   WR          6-2          214         So.           Raleigh, Miss.
  • Charles Sawyer                     DB           5-11        175         Jr.            Miami, Fla.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

  • Johnthan Banks                    DB           6-2          185         Sr.           Maben, Miss.
  • Gabe Jackson                        OL           6-4          320         Jr.            Liberty, Miss.
  • Tyler Russell                          QB           6-4          220         Jr.            Meridian, Miss.

MISSOURI

  • Elvis Fisher                            OL           6-5          295         Sr.           St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • E.J. Gaines                              CB           5-10        190         Jr.            Independence, Mo.
  • T.J. Moe                                 WR          6-0          200         Sr.           O’Fallon, Mo. 

SOUTH CAROLINA

  • Ace Sanders                          WR          5-8          175         Jr.            Bradenton, Fla.
  • Connor Shaw                        QB           6-1          207         Jr.            Flowery Branch, Ga.
  • D.J. Swearinger                     FS            6-0          210         Sr.           Greenwood, S.C.

TENNESSEE

  • Tyler Bray                              QB           6-6          210         Jr.            Kingsburg, Calif.
  • Ja’Wuan James                     OL           6-6          324         Jr.            Suwanee, Ga.
  • Herman Lathers                   LB            6-0          225         Sr.           Baton Rouge, La.

TEXAS A&M

  • Luke Joeckel                         OT           6-6          310         Jr.            Arlington, Texas
  • Sean Porter                           OLB         6-2          230         Sr.           Schertz, Texas
  • Ryan Swope                          WR          6-0          206         Sr.           Austin, Texas

VANDERBILT

  • Jordan Rodgers                    QB           6-1          210         Sr.           Chico, Calif.
  • Zac Stacy                                RB           5-9          210         Sr.           Centreville, Ala.
  • Trey Wilson                           DB           5-11        192         Sr.           Shreveport, La.

June 26, 2012

Gene Chizik, Pat Dye set to appear at SEC BeachFest in August

Photo by Todd Van Emst

If you’re looking to take one more trip to the beach before football season starts and hoping to catch a little football news in-person, the SEC has an event set up just for you.

SEC BeachFest, a “celebration of Southeastern Conference football,” will be held August 23-26 along the Alabama Gulf Coast in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, with a star-studded lineup of coaches expected to be in attendance, and Auburn will have a strong showing.

Both Gene Chizik and Pat Dye will be in attendance to partake in “an interactive Q&A” with fans leading up to the 2012 season.

For the moment, Chizik will be joined by Alabama coach Nick Saban and LSU coach Les Miles. Among retired coaches, former Alabama coach Gene Stallings, former Georgia coach Vince Dooley and Tennessee’s Philip Fulmer will be along the coast for the week.

“We are excited to see all the elements of this action-packed weekend develop over the last few months and are eager to welcome SEC families to our beachfront for a preview of the official kick-off of the football season,” said Herb Malone, President/CEO of the CVB. “This event showcases what SEC families truly mean to our destination.”

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Auburn SID Shelly Poe honored with CoSIDA Trailblazer Award

Auburn assistant athletic director for media relations Shelly Poe, who has been the Tigers’ primary football contact for player interviews since March, was given the College Sports Information Directors of America’s Trailblazer Award for her career in sports information this week.

Poe, who spent more than 30 years at West Virginia and Ohio State before being hired by Auburn earlier this year, is one of the most accomplished women in the field of sports information.

At West Virginia, Poe was named the sports information director at the age of 24, and she was inducted into the CoSIDA Hall of Fame in 2002, only the fifth woman to receive the award.

For five years, Poe worked at Ohio State, and she has also served as the President of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association.

June 25, 2012

Report: Freshman quarterback Zeke Pike has left Auburn for the summer

Photo by Todd Van Emst

Freshman quarterback Zeke Pike has reportedly left Auburn and gone home for the rest of the summer following his arrest for public intoxication last weekend, according to AL.com.

An Auburn spokesman told the Ledger-Enquirer Monday morning there would be no official comment on Pike’s situation.

Pike, an early enrollee and a true freshman who is a native of Fort Mitchell, Ky., has likely removed himself from the three-way race for the starting quarterback job, even though he had already clearly fallen behind teammates Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley during the spring.

He completed 4-of-8 passes for 42 yards on A-Day.

By heading home for the summer, Pike will miss weeks of informal workouts with his teammates leading up to the start of two-a-days.

Pike was arrested at 12:40 a.m. Sunday morning on South College Street in Auburn and charged with public intoxication. He was released on a $300 bond.

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The Week in Review: A circus of a case, the Juggernaut unleashed and a poorly-timed mistake by Pike

Photo by Todd Van Emst

For a long time, the rumor was that things tended to slow down in the summer, and to be fair, the blog has played its fair share of softball and sand volleyball since the weather got warm and most sports turned to the offseason.

But on the other hand, the news cycle hasn’t exactly slowed down much, what with the Updyke trial, NCAA movers and shakers and a few other extracurriculars that have come down the pipe since I returned from Texas and came off of furlough.

Enough about the schedule, though. Let’s take a look at the week that was in Auburn athletics.

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The Week In Review

  • Auburn fans who have kept their eye on the trial of Harvey Updyke should have been surprised very little by the circus-like quality of the last three days. Over the weekend, the question the blog heard most was, if he’s confessed so many times, why is this trial such a big deal? And the answer is simple. When — at this point, it’s probably better to put if — this case goes to trial, the argument is likely to be centered around things other than Updyke’s guilt. Remember, he’s pled not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, so Updyke’s competency will be on trial. In addition, the defense’s earlier court filings plan to argue against the validity of the charges the state is bringing. His guilt, it seems, is only a small part of the case.
  • Bad, bad move by Zeke Pike to get arrested for public intoxication this weekend, no matter how you look at it. Even though the coaching staff has said all the right things about the quarterback race being three-pronged, Pike always faced an uphill battle as a freshman, and loyal blog readers and Auburn fans know that Kiehl Frazier seemed to have grabbed the lead after the spring. Now, in a summer that’s important for development, Pike’s arrest will make it hard for the coaches to install him as the team’s leader.
  • Granted, it seemed like Jay Prosch’s application for a hardship waiver was always a slam-dunk case, but the fact that the NCAA has made a ruling on the waiver lifted any question there might have been. Prosch has been installed as the team’s fullback from day one of spring drills, and a ruling the other way would have forced Auburn’s coaches to make some hard decisions about the tight ends and finding a lead blocker in Scot Loeffler’s offense. With Prosch available, that’s all out the window.
  • Prosch’s immediate eligibility also figures to be a huge boost for senior tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, who didn’t exactly hide his excitement when the news broke on Thursday. “Glad big Jay Prosch gets to play!! Plus he opens my game up!! Watch out for the “gruesome twosome”!!” Lutzenkirchen tweeted. What Prosch does is open up Lutzenkirchen as a receiver. After catching only 24 passes last year despite solid receiving skills, expect Lutzenkirchen to play a much bigger role in the passing offense in the fall.
  • Terri Williams-Flournoy finished off her coaching staff by adding former Alabama and Georgetown assistant Ty Evans to the staff last week. Evans was a nice pickup. He knows the state of Alabama, knows Williams-Flournoy and most importantly, gives Auburn some immediate recruiting authority within the state confines. It will be interesting to see what the new coaching staff does.
  • Auburn golfers had another stellar week in a year that seems to be a highlight year for the program. At the collegiate level, Blayne Barber was named to the 2012 All-Nicklaus Team, Dominic Bozzelli picked up honorable mention All-America honors and freshman Michael Johnson cruised to the Greystone Invitational title. On the pro level, former golfer Jason Dufner has taken a break from winning all his tournaments, but Roland Thatcher tied for fourth at the Travelers Championship. Not a bad stretch for the program this season.
  • Whether or not an Auburn sprinter can contend for an Olympic team spot remains to be seen, but Marcus Rowland and Keenan Brock have already had good weekends at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. Both made the semifinals, and Rowland was a place away from earning a starting block in the finals. Harry Adams, perhaps the Tigers’ fastest man, still has a 200 appearance to make.
  • A whole mess of Auburn swimmers are in Omaha, Neb., competing in the U.S. Olympic Trials this week. Don’t expect any of the current Tigers to make the team, but if anybody does, it would be a heck of an accomplishment. The 2012 Olympics in London begin at the end of July.

Tony Barbee says Frankie Sullivan’s getting better, young team gelling during summer workouts

Photo by Todd Van Emst

Under any circumstances, the task Tony Barbee has laid out for the 2012-2013 season would be daunting.

Coming off of two straight mediocre seasons to start his Auburn tenure, Barbee is trying to replace eight players from last year’s squad. The Tigers lost three players to graduation (Kenny Gabriel, Adrian Forbes, Tony Neysmith), three to suspension or dismissal (Varez Ward, Cedrick McAfee, Josh Langford) and two to transfer (Willy Kouassi and Bernard Morena).

In their place, Barbee has to mesh a massive incoming class of newcomers — four freshmen, two junior college players — with Auburn’s remaining core of Frankie Sullivan, Rob Chubb, Josh Wallace,  Chris Denson and Noel Johnson. New NCAA rules allowing a coach to spend eight hours each week in workouts during the summer have given Barbee a head start on bringing his revamped team together.

“It gives you a chance to figure out what your young players can do on the floor and gel with the older veterans, which is a strong group of seniors, probably the strongest since I’ve been here,” Barbee said. “It gets them to really build the chemistry with the young players on campus.”

Incoming freshmen Jordan Price, Shaquille Johnson, Brian Greene and Jordon Granger will likely all play roles in Auburn’s rotation next year, and they have been learning while working out with established guys like Sullivan and Chubb.

Sullivan averaged 12.6 points last season, but he shot only 38.3 percent from the field and 31.7 percent from 3-point range, a season Barbee attributed to recovery from Sullivan’s knee injury two years ago.

Now, Sullivan is getting better.

“As devastating as his knee injury was, what you saw out of Frankie last year was only 70-75 percent,” Barbee said. “This summer he’s starting to get some of that explosion back in his legs.”

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  • Asked about transfers, Barbee echoed the thoughts of a lot of college coaches by saying there are too many, citing more than 400 this year alone in college basketball. “It’s obvious there’s too many — and I think all coaches would agree — but what is the answer? I don’t think any of us have it,” Barbee said. “That problem doesn’t start at college. You’ve got kids who went to five or six high schools and six or seven AAU programs. We’re creating a culture of allowing these kids to run from their problems.
  • In his time at Auburn, Barbee said, he has not placed a restriction on the players who have transferred from Auburn — Kouassi and Morena this year, Earnest Ross last year. Auburn’s coach did say he makes those decisions on a case-by-case basis.
  • Barbee also said the NCAA’s new rules involving texting at any time will be a big help in terms of building relationships with recruits, although he also joked that he can never get his phone out of his hand.
  • In the future, Auburn may take a trip overseas to play during the summer. Barbee said he’s planning a trip for next summer, although he has not decided where the Tigers will go. He also said a coach wants to schedule those trips when they have their best groups, saying it “sets them up to have great years.”

June 24, 2012

Freshman quarterback Zeke Pike arrested for public intoxication

Auburn freshman quarterback Zeke Pike was arrested for public intoxication on Saturday night in Lee County.

Pike, 19, was later released on a $300 bond.

A highly-touted recruit after his junior season at Dixie Heights High School in Edgewood, Kent., Pike’s star fell some in recruiting circles after an inconsistent senior season.

Pike, a 6-foot-5, 220-pounder, was suspended from his team’s playoff game for an undisclosed violation of team rules. He also served a one-game suspension for Dixie Heights’ season-opener, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The true freshman was given a chance to compete for the starting job at quarterback during spring practices and completed 4-of-8 passes for 42 yards on A-Day.

Pike was expected to continue competing for the job when two-a-days begin in the fall, although sophomore Kiehl Frazier emerged as the frontrunner over Pike and junior Clint Moseley after spring drills.

The Tigers have also added incoming freshman Jonathan Wallace, the Central-Phenix City quarterback who switched his commitment from Central Florida to Auburn in the final days before national signing day.

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June 22, 2012

Q & A: Jay Prosch talks about getting hardship waiver, being closer to his mother

Photo by Todd Van Emst

In the wake of the NCAA granting him a hardship waiver to play immediately, newly-minted Auburn fullback Jay Prosch sat down with reporters on Friday afternoon to talk about the process. Here’s the Q &A from that interview

The blog has edited portions of the interview for clarity.

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Q & A with Jay Prosch

Q: When did you find out, and who told you? Did you have any idea?

JP: Yesterday, from Coach Chizik. I had no idea. I’ve just been waiting, so it was a big shock to me.

Q: Did he call you and say come by?

JP: I came by, he called me in and told me, I was very surprised.

Q: Were you surprised it happened, or by the time frame?

JP: Just the time frame, it was so unexpected. I’d been waiting, not knowing when, so I was surprised when he called me in and told me it was today, it was awesome.

Q: Were you concerned that it wouldn’t happen?

JP: I was starting to get concerned, but after spring ball, I decided I’d put everything in God’s hands, and I’m already happy. Through spring and through summer, I’ve already been able to go home and see my mom so much, it’s already been completely different, and it’s been awesome. I’m already happy, and either way, I would have been happy, so this is great.

Q: Did you have to be involved with the waiver process?

JP: The only thing I had to do was supply some information about my mom’s records, so that’s really all I had to do.

Q: Does that get you thinking more about next season?

JP: Beforehand, I didn’t think that I would feel the way I felt, after I heard, I did really start thinking more about the season. All day yesterday after I heard, I couldn’t stop moving, and just thinking about the season.

Q: How has it been to be much closer to your family?

JP: It’s been amazing. Weekends where I haven’t had anything, I don’t need to be here, I can just drive home, ride home with my sister a lot of times, and go home and just be with my mom, my little sister that lives in Mobile. The only sister I don’t get to see is my older sister who lives in North Carolina, so it’s been a shock for me. I’m just trying to get used to it. When the season starts, I’m not going to be able to do that, but it’s nice right now.

Q: How’s your mom doing?

JP: She’s being strong right now. A few months ago, she got the diagnosis that the tumor was progressing, so she’s just still staying strong and being hopeful. Fighting it off together. She’s been great.

Q: With much more important things to be concerned with, is the waiver a weight off your shoulders?

JP: So much. It feels amazing, because through spring ball, I kind of forgot about the waiver. Being involved with the team, being involved, I wasn’t thinking about it. Once spring ball, I started thinking, I’m still waiting on this to come through. Now that it’s happened, I can kind of just let loose and not have to worry about anything.

Q: Do you feel like the coaches, the way they used you in the spring, they were planning on you being available?

JP: I think they were. I think that’s why I kind of forgot about the waiver.

Q: How long has your mom been battling cancer?

JP: She was first diagnosed with brain cancer last year during spring ball when I was at Illinois. It’s been a little over a year.

Q: Were you thinking, even then, about trying to get closer to her if possible?

JP: At the time, that summer, we were still learning a lot about how serious it was, what exactly it was, treatments and what originally had happened, because we didn’t know. I was really more focused on that, because we didn’t know. And then, obviously, it’s hard to transfer in the summer, so I just played throughout the year, and it was a good time for me to transfer. She really, last season, she was really healthy enough to travel and come see me play at Illinois. In November is when she started having problems again.

Q: Do you think she’ll be able to see you play at Auburn?

JP: I think she’ll be able to. She came up here for the spring game, which was really cool, so I think she’ll definitely be able to make it to some games.

Q: What’s your role at Auburn? Are you a gladiator that knocks people back?

JP: At Illinois, that’s pretty much what I did. I didn’t really run the ball, didn’t really get thrown the ball, just kind of ran leads and tried to knock people over and make a hole for the running back. Honestly, that’s what I love doing. Coming out of high school, I’d never played fullback, and I was kind of nervous about it, but I realized pretty quick this is what I like to do.

Q: Do you want to catch the ball and knock people over?

JP: I wouldn’t mind it, but I’m not asking for it. I’m a team player, so I do whatever it takes to win. I’m not asking for it, but it would be nice if it happened a few times.

Q: Do you feel like you’re doing the same things you did at Illinois?

JP: I am. The only difference is I haven’t done anything for the program yet as far as in the season or during the game. Hopefully that will happen this year.

 

 

June 21, 2012

NCAA rules Jay Prosch is eligible to play right away in 2012

Photo by Todd Van Emst

The NCAA has granted a hardship waiver to Auburn fullback Jay Prosch, a move that allows the transfer from Illinois to play right away instead of having to sit out a full season.

Prosch, a 6-foot, 253-pounder who drew rave reviews from teammates during spring ball for his blocking ability, transferred to Auburn at the start of the spring semester to be closer to his ailing mother, who is battling brain cancer.

Unable to make the trip to his hometown of Mobile — he played at UMS-Wright in high school — very often during his two-year career at Illinois, Prosch’s move to be closer to his family member made him eligible to apply for a hardship waiver and play immediately.

“I’m extremely blessed and very thankful to have my waiver cleared by the NCAA,” Prosch said. “I’m excited and can’t wait for my mother and family to see me play this fall.”

Hardship waivers are generally only granted to athletes who have family members facing medical issues.

“We’re happy for Jay,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said, “and are appreciative for their understanding of his desire to attend school and play closer to home so that he could spend more time with his family.”

An eligible Prosch gives Auburn one of the best blocking backs in the country immediately to pave holes in new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler’s pro-style scheme.

A two-year starter at Illinois, Prosch is routinely recognized as one of the best blockers out of the backfield in the country. He earned first team All-American honors from Pro Football Weekly last year.

The arrival of Prosch also allows tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen to move back to his natural position as a receiver.

Used mostly as a lead blocker out of the backfield last season, Lutzenkirchen caught 24 passes and seven touchdowns, but Prosch’s addition could allow the star senior to be a much bigger player in the passing game.

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Auburn women’s basketball hires Ty Evans to fill out coaching staff

Photo by Todd Van Emst

First-year Auburn women’s basketball coach Terri Williams-Flournoy finished off her staff on Thursday by announcing the hire of Ty Evans, a former Georgetown assistant who has been coaching at Alabama.

Evans spent the last five years in Tuscaloosa. Used as a post coach for the Crimson Tide, Evans will coach the point guards and be heavily involved in recruiting.

“Ty is a good fit for me because I wanted somebody that knew the state of Alabama and I already have a great relationship with him having worked with me at Georgetown,” said Williams-Flournoy. “He has established himself as a very good recruiter in the Alabama area. He has developed great relationships with the AAU and high school coaches in the area, they all had great things to say about him.”

Before coaching at Alabama, Evans served in almost every position at Georgetown and did two stints as an assistant coach at Saint Louis University.

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