Has Auburn found someone better than Dee Ford?

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With Auburn’s spring game on tap for this coming weekend, have the defending SEC champions already found a replacement for Dee Ford, one of the top defensive players in the country last season? With Ford off to the NFL, Carl Lawson has stepped in to fill some big shoes this spring, and he is winning the respect of his teammates in the process.

“Carl’s a physical beast,” defensive tackle Gabe Wright said to Al.com. “Carl is definitely showing some traits on that left side, looking almost as good or better than Dee.”

Better than Dee?

Ford was named First-team All-SEC in 2013 who recorded 14.5 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks in helping to get Auburn to the BCS Championship Game. He finished the 2013 season second in the SEC in sacks per game despite missing the first two games of the season due to a left knee sprain. Can Lawson be better than that? He is certainly showing he has the work ethic to clear the bar. As a true freshman last season Lawson won playing time as the season progressed as he was named to multiple Freshman All-America lists at the end of the year. As good as he was, even Lawson believes he could have been better last season, and that thought should send fear down the spines of opposing offensive linemen and quarterbacks in the fall.

“I feel like now that I have more of an understanding of what I’m doing, I can coach (the rest of the line) up,” Lawson said to Al.com. “The older guys, too, they coach me up as well. I guess there’s nobody in particular I lean on. We all lean on each other.”

Time will tell just how much of an impact Lawson has on the Auburn defense in 2014, but this Saturday could provide a glimpse of what is to come as the Tigers wrap up spring practices with the annual spring game.

Vanderbilt brings in former Georgia, LSU assistant as WRs coach

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In filling a hole on his Vanderbilt football coaching staff, Derek Mason turned to an assistant with extensive experience in the SEC.

Tuesday, Vandy announced the addition of Tony Ball to Mason’s on-field staff. Moving forward, Ball will serve as the Commodores’ wide receiver.

Ball will replace Aaron Moorehead, who left for a job with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

As previously noted, Ball certainly has a deep history in the conference to which he’s coming. From 2006-14, he was the wide receivers coach (2009-14) and running backs coach (2006-08) at Georgia. In 2015, he was Les Miles’ receivers coach at LSU.

His other Power Five experience came as receivers coach at Virginia Tech from 1998-05.

“Tony Ball is a quality man who brings a wealth of experience and coaching success to our staff. We’ve attracted one of the nation’s top receivers coaches in Tony,” the Vanderbilt football head coach said in a statement. “Tony has been part of several successful programs, including Georgia, LSU and Virginia Tech. With Tony, we are getting a coach with a long track record of bringing the best out in his student-athletes.”

This past season, Ball served as the receivers coach and passing-game coordinator at UT-San Antonio. The two years prior to that, he was Louisiana Tech’s running backs coach.

Vanderbilt football is coming off a 3-9 season, its worst record since posting the same mark in Mason’s first season in 2014. In November of last year, athletic director Malcolm Turner confirmed Mason would be returning for the 2020 season. Three months later, Turner abruptly resigned his post.

Arkansas adds future home date with Louisiana Tech

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Arkansas will host Louisiana Tech on Nov. 23, 2024, the programs announced Tuesday.

The game will be at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

The meeting will be the fifth between the border neighbors. Arkansas has won the previous four, most recently taking a 21-20 decision in Fayetteville in 2016. The programs’ first meeting came in Ruston way back in 1901, a 16-0 Hogs victory. The two in-between meetings, in 1996 and ’97, both came in Little Rock.

The game completes Arkansas’s 2024 non-conference schedule. The Razorbacks previously arranged an Aug. 31 home date with Arkansas-Pine Bluff, a Sept. 7 visit to Oklahoma State and a Sept. 14 home game with Kent State.

Louisiana Tech still has one blank slate for the 2024 campaign. The Bulldogs are slated to visit NC State on Sept. 7 and host Tulsa two weeks after that.

Tulsa, Army ink 4-game series to begin in 2025

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As an independent, scheduling is a never-ending battle for Army, and the Black Knights scored a victory on Tuesday.

Tulsa announced it has agreed to a 4-game series with West Point, beginning in 2025. The series will begin Sept. 13, 2025 at Michie Stadium, then head to Tulsa on Sept. 19, 2026. The series will move later in the fall for the return trip to West Point — Nov. 13, 2027 — and then wrap up Oct. 21, 2028 at Tulsa’s Chapman Stadium.

The programs have met just once previously, a 49-39 Golden Hurricane victory on Nov. 17, 2007 at West Point.

Tulsa has two games on the slate already for each of the four seasons: at Oklahoma State and vs. Louisiana Tech in 2025; vs. Oklahoma State and at Arkansas in ’26; vs. Arkansas and at Oklahoma State in ’27; and then at Louisiana-Lafayette and home against Oklahoma State in 2028.

Army now has 10 games on the docket for 2025 and ’26, seven for 2027 and eight for 2028.

LSU loses RBs coach Tommie Robinson to Texas A&M, promotes Kevin Faulk

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The SEC is famously incestuous in its hiring practices, and within that large, cross-bred family is a series of clans that really like to hire off of each other. For instance, South Carolina likes to hire former Georgia players and coaches, and Georgia likes to hire away from Alabama.

And Texas A&M and LSU really like to hire each others’ people, with most of the traffic going east to west.

On Monday, TexAgs owner Billy Liucci reported that Texas A&M is set to hire LSU running backs coach Tommie Robinson for the same post in College Station.

At A&M, Robinson will work for former LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher and former LSU tight ends coach Darrell Dickey and alongside former LSU wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig.

(By the way, A&M also employs former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson as its offensive line coach and former Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley as its tight ends coach.)

LSU’s running backs coach from 2017-19, Robinson helped develop Clyde Edwards-Helaire and sign 4-star Chris Curry (2018), 5-star John Emery, Jr. (2019) and 4-star Tyrion Davis-Price (2019). For that, he was the highest-paid running backs coach in the nation at $600,000 per year.

Presumably, he crossed state and enemy lines for a hefty raise.

With Robinson out the door, LSU moved quickly in tabbing former Tiger Kevin Faulk as its new running backs coach. The school’s all-time leading rusher with 4,557 yards and 46 touchdowns, Faulk was already on staff as director of player development.