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August 23, 2013

Miss anything? Links to all recent Auburn content in one place

Auburn 31, ULM Louisiana-Monroe 28

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Some may remember a post on WarEagleExtra.com two weeks ago which linked to 19 different stories at one time.

Well, it’s the same deal here. There have been 22 additions to the blog since Monday (not including this post, of course), and with almost 48 hours remaining until we get to speak with any of Auburn’s players or coaches again — we’ll be speaking with coordinators, Ellis Johnson and Rhett Lashlee on Sunday evening, for those wondering — it would be a good time to get caught up on all the latest goings-on with the Tigers.

So don’t frustrate yourself by trying to scroll down to take in every piece of content that’s been produced in the last four days. That’s what this post is here for: to make it simpler for you, the reader, by having everything compiled in one place.

If you’re looking for a notebook, we’ve got it. A feature? That too. Videos? Yes sir. Whatever you want, you should be able to find below. (And as per usual, each item is sectioned accordingly.)

NEWS & NOTES

8/19 — Injuries to keep Dee Ford and Jonathan Jones out of season opener

8/20 — True freshman Johnathan Ford switching from running back to cornerback

8/20 — Former Tigers Demetruce McNeal and Ricky Parks find new schools

8/20 — Gus Malzahn looks back at first fall camp as Tigers coach, feels team covered ‘all of our situations’

8/21 — 2014 schedule has Tigers hosting Arkansas in opener, traveling to Georgia and Alabama

8/22 — Six Tigers selected to coaches’ All-SEC preseason teams

8/22 — Demetruce McNeal officially enrolled at West Alabama

8/22 — Kiehl Frazier ‘in the mix’ for playing time in season opener, Justin Garrett returns to practice

VIDEO INTERVIEWS, POST-PRACTICE

8/19 — Gus Malzahn: Head coach says Nick Marshall ‘was a lot more vocal’ in first practice as starting QB

8/19 — Nick Marshall feels ‘blessed’ to start at quarterback for Tigers

8/19 — Rhett Lashlee says Nick Marshall ‘taking it and running with’ quarterback responsibilities

8/20 — Ellis Johnson has seen improvement ‘with past four practices’ after spate of injuries disrupt cohesiveness

8/20 — Auburn offense finds ‘best rhythm that we’ve had since I’ve been back’ in final practice of fall camp

8/21 — Junior defensive tackles Angelo Blackson and Gabe Wright

8/23 — Gus Malzahn pleased to see Nick Marshall ‘just as disappointed as the coaches’ when he makes a mistake

PLAYER/POSITION PROFILES

8/19 — Jonathan Wallace ahead of Jeremy Johnson in fight for backup QB spot

8/22 — Cassanova McKinzy believes weakside linebacker spot will showcase ‘everything I can do’

8/23 — Tigers not lacking for options in the backfield

MISCELLANEOUS ANALYSIS & SUCH

8/21 — Five questions (and five predictions) as Tigers head into regular season

8/22 — Replay Thursday’s live chat

8/23 — 4 at 4: Links to help the day pass by

August 22, 2013

Auburn football: Demetruce McNeal officially enrolled at West Alabama

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala.Demetruce McNeal is now a West Alabama Tiger.

Former Auburn safety Demetruce McNeal (12) officially enrolled at West Alabama on Thursday. (File photo)

Former Auburn safety Demetruce McNeal (12) officially enrolled at West Alabama on Thursday. (File photo)

The former Auburn safety officially enrolled Thursday morning, according to an official release from the school. He began practicing with the football team Thursday afternoon.

“We are excited to be adding Demetruce to our football team,” head coach Will Hall said in the statement. “Obviously, he has been a great player at Auburn, but the second thing is, in talking to a lot of people about him from his family, to his high school coaches and some of his coaches at Auburn, we believe he is going to be a good person here.”

Hall said McNeal is looking forward to the opportunity to continue his playing career with West Alabama.

“He is excited about coming here and excited about becoming a UWA Tiger, becoming part of a program that has a chance to win a national championship,” Hall said. “He understands that he will have to become us and we will not become him.”

McNeal was Auburn’s top returning tackler, making 90 stops last season. He was dismissed on Saturday afternoon following an arrest for second-degree marijuana possession earlier that morning.

On Tuesday, he tweeted that he would be enrolling at West Alabama. He wished “my former coaches and teammates the best this year,” while also denying any wrongdoing in regards to Saturday’s arrest. The College Park, Ga., native missed the last five practices of the spring for undisclosed personal reasons. He also sat out the first 10 sessions of fall camp following a surgery caused to treat an infection.

McNeal will make his debut with West Alabama on Sept. 7. The Tigers will host the Clark Atlanta Panthers at noon ET.

August 20, 2013

Auburn football: Former Tigers Demetruce McNeal and Ricky Parks find new schools

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — It didn’t take long for Demetruce McNeal to land on his feet.

Former Auburn safety Demetruce McNeal (12) tweeted that he would be transferring to West Alabama on Tuesday. (File photo)

Former Auburn safety Demetruce McNeal (12) tweeted that he would be transferring to West Alabama on Tuesday. (File photo)

The former Auburn safety revealed he has already found a new school after being dismissed from the Tigers on Saturday following an arrest for possession of marijuana earlier that morning. McNeal took to his personal Twitter account Tuesday to announce the news.

“I’m officially transferring to The Univ. of West Alabama to finish up my senior campaign and still keep my dreams alive,” McNeal tweeted.

McNeal was the Tigers’ leading returning tackler, as he collected 90 takedowns last season.

However, he had a string of issues prior to his dismissal, missing the final five practices of the spring for undisclosed personal reasons. The College Park, Ga., native also sat out the first 10 sessions of fall camp after developing an infection that required minor surgery.

Though he’s no longer a member of the program, the senior had kind words for the Tigers as they prepare for the 2013 season.

“I appreciate everything (A)uburn did for me and I wish my former coaches and teammates the best this year,” he tweeted. “(I)t has been fun these past 3 years.”

When reached Tuesday morning, a spokesman at West Alabama said McNeal had “not enrolled yet,” but expected it to be “sooner rather than later” given that the school’s fall semester began on Monday.

Since West Alabama is a Division II program, McNeal can play immediately. The Tigers are the defending champions of the Gulf South Conference and begin the season ranked No. 16 in the American Football Coaches Association NCAA Division II poll.

But McNeal isn’t the only ex-Auburn player settling in at a new school.

Backup tight end Ricky Parks, who was dismissed on Aug. 2 — the first day of Auburn’s fall camp — for what head coach Gus Malzahn called “a violation of team rules,” will play for Northeast Mississippi Community College this year. A spokesman at the school confirmed on Tuesday that Parks was “enrolled and attending class” at the junior college. He began Aug. 8, which marked the first day NEMCC held classes this semester.

Ricky Parks has enrolled at Northeast Mississippi Community College. (File photo)

Ex-Auburn tight end Ricky Parks has enrolled at Northeast Mississippi Community College. (File photo)

The redshirt freshman has also been practicing with the football team, though the school hasn’t released its official 55-man roster at this time. The spokesman said that should take place “within the next few days.”

Parks was expected to contribute for the Tigers at both the tight end and H-back positions this season. He was lauded by the coaching staff during the spring for his improvements after sitting out last year.

Parks exited the spring as part of the Tigers’ two-deep depth chart, settling behind Jay Prosch at H-back for the second-team offense. The Hogansville, Ga., native played at Callaway High School, where he was a four-star prospect in the 2012 class.

July 31, 2013

4 at 4: Assorted links (Auburn and otherwise) to whet your whistle on Wednesday

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra

AUBURN, Ala. — How much more can I really say at this point?

You’re ready for football. I’m ready for football.

Let’s just jump right in to the links in today’s “4 at 4.”graphics4

1. If you didn’t get a chance to read either of my earlier stories today, well … here’s your chance. The first highlights five newcomers to watch for during Auburn’s fall camp, while the second notes how the Tigers will honor four of the greatest teams in school history during the 2013 season.

2. One former Tiger, Erique Florence, found a new home Tuesday. Troy University sent out an official release welcoming the Valley, Ala., native to the program. But could Auburn be bringing in another player looking for a new school in the near future? According to former War Eagle Extra beat writer Joel Erickson, dismissed Texas receiver Cayleb Jones lists Auburn as a school he’s interested in, along with Arizona, North Carolina, Florida, Colorado, East Carolina, Clemson and UCLA. The Tigers do have one connection with Jones, as former receiver Emory Blake is his cousin. Wherever Jones decides to go, he’ll have to sit out a year; however, he will have three years of eligibility remaining.

3. Cam Newton always makes headlines, but on Tuesday, it was for good reason. Coming off the field following practice, Newton stopped and chatted with a Carolina fan with cerebral palsy. He then gave her his signed cleats and signed another football the family brought with them. Simply a heartwarming story regardless of what NFL team or player you cheer for.

But Tuesday also had some sobering news from another former Tiger in the NFL. Washington coach Mike Shanahan said that Tristan Davis has decided to retire, per the club’s official Twitter feed. Shanahan said the former Auburn running back told him “his heart wasn’t into playing football anymore.” The 27-year-old also had stints with Pittsburgh, Miami, Minnesota and Detroit after entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2009.

Below is a YouTube clip of Davis in happier times on the field, when he ran 162 yards on eight carries against Kentucky in 2005. (Hat tip to Scott Scroggins for the link.)

4. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Polo Manukainiu and two others who were killed in a car wreck in New Mexico on Monday night. Manukainiu, a defensive end for Texas A&M, redshirted last season.

As excited as people are for football to be here, tragedies like these always help to remind us to treasure every moment of our lives.

July 30, 2013

4 at 4: Counting down the days until real, live football gets here

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra

AUBURN, Ala. — Two days.

Just two more days until Auburn players report. Three days until fall camp opens. And we’re just a month away from the season kicking off, when the Tigers welcome the Washington State Cougars to Jordan-Hare Stadium on Aug. 31. It seems so close — and it is. But the closer it gets, the more anxious I am for it to finally begin. Of course, coaches, players and fans share in the excitement of a coming season every bit as much as media members do.

Ellis Johnson

Ellis Johnson

It reminds me of something defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said when he sat down for an interview with beat writers exactly one week ago today. In fact, it was the very first thing Johnson was asked: “How ready are you to get things started?”

It was a simple question, but the veteran coach gave a wonderfully detailed answer.

“We’ve kept away from them so much during this time of the year, and although they never leave, it’s not like the old reporting dates in the old days where they used to go home for the summer and you couldn’t wait to see them when they got back. At the same time, it’s still a time when you can get your hands back on them and get back on the field and get rolling again. You kind of get in these days right here, I can’t stand them. I either want to go back on vacation or I want to start practice. That in-between time is kind of hard to hold yourself back.”

Believe me, Coach, we all feel the same way.

In the meantime, let’s hit on a few small items in today’s edition of “4 at 4.”

1. A few tweets regarding myriad former members of Auburn’s football program have made the rounds on Twitter in the last 24 hours. The first, as was discussed in this space Monday, was in reference to former Tigers running back Michael Dyer. According to this tweet from Drew Deener, the play-by-play voice of the Louisville Cardinals, Dyer has not yet joined their program, per head coach Charlie Strong.

Speaking of head coaches, former Tigers head man Tommy Tuberville has not returned to Auburn since 2008, if this tweet from CBS Sports national college football reporter Jeremy Fowler is taken as fact.

It would probably be smart for former offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler to stay away from Auburn for a few years, too. Take a look at some of the comments he made at the Roanoke Valley Sports Club on Monday night, which were tweeted out by former War Eagle Extra beat writer Andy Bitter, now covering Virginia Tech football for the Roanoke Times and Virginian-Pilot.

Needless to say, the current offensive coordinator of the Hokies didn’t think very much of the hand he was dealt last season.

Oh, and he thinks Nick Saban is smart. (Then again, what is he supposed to say when he couldn’t put a single point on the board against Alabama’s defense last year?)

Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for an Auburn player to respond, as backup center Tunde Fariyike did the honors — with an edge.

And how about one more Fariyike tweet to top it off?

2. Gus Malzahn will be making his last stop on the 2013 Tiger Trek this evening. It will be in Montgomery at Riverwalk Stadium starting at 6 p.m. ET. James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser has all the details for those who might be interested.

3. At the risk of possible Johnny Manziel overload, I cannot recommend this article by ESPN The Magazine senior writer Wright Thompson enough. While reading it, I went through every emotion possibly toward “Johnny Football.” Anger. Pity. Fascination. Bewilderment. (One thing I must note about the story: It contains some graphic language and subject matter.)

Frankly, all you really need to know is that Thompson wrote it — for my money, one of the top sports journalists in the country without question. Read it for yourself and see how you feel about Manziel. Maybe it will cement your preconceived notions about him. Or maybe you’ll end up feeling differently about the 20-year-old lightning rod known as much for off-the-field controversies as his incredible on-the-field accomplishments.

4. Just in case you’re in Auburn this weekend, take heart: Parking will be free.

Via the Opelika-Auburn News article: “In conjunction with this weekend’s sales tax holiday weekend and Auburn University’s semester break, the Auburn City Council has suspended parking meter operations in downtown from Aug. 3-20.”

Most importantly, for you fellow football-lovers out there, yes, fall camp will have already started by this weekend.

July 18, 2013

Gene Chizik joins SiriusXM Radio in analyst role

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra

Gene Chizik has landed a new gig.

Former Auburn coach Gene Chizik will join SiriusXM next week, serving in an analyst role on multiple shows.

Former Auburn coach Gene Chizik will join SiriusXM Radio next week, serving in an analyst role on multiple shows.

The former Auburn football coach will join SiriusXM Radio, serving in an analyst role on its college sports channel. The announcement came in a press release on Thursday. Chizik will host multiple shows each week on the SiriusXM College Sports Nation, which is channel 91 on the satellite network. He will make his debut next week, getting on the air for the first time on July 23 alongside host Mark Packer on “College Sports Today.” The show airs from 3-6 p.m. ET.

“SiriusXM College Sports Nation is a tremendous source of information for college football fans and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Chizik said in a statement. “We’ve got a lot to talk about with the season approaching, from the standout teams and players to watch to realignment and the college football playoffs.”

Chizik was fired as the Tigers’ head coach last November after posting a 3-9 record in his final season. He went 33-19 overall in four seasons at Auburn and won the BCS National Championship with the Tigers in 2010.

April 29, 2013

BROTHERS ARE RAMS: Emory Blake joins Lutzenkirchen, Bates in St. Louis

Clemson_Auburn9_9-1-12

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

@WarEagleExtra

BIRMINGHAM – Depending on who makes 53-man rosters, Sept. 26 and Dec. 1 will be two dates for Auburn fans to watch in the 2013 NFL season.

St. Louis, which hosts its NFC West rival on the former date, signed tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, linebacker Daren Bates and wide receiver Emory Blake as unrestricted free agents within 48 hours of the conclusion of last week’s NFL draft.

Any and all former Tigers could face their longtime teammate, defensive end Corey Lemonier, selected in the third round Friday by San Francisco, the site of the second matchup this fall.

“It’s going to be cool to go into this with some familiar faces around you,” said Blake, who signed with the Rams Monday morning. “You can kind of go through it together, which is good.”

Lutzenkirchen’s family, from suburban Atlanta, hosted Blake, an Austin, Texas native, during their freshman season in 2009. As high school seniors, those two and Bates were together at Auburn’s spring football scrimmage – the first on-field appearance by ex-head coach Gene Chizik.

Bates, Blake and Lutzenkirchen won a national championship in 2010 as sophomores, suffered through a 3-9 collapse as seniors, and now will scratch and claw for a chance to jumpstart their professional careers in the same uniform.

“We all came in together, we’re all part of the same class and we’ve been through a lot together,” Blake said. “We’ve always been close.”

There’s a pipeline here: Rams head coach Jeff Fisher’s son, Trent, is a rising senior safety for Auburn.

“I’ve talked to Coach Fisher a few times. I’ve definitely seen his face around, we’ve had some conversations,” Blake said. “It was good to have a previous relationship with the coach and know what he’s like and how good a guy he is.”

The third of the trio to sign, Blake ranks fifth in school history in all three major receiving categories: 128 catches, 2,012 yards and 16 touchdowns.

“I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t get drafted. It wasn’t a shocker, but still definitely disappointing,” Blake said. “You want the best for yourself, you feel like you’ve done enough and worked hard, so of course it was disappointing for me.

“I’m just excited and happy for the opportunity.”

Lutzenkirchen’s 14 touchdown grabs are the most among tight ends in Tigers history. His career figures are 59 catches in 44 games, for 628 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Bates led the Tigers in tackles each of the past two seasons.

This isn’t the only Auburn undrafted tandem hoping to continue on together. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, tailback Onterio McCalebb and offensive lineman John Sullen signed with the Bengals.

April 3, 2013

Report by former SI, New York Times writer alleges Auburn wrongdoings; Thorpe, other ex-Tigers quoted vehemently condemn article

Neiko Thorpe2

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

@WarEagleExtra

AUBURN, Ala. — A report published Wednesday by Selena Roberts, a former Sports Illustrated and New York Times reporter, took more than 4,000 words to lob exhaustive charges toward the Auburn football program.

Multiple quoted ex-Tigers required much less verbiage to swiftly condemn how their remarks were used contextually in response.

“I can’t,” said former defensive back Neiko Thorpe, asked to make sense of the report as one of six former Tigers quoted. “I’m just trying to clear my name up and let Auburn fans and Auburn nation know the things that were said in that report were not my words.”

The narrative “Auburn’s Tainted Title: Victims, Violations and Vendettas” was posted Wednesday by Roopstigo.com. Roberts, the website’s founder and CEO and an Auburn graduate, is notable for previous SI and NYT work on Alex Rodriguez’s steroid usage and the Duke lacrosse team’s sexual assault scandal of 2006.

Wednesday’s report focuses on former Auburn safety Mike McNeil, who faces robbery charges stemming from a March 2011 arrest, two months after Auburn won the BCS national championship.

McNeil’s family presents its description of the circumstances involving McNeil’s role in the incident, including an account of Auburn University’s and then-head coach Gene Chizik’s handling of the matter.

The report went on to allege academic fraud, pay-for-play incentives and positive drug testing via conversations with players, both named and unnamed.

Former Auburn players Thorpe, Daren Bates, Mike Blanc, Darvin Adams and Antoine Carter are quoted in the story along with McNeil.

Neiko Thorpe

Thorpe, entering his second year with the Kansas City Chiefs and the only active NFL player of the bunch, told the Ledger-Enquirer Wednesday night he spoke with Roberts “a couple weeks ago” and was misled as to the article’s intent.

“She explained to me she was doing a story on Mike McNeil, and basically it was a story trying to be good information about him, just telling what a good person he was,” Thorpe said. “She told me she was just trying to do a good story on Mike – a character story, letting people know what kind of person he was.”

Thorpe – who said he hasn’t kept in touch with McNeil while focusing on his NFL career – denounced Roberts’ use of multiple quotes.

Adams said he was offered an undisclosed amount of “financial incentives,” and McNeil said he was given $500 to “entertain blue-chip (recruit) Dre Kirkpatrick.” (Kirkpatrick signed and play for Alabama.) Thorpe was quoted as saying “A special recruit was treated like a king.”

thorpe_neikoThorpe told the Ledger-Enquirer, “I was talking to her about recruits, and she asked me personally about my recruiting process. I let her know that you can’t just base your recruiting off just a visit – you’ve got to look at other things, such as being around the players, because that’s who you’re going to be around the most, and not just the coaching, because coaches can switch up at any time or any year. So that’s why going through my recruiting process I chose Auburn.”

In the framework of Roberts describing the university’s “underground society beneath the NCAA’s radar”, Thorpe was quoted as saying “Auburn does whatever Auburn wants.”

To that, Thorpe rebuked, “No. I don’t recall saying that. I don’t even know what kind of question would make me say that.”

The opening segment details a timeline presented by McNeil’s mother and grandfather the afternoon of March 11, 2011, when Chizik kicked McNeil and three teammates off the team for robbery charges. A starting safety for the championship squad, McNeil has maintained his innocence throughout, awaiting his trial scheduled to begin Monday — though the Opelika-Auburn News reported Wednesday his attorney, Ben Hand, has filed to withdraw from representation.

According to Roberts, coaches told Auburn players they could lose their scholarship if they contacted any of the accused players. Thorpe was quoted as saying, “Mike was like a brother. I wanted to talk to my brother. I’m sure with all that was going on, he felt betrayed.”

Thorpe said he was napping when Roberts’ report came out, and after an evening workout was stunned to be made aware of how his interview was used.

“She just took what I said, I guess, and tried to … make it to a story she wanted,” Thorpe said, “because it wasn’t even the story she told me what she was reporting about. It was kind of crazy when I had a chance to read it and see what she put wasn’t true.”

Thorpe was named Auburn’s “Defensive Most Valuable Player” in 2011. He was bestowed that same year with the Shug Jordan Award, which reads, “Down through the years, outstanding Auburn football players have become outstanding citizens. Knowing this truth, and having a deep abiding faith in these men, I am proud to honor Auburn University’s outstanding senior football player with this award.”

Asked if he had any reason to scath his alma mater, Thorpe insisted, “I don’t. That’s why I’m trying to clear my name up because I had a great time at Auburn my four years, and I have memories I’ll never forget.”

Gene ChizikAn Auburn spokesperson stated to the Ledger-Enquirer on behalf of the athletic department, “We will not have a comment regarding the claims in the story.”

Chizik, Auburn University and Auburn police all declined to comment.

Former defensive coordinator Will Muschamp (now Florida’s head coach) is reported to have offered McNeil $400 cash after a 2007 practice. A Florida spokesperson Wednesday evening reiterated the university’s denial of Muschamp’s alleged payment from the article.

Bates, who graduates this year, had only one quote in the report, regarding McNeil: “He was the best teammate you could imagine. He took me under his wing. He would draw up defenses. And we’d watch film. He was a mentor to everyone.”

Bates initially responded to a Twitter follower’s question about Roberts, “I don’t even know who that is.” An hour later, Bates tweeted, “The one thing that is quoted by me is what I said, no more no less..END OF STORY”

Roberts made other allegations leading up to the 2010 season, including:

• Three players were told before the BCS championship victory over Oregon that up to nine teammates would be ruled academically ineligible, including star running back Michael Dyer, before unnamed school counselors fixed transcripts to keep them on the field. Said Blanc, “We thought we would be without Mike Dyer because he said he was one of them, but Auburn found a way to make those dudes eligible.”

• Several players indicated Chizik asked them to cut their dreadlocks in fear of being targeted by police.

• A trailer home on Wire Road was a frequent source of synthetic marijuana distributed to players, the scene of the crime scene involving McNeil, Antonio Goodwin (since found guilty and jailed 15 years), Dakota Mosley and Shaun Kitchens. The article stated “more than 40 players tested positive for recreational drugs after the national championship.”

A couple hours after the article’s release, Blanc tweeted, “Man this article is outrageous and isn’t true. The media will do anything for a juicy story smh #sad”

This is not Roberts’ first story regarding Auburn football. In January 2005 — shortly following Auburn’s undefeated season led by then-coach Tommy Tuberville — she penned a New York Times article reporting team chaplain Chette Williams (still working for the Auburn support staff) was paid by boosters in addition to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The entire report can be found here.

March 4, 2013

Bates, Blake, Sullen get their turn at Auburn’s Pro Day, joined by Scouting Combine trio

Clemson_Auburn21_9-1-12

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

@WarEagleExtra

AUBURN, Ala. – Now the snubs get their shot.

Linebacker Daren Bates, wide receiver Emory Blake and offensive lineman John Sullen combined for 148 career appearances, including 98 starts, in their four-year Auburn careers.

They’ll be in the spotlight one last time on an Auburn field Tuesday morning, in the biggest job interviews of their lives at Auburn’s Pro Day at the athletic complex’s indoor facility.

They’ve each earned some mention on NFL Draft web site projections of having a chance to be selected by a team in late April.

They did not take part in the NFL Network-televised Scouting Combine in late February, when defensive end Corey Lemonier, tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen and tailback Onterio McCalebb each gave people something to talk about one way or another.

But Bates, Blake and Sullen will regain home-field advantage in attempting to entice NFL scouts. Weigh-ins begin at 10:30 a.m. CT, followed by bench press, vertical test, broad jump, 40-yard-dash, agility and positional drills.

The trio that traveled to Indianapolis last week is also expected to take part in Pro Day. In all, 14 Auburn products (10 who were rostered in 2012) will be in attendance.

Bates led Auburn in tackles his junior and senior seasons at weak-side linebacker, but he’s planning to switch back to his natural position of safety for NFL scouts.

“It’s been hard. It’s like selling – you have to persuade them I’ve done this before,” Bates said Jan. 19 after the Raycom College Football All-Star Classic game in Montgomery. “I’m going to keep on grinding and getting to it.”

Blake finished his career with 128 receptions for 2,022 yards and 16 touchdowns – all marks ranking fifth in school history. His eight 100-yard receiving games are tied for third.

Sullen, an Auburn High School product, was the most experienced member of Auburn’s young offensive line last year. Like Bates and Blake, Sullen was named to preseason all-SEC watch lists, but Auburn scuffled to a 3-9 season.

Now it’s about applying individual skills to succeeding on Sundays.

“It comes with feet, hands, reflexes,” Sullen said Jan. 19, “a whole plethora of things. I feel like I’m a fast learner, and I would help a team in any way they needed me to.”

Lemonier ranked among the defensive line leaders in the 40, jumping drills and bench press in Indianapolis. Lutzenkirchen looks to improve upon clocked runs and measurements from the Scouting Combine, as his recovery from hip surgery continues.

McCalebb officially recorded a 4.34-second 40-yard-dash, though his unofficial time of 4.21 (which would have shattered the Combine record) set off a social media firestorm.

Other 2012 seniors taking part in Pro Day are cornerback T’Sharvan Bell, wide receivers DeAngelo Benton and Travante Stallworth and linebacker Jonathan Evans. Four former Auburn players from previous seasons – kicker Chandler Brooks, offensive lineman A.J. Greene, and receivers Philip Pierre-Louis and Nate Taylor – are also on the entry list.

March 2, 2013

Video: Josh Bynes back in Auburn for the weekend, talks about Super Bowl triumph

AUBURN, Ala. — We’ll post a few more comments from Josh Bynes a little later, but for now, here’s our story from a few weeks back on Auburn’s two-time leading tackler, who became the first Auburn player ever to win BCS and Super Bowl championships.