Auburn's Big Bite


A Big Bite for the 2009 Tigers?

by Townhallsavoy

While Tommy Tuberville had one of the most successful tenures in Auburn football history, he left the cupboard bare when it came to talented young players.  The attitude that our coach could turn two stars into five stars was flawed.  In essence, Tuberville had a knack for finding diamonds in the rough or players that were overlooked by recruiting websites and other schools.  Through attrition, the talent level at Auburn dwindled, and it showed on the field.  Tuberville’s lazy recruiting tactics and his belief that he could win by finding hidden talents led to his demise.  5-7 and a 36-0 tromping by archrival Alabama ended his career on a sour note.

For Tuberville, it was easy to leave.  A big buyout and plenty of real estate to sell sent him packing on a high note.  However, for Auburn, Tuberville’s departure gave way to a bleak outlook.  The future was grim; Alabama continued to recruit top talent, and it seemed like Auburn couldn’t even find the cookie jar when it came to recruiting blue chips.

When you listened to the talking heads on the radio and the qualified journalists in the newspapers, Chizik was entering a situation that he could not win.  His 5-19 record, no matter how indicative of his ability to coach, would hinder his reputation amongst top recruits.  Alabama’s juggernaut machine led by demigod Nick Saban would be impossible to compete against.  This was the media’s message to Auburn fans.  We were to understand our situation: Alabama is going to run the table for the next 5-10 years, and Gene Chizik was filling the void until Alabama slowed down.

What was needed was some genuine ingenuity.  A spark that would reignite the Auburn program.  A shot in the butt that would excite the Auburn fanbase.  What was needed was something that could close the curtain on Chizik’s reputation and give a reason to love Auburn despite the odds against us.  What was needed was the duo of Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper.
One of the greatest coaching legends of all time, Vince Lombardi, once said, “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”  This is the new philosophy in recruiting, and it also follows the original Auburn creed.  Trooper and Luper, the dynamic duo, have dedicated their innovative minds to creating an atmosphere of originality at Auburn.  Yes, Alabama media, you were correct when saying Auburn and Gene Chizik could not directly compete with Alabama and Nick Saban.  So we aren’t directly competing.

We’re going around the norm.  We got off the interstate and are taking the backroads.  The Tiger Prowl was the first of its kind in the SEC.  Our coaches spent a week driving from school to school in a limo.  It was deemed childish by Paul Finebaum.  It was considered a worthless gimmick by Jay Barker.  It was a desperate attempt to compete with Alabama said Alabama fans.  However, the perception changed after the week ended.  Take the following quote from Paul Finebaum:

“At least from a perception standpoint, it appears Auburn has gotten the better of    Saban. Alert the media! Miracles can happen.

Will it matter? Will this be a one-hit wonder? Or can Gene Chizik and his staff    start nipping at Saban’s heels on a regular basis?

Most important, did the school do anything last week to bridge the gap between    Alabama and Auburn, which seems about as wide as the Grand Canyon? Or, at    the end of a long week, was it merely a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing?”

Sure, the gap between Alabama and Auburn, Saban and Chizik, seemed as wide as the Grand Canyon, but why is that?  The media pumped up Saban from the get go.  It’s pointless to rehash the entirety of Saban’s beginning, but when the funeral of an ex-president is interrupted to broadcast the arrival of the new head coach at Alabama, you know the media is 100% behind him.  Nick Saban’s entire tenure at Alabama has been met with praise and worship.  Gene Chizik and Auburn have been the laughing stock of football in this state for all of a few months.  But as Finebaum wondered, has Chizik been nipping at the heels of Nick Saban?

If Tiger Prowl was the nip, Big Cat Weekend was the bite.  The media was able to prop their feet up on their Crimson desk after big time prospect Craig Sanders committed to the Tide.  The limo showed up at Ariton High School, but the coaches were unable to sway the considered-by-many-to-be-an-Alabama-lock Sanders.  The media was right back where they wanted to be: discussing Alabama’s dominant program and criticizing Auburn’s clownish program.  It didn’t take long for Trooper and Luper to step up their game.  Big Cat Weekend was the attack.

The top two running back prospects in the country led the charge as blue chip recruits came in to experience Auburn in its truest form.  These were considered unofficial visits, so they came on their own volition.  One even drove down from the great state of Connecticut just to visit the small, quaint campus on the plains.  This was the big bite not only to our competition in state but to the big dogs around the country.

When you look at who was in Auburn this past weekend, you can see that Chizik has taken a different approach to Tuberville’s sit back and wait philosophy.  Auburn has gone on the offensive.  It’s not that Auburn is trying to steal every big time recruit from Alabama or Georgia or Florida, but we’re going to bring in the guys who fit in.  Auburn is a different school.  It’s not a state school.  It has its own unique tradition, atmosphere, and identity.  It’s alluring to those who want to be part of something distinctive, something that is built around family.  We’re one of the few schools in the country to consider ourselves a family as opposed to a “nation.”

Alabama can not directly compete with Auburn’s latest recruiting strategies.  They push their rich history with Bear Bryant and Nick Saban’s reputation onto recruits, and their strategy has been impeccable.  However, once able to stop Auburn from succeeding with top recruits, Alabama and their ilk must refocus their efforts in a different avenue.  It’s an avenue that has spent the last two years cozying up with Nick Saban.

The media, once with propped feet on their desks, has now flipped over backwards.  They’ve scrambled to get up and reshuffle their papers into order.  Big Cat Weekend took them by surprise.  For one, they weren’t notified about it until it started on Friday.  Two, it worked.  Auburn recruiting the same caliber of players that Alabama recruits?  Blasphemy.  So, what can the media, one of the components of the Alabama machine, do to stop the momentum of the weekend?

The talking points of the radio hosts on Monday, June 1st were not about how influential Big Cat Weekend was.  They weren’t about the innovative ideas coming out of the Auburn recruiting office.  They were about this: the audacity for a teenager to call out Nick Saban and the potential violations committed by Auburn.  Ian Fitzsimmons even stated that the Auburn coaching staff has had enough experience to know that they were committing violations, so he deduced that the violations were done on purpose.  Auburn completely disregarded the rules.  Finebaum even banged his fist on the table when explaining to a caller that coaches can’t announce recruits’ names on an unofficial visit.  Much to Finebaum’s dismay, this was an erroneous accusation as no coach made any announcement of recruits’ names during the weekend.

Take the following writers for local newspapers: Evan Woodberry, Ian Rapoport, Andrew Gribble, Luke Brietzke, and Charles Goldberg.  They all have written pieces over the last few days detailing the unacceptable actions committed in Auburn last weekend.  All of them, save Rapoport who focused on Seastrunk’s quote, have published articles detailing the specific rules that Auburn broke.  Not one person from the media has given Auburn credit for not only bringing in the top recruits but impressing them to the extent that they could be picking the Auburn hat by next signing day.  Radio hosts like Jay Barker have shown signs of being emotionally upset and angry with the Big Cat Weekend.  Before conducting an interview with Coach Luper, Jay Barker was quoted saying, “We’ll see how Coach Luper spins this weekend.”

Did Nick Saban have to spin the video teleconferencing?  Did the media lambast Saban’s gimmicky Breakfast for Recruits at the Sabans?  Has the media detailed the bylaws that Saban has broken numerous times over the years?  The answer is no.  The media has dismissed the textbook accusations at Alabama nothing to be worried about.  However, in big bold headlines, having recruits’ names announced randomly by a former student is a horrendous act in today’s world of recruiting.

The big bite hurt.  Auburn does indeed have their swagger back if not even more so than before.  Tuberville waited for diamonds in the rough to land on his front door.  Chizik is going out and searching, prowling for the top recruits that fit into his system.   And be on the lookout – Alabama, Nick Saban, media – Tigers don’t finish the job by just biting you in the rear, they make their kill by gnashing their teeth into the back of their prey’s neck.

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