BRUCE PEARL (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Jason Caldwell's Friday Auburn Mailbag Column Features Football & Basketball

Talking Auburn basketball and football in this week's Friday Mailbag.

auroy: So, where does Bruce go from here?  Will all problems be solved with our freshmen becoming sophomores or are there coaching staff and/or player personnel changes that Bruce needs to make?  We all want to believe we're on the path to better days, but some things we saw this year were discouraging.

I think a lot of the problems should be solved with experience and more maturity from the group. It is hard to know what to expect from freshmen and while they are the best group I have seen at Auburn, unless you are Duke or Kentucky it’s hard to win big with your four best players being freshmen. They still went from 11 wins to 18 wins in a season, which is a big jump. This team could have every easily had three more wins if it knew how to finish more better. The Tigers have got three really talented players joining thenext season so if you can take another step forward you should be in the NCAA Tournament. This team was borderline NIT to start the year if things fell right and that’s exactly what happened.

 

AUtigeritaville: What song best describes our basketball season?

With as many leads and opportunities as this team had to win at least three more games, this is the song that immediately came to mind for me:

 

aunatchamps: At the NFL combine they measure the athletes hands. In one picture of Jarrett Stidham holding a football, his fingers wrapped around the laces and I noticed his fingers being extra long. Do you know what his hand's size is? Good attribute for a QB.

I’m not sure how big Stidham’s hands are exactly, but they are pretty big. No question it’s a good attribute for a quarterback if he’s got the intangibles to play the position at a high level. That comes first.

 

4everau: Purifoy back next year?

I’m not sure where he would go if he’s not back at Auburn next season. He’ll move to his natural small forward position next year for the Tigers, which should be a much better fit for him. That allows Horace Spencer and incoming freshman Chuma Okeke to play power forward with Austin Wiley and Anfernee McLemore at center. That’s a pretty good group of four inside guys.

 

WSlay: Is there a systemic problem in our Athletic Department?

I don’t follow what systemic problem you’re referring to? Are you asking in regards to success on the field in the big three sports? If so I think they’ve got the right guys in place to be successful there. Many other sports are performing at a high level right now.

 

auroy: Who's your pick to win the NCAA basketball tournament? Also, do you think Kentucky (or any other SEC team) has a good enough squad to make it to at least the Elite Eight?

My pick to win it all is North Carolina at the moment, as much as I hate to say it. I think the Tar Heels' experience is a huge boost for them heading into the postseason. They have got a lot of guys back who have played in big games. As for the SEC, I like the way Vandy and Florida are playing right now. Kentucky is still the best bet to make a run, but I think the Wildcats will be fortunate to get past the Sweet 16.

 

AUPD89: What do you think the offense's run/pass ratio will be this season?

I think back to 2009 when Auburn was about 58-42 and that’s probably somewhere in the ballpark of what I’m expecting heading into the season. The Tigers are still going to be run-first with the backs they have, but adding to the passing game is an obvious need area.

 

Tiger82: What do you think was the reason for all the late collapses and what can Pearl do about it going forward?

It’s just hard to put your finger on the issues because this team has guys that are talented and can handle the ball. Right now I just think it’s a matter of not trusting themselves to get the job done. That is something that should come with the experience of having gone through it time and time again this year. I would think plenty of time and effort will be spent on keeping composure and playing defense.

 

aualum82: I know the coaches are trying to build the baseball team around pitching and defense. Feel great about the direction of the squad in the next few years with Butch, but do we have enough quality depth this year for successful bullpen arms on the weekend?  Lipscomb, Herndon, and then where do we go?

I think the Tigerswill be close on SEC weekends, but the weekday games are going to be toss-ups unless Gabe Klobosits or Daniel Sprinkle really step up their games. Those are the two guys Butch Thompson was counting on to perform at a higher level this year and help pick up the slack. Getting Andrew Mitchell back healthy will be important for this team and when you throw in Calvin Coker and Ryan Watson that gives the team five guys out of the bullpen for a weekend. That’s still thin, but if you get one quality start that gives you a chance to get the job done.

 

rabungap61: Other than Bo, who is the best AU running back you've seen play?

There have been a lot of good ones over the years, but for me it’s probably Brent Fullwood. That 1986 season was really, really special. That guy was a great football player who just happened to come after the best back we may have ever seen. I would probably throw James Bostic in there as well as Cadillac. Almost too many to mention.

 

AUChamp1970: This is not intended as a knock on anybody, just something I have wondered about - did Austin Wiley's arrival in December disrupt the development of the chemistry and style of play of the basketball team for this season?

I think his arrival is probably the only thing that allowed this team to get to 18 wins. He’s a great kid and a hard worker. I never saw any problems with him and the guys. Without him this season Auburn has serious issues in the paint considering injuries to Danjel Purifoy and Horace Spencer during the year.

TigerTenn: How does the SEC Network determine what is broadcast on the + network? Do they specify or is it based upon a school decision? school capability?

It's strictly determined by the ability of the school to be able to produce the broadcast. That's the issue with the Auburn games because they only have two production rooms. When they have basketball that takes up both of them because of the number of people it takes to get that done. Once basketball is done they should be able to do both baseball and softball with regularity. 


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