Jason Caldwell's Friday Auburn Mailbag Column: Talking Tigers' Football, Recruiting And More

Talking football, football recruiting, basketball and baseball in this edition of the Friday Auburn Mailbag.

mgmzebra: Baseball pitching staff question. Baird use to have SEC starters with first up early innings and mid RP and closer guys. Can you ID the guys expected to fill these roles in SEC season? Mid week starter pool guys beginning the year. ??

The first four starters to open the year will be Casey Mize, Keegan Thompson, Davis Daniel and Gabe Klobosits in some order. The coaches are working out the next group of guys, but Cole Lipscomb, Andrew Mitchell, Corey Herndon, and Ryan Watson are in the mix for the middle relief role. I think Calvin Coker and Daniel Sprinkle are the candidates to be the closers with Daniel Robert a possibility, too.


Rick4AU: If the 10th coach is allowed, any chance we get Rocker back home?

I don’t think that’s happening. With Rocker’s son Kumar a likely Top 10 MLB draft choice I think you’ll see him get back in the NFL soon.


Actman: Basketball recruiting is always low key. But we missed on Herb Jones and Garrison Brooks for 2017. And lose two grad transfers and two seniors off current team. Which puts AU at 11 (including Murray). Are you hearing anything about additions for  2017-18.

I think there's a good chance that one of the additions will come via the grad transfer route and Auburn is still evaluating a few guys in the 2017 class as well.

AugTiger: Can you make a prediction on players you think will make a big move up the depth charts this spring in football?

On offense I’m really looking forward to seeing how things shake out at wide receiver. That’s a position where things can change pretty easy from day to day so in the end I don’t think it’s a huge deal. On the offensive line I’m expecting Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. to really come through at left tackle. I believe he’s going to be a good one and allow them to move Darius James to a guard position with Braden Smith maybe getting a look at right tackle. On defense it’s all about Nick Coe for me up front. He’s the guy to watch to see if he can get to the quarterback off the edge. In the secondary I’m expecting Marlon Character to have a good spring.


AUTigerBSME90: any thoughts on grad transfer possibilities?

Those are normally things that shake out later in the spring when guys start to get a little closer to the summer. I do think a potential regular transfer to watch is Breiden Fehoko from Texas Tech. He’s a former 5-star DT that a whole lot of teams are trying to get to visit. I think he’s going to visit LSU and Ole Miss for sure and Auburn is a possibility.


Dewsweeper: I can remember the glory days of Auburn Track and Field.  What has happened, and why have both men's and women's track fallen of the map?

It definitely has been a steep decline in the past few years. Coach Ralph Spry feels like they’ve got a group of sprinters on campus that can make some noise so they could be on the upswing once again.


wtbtiger: Who do you think is the most improved player on the basketball team and why?

Since the beginning of the season I think the most improved guy has been Anfernee McLemore. I liked him during the summer, but watching him play with a physical style in the paint and finish around the rim has surprised me just a little bit. His knack for putting the ball in the basket combined with his quick leaping ability is going to make him a fun player to watch for four years.


Rickster14: Any ideas on Coach Fountain's replacement?

Nothing other than just some thoughts at the moment. One of those is Doug Goodwin, currently in an off-the-field position for the Tigers. He’s a veteran coach in the state and could coach tight ends/H-Backs or even special teams. The most interesting may be former Tiger Pat Washington. He’s currently coaching tight ends at South Carolina and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Auburn at least take a look his way.


AUFaninArk: How is Daniel Sprinkle doing this year. Is he projected as middle relief or a mid-week starter? When do you think our entire staff of 9 coaches will be settled? (not focusing on #10 until the vote)

Daniel Sprinkle has continued to pitch well this preseason, building off his good fall. I think he’s in line to get a shot to be the closer to start the year. Now he just has to get the job done. As for when the next guy will be named, my guess would be in the next week.


dewayne: Give us your postseason prediction for Auburn basketball and seed if any?

Right now I think it would take a minimum of 10 SEC wins for Auburn to get in as an at-large and even then it would take probably two tournament wins. That would give the Tigers 21 regular season wins and probably an RPI in the 40’s. That’s in line with previous at-large bids, but would make Auburn probably a 9 or 10 seed.


tigerpi: Let's forget Kerryon for the moment. Backups to Pettway. Do you think that Martin is ever going to put on enough weight to become a factor in the running game. Also, do you think that Miller can get in the rotation. Finally how about our incoming running backs. Do they have a chance to play. I realize that we gave depth as far as the numbers go but do you think that we have quality depth at the running back position.

I think Auburn has great depth at the running back position when factoring in Devan Barrett and Alaric Williams as well as walk-on C.J. Tolbert. I don’t think the coaches would be scared at all to play Tolbert. As for Kam Martin, I think if he’s 190 then he’s a much more capable back between the tackles. I think eventually he will play at 195 or so and be fine. As for Malik Miller, he’s got great feet but will be more of a pounding guy. He will have a place, but I think it will be tough for him to beat out Barrett and Williams in two years.


tvilletiger: Jason, I know it's way too early to predict what our Tigers will accomplish in 2017, but how good can we be??

It’s all about the quarterback. If Jarrett Stidham is as advertised then we’ve seen what Auburn can accomplish. With plenty of talent on offense and what should be another pretty good defense, I think the Tigers will be a tough out if Stidham is the playmaker many are expecting.


givhandy: Seems like Lindsey plans on using tight ends more this year after signing a couple more this year. Stat's passing numbers on Lindsey indicates he uses them less than we did! Any thoughts on how we will use them this season?

Arizona State’s tight ends caught 12 passes a season ago in his first year there. That isn't a a lot, but is still 10 more than Auburn the past two years combined, but the Sun Devils had some huge holes on offense and were in a lot of long yardage situations. That took a lot of the tight ends out of play. At Southern Miss his running backs/fullbacks caught 89 passes in 2015, which is something he made work without a true receiving tight end. I think they’ll continue to add the tight end to the offense, but I won’t be surprised to see Chandler Cox catch 20+ passes next season.


ware12: Why do you believe coach Fountain is out as coach?

In the end I think it’s probably because of a lack of production at tight end and in the return game on special teams. The tight end position is tough to put on him because of the death of Jakell Mitchell and the issue with Landon Rice, but in the end they only had one tight end on the roster the last two years. In the return game the Tigers went from fourth to 99th in kickoff returns. They were 82nd in 2014so it’s been up and down. I think it’s unfortunate because Scott Fountain has brought in some great kickers, had a great recruiting year in 2017 and is genuinely one of the best guys I’ve met in the business.

Midwest Varsity Top Stories