First off, credit where credit is due: it has been remarkably bearable offseason, and that's in large part (for me) due to The Joe Cribbs Car Wash. I've wanted to write about Auburn football, and I've tried, but my posts always go something like this: "What Jerry said."
That said, I couldn't disagree more with the latest post on Tyrik Rollison and the possibility of burning his redshirt. I think it would be a huge mistake.
It's probably true that Tyrik Rollison fresh out of highschool is a more polished QB than was Kodi Burns right out of highschool. Sure, 73% completion rate is nothing to sneeze at, and a mobile quarterback (I think) has to lean on his accuracy. But in no way does that mean that Rollison can afford to just give up a redshirt year of learning. Decision-making and command of the offense are the QB's first and most important job - even before throwing the ball - and Auburn has failed in great part due to lack of not physical talent, but this sort of leadership. Sacrificing leadership for raw talent is exactly the same mistake we made in 2007 with Kodi vs. Brandon. Most of the time, the defense would be in good coverage of the handful of pass plays Kodi could execute, or he would not find his open man and would just run. If he ever displayed his inaccuracy, it was on the rare occasion that he had the opportunity to pass and actually took it. He wasn't in true command of the offense, and that - not his inaccuracy - hamstrung him. It doesn't matter if Rollison can throw a football through a moving moon pie from eighty yards away if he throws the ball to the wrong receiver, if he can only run two plays, or if he takes off downfield because he can't find the open man.
Moreover, the more we can get out of Rollison the better. If he's as much the awesome prospect as he's made out to be, I give him three years of playing time before the NFL comes callin'. Do we want one of those three years to be 2009, when we're breaking him in and teaching him on-the-fly to run a complex offense in front of TV cameras and tens of thousands of roaring fans? 2009, when our entire program is picking its way through the wreckage? If Rollison plays this year as a true freshman, something will slip through the cracks and we will basically lose one of his years.
And for what? I would agree that Chizik can't afford to waste time, but neither can he afford to be tyrannized by the urgent. The plain fact of the matter is that this is not a reloading year, not even a rebuilding year, but a total-overhauling year and we need to temper our expectations. It is simply not reasonable to expect Auburn to win now, having just fired an entire coaching staff, with at least a three-way QB race and a dearth of receivers. It's not happening. Period. Auburn will wait, because it must. And I think it's a little much to suggest, as Jerry does, that a bad season followed by a rebuilding year will cement our SEC afterthought status. This just isn't borne out by history, distant or recent. For one example I have two words: Doug Barfield. For two, think back to the end of the Terry Bowden era: having gone 10-3 just the year before, the 1998 Auburn squad posted an abysmal 3-8 record. The year after that, we went 5-6 in Tuberville's first year as a coach. And somehow - SEC afterthought though we were - by late 2002, Auburn was in everyone's preseason top five. We were actually in worse shape in summer 1999 than we are now, and it took us a whopping three years to build the 2004 juggernaut*. We are Auburn, and we will always be Auburn. The idea that we have to win right away or all is lost is just not true.
So in my humble opinion, to burn Rollison's redshirt would be a fatal error: we would be sacrificing the long-term health of our program in order to provide a tenuous-at-best solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Leave Tyrik Rollison alone.
Speaking of Chizik's record: even if we go undefeated including the SECCG and a bowl, Chizik will still not be a winning coach at the end of this season. Whatever albatross his record may be, it will still swing from his neck come February. But I don't think it is such a weight. If the Auburn administration had wanted a coach with a winning record, quite frankly they would have hired one. I think that in Chizik, they saw a guy who will lose now with his horde of Cyclone freshmen so that he can win later with his horde of Cyclone juniors. A guy who will take a pay cut to get the best assistants he can find. A guy willing to take his short-term licks so that he can land the haymaker when it counts, and that's exactly the kind of man we need on the Plains.
War Damn Eagle.
* I should probably be more careful about pointing this out, but the key ingredients in our rise to 04 glory seemed to be a brilliant offensive coordinator, a bumper crop of tailbacks and a stud QB. Hmm...