Marshall: Too Much Youth for Tigers?

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about Auburn and SEC football as the season is almost here.

I feel sorry for Josh Chapman. At least, I think I do.

I know nothing other than what I've read about the scandal that has engulfed Hoover High School and its football program. Chapman, it seems, had an 89 average in a course in which he needed to have a 90 to be eligible to play at Alabama.

My first thought was and remains why the teacher didn't give him some extra work to do to earn the single point he needed. I don't believe anyone could have found fault with that. However, that didn't happen. And once it didn't, Chapman should not have been an academic qualifier.

The Hoover High stance that it was a clerical error and that, since Chapman wasn't at fault he shouldn't be penalized, is preposterous. If that stance flies with the NCAA, you'll probably start seeing a lot more clerical errors.

So far, there has been nothing but silence from Alabama on the issue. But I would be shocked if Chapman plays before the situation is resolved. Though I have no inside information of any kind, I suspect that the end result will be that Chapman is not eligible to play this season.

Josh Chapman originally committed to Auburn, but had a late change of plans and picked Alabama.

Unless it can be proved that someone at Alabama applied pressure to get the grade changed, I don't see how it could become an NCAA infractions case. If it turns out someone from Alabama was involved, that's big trouble.

More than whether Chapman plays or doesn't, the real question is about Hoover High School and its football program. From the MTV special "Two-a-Days to the sordid affair that is still unfolding, it should be obvious that something is terribly wrong.

High school football should be first and foremost about education. With every new revelation, it becomes more obvious that, at Hoover High, it has gone far beyond that. And now the reputations of a coach and a school have been seriously damaged.

It's really very sad.

Moving on...

When Auburn takes the field against Kansas State on Saturday, no fewer than five redshirt freshmen or true freshmen will be in the starting lineup. Numerous others will play key roles.

Can Auburn win a championship with so many first-year players? It can, but it hasn't happened often in such circumstances at any school...

For my blog on, 20 beat writers and columnists from SEC states agreed to answer questions about the best of the SEC. For those who didn't see it, here is how they ranked the league's coaches.

Twelve points were awarded for a first-place vote, 11 for second, etc. First-place votes are in parenthesis.

Steve Spurrier

1. Steve Spurrier (19), South Carolina, 229

2. Urban Meyer (6), Florida, 205

3. Tommy Tuberville (2), Auburn, 187

3. Nick Saban, Alabama, 187

5. Mark Richt, Georgia, 166

6. Phillip Fulmer (2), Tennessee, 161

7. Les Miles, LSU, 115

8. Houston Nutt, Arkansas, 102

9. Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt, 71

10. Rich Brooks, Kentucky, 70

11. Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State, 44

12. Ed Orgeron, Ole Miss, 21

Tommy Tuberville

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Tuberville and Saban finished in a dead heat and that Saban no No.1 votes. The panel was almost unanimous in saying Ole Miss' Ed Orgeron is the weakest link among SEC coaches. On 20 ballots, he was voted 12th on 19 and 11th on one.

Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, by the way, was selected as the SEC assistant most likely to get a head coaching job...

Call it a hunch, but I don't look for Saturday's night's opener against Kansas State to be a lot closer than last season's opener, a 40-14 blowout of Washington State. But the season's second game, against South Florida, is more than a little dangerous...

Until next time...

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