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Jason Caldwell Answers Questions About Auburn Football And Basketball In His Mailbag Column

Auburn football, the defensive coordinator coaching search, recruiting and basketball are topics in this edition of Jason Caldwell's Friday Mailbag column.

Tiger82: You're a brave man Jason. You know what the main question will be already -- who is our DC? Aside from that "minor" issue, what other staff changes do you foresee?

As for who will be Auburn’s defensive coordinator that’s still something I believe is still to be worked out. We have talked for a the last few days about Charles Kelly and while that could still be in play Malzahn may be moving on to several more guys. A name to watch could be Tyson Summers from Colorado State. He was the coordinator for a really good UCF defense in 2014 and has plenty of ties to the Southeast. Summers wouldn’t be a splash hire in terms of name, but he could be a guy that brings the continuity that Malzahn is looking for.


ATLtiger07: As football season closes and recruiting comes to a end (briefly), anything particular you look forward to doing with your "free time"?

There is no such thing as free time in this job any more because there is also something providing news. That being said I’ll be traveling next weekend to watch Auburn face Xavier in basketball. I’ll also head to Orlando right after the Birmingham Bowl and will have a few days before the Under Armour game. That’s about it for the free time.


HoustonTiger: Who is your pick in the playoffs? I'm going with OU, they're playing some really good football right now. Still can't believe they lost to Texas.

I’m with you on Oklahoma. I like the way they are playing at the moment and Baker Mayfield is just the type of guy who wins championships for the Sooners. He’s tough and has enough talent to make them a dangerous team. With a good combination at running back they’ve got enough weapons to get the job done.


AUtigeritaville: Do you feel Malzahn is pigeon holed into the position of making a big name splash hire rather than finding a young, up and coming guy for the DC position?

That’s a tough question because it would seem to be the case for him, but if you’re Malzahn you believe in what you’re doing. With that in mind I think you’ve got to hire the best guy for the job and maybe not the best name. Sometimes those guys are one in the same as I think Will Muschamp was, but often they’re not the same guy. Finding someone who knows defense and would stay around for a few years is what I think Malzahn needs right now.


m5guy: Fantastic recruiter or defensive guru for DC? Obviously we would want both but this is the real world!

Personally I think the defensive coordinator needs to be a very good coach first--you’ve got to be able to coach them up on defense. Auburn has had plenty of talent in terms of recruited talent on defense the last few years and the second half of the 2015 season was the first time I have seen things really come together since 2010 and that was largely due to Nick Fairley’s presence up front.


coreyc: If we could add 4 immediate, impact players at any position next season in football, what would those 4 positions be AND do you think it's possible to add those type of players?

This one is pretty easy for me. I would go with quarterback first because as we saw this season that’s the key to Gus Malzahn’s offense and the engine for the entire team. I think the next one would be at wide receiver. Auburn has some talent coming back, but finding a true No. 1 receiver is just imperative for a team. I do think Tony Stevens could be that type of guy, however, if he continues to improve. On defense I believe the Tigers need an impact player at both tackle and defensive end for next season. The tackle is the easy one with depth lacking for the Tigers. Auburn has numbers at defensive end, but Carl Lawson and Cassanova McKinzy were the only true pass rush threats there this season. That’s where Paul James III should really help coming in early.


Tiger82:Seeing as how this is the silly season, what is the silliest rumor you guys have heard so far?

That’s a tough one because there have been a ton of rumors abounding in the last few weeks. I would say Jeremy Pruitt and Auburn was one of the top ones. Pruitt was always heading to Alabama and I’m not sure that one was ever even in the thinking about stage from either side.


MelissaNGa: Regarding basketball, who does Pearl see as our biggest threat in the SEC West?

There aren’t divisions in SEC basketball any longer, but right now Kentucky, Vanderbilt and maybe Texas A&M are the top three teams in the league with South Carolina playing well early. I believe LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and maybe Alabama are the teams Auburn will contend with somewhere in the middle of the pack.


Dewsweeper: If Rhett Lashlee leaves, what kind of rearrangements in resposibilities will happen on the offensive staff?  Do you see Dameyune Craig becoming the QB coach?

If Lashlee were to leave I’m not sure how it would change things. I could definitely see Craig moving to coach quarterbacks if that’s what he wanted to do. He’s done pretty well at that at other stops including Florida State.


wtbtiger: Which coach is going to call defensive signals in the bowl game? Who is going to coach the secondary in the bowl game?

Gus Malzahn said on Thursday that he should know by Monday how the bowl game is going to work on defense. If they don’t have a coordinator named in the next two days or so either Rodney Garner or Lance Thompson would likely call the plays on defense. As for coaching the secondary my bet right now would be on graduate assistant Blake Gideon, who played for Muschamp at Texas and is a very good young coach.


aunatchamps: There is an Auburn Tip Off club to support the basketball team and a Diamond club to support the baseball team. Is there a Touchdown club or Quarterback club for the Auburn football team? Has there been one in the past and what is the history?

There was a local quarterback club for many years in Auburn, but that group hasn't been active for many years. Right now the closest thing is probably the Friday lunches at Jordan-Hare Stadium with a guest speaker. It’s not really a club, but’s probably as close as it gets.


aumasters: I've always admired your talent evaluations, so after the Super 7 and watching the Alabama all star practices who has stood out to you? I would like to hear about highly rated players but also some diamonds in the rough. Thanks

At the Super 7 I was very impressed by juniors Thomas Johnston and Justin Thomas from Spanish Fort. Both are definite SEC defensive prospects for next year. I also really like Tyrell Pigrome from Clay-Chalkville after seeing him in Tuscaloosa and also at Alabama-Mississippi practices. He’s only 5-9 and probably 190 pounds, but if I’m Troy, Southern Miss or even someone like Indiana that wants to spread the field I’m all in on Pigrome. He’s just a playmaker. Another guy I like is wide receiver Xavier Lane from Carver-Montgomery. Lane is a physical receiver that is going to be a steal for some team.

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