As Auburn gets set to commence its first spring practice under Gus Malzahn, another touted member of one of the former coach’s recruiting classes is no longer a part of the Tigers football team.
At his pre-spring press conference Tuesday, Malzahn announced that defensive back Erique Florence has left the team due for what was described as personal issues. Suffice to say, the specific issues were not addressed.
After appearing in all 13 games as a true freshman in 2011, Florence saw limited action for the Tigers last season. Al.com notes that the safety “did not dress for Auburn’s games against Louisiana-Monroe and Alabama A&M due to personal reasons.”
A four-star member of Gene Chizik‘s second-to-last recruiting class, Florence was rated as the No. 3 safety in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Alabama.
In addition to Florence, Blake Burgess is also leaving the program, although under entirely different circumstances. Malzahn said Burgess, who played guard, center, tight end and fullback during a career at AU that began as a walk-on, will graduate early to pursue a career in acting.
The Tigers, incidentally, will begin spring practice Wednesday.
Well, so much for all that.
Amid reports of a tug-of-war between Gus Malzahn and the Auburn administration, it appears the coach has got his man.
Auburn will hire Arizona State offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to the same post, the Tigers announced Saturday.
“I’m excited to welcome Chip Lindsey to the Auburn family,” Malzahn said in a statement. “I have the utmost confidence in his ability to lead our offense and his strength in developing quarterbacks makes him the perfect fit. Chip is a man of integrity and character who will fit well within our staff. He has great knowledge and enthusiasm for the game and is a rising star in this profession.”
Like Malzahn, Lindsey is a longtime high school coach. His break came when Malzahn hired him to his original staff as an analyst; the Tigers’ improbable worst-to-first run to the SEC championship and BCS national title game spring-boarded Lindsey to the offensive coordinator post at Southern Miss, where he helped the Eagles jump from 102nd nationally in yards per play in Lindsey’s first season to sixth in his second and final season in Hattiesburg.
Lindsey spent but one season at Arizona State, where the Sun Devils finished 103rd in yards per play.
He’ll take over a jekyll-and-hyde offense that ranked 87th in yards per play in September and 83rd in November, but placed sixth in October. The Tigers have added a high-wattage transfer in former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
“My family and I are very excited to return to Auburn and our home state,” Lindsey said. “Both are very special places to us. I looking forward to reuniting with Coach Malzahn and his staff. They are great coaches and great people. I look forward to being part of something special and helping Auburn win championships.”
Nebraska and Arkansas have met just once on the field, in the 1965 Cotton Bowl. But the Huskers and Hogs have now met twice in the only college athletics competition more cutthroat than the actual games — hiring coaches.
Arkansas famously held off Nebraska for Houston Nutt‘s services in 2004 (before you scoff, Nutt led the Hogs to the 2006 SEC West title, and Nebraska wound up hiring Bill Callahan) and now the Cornhuskers have returned the favor.
Nebraska hired Bob Diaco as its defensive coordinator this week, nabbing the former Connecticut head coach and Notre Dame defensive coordinator after he’d finished an interview with Arkansas. Sean Callahan of Husker Online explains from here:
Head coach Mike Riley said they stopped Diaco’s plane in the air on his way back from Arkansas and got him to fly to Lincoln last Thursday from Chicago. Riley said from there, they weren’t letting Diaco leave Lincoln until he accepted the job.
The money didn’t hurt. Nebraska handed Diaco a 2-year contract worth $1.7 million in total, making him the highest-paid assistant in program history.
Auburn does not have an offensive coordinator yet, which is odd. The Tigers have an explosive offense with a lot of returning parts. They have Jarrett Stidham coming in to play quarterback. They have a boatload of money. And they have a boatload of money.
According to a report from James Crepea of AL.com, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and “people with influence over the program” can’t agree on who should replace Rhett Lashlee.
Malzahn is said to prefer Florida Atlantic offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, Arizona State offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and NC State offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz. Lindsey and Drinkwitz worked for Malzahn previously, and Malzahn has built a working relationship with the Briles family — Stidham and running back Kam Martin transferred from Waco to Auburn, and Art Briles visited a Tigers practice this season.
But Auburn donors, Crepea writes, have nixed those choices, saying Briles is too inexperienced and Lindsey and Drinkwitz are too close to Malzahn.
Instead, donors preferred Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone (who has already been crossed off the list) or Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich (ditto). Mark Helfrich does not seem like a viable option at this time.
With less than two weeks until National Signing Day, the urgency to bring someone to the South Plains only grows stronger.
Undeterred by recent NCAA legislation, Jim Harbaugh is reportedly going international.
As noted by the Detroit Free Press, a post on Rivals affiliate TheWolverine.com reports that Michigan is planning to spend the final week of football spring practice in Rome, Italy. The team would not only practice several times on Italian soil, but would allow the team to visit the sights in the area and even leave players in Europe to study abroad for a semester.
The move would no doubt ruffle even more feathers in the football and NCAA communities after Harbaugh famously took the Wolverines to the IMG Academy down in Florida for spring practice last March. That prompted recent legislation that was passed at the NCAA convention in Nashville this week — a Harbaugh Rule if you will — that prohibited off-campus practice during a vacation period outside of a playing season.
While it would seem that would rule out trips away from Ann Arbor for spring football practices, it appears the Michigan athletic department is going to push forward by exploiting a slight loophole in the language of the rule. While vacation periods may be off limits like spring break, it appears the Wolverines would be looking to leave town at the end of April, which would be after the semester ends and does not fall into any scheduled vacation time.
We’ll see if anything becomes of this report and if Michigan indeed announces such an unprecedented trip. While foreign tours are common in sports like basketball at the NCAA levels, it really hasn’t happened in football aside from occasional games overseas so it will be interesting to see if this becomes a trend, or is just another case of Harbaugh being Harbaugh.