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August 13, 2013

Former Auburn golf coach Mike Griffin thrilled with Dufner’s success in life and on the course

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala.Mike Griffin wasn’t going to kid himself.

Basking in the glory of Jason Dufner’s PGA Championship victory on Sunday, he couldn’t brag about the accomplishment being an inevitable one. Auburn’s former golf coach had no idea Dufner had that kind of ceiling when he was in college — and Griffin said no else did, either.

Former Auburn golf coach Mike Griffin (left) and Jason Dufner (right) were reunited at the Auburn University Regional Airport on Sunday. The former Auburn men's golf coach congratulated his old protege after Dufner captured the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. earlier in the day. (RYAN BLACK/rblack@ledger-enquirer.com)

Former Auburn golf coach Mike Griffin (left) and Jason Dufner (right) were reunited at the Auburn University Regional Airport on Sunday. The former Auburn men’s golf coach congratulated his old protege after Dufner captured the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. earlier in the day. (RYAN BLACK/rblack@ledger-enquirer.com)

In fact, Griffin didn’t even know who Dufner was until he won a qualifier for walk-on players.

“I was at the meeting when he came in to sign his eligibility papers and stuff like that, as everyone did,” Griffin recalled. “There were probably 15-20 young men in the meeting with us. I didn’t know him from any of the others. Had never met him. Later I found out he had written me a letter.”

Sifting through some 400 letters, Griffin found Dufner’s in the stack. Nothing stood out about it, Griffin said, and it gave little clue that the writer would eventually become a major championship winner.

But what his words didn’t achieve, his feats on the course did.

“He ended up winning college tournaments, made All-SEC three years and All-American one year. And he did that on his own, basically,” Griffin said. ” We guided him, we helped him. We put (players) in a situation where hopefully they can become winners, but it’s ultimately up to them, and (Dufner) did a whale of a job with it.”

Griffin shuddered to think how close Dufner’s collegiate career — and all of his subsequent success after he departed Auburn — almost came to not happening.

How close?

“A lot closer than I dare to think,” he said. “I mean really, it was 11th hour. Actually, it was about 11:55. He was in danger of not being able to go out for the qualifier. If he doesn’t do that, where is he? Because he’s already enrolled in classes. If he were to leave school to go somewhere else, basically, he would have had to sit out some time if he had gone to a D-I school.”

Not that Dufner would have left Auburn. He hasn’t done so yet, even with his exploits on the PGA Tour.

And that, Griffin said, hits at the core of Dufner’s persona.

“Here’s a guy who could live anywhere in the country — anywhere,” he said. “And he chooses to live in Auburn. That couldn’t be a higher compliment to a place that he genuinely loves. And from what I hear, he’s building quite a pad down in south Auburn right now, which is going to be something to see. So I hope I get to go to one of the housewarmings, that’s all I can say.”

Dufner’s down-to-earth, everyman personality is why so many people identify with him, Griffin said. That profile is bound to grow even more now that Dufner has added a Wanamaker Trophy (given to the winner of the PGA Championship) to his collection.

“He’s a marketable product right now, but more importantly, he’s just a genuinely good person,” Griffin said. “I’m real, real proud of the golfer he’s become, but as I’ve told him on many occasions, I’m much more proud of the man he’s become.”

Of course, the viral sensation known as “Dufnering” — which took off after a picture was posted on the Internet earlier this year, with Dufner sitting in a school classroom with his hands at his sides and a blank look on face — perhaps was the biggest factor in the former Tiger’s popularity boom.

“He took it and parlayed it into one of the biggest things that could ever happen to anybody,” Griffin said. “It started out kind of as a poking fun joke from some of his buddies, and he just turned it into a goldmine. That’s what is so unique about it. He thinks about things differently than a lot of other people.”

And what does Griffin think is next for his former player?

“Anything. Literally,” he said. “Anybody that can ball strike like that can do anything. Geez almighty, I could putt for him and we could win tournaments. When you hit it that close, they’re kick ins, man.”

Griffin said the proof is in the pudding — when Jim Furyk, one of the most accomplished players on the PGA Tour, said in his post-round press conference on Sunday he simply got beat by a better player, that’s all people need to know about how far Dufner’s game has progressed.

Through it all, though, Dufner remains the same person Griffin got to know during their days together in Auburn.

“That guy you saw out there? That’s still ‘Duf,’” he said. “And like I said, I hope he never changes. He’ll have a lot of opportunities to change if he wants to, but I hope he doesn’t. I think as long as he stays in Auburn, he’ll keep his butt grounded, because these folks around here will make darn sure he keeps grounded. I know I will if I ever have the chance.”

August 12, 2013

The (War) Eagle has landed: Jason Dufner photo gallery and video at Auburn University Regional Airport

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. Jason Dufner landed at the Auburn University Regional Airport late Sunday night following his victory at the PGA Championship earlier in the day. After stepping off the private plane, Dufner proceeded to sign autographs for fans, pose for photos and take questions from reporters.

Check out the video of his interview with media members below.

(And yes, I apologize profusely in advance for this being shot in portrait orientation. By the time I figured it out, it was too late, since once you start recording a video on an iPhone, it will stay in that orientation even if you turn it the other way. Look on the bright side — it cropped out a young kid who kept jumping up behind Dufner to try to get into the background of every video.)


Jason Dufner poses with the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday night at the Auburn University Regional Airport. (RYAN BLACK/rblack@ledger-enquirer.com)


Jason Dufner hoists the 27-pound Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday night at the Auburn University Regional Airport. (RYAN BLACK/rblack@ledger-enquirer.com)


Jason Dufner poses with the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday night at the Auburn University Regional Airport. (RYAN BLACK/rblack@ledger-enquirer.com)


Jason Dufner and former Auburn men’s golf coach Mike Griffin pose with the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday night at the Auburn University Regional Airport. (RYAN BLACK/rblack@ledger-enquirer.com)


Jason Dufner and Mike Griffin chat on Sunday night at the Auburn University Regional Airport. Griffin coached Dufner during his playing career at Auburn. (RYAN BLACK/rblack@ledger-enquirer.com)


Jason Dufner and Mike Griffin hold the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday night at the Auburn University Regional Airport. Griffin coached Dufner during his playing career at Auburn. (RYAN BLACK/rblack@ledger-enquirer.com)


Jason Dufner takes questions from reporters on Sunday night at the Auburn University Regional Airport. Dufner became the first Auburn golfer to win a major championship when he captured the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., on Sunday, finishing at 10-under-par for the tournament. (RYAN BLACK/rblack@ledger-enquirer.com)

Jason Dufner dedicates PGA Championship win to ‘all the people in Auburn’

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook


Jason Dufner poses with the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday night at the Auburn University Regional Airport. The former Tiger shot a 2-under 68 in the final round of the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., to win by two shots over playing partner Jim Furyk. (RYAN BLACK/rblack@ledger-enquirer.com)

AUBURN, Ala. — Jason Dufner arrived at the Auburn University Regional Airport late Sunday night, fresh off winning the biggest tournament of his career.

Staying true to his stoic demeanor, one never would have suspected what transpired earlier in the day — aside from the fact he was carrying some hefty hardware in the form of the 27-pound Wanamaker Trophy, awarded to the winner of the PGA Championship. Dufner captured the major championship by shooting a 2-under-par 68 in the final round at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., finishing at 10-under par for the tournament and besting his playing partner (and eventual runner-up) Jim Furyk in the final pairing.

When asked various questions about what the win meant to him, one word kept popping up: “Neat.” It was “neat” to win such a prestigious event, “neat” to think about what it meant for his career, and most importantly, “neat” to accomplish a goal he had been dreaming about his whole life.

“That’s the craziest thing,’ Dufner said. “I’ve dreamt about holding this trophy for a long time, but never really thought I’d be able to do it. But now I can.”

It was a dream that had been deferred for two years. In the 2011 edition of the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, the Auburn alumnus led by four shots with four holes to play. That advantage was erased by the time he putted out on the 18th hole, as Dufner was forced into a three-hole aggregate playoff against fellow American Keegan Bradley. Dufner came up just short, falling by one shot.

The same man who defeated him in that playoff two years ago was also one of the first to greet Dufner when he walked off the 18th green on Sunday.

“Keegan and I have formed a good friendship playing out there and Ryder Cups,” Dufner said. “For him to come back and congratulate me just kind of shows his character. We’ll always be tied in a couple of ways, obviously with the playoff in Atlanta and now both of us have won PGAs. So it was a pretty cool for him to be there.”

Of course, his quick exchange with Bradley only came after Dufner embraced his wife Amanda.

“She was really excited,” he said. “There’s been a lot of people behind me. My circle — my team — is really good. The people I have around me are really good, so I just want to share this moment with them the best I can. It’s great to have people like that care about you.”

This win was about more than himself, though, as Dufner dedicated it to the entire Auburn community.

“The Auburn family is really strong,” he said. “And of course, the fan base is really strong and united, so this win’s for all the people here in Auburn, all the Auburn fans out there, to give them something to cheer about.”

But the former Tiger has bigger plans in store that could win him even greater renown among locals — if things fall into place, that is. Beginning with Thursday’s opening round, Dufner began picking up acorns at the historic course, and instructed Amanda to continue picking up more as the week went on. His hope is to put the acorns in the ground next spring and see them grow into tall oak trees on the 50 acres of land he owns outside Auburn, where the couple is building a new home.

And if Dufner has his way, his home won’t be the only place the acorns are planted.

Toomer’s Corner, anyone?

“That would be nice if they’re up to it. It’s an idea,” he said. “Now we’ve got some time before we can actually plant something in that area, but it would be pretty cool. That’s probably pretty selfish on my part, but maybe that will be an option.”

For now, that will have to wait, a feeling with which Dufner is familiar. After his playoff defeat two years ago, he was asked whether it ever crossed his mind that a similar fate could await him Sunday.

“Today I had a really good, clear process of what I needed to do, so I didn’t think about it too much,” he said. “There are times where you’re like, ‘Man, I really need to step on it a little bit or I’ll lose this one,’ but I was just in a really good spot mentally today to go out there and shoot a good round.”

Heck, Dufner said Sunday’s round was a piece of cake compared to Friday, when he tied a major championship record (along with 23 others) by carding a 63.

“You know you’re chasing history, something that nobody’s ever done, so that was really more nerve-wracking for me,” he said of his pursuit for a sub-63 round. “Today I was just trying to do the best I could to stay in that tournament and have a chance to win in the end.”

And he did just that, all but sealing the deal with a spectacular wedge shot on the 16th hole, spinning it back to within 18 inches of the hole for a tap-in birdie.

With the Wanamaker now in his possession, Dufner said it will be displayed somewhere in the new house, but its exact location will be left up to his wife. As crazy as it may sound, Dufner viewed his playoff loss at the hands of Bradley as a positive.

Remove the pain of losing, he said, and Sunday’s victory wouldn’t have meant as much.

“If I didn’t go through those things, I don’t know if I would have been here today,” he said. “Those things made me tougher and stronger and more determined to get to the top, so I think that was key for me to be able to get this trophy today.”

In a rare departure from his customary impassive disposition, Dufner broke character, allowing himself to contemplate the significance of what he had achieved.

“I’m starting to kind of get it — it’s sinking in,” he said, with the faint outline of a smile forming for a split-second. “My name is on this trophy with a lot of unbelievable players and nobody can ever take that away from me.”

Then, as quickly as it came, the wry smile disappeared.

The champion’s face went blank once more.

June 25, 2012

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.

June 4, 2012

The Week in Review: Auburn-Georgia preserved, Pawlowski secure and the end of the Tigers’ golf run

A little hard to believe — at least for this writer — but the calendar turned to June last week, signalling the beginning of a roughly 6-week period of the dog days of summer before the SEC Media Days get things revved up for the college football season.

But there was still plenty of news last week, not the least of which came out of Destin in Fla. and a little bit of rest put to the speculation surrounding Auburn baseball coach John Pawlowski’s job.

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The Week in Review

  • Auburn’s annual summer recruiting push is in full force right now. Only a few days after landing tight end Arshad Jackson, the Tigers also pulled in cornerback Jahmere Irvin-Sills, a prospect who decided to commit one day after the Tigers offered, according to the recruiting sites that cover Auburn. Irvin-Sills is only 5-10, but he reportedly impressed Brian VanGorder enough that the Tigers offered and quickly landed their 11th commitment. Numbers, it appears, won’t be a problem for Auburn this season. If history is correct, expect a few more commitments in the weeks to come.
  • Preserving the Auburn-Georgia rivalry — the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry — had to be top priority for Auburn in the scheduling discussions down in Destin. After 115 years of playing football, you can’t just give that up easily, although Texas-Texas A&M and Missouri-Kansas appear to be headed that way. Even so, the SEC’s sense of history prevailed for the moment, meaning the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry will continue.
  • For what it’s worth, I’m not so sure the 6-1-1 format will have a long shelf life. With rumors of expansion swirling around college football at almost a constant pace, and the fact that a team like Auburn will go six years between meetings with somebody like Florida, I’d expect the schedule to be reviewed sooner rather than later. On the subject of expansion, teams have been forced by last year’s round of movement to constantly be on the lookout for a better landing place, and I think that trend will continue.
  • Interesting, I thought, that the men’s basketball side was willing to go to 18 games, but the women’s basketball side of the SEC will remain at 16. With 14 teams in the league, there’s no easy answer to scheduling in a sport like basketball, but the SEC should be given credit for allowing the women’s basketball coaches to make a decision based on their sport, rather than forcing them to follow the lead of men’s basketball.
  • Hard to get real excited about Auburn’s matchup with DePaul in the SEC/Big East Challenge, even with the Tigers’ remade roster. As good as the Big East is, DePaul’s been a bottom-feeder in that league lately.
  • Despite carrying a top-five ranking throughout the season, the Auburn men’s golf team failed to make the final eight teams in the NCAA Championships and move into the match-play portion. It was easy to see why. Both Blayne Barber and Dominic Bozzelli played very good golf, but the other three players combined to turn in a plus-26 over three rounds. At the highest levels of golf, a team has to be deep all the way through.
  • That disappointing finish at the NCAA Championships shouldn’t take anything away from the job Nick Clinard has done as Auburn’s head golf coach. While the Tigers have been good before, Auburn has never been this good top-to-bottom, and the world of collegiate golf is starting to take notice. Auburn’s Nick Clinard was named a finalist for the Dave Williams Award, the honor given to the nation’s best coach, last week.
  • Despite plenty of possibilities mentioned by both fans and media, Auburn AD Jay Jacobs said in Destin that John Pawlowski’s job was never in jeopardy. Two years after hosting an NCAA Regional, Jacobs isn’t ready to give up on Pawlowski yet, citing injuries to key players that plagued Auburn late in the season.

May 31, 2012

Auburn stumbles to 15th place finish at NCAA Championships despite big performances from Barber, Bozzelli

Photo by Todd Van Emst

A lack of depth in the lineup sent the No. 4 Auburn men’s golf team home early from the NCAA Championships at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., on Thursday.

Both Blayne Barber and Dominic Bozzelli did plenty enough to get the Tigers into the eight-team match play tournament that starts today. Barber finished seventh at even-par, and Bozzelli finished in a tie for 13th at 2-over.

But the other three golfers combined to shoot 26-over, lifting Auburn’s score to 28-over for the week and a 15th-place finish.

Alabama, UCLA, Texas, California, San Diego State, Washington, Oregon and Kent State advanced to the match-play tournament.

“We got off to a good start in the first round, but the last two days we just didn’t play well,” said Clinard. “We didn’t get a lot of production from our three, four and five guys. Blayne and Dominic played great as expected, and the other guys just didn’t have their A-game this week.”

Barber’s performance capped off one of the best seasons an Auburn golfer has ever played. Playing consistent golf all year, Barber shot a 70.75 average to break the Tigers’ 36-year-old scoring record, set by Buddy Gardner in 1976. He also won back-to-back tournaments, the first time in school history that a golfer has accomplished the feat.

As a team, Auburn won three tournaments, stayed in the national top-5 all the way to the end and will likely earn Barber and Bozzelli both All-America honors.

“It is probably the best year that Auburn golf has ever had,” said Clinard. “In having three wins and only finishing one tournament outside of the top three before this week out of 12 tournaments is pretty special.”

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Auburn falters badly in the second round of the NCAA Championships

Photo by Todd Van Emst

A disastrous second round at the Riviera Country Club may have knocked Auburn out of the running for a spot in the match play portion of the NCAA Championships in Pacific Palisades, Calif. on Wednesday.

Ranked fourth in the country, Auburn entered the day in a tie for second place, but the Tigers shot a 15-over-par 299 in the second round of the NCAA Championships to fall into a tie for 15th place.

“We had five doubles, a triple and a quad so it is pretty tough to come back, especially on this golf course because there are just not that many birdies out there,” said Auburn head coach Nick Clinard.

Auburn still has a chance to advance to the final eight teams, which qualify for a match-play tournament that decides the eventual NCAA Champion. The Tigers are three strokes behind Illinois, Kent State, Florida, USC and California for that eighth and final spot in the match-play tournament.

For a brief moment, Dominic Bozzelli led the NCAA Championships at 4-under after opening the round with two birdies, but a quadruple bogey on No. 12 derailed his round. Bozzelli is now tied for 16th individually.

The Tigers’ top player, All-American Blayne Barber, is tied for 10th after shooting a 3-over-par 74 in the second round.

“The wind is picking up pretty good right now (for the second round afternoon wave),” said Clinard. “Hopefully, we got our bad round out of the way today, and if we go out tomorrow and shoot even par or 1-over, we may have a chance.”

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May 29, 2012

Auburn men’s golf in a tie for second after the first round of the NCAA Championships

The Auburn men’s golf team will have no problems getting back into the NCAA Championships after a solid opening day on the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

A little more than a week after falling behind on the first day of the NCAA Regional, Auburn shot a 4-over 288 in Tuesday’s opening round to settle into a tie for second place with No. 19 Florida, three shots off of the lead established by Alabama at 1-over.

“We played well in spurts,” said Auburn head coach Nick Clinard. “We got off to a decent start and through 10-11 holes, we were playing very well, and there are some tough holes from 12-15, and we hit some pretty poor shots off the tee and let a few go.”

Auburn only has to finish in the top eight after the first three rounds of stroke play, but the field is pretty tight with two rounds to go.

Behind the Tigers and Gators, both Oklahoma and UCLA are a stroke back, and five teams — Texas, North Florida, Florida State, Central Florida and Iowa — are all another stroke back, setting up a tough final push over the next two rounds.

Blayne Barber and Dominic Bozzelli each shot 2-under 69’s to lead Auburn, and the pair are tied for fourth individually. UCLA’s Anton Arboneda leads at 4-under.

“It was a great round and was very solid,” said Barber. “I played well. I didn’t get into too much trouble. I made a few par putts on the front to keep the round going, and I was able to stay bogey-free and birdied two par 5s.”

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May 28, 2012

The Week in Review: Big Cats, baseball ends another season and Dufner’s still on a roll

Photo by Todd Van Emst

Before everybody heads out to their Memorial Day cookouts — and honestly, most of you are probably on the grill or in the pool already — it’s time to take a look at the week that was in Auburn athletics.

Now that the summer is fully upon us, the tidbits are getting a little less substantial, but there’s still plenty of noteworthy news floating around the athletic complexes at the Plains, beginning, of course, with Auburn’s initial summer recruiting push at Big Cat Weekend.

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The Week in Review

  • Auburn landed one commitment on Big Cat Weekend — tight end Arshad Jackson offered his verbal — but there were a couple of awfully big fish that Tigers fans should pay attention to as the recruiting cycle continues. Defensive tackle Montravius Adams, a five-star tackle from Dooly County High in Vienna, Ga., and possibly the best defensive tackle prospect in the country, told AuburnUndercover.com that the Tigers would be a finalist for his services. Linebacker Rueben Foster, the No. 2 prospect in the country and a recent transfer to Auburn High, was also on the Plains, according to commit Carl Lawson’s Twitter account.
  • Interesting to see Reese Dismukes already added to the Rimington Award watch list. Given Auburn’s inconsistent line play last year, the Tigers have to be happy about having an anchor in the middle of the line who has already played and played well enough to earn national recognition. Filling the spots around him will be key.
  • In retrospect, Auburn’s SEC Tournament in Hoover went about as expected. The Tigers got beat by two of the SEC’s best teams in Florida and South Carolina and squeaked out a win over Georgia to avoid going winless. For Auburn to make a move up the standings next year, the Tigers have to improve their talent base. None of Auburn’s pitchers have overwhelming stuff, and the lineup needs to do a better job of producing runs. Playing small ball and getting on base can only get a team so far. Somebody has to bring those runners across the plate.
  • Even though the projections said Auburn was a bubble team at times last week, the overwhelming feeling in Hoover was that Auburn was a longshot to have an NCAA Tournament berth. With an RPI of 56 and teams across the country stealing berths — for instance, Missouri won the Big 12 Tournament despite a mediocre season — the Tigers always faced a long shot to get in.
  • Former Auburn golfer Jason Dufner is on one heck of a roll this season. After winning the New Orleans Open and the Byron Nelson his last two times out of the gate — he took a break to get married — Dufner finished second at the Colonial to move up to eighth in the World Golf Rankings. For those of you who watch PGA golf on a regular basis, keep an eye on Dufner, a former walk-on at Auburn who seems to be coming into his own.
  • Basketball players Willy Kouassi and Bernard Morena have chosen to transfer to Kennesaw State, according to a report from Al.com. Given Morena’s lack of buzz and the two players’ desire to stay together, transferring to another big school was always a long-shot. At Kennesaw State, both players will likely get plenty of playing time.
  • Tigers sophomore Marta Sanz was named to the NCAA honorable mention All-America team for her performance as the best player on the women’s golf team this season. Sanz averaged 74.3 strokes per-round, posted six top-20 finishes and two top-fives to help Auburn win the SEC Tournament.
  • Auburn’s track and field team had a good showing in Jacksonville at the NCAA East Preliminary. Harry Adams (100/200), Keenan Brock (100/200) and Marcus Rowland (100/200) all pulled the double in the sprints to qualify for the NCAA Championships at Drake in Iowa in June. Women’s sprinter Kal Selvon also qualified for the double. In addition, shot putter Stephen Saenz, the sprint relay, high jumper Maya Pressly, 400-runner CeCe Williams and Saenz again in the discus all qualified.
  • Former swimmer Erica Meissner was awarded the prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and plans to attend Cambridge University in the fall.