Gus Malzahn speaks about covering up Auburn’s deficiencies

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Auburn may have turned in one of the wildest rides to the SEC championship and BCS title shot in the 2013 season, but Bear Bryant Award winner Gus Malzahn knows there is still plenty of work to be done before being able to take the next step in 2014.

“We had some deficiencies in some areas we were trying to cover up,” Malzahn said Wednesday on Yahoo! Sports Radio. “It all starts with recruiting and now that we’ve had our defensive staff that has been intact for a year, they can specifically recruit to those areas.”

Auburn should see a nice momentum swing in recruiting leading up to National Signing Day. The Tigers picked up steam in recruiting the last time they won the SEC championship, and that should once again be the case with Malzahn gaining more national respect and showing just what his program is capable of doing moving forward.

Auburn’s strength came in the running game. Tre Mason rushed his way to record-setting performances and was named a Heisman Trophy finalist. He now takes his game to the NFL as one of the many early entrants to the NFL Draft this season. Even without Mason in 2014 the Tigers are going to be expected to run the ball well. The question is whether or not they can develop a complimentary passing game for the times when they will be forced to make some plays through the air. This may seem silly to say given how it was a passing play that made much of the storied season at Auburn possible, but Malzahn knows his team caught some breaks last season and does not want to have to rely on those miraculous moments too often. Malzahn seems optimistic in his quarterback, Nick Marshall.

“He’s got a big-time arm, and we didn’t throw it a lot, but we really feel like he’s going to be able to do that, be very effective,” Malzahn said. “We’re excited about him.”

Auburn should certainly be one of the top teams to reckon with in 2014. Playing in a division with Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M can throw some hurdles in the way, but all three will be breaking in new starting quarterbacks, shuffling coaching staff or replacing a number of other key players around the field as well. With four playoff spots available to compete for a national title next season, Auburn looks to have a good shot lined up if they can handle their schedule in the fall.

Helmet sticker to AL.com.

Illinois boots three players charged with home invasion and robbery

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Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has dismissed three players charged with home invasion and robbery. Offensive linemen Darta Lee and Howard Watkins and tight end Zarrian Holcombe have all been dismissed from the program, according to a statement.

Lee and Holcombe were previously suspended by Smith for violations of team rules. Watkins had also been indefinitely suspended following the initial allegations. All three players claimed the incident that led to the charges was nothing more than an innocent prank, but the authorities and Smith didn’t seem willing to buy that claim.

Each player faces a mandatory prison sentence of 4-15 years on each count against them if found guilty.

Report: Conference USA to air at least 15 football games on Twitter in 2017

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Conference USA is in a position where it needs to think outside the box and look to stay ahead of the curve in a changing TV landscape. It appears to be ready to air games on Twitter in 2017.

A report from The Virginian-Pilot says broadcast company STADIUM will air at least 15 football games involving Conference USA teams this fall. STADIUM is the result of a recent merger between the American Sports Network, 120 Sports and Silver Chalice (which also owns Campus Insiders and the online ACC Digital Network). The ASN had owned the broadcast rights to Conference USA games through the end of the 2017-2018 sports season that will carry over to the STADIUM deal (allowing for Conference USA basketball games to be aired on Twitter as well). It was announced earlier this month STADIUM intended to broadcast Conference USA games on Twitter, but it was unknown how many games might make it to the networking service. STADIUM reportedly has an interest in continuing to air Conference USA contests beyond the next athletic season.

Conference USA still has broadcast deals with ESPN and CBS Sports in effect as well, so don’t expect the premiere matchups in the conference to be aired on Twitter. However, by sharing the games online, Conference USA is hoping to reach a wide-spread audience and have the opportunity to be a trending topic. It could work, as Twitter would make sure the game is given a steady feed to allow for a pleasant viewing experience and fan interaction in real time.

Conference USA saw TV revenue take a big hit over the last year. Last summer, Conference USA’s television revenue reportedly dropped to just $2.8 million for the entire conference following realignment changes. Finding a home on a streaming platform now would be key for the conference’s future stability.

Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt named son after former Tide linebackers Reuben Foster and Ryan Anderson

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It is not at all uncommon for children born in the state of Alabama to be named after Alabama football legends, but it is not every day you see a child of an Alabama coach receives a name inspired by former Alabama football players.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt announced the birth of his new son, Flynt Anderson-Foster Pruitt, on Twitter. Alabama fans will likely already know the connection to the new child’s name, as used the last names of two former Alabama football players to create the middle name of Anderson-Foster; Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster.

Maybe this is more common than I’m aware of, but regardless of how often a coach names a child after former players, this is a testament to the relationship the Pruitt family established with both former Alabama linebackers. And now there will be a bond for years to come between the coach and his family and Anderson and Foster.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

Wisconsin’s season tickets for 100th anniversary of Camp Randall are a thing of beauty

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The Wisconsin Badgers are gearing up for their 100th season playing home football game sin Camp Randall Stadium. As part of the season-long celebration, Wisconsin put some brilliant artistic detail into their season tickets for the 2017 season.

Each ticket to a home Wisconsin game is designed like a retro-style program. These are beautifully done and mimic the style of a program cover from decades past. I’m particularly fond of the program cover for the Purdue game, which features Wisconsin’s Bucky floating in space with a ship with the Purdue logo nearby. Is that a space train? The Band Day program for the game against Florida Atlantic also looks fantastic.

These tickets will surely be must-have collectibles for Wisconsin fans. If Wisconsin wants to make a few extra bucks, then blowing up these images and selling them as posters may be a good decision as well. And I wouldn’t put it past Wisconsin to suit up in a retro-style uniform for at least home game this season in Madison.