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Jason Caldwell's Friday Auburn Mailbag Column: Coaching Talk And Basketball

Jason Caldwell answers questions about Auburn football and basketball in this edition of his Friday Mailbag Column.

WSPTIGER: Is it true that a school can "black ball" certain referee crews? And if so why do we allow Tom Ritter's crew on the campus?

I don’t think a school can outright refuse officiating crews, but no question they can make their feelings known to the conference. If you could block guys I’m not sure how many would still be working after what we’ve seen the last few years.


wtbtiger: Will Sean be well enough to play in the Bowl game. Do you see JJ staying and competing for the QB job next year?

I would guess that Sean should be ready to go after having basically two weeks off before they start practices again. Because of that I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get plenty of reps in the bowl game and maybe even start. As for Jeremy Johnson I think we’ll know more from him once they get into spring practice, but right now I’m inclined to think Auburn’s starter isn’t on campus.


JollyJay: If Will gets a head coaching gig at South Carolina, is there anyone on the AU staff that he may try to take with him?

No question that Travaris Robinson is a guy I could see going with Will unless Auburn offers him the defensive coordinator position. Even if they don’t T Rob could still stay around Auburn because it’s a place he loves. Lance Thompson is another possibility as well. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a guy like Bobby Bentley get a shot if it’s South Carolina as well.


AUpoker: If I recall correctly, at the beginning of the basketball season you predicted our boys would be .500 in the SEC. Now that they have a few games under their belt and we see the way they can light the scoreboard, do you still believe that is about where they will be?

The offense is going to be there for this team, but the interior defense is still going to be a problem against a lot of teams in this league. I’m still expecting somewhere around .500 give or take a game or two.

gtwstock: Do you think Paul Rhoads would consider coming to AU as DC again and what is your opinion of his time here? What other names would you think would be top candidates for Auburn if Muschamp leaves for a HC gig?

I’m just not sure about Rhoads because it’s been a while since I have spoken with him, but I know he enjoyed his time on the Plains. I think he’s a very good coach, however, and would be a good coordinator once again. As for top candidates I have no idea about guys I would look at, possibly Mike Elko at Wake Forest. He’s been a pretty good one wherever he’s been.


aunatchamps: With Bowers, Harris and Granger gone next year, who is our best shot for another big guy in this year's recruiting class?

Probably the best chance at adding another big man is Udoka Azbuike from Potter's Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Fla. It’s probably still an uphill battle for him, but he’s shown interest in the Tigers and with good friends heading to play at Auburn that could help.


DT1980: What is your feeling on Will being back if he doesn't get a HC job and how is all of the coaching rumors effecting recruits?

I think there’s a chance he’s gone no matter if it’s as a head coach or not. When you have this much smoke usually it’s for a reason. Now he may not be gone, but the longer it goes on the more likely it happens in my opinion. As for recruiting rumors right now it’s just that, but once again the more it lingers the more impact it could have.


WSlay: Will Roc Thomas be at AU in 2016? Byron Cowart? Nick Ruffin? Stephen Roberts?

T Rob? Rhett Lashlee?

To be honest I don’t have a definitive answer on any of those guys. Roc is a guy who probably isn’t happy, but when given chances he’s been consistently limping off the field afterwards. Cowart looks happy to me when I’m around him, but if Muschamp leaves I could see him going elsewhere. I don’t think Ruffin and Roberts are going anywhere. Roberts has turned into one of Auburn’s better defenders. No doubt that T-Rob wants to be at Auburn and I guess now it just depends on what happens moving forward. As for Rhett Lashlee I think right now he’s back unless he takes a job himself and moves on.


brianWDE: Is Gus capable of righting the ship, based on what we know as of today?

There is no question that Gus is capable of righting the ship because if the quarterback play improves this team is different in a hurry. We’ve seen it happen before twice under his guidance in 2010 and 2013. That’s all it takes to change the entire direction of the program.


Tiger82: Who do you think came out better, UGA/Smart or UM/Richt? Will Muschamp stay?

Based on the long term I think it’s probably Miami because Richt is a guy who is the king of stability. I do think that Kirby Smart could get Georgia over the hump in a hurry if he hires the right assistant because he’s going to get the defensive horses in that state to make it happen.


ATLtiger07: Would you buy or sell stock in Auburn football right now?

Not trying to dodge the question but I would hold onto to it at the moment. I don’t think it’s going down, but it has the potential to really climb in a hurry. Like I mentioned earlier, if John Franklin, Woody Barrett or whoever becomes the guy at quarterback then you’re going to win games.


No7Tiger: How would you compare Gus (personality, temperament) to other AU coaches you have covered? CPD,CTB,CTT,CGC,etc  if you could describe Gus in a few words........

Gus is a grinder, no question about that. In that respect he’s probably more similar to Chizik in that regard. Dye and Tuberville were the definition of players’ coaches where guys really got closer with them and bonded more. As for Gus himself he’s a really good guy, but his personality is one that makes him really guarded at times.


ware12: Do you think the AU players are as happy with, and as passionate about the AU coaches, as player are with their coaches at other top schools?  I heard an ex-player say,  "the players like CGM and think he's a genius with Xs' and Os, but that he's not close to the players".  Saban apparently isn't either but has a lot of skins on the wall.  Then there's frequent talk of players transferring, as is there is now with Roc and Cowart, which I realize may be total BS.  But I think back to Garner saying "we need to de-recruit him" (referencing Cowart) and Cowart tweeting his frustration, basically saying he's working his butt off and it would be nice to get positive re-enforcment. The majority of the time it seems the best compliment a player can get from Gus or any coach is "he's improving".  I dislike Dabo but he's always talking positive about his players and they seem ready to run through a wall for him. I know relationships vary by position coach but what is your overall opinion of the program?

I think the passion a player has towards the coaches and the perception from the fanbase is directly proportional to how many wins a team has. I thought Auburn played as hard this season as they did in 2013, but things didn’t work out nearly as well. If you’re not passionate or don’t like your coaches you don’t do what Auburn did this season fighting to the end in my opinion. As for “de-recruiting” that has nothing to do with coaches giving positive reinforcements or anything of the like. That’s all about the recruiting process and guys coming in after getting so much attention. They have to them realize high school is over and college football is very different.

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