Jason Caldwell's Monday Morning QB Column: Auburn Football, Basketball, Baseball & Softball

Auburn football's hire of Larry Porter, a tough loss for Auburn basketball, baseball getting ready and softball's opening weekend are included in this edition of the Monday Morning QB Column.

Porter A Good Get For Tigers

A success at every stop along the way, new Auburn assistant Larry Porter will be coaching a new position with the football Tigers when he works with the tight ends, but that shouldn’t be an issue for a veteran coach who has also been a head coach at Memphis, his alma mater.

Known for his recruiting prowess, Porter’s addition is one that could really help Auburn in Louisiana where he’s got plenty of contacts from his time at LSU. Another spot he could be a big help is in South Florida, a place that Wesley McGriff was working for the Tigers last year.

It will be interesting to see how many in-roads the Tigers can make in Louisiana with Ed Orgeron pledging to put a fence up around the state with Alabama hitting them hard in recent years. It likely won’t be a huge haul, but Auburn has gotten some important players from Louisiana recently and getting a boost from Porter’s addition definitely won’t hurt the Tigers chances of getting more top players from the state moving forward.

What Might Have Been

There is no question that Saturday night’s loss at Ole Miss was the icing of what has been a bitter cake at times for this Auburn basketball team considering the many positives they’ve shown. Just when it looks like they’ve figured it out this team finds a way to make it all come crashing down again.

That’s exactly why we said before the year that this team was probably still a year away from making a serious run to earn an NCAA Tournament spot. It doesn’t mean they didn’t have plenty of opportunities to make that happen, however.

When you consider the loss to Boston College, both losses to Ole Miss, as well as the loss to Georgia at home, this team could easily be at 20 wins already and firmly inside the cut line for the NCAA Tournament.

To make that happen now would likely take this team running the table the remainder of the regular season, beginning Tuesday night at home against the red hot Florida Gators. If we’ve learned anything from this team we’ve learned that’s not likely to happen, but that won’t mean this season wasn’t a success.

With still a very real chance to make the postseason in some form or fashion, this group has progressed in a big way when you consider Austin Wiley didn’t join the team until December and Danjel Purifoy was out or slowed by an ankle injury for the better part of a month. Throw in the loss of Horace Spencer the last two weeks and this team has done some very good things despite the disappointing stretches.

There has been a lot of talk about the free throw shooting for this team and their struggles at times. While they’re far from where they could be potentially, this team is shooting 67.4 percent from the line so far this season. That’s the fourth-best total for an Auburn team in the last 20 seasons.

Here is the full list:

 2016-17: 67.4 percent

2015-16: 63.2 percent

2014-15: 66.6 percent

2013-14: 72.1 percent

2012-13: 70 percent

2011-12: 64.8 percent

2010-11: 65.6 percent

2009-10: 65.5 percent

2008-09: 60.6 percent

2007-08: 66.9 percent

2006-07: 63.1 percent

2005-06: 63.1 percent

2004-05: 72.6 percent

2003-04: 66.3 percent

2002-03: 66 percent

2001-02: 59.3 percent

2000-01: 65.1 percent

1999-00: 65.5 percent

1998-99: 65 percent

1997-98: 64.5 percent


Opening Week

Following a whole lot of work on the diamond and in the batting cages, Coach Butch Thompson’s second Auburn baseball team will take the field this weekend in a season-opening series against George Washington University and based on what I have seen from them the last two weeks it’s a team that will look a whole lot different than his first group.

That starts on the mound where Keegan Thompson, Casey Mize, Davis Daniel and Gabe Klobosits could give this team four solid starting options. Continuing to try to build depth in the bullpen is the goal at the moment, something that could be an issue the first week with six games in seven days and the starters on a pitch count to start the year.

The defense should also be much improved with junior college transfers Jay Estes at second, Joshua Anthony at third and Luke Jarvis at short all playing well in the preseason. With another junior college transfer, left-hander Jonah Todd, likely to see plenty of time in center field with Bo Decker and Jeremy Johnson beside him, the outfield has plenty of speed.

Offensively, this team is going to have to manufacture runs much more than a year ago so don’t be surprised to see more hit-and-run action as they try to get guys on the move. Jarvis and Anthony will both be counted on to provide some punch along with senior Daniel Robert.


Tested Out Of The Gate

Before the trip to Mexico to open the season, Coach Clint Myers knew games against Oklahoma, Washington, Nebraska and BYU were going to provide a stern test for his club and he was correct.

There were plenty of positives for the Tigers after going 3-1 in easily the toughest starting schedule for any team in AU softball history. That begins in the circle where Makayla Martin and Kaylee Carlson were both brilliant in the four games. Having them pitching well out of the gate has to be a relief for Myers as he looks to have his team improving from the beginning of the season to the end.

The biggest issue was the lack of offense for a team that had some key returners, including All-American Kasey Cooper. Losing Emily Carosone, Tiffany Howard and Jade Rhodes was bound to have an impact on this group when facing quality arms like they saw to open the season and now they’ll have a chance to learn from the experience.

Playing without one of the expected big bats in the lineup, Washington transfer Tannon Snow, the Tigers did get some offensive punch from Kendall Veach. When Snow gets back on the field that should help provide more firepower behind Cooper, Carlee Wallace and Haley Fagan, allowing them better pitches to hit.

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