Monday Morning QB Column: Big Week For Tigers

Football recruiting, early arrivals and basketball are in the spotlight this week for the Tigers.

Important Official Visits

This weekend is setting up to be a huge one for Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers with a massive group of official visitors expected to be on campus including most of the current football commitments and uncommitted prospects including five-star defensive end Byron Cowart and four-star tackle Terry Beckner. With Bruce Pearl’s basketball Tigers taking on South Carolina at home on Saturday it should be an exciting atmosphere for the prospects and fans.

It has been a long time since that has been the case on a recruiting weekend because for much of the last decade official visitors haven’t gone to basketball games for the most part. That was because bad basketball meant little or no atmosphere inside Auburn Arena and Beard-Eaves before that. With fans showing up in droves and into the game, basketball has once again turned into a recruiting tool for other sports to use and that’s a very good thing for the health of the athletic program at Auburn.

Getting It Done

Auburn got its first SEC win of the Pearl era on Saturday when the Tigers took down Missouri at home. It's a great first step in what is sure to be an up-and-down season for Auburn, but it showed promise for a couple of different reasons.

The first was the play of Cinmeon Bowers inside. He's never going to be confused for Kevin Durant as a shooter or Tim Duncan for his touch around the basket, but Bowers' energy level on Saturday night was off the charts. That's the kind of thing Auburn needs from the junior college transfer and if he continues to deliver the Tigers will win many more league games this year.

Something else that stood out about the win was the play of guys like Jordon Granger, Tahj Shamsid-Deen and Malcolm Canada down the stretch. Shamsid-Deen is probably the only of the three that would be considered a true offensive threat, but his shoulder problem has kept him from finding the range on his shot so far this season. All three showed a lack of fear down the stretch for the Tigers, something that is huge when you have guys like K.T. Harrell and Antoine Mason to go along with them offensively.

T-Rob On The Job

The date was Sept. 4, 1999. It was supposed to be the start of an exciting first season for Tommy Tuberville on the job, but instead the Tigers were locked in a 15-15 battle with I-AA Appalachian State at Jordan-Hare Stadium in the fourth quarter. With the ball and trying to start a drive, Auburn instead faced possible disaster as Ben Leard wasn’t ready for the snap from center Cole Cubelic and the ball bounced down the field and towards the Auburn goal line. The player who saved the play and the game was Auburn freshman wide receiver Travaris Robinson.

Racing back to recover the football and allow Auburn to punt and play defense, Robinson kept the game tied until Leard could throw the game-winning touchdown pass. It was the first of many key plays for Robinson in his career, with most of them coming on the defensive side of the ball. No matter where his coaching career has taken himm\, Robinson has always kept Auburn close to his heart.

That was even the case while at Florida. Last spring while Auburn was playing its A-Day game I ran into Robinson and his daughter underneath the stadium. While he didn’t want to make a big deal about being back because of coaching in the same conference, Robinson just wanted to be back on the Plains, catch up with old friends and just be home, even if was for just a few minutes. Now he is back home and it feels right.

Early Start

This week several members of Auburn’s 2015 class will have the chance to get a head start on their career with the Tigers when classes start. Running back Jovon Robinson has already practiced some when bowl preparations were on campus and will be fun to watch this spring as he battles Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber at the position. Fullback/H-Back Chandler Cox will be in as well and is a player who could make as much impact as any of the early newcomers because of Auburn’s need at the position.

Also in will be a pair of guys hoping to make some noise at quarterback, junior college standout Jason Smith and high-schooler Tyler Queen. A dynamic athlete who can make plays with his legs and arm, Smith will get a shot to play quarterback, but could also play wide receiver if needed. A true quarterback, Queen should benefit from the early start as he challenges Jeremy Johnson, Sean White and Smith in the quarterback pecking order.

Up front, junior college defensive tackle Maurice Swain and offensive linemen Bailey Sharp and Tyler Carr round out the early enrollees for the Tigers. While both of the offensive linemen will benefit from the early start, it’s a huge deal for Swain to arrive this month because he will be counted on to, at a minimum, provide depth this fall at defensive tackle. Getting on campus and going through the spring will give him a chance to get up to speed with the defense well in advance of getting on the field for the 2015 opener vs. Louisville.

Playoff Thoughts

Tonight college football will crown a champion following the first ever playoff in the sport. It's still far from a true champion, but the playoff is a step in the right direction. Now all the playoff folks need to do is get with the times and tell the Rose Bowl to get all in or get out. Because the "granddaddy of them all" refuses to move its game from a traditional time slot on New Year's Day, the next two seasons both semi-finals will be played on New Year's Eve. People will still watch the games and they will be a big deal, but to me it takes away a lot of the luster when you talk about going up against celebrations all over the country and the world.

Now on to the game. I think Oregon is just too much for Ohio State, but the Buckeyes up front on defense are a really good match for the Ducks and their speed. The difference in this game could be Oregon's defense. I never would have said that four seasons ago, but the athleticism on that side of the ball could be the thing that helps them force just enough mistakes out of Cardale Jones to spell the difference. I'll go with 38-34 Oregon.

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