Photo by Jason Caldwell

Jason Caldwell's Friday Auburn Mailbag Column

Questions on a variety of Auburn sports teams are featured in this edition of the Friday Mailbag column from Jason Caldwell of Inside the Auburn Tigers.

TigerNAggieLand: I realize this is a highly speculative question as we are eleven months away from tourney time. Barring significant injuries and/or major negative surprises, how likely is it the men's team will make the NCAA or NIT Tourney next year? I believe we will turn the corner next season, and will make some SERIOUS noise a year later. I plan on being present when we upset A&M in an away game next winter.

Follow up question. How much improvement is realistic for next year's baseball team? I plan on catching a game here next year, too.

I think Bruce Pearl’s third team is going to be much, much better than his first two because of talent alone. The added depth should help the Tigers implement the pressing defense that Pearl wants and that should make them a better team overall. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see them in the postseason. As for baseball, I think they could be better if they get lucky with the pro draft. If pitcher Keegan Thompson returns and the Tigers get one of the top high school arms it should help them on the mound. They will lose some offense, but I think the pitching will only get better.


Derrick Brown (above), a five-star defensive tackle signee, will take the practice field in August as a freshman for Coach Gus Malzahn's Tigers.

Wtbtiger: Do states that have lottery have an advantage over the men's baseball team and the women's softball teams? Mississippi always seem to well in the spring sports but they also do not have a lottery. What is the key their success?

No question the teams that have a lottery have a huge advantage because it allows them to use more scholarship money for out-of-state players. When those guys get drafted it’s easier to pass up on the money if you’re not paying as much to attend school. Something that helps the Mississippi schools is waiving out-of-state tuition for kids that make good enough grades. Because the cost of living is lower that means it’s cheaper for a player in Birmingham to go to Mississippi State than Auburn on the same amount of scholarship.


Rosegreen4: The NFL Draft begins tonight. If you're an NFL owner Jason, what player in this year's class do you want to build your team's future around? Also, what's your projection for the AU guys in the draft?

It’s kind of crazy but I didn’t really like anyone that went high on Thursday night. I think my top guy would probably be Vernon Hargreaves. I think he’s a stud and will be a true shutdown corner in the league for a long time. I also love Josh Garnett from Stanford who went to the 49'ers. Knowing how Chip Kelly wants to run the football I like what Garnett brings to the table.


AUpoker: During your time at ITAT, who have been some of your favorite players/coaches to interview? What made them so much fun to interview?

There are so many choices in this one, but I’ll talk about a few of them. One of the first for me was James Callier, defensive end in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. He was just so vibrant and full of life. He was always a joy to talk to. Another player for me was Jerraud Powers, who is an awesome guy in every sense of the word. As for coaches I would probably have to go with Mike Griffin. The former men’s golf coach, Griffin was just always so positive and loves Auburn sports.


Aunatchamps: Now that we have our point guard commitment, which big guy do you think we have our best shot for as far as a grad transfer?

Obviously DaSean Murray would be a great addition because of his scoring punch. Having him available in 2017-18 would add another huge piece of the puzzle for this team. I would put him at the top of the list because he’s one of the best players available.


KJTiger: With the constant arms race in college facilities ever ongoing do you foresee any improvements to AU's facilities in the near future? Specifically plainsman park. Any others on the radar?  Thank You as always.

There is no question that Auburn is well behind the top programs in the SEC in terms of baseball facilities and it’s only going to get worse with Mississippi State and Ole Miss both doing big-time additions. As of now I don’t see anything coming for baseball right away, but the athletic department already has drawings in place for upgrades that include suites and expansion of the practice facliities. The next thing will probably come at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but when that happens is still up in the air.


TigerNAggieLand: KJ, if I may tag on here, I'd appreciate it. What about improvements to our swimming facilities? At one time it was our bread and butter as to national recognition.

As of right now I haven’t heard of any improvements expected for the swimming facilities. I think the biggest thing for them is to improve performance first and then that would have a better chance of happening down the road.


Tommytiger: Jason, I heard this week that we are moving forward with the renovations to the north endzone of Jordan Hare. Have you heard this?

I haven’t heard that things are definitely moving forward. I know that’s the goal and hope in the near future, but nothing has been announced about a definite plan. It's still very much a work in progress.


Boone91: What football players that are not yet on campus do you think have a legitimate chance to start or get significant playing time this fall?

I think you look at the two graduate transfers to start with, linebacker T.J. Neal and cornerback Marshall Taylor. Both should be on the field very early. I also think Derrick Brown is going to have a chance to play very early this year because he is so big and physical. I see him as a rotation guy right away. I also see at least two of the wide receivers in the mix with Nate Craig and Elijah Stove the most likely to contribute right away.


Nhill76: What's the latest status update you have on Stephen Davis Jr.

I haven't heard anything on Davis in quite a while. It is probably going to be after this semester is completed before anything happens with him so teams can see how his academic situation is.


M5guy: How would you rate the cohesiveness and leadership of the 2016 Football Tigers compared to the 2010 and 2013 teams? Are they as hungry as those teams were?

It is tough to tell just yet, but based on the spring I think this is a very hungry team. Seasons last like year tend to get guys focused, but maybe more than the players it works that way for the coaches. Gus Malzahn is one focused guy this spring, no doubt about it.


TigerTenn: Jason, does Coach Myers take everyone on the roster on road trips? How has recruiting changed since Coach Myers came to Auburn?

The SEC has a roster limit for road games so there is a certain number that can make the trip. As for recruiting, there is no question the talent level of the team continues to go up and I expect that to continue with outstanding recruits reaching out to Auburn asking to be recruited by the Tigers.

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