Monday Morning QB Column: Busy Weekend

It's been a busy and interesting time for Auburn sports teams in postseason competition as well as for the football Tigers, who held their annual Big Cat event.

Calvin Ashley (above) is a five-star recruit who pledged to play for the Tigers.

Big Cat Commitments

Auburn added two impressive football commitments from Big Cat Weekend in four-star wide receiver Elijah Stove and 2017 five-star offensive tackle Calvin Ashley.

Stove has been debating a commitment for a while now and is a prospect who has been high on the Tigers since before last summer. As for Ashley, he’s one of the most impressive young prospects in the country regardless of position.

Falling in love with Auburn during his A-Day visit, Ashley had his entire family with him over the weekend and many were very emotional after he gave his commitment to the Tigers because they agreed it is the right place for him.

Auburn has a chance to continue the momentum down the road with several more of the Big Cat visitors, including four-star Malik Miller. Expected to announce his decision in the coming weeks, Miller has Florida State up there with the Tigers. A player capable of playing running back, fullback or even linebacker, Miller has a strong relationship with Auburn signee Kerryon Johnson as well as Coach Tim Horton.

Speaking of signees, Richard McBryde looks to be a huge addition to the class after he showed up in tremendous shape last week. Up to 225 pounds of solid muscle, McBryde is a playmaker who will be fun to watch in Will Muschamp’s defense.

Surgery Ahead

Auburn sophomore Keegan Thompson came up big for the Tigers in the only win of the regional, pitching in relief to earn a save against Mercer. Throwing well after pitching just four innings in the last month, Thompson has battled elbow discomfort off and on for much of the last half of the year.

He’s now expected to have surgery, perhaps as early as this week, and he’ll likely miss the entire 2016 season as a result to make sure he fully heals before returning to the mound. With the doctors determining that he couldn’t do any further damage by pitching as long as he could handle the discomfort, Thompson pushed back his surgery to be able to join his teammates in Tallahassee and got back on the mound. Pushing through the pain and putting the team goals first, Thompson was a big winner over the weekend by showing how tough and how much of a competitor he is.

Offense Does In Tigers

Auburn made a baseball regional for the first time since 2010 and got a win over Mercer to not come home empty-handed, but the Tigers need to keep moving forward if they want to take the next step as a program. That means finding a whole lot more offense before next season to be able to put pressure on the opposition.

While there is good news that Auburn should return the bulk of the position players from the 2015 team, that’s also the same group that managed just 18 total home runs this season in 62 games. With the rest of the country bringing the home run back into play, the Tigers continued to have to depend on walks and opponent mistakes for the most part to put up numbers offensively. That’s something Coach Sunny Golloway wants to change now that his program has seen what life in the postseason is all about.

“We’re a young team,” Golloway said. “We’ve got a lot of guys coming back and a lot of guys that are still learning. I think we learned some very valuable experience through this process, there’s no question about that. We’ll take it and move forward and grow from it.

"A lot of our guys need to stay around campus during the offseason and go to class and get bigger and stronger," the coach added. "We’ve got some really good recruits coming in so our future is extremely bright.”

A Year To Remember

There’s not much you can say about Auburn’s softball season but wow. Coach Clint Myers impressed us at Inside The Auburn Tigers from the first time we sat down to interview him, but to expect a College World Series berth in year two wasn’t even in my thoughts. Fortunately for the Tigers, Myers and a special group of young ladies didn’t sell themselves short and made a run to Oklahoma City that won’t soon be forgotten.

Clint Myers coaches third base during the softball College World Series in Oklahoma City.

While the number of seniors isn’t high, with only three on the roster, Auburn will be losing key performers in everyday starters Branndi Melero and Morgan Estell along with reserve McKenzie Kilpatrick. Going through some tough times before finally experiencing success, the trio leaves the program riding high with a top four finish in the College World Series. Based on what we saw this season and what is returning along with a strong group of signees on the way, you have to think what we saw in 2015 is just the tip of the iceberg for Myers’ Tigers.

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