Friday, October 9, 2015

The Culture for Auburn Football is the Problem, Not Gus Malzahn

HC Gus Malzahn / Courtesy of

As much as Auburn faithful would like to blame this season's 3-2 mark on Jeremy Johnson's play, lack of continuity on the offensive line, or for injuries to one key defender, none of it ads up to be the problem on the Plains.

The culture of the Auburn Football program, and the Athletics Department as a whole is.

It isn't Gus Malzahn and his leadership, or the staff that he has hired making a Juggernaut group of recruiters and tacticians. Guys like Will Muschamp aren't household names for peewee linebackers for no reason.

This staff can coach, and this staff can build winning game plans, but for some reason the culture can't seem to change.

It is hard to put a mark on when the culture problem began, but it seemed to begin during the height of the Gene Chizik era. Chizik was a seemingly nice and likable guy that recruited solid talent, but couldn't seem to put the reigns on the personalities that come along with highly rated and sought after teenagers.

He won a national title, and now the Tigers players were lifted to all-star status in town. A status that remains in an unsavory way. Not the status of respect like the days of Bo Jackson and Pat Sullivan.

This was a new entitled group that expected to walk into clubs in town and act however they pleased. Even to the point where taking sunglasses off is a big enough issue to fight a teammate.

This has to be the stopping point.

The first sign was Michael Dyer and the four un-wise men.

If you don't remember, four current Auburn players decided it was a good idea to rob current Auburn students at gunpoint. Three of the players were contributors and expected to be future stars for the program. But it wasn't just the isolation of the four that made the problem so vexing.

It was the fact that Dyer, star receiver DeAngelo Benton (who I will address again later) and starter Neiko Thorpe were also indicated in having knowledge of either the weapon or the possibility that the robbery was going to occur according to statements given in court.

Dyer went on to be dismissed for his own reasons, but his star status and leadership value for the team was a clutch missing piece after the 2010 title run. As was Mike McNeil. The team needed him and others to be leaders--they failed miserably.

Just over a year after this incident, three Auburn football players were involved in a shooting in which two former players were killed. DeAngelo Benton was also indicated in being at the party where the shooting occurred, and was a part of the altercation that led to the shooting.

He remained on the team until his eligibility was extinguished.

Now is the time for the culture to change and for this team to regain its discipline. Hopefully this latest event with star D'haquille Williams will be the turning point.

The team leaders and seniors should set there own limitations on curfew and they should put there own parameters on study hall and workouts.

There seems to be a solid core of quality players and young men that line the sidelines on Saturday's, but the few that are grabbing the headlines are doing it for all the wrong reasons. This is part team leadership, and part coaching leadership.

This is the time that the Tigers decide if they will be a consistent powerhouse in the SEC, or just a flash in the pan every decade or so.

Malzahn has the talent on the team and coaching staff to win games. He has to redefine the culture now to win championships again.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Malzahn and Duke Williams Failed Auburn Football, Can The Tigers Reclaim 2015?

Duke Williams after a clutch touchdown catch vs. La Tech, 2014

Gus Malzahn failed Auburn. He failed the football program and the fans.

D'haquille a.k.a. Duke Williams failed the program and its fans as well. He was famously on the cover of Sports Illustrated for Kids before the season started, and now he is punching people in a bar over sunglasses.

Jay Jacobs failed, and so did every other coach that failed to act fast enough to eliminate an apparent issue from the team based on talent--definitely not production. In the process the three, and many others, put the reputation of the Tigers program on a guy with no discipline--on or off the field.

Williams is no stranger to issues. He was suspended from the bowl game a year ago for a violation of team rules, and constantly had loafing plays this season as the passing game didn't develop as he expected.

Earlier this summer he had issues that took to Twitter and forced a response from the Gus Bus himself. It was clear the senior was not a leader and was going to be a babysitting issue for the staff.

At that they failed.

When Williams arrived on the Plains he was one of the most highly sought after receivers in the JUCO ranks. He had arrived at Auburn as the No. 1 ranked JUCO player in the country according to He had shunned his in-state team LSU to join the Tigers from Alabama.

Since his arrival at Auburn, Williams produced 57 catches for 877 yards and six touchdowns. Modest production but a far cry from the lofty expectations of a No. 1 rated recruit.

Expectations are not being met as he was third in total receiving yards on a team that is among the worst in passing production this year. It's not all on Duke and the receivers, but there is a lot to say for a lack of effort on that side of the ball in the leadership department.

On the other side of expectations, Ricardo Luis has stepped into the all-purpose senior star at receiver for Auburn, leading the team in receptions (19) and adding 11 carries on the ground for one touchdown.

Ricardo Lewis No. 5

The hope is that he can continue to produce at an all-star level and take over the expectations left in the dust by Williams.

The problem at hand can, and hopefully will be fixed with the dismissal. Unfortunately team chemistry doesn't just automatically appear because it should. The Tigers have some obvious issues with continuity on and off the field this season, but there have been bright spots.

Peyton Barber has been running extremely well and has been a highlight with his 558 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He is in the top 20 in the country in rushing yards.

He is the bell cow of the backfield and there are others in the mix. If Roc Thomas continues to come on strong and limits his mistakes this offense will flourish. Sean White is also another name that can be simply serviceable and win games for the Tigers at quarterback.

The defense is coming along as it finds its identity and Will Muschamp grabs hold of what has become his BOOM defense, but there still has to be the team continuity that appears.

With the suspension of Jermaine Whitehead just a year ago seemingly gutting the locker room with leadership, this has to be a major focus for the staff and seniors on the team. Re-establish a leadership base.

Make this team believe in the talent that it has on it. Believe in the Auburn name, not the name wearing the jersey.

If not, the pre-season hype will have owned the Tigers once again.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fall Approaches for the Tigers, QB Questions Loom

Its been a bit since the Parkway hit the air, but as fall approaches and camp gets underway the content will begin to flow again.

My apologies for the delay.

Here's what's happening in Auburn:

Who is the quarterback?

Great question. Right now it is wide open, but my bet is on Nick Marshall. Experienced at JUCO and has the intangibles to make plays.

He had interception issues, but that can be refined with routes and better receivers making plays.

This team has a host of talent on the outside, but it has yet to be developed under the last staffs coaching. 

A lot of updates are set to follow. Check back with us for more in depth updates in the future.

Expect the class breakdown to continue as well.

Thanks for riding the Parkway.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Auburn Recruiting 2014: State of the Class

ILB Tre Williams | Photo via 247Sports

Auburn recruiting is beginning to hit stride for the 2014 class, and this is a look at how the Tigers have done so far. This is the State of the Class report.

As the weeks pass this will be a look into the current class of commits, how they fit in at Auburn and an overlook of their individual skill sets. Stay tuned for constant updates throughout the recruiting cycle. 


The Linebackers

The Tigers recently picked up their fifth pledge of the 2014 class when 4-star Tre Williams committed to the Tigers (h/t

He is the second inside linebacker commitment for this class joining fellow Mobile, Ala. native De'Shaun Davis. The Tigers are in need of bodies at linebacker despite the recent shift to the new 4-2-5 scheme.

Gus Malzahn and his staff won a major in-state recruiting battle against Alabama when they secured Williams' pledge. Making a mark on south Alabama is a must if this staff plans on securing the state's top recruits.

Here is a breakdown of the linebacker commits that are currently in the fold:

4-star Tre Williams: ILB, St. Pauls Episcopal School, Mobile, Ala.

The Rundown: Williams is a tough inside defender. He has moderate speed and a quick first step. He is best in scripted plays as his reaction time can be a bit slow.

Once dedicated to a gap he plays it out, and is not the most fluid when changing position.

When engaged, Williams is almost always the strongest player. He drives through the ball-carrier and will meet a player in the hole with a lot of force. He has a lot of pop to his hits, and he is a skilled blitzer. Williams is a bit methodical, but his execution is usually flawless making his predictability a non-factor.

Player Comparison: Josh Bynes

Redshirt or Instant Impact: Instant Impact for two reasons.

The Tigers are looking for bigger bodies to fill in at middle linebacker, and Williams has the frame to add another 10-20 pounds. At 6'2", 230 pounds he can become a very large interior linebacker.

His powerful striking ability is something the Tigers are missing on defense. Williams brings a knockout blow with each hit and that tenacious attitude is missing on the Tigers defense.

3-star De'Shaun Davis: ILB, Vigor High School, Prichard, Ala.

The Rundown: Davis is the type of linebacker that coaches love. He has a never ending motor, and he drives to the football. He is a rangy defender with good football speed, but he lacks the ideal top end speed that you look for in an elite recruit.

At 6'0", 225 pounds he lacks ideal size, but he could still be a solid inside man at the 6'0" mark.

He is elusive in space and shakes the first contact blocker with regularity. Davis is a strong player that uses his powerful base to drive through the ball-carrier. He dissects opposing offenses well, and is a very teachable player.

Over the next few years he will be a quality edition to this class.

Player Comparison: Alex Lincoln

Redshirt or Instant Impact: Redshirt.

He may end up as a special teams contributor, but a redshirt is the best scenario for Davis.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gus Malzahn is Auburn's 26th Head Football Coach

Gus Malzahn was hired by Auburn to be the 26th Football coach in school history it was announced earlier today by the University.

Malzahn was at Auburn during the 2009-11 seasons, and helped guide the Tigers offense to unbelievable heights and a national title in 2010. His offense also helped guide Arkansas State to a 9-3 season in 2012.

In his one year with the Red Wolves he won the Sun Belt title and received a bowl berth for the team.

There will be a lot of news to come in the coming days and the Parkway will cover it all. Tomorrow will bring a solid breakdown of the hire and what to expect once he settles in the new role of head coach.

Check back soon for updates.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Auburn Fans Petition White House to Fire Jay Jacobs and Gene Chizik

The Auburn Tigers are staring at a three win finish to the 2012 season. It has become obvious for everyone involved that this team has lost its swagger and has no chance of regaining it this season.

Next year is the focus and who will be coaching the Auburn Tigers team is at the height of discussion. Names like Jeff and Jimbo Fisher, Gus Malzahn and others have begun to swirl around the message boards and rumor mills that discuss Auburn Tigers Football.

The Auburn fans pushing for a coaching change are getting a bit antsy, and are looking to take matters into their own hands to ensure that a change at the top is made this December.

Phone calls and emails have flooded Auburn University President Jay Gogue's office in the past few weeks displaying concern and irritation with the football program. On a daily basis new names and faces drop their football wishes on the President's assistants manning the hotline.

While there have been a few reports stating that changes were imminent thanks to the friendly fan nudging, a recent report gave Gene Chizik and his staff a favorable nod--again, just rumor. That report has led to a meltdown of epic proportions.

When was the last time that a fan base petitioned the White House for a coaching change? Think I am kidding--go here. An Auburn fan has decided to lobby the White House for a coaching change at Auburn.

While I tip my hat to the energy and passion, this is reaching the point of no-return stupid. The good news is only 24,997 more signatures are needed for an official White House response.

That should be interesting.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Auburn Football Continues to Struggle, Firing Gene Chizik Still isn't the Answer

I'm not blind. I have watched every snap of Auburn Football this season. Nothing out of the ordinary there, but for the first time I am torn by a coaches performance.

Gene Chizik earned a ton of praise for guiding the Tigers to their second national title in school history during the 2010 season, but the shine of that season is quickly losing its luster.

Auburn fans are getting stir crazy with a 1-4 record--especially when it looks like Ole Miss has the upper-hand in a SEC game for the first time in 16 contests. It will be the Ole Miss homecoming when Auburn rolls into Oxford this coming Saturday.

Auburn is a homecoming opponent for Ole Miss. Go figure. It seems to fit this season and the turmoil that these Tigers have faced throughout the year.

What has happened to this football team? Under Gene Chizik the Tigers overachieved in 2009 and won a bowl game, finishing 8-5. The following season Chizik led Auburn to the second national title in school history.

Granted, Cam Newton was a big part of that success, but it took a lot more than a bad coach and a great quarterback to win a title--especially with all of the off-the-field issues that attempted to swallow the season's glory.

Gene Chizik and his staff have produced Top 10 recruiting classes three years straight, and the Tigers coaches are set to sign the best class in school history if the 2013 class continues to progress as it seems it will. There are a lot of factors that go into recruiting class success, but coaching is one of the biggest aspects.

Now, two years after the most successful season in school history, Gene Chizik has led the Auburn Tigers to a 1-4 record, with a tough road test in front of this inconsistent and uninspired football team. Ole Miss used to be a sure win--now the game has become a possible scary reality waiting to be played out this Saturday.

What's the reality?

That Auburn is a really bad football team right now for so many reasons it is impossible to label them.

So with all this in mind, why is it not time to fire Chizik? After all, the Tigers could go 3-9 this year. Maybe the 10 million dollar buyout? What gives?

Well it won't be a record that keeps Chizik in Auburn, or a buyout. Even if the number was 20 million, if the Tigers administration wanted him gone, he would be. I don't think that is the solution, and the powers at be should feel the same way. Here is why.

Chizik is recruiting like a madman. Give him one more year.

Recruiting may not be everything--look at Ron Zook--but it is a big factor in football success. Tommy Tuberville is always credited with not recruiting well, but Auburn rarely had a class outside the Top 20 during his tenure. He was a great player developer, but don't fool yourself into thinking he didn't recruit.

Gene Chizik and his staff have been other-worldly on the recruiting trail. He has taken the Tigers back to a balance in the state, where a number of top Alabama recruits have chosen Auburn. Last season Chizik pulled in a number of players from Alabama, and he looks to do the same this year.

The talent pool is being stocked, and the overall ability of this team will continue to rise with Chizik and his guys in the recruiting seats.

There still needs to be some growth on the field no matter how highly recruited these guys are, but that comes at a later point. Auburn has found a ton of success pulling in the best talent in the country. Nothing is going to change in the short term to hurt that.

Dumping Chizik is wrong for a number of reasons, but his recruiting prowess is worthy of keeping him one more season.

If he flops again in 2013, dump him with a ton of talent on roster. Easy fix.

Seriously, it isn't just his recruiting prowess that keeps him around. Chizik has brought some smart decisions to the Tigers program. Brian VanGorder has been a huge addition to the staff and has gotten consistent progress out of a defensive unit that was among the worst in the country for three years running.

He did hire Scot Loeffler, which is still in the "not so sure about that one" category. Loeffler is a young guy that has only been a coordinator for one season. He has a long way to go with play-calling, but he is learning. The biggest question has been the lack of a running game.

I thought the Loeffler hire was a good one when it happened, but now I am not so sure.

Auburn can turn around its fortune in the next few weeks, but it starts against Ole Miss. If the Tigers run the football, they will win some ball games. Can Loeffler stick to the run, or will he keep forcing passes on a quarterback that isn't ready to throw them?

If Loeffler runs the football, and Auburn wins the next few games with offense, Chizik will be lauded once again.

For Chizik, how he finishes the season with this team is huge. Do they go down fighting, or do they curl-up and roll away?

The Auburn Tigers are not lacking talent. They are lacking leadership. Auburn is second guessing itself in a number of areas. The fans are starting to bear down the necks of the coaches and players.

It was time for Chizik to circle the wagons when he did, now he needs to produce results.

Chizik will make this team competitive again. His assistants will help along the way. There has to be a little more rope for Chizik to pull on because firing him would cripple the program.

There is proof that Chizik can win football games. He has shown that he can recruit. Hiring a new coach typically sets a program back two to three years. Why restart when 2013 may hold a better outcome? What if 2012 still has surprises?

Chizik has pushed through scholarship problems and NCAA investigations. He has won a national title and recruited with the best.

Dumping him is not the answer--yet. 2013 will bring a different story. Either he rides back into town with a winning record and  an orange and blue chariot, or the couch burning begins.