Peyton Barber

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Auburn dismisses Jovon Robinson, Tigers’ leading returning rusher

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With the departure of leading rusher Peyton Barber, Jovon Robinson was expected to take over the bulk of Auburn’s carries in the running game.  After today’s developments?  Never mind.

Earlier today it was reported that Robinson was nowhere to be seen as the Tigers’ kicked off summer camp with their first practice in preparation for the start of the 2016 season.  After that practice, head coach Gus Malzahn dropped the bombshell: Robinson has been dismissed from the football program.

The running back was informed of the coach’s decision this morning.

“He didn’t meet my standards or expectations of what it takes to be an Auburn Tiger football player,” Malzahn said. “We are going to have zero distractions on this team this year. I have given him his release and welcome him the best.”

Last season, Robinson’s 639 yards rushing were second on the team, as was his 5.5 yards per carry.  His 126 yards on the ground earned him MVP honors in the Tigers’ Birmingham Bowl win over Memphis.

With Robinson now abruptly out of the picture, the running-game load will now likely be shouldered by Kerryon Johnson.  Last season, Johnson was fourth on the team in rushing yards (208) and tied for third in rushing touchdowns (3).

The team’s third-leading rusher in 2015, Roc Thomas, officially landed at Jacksonville State in June after transferring from The Plains the previous month.

Ex-Baylor QB at Auburn’s first practice, top returning Tiger RB not

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There were a couple of interesting developments as Auburn kicked off summer camp Wednesday, one potentially positive and the other, well, potentially not so much.

On the latter front, star running back Jovon Robinson was a no-show at the first practice of the summer for the Tigers. “His status for the remainder of preseason camp remains unknown,” 247Sports.com wrote.

Head coach Gus Malzahn is expected to meet with the media later on this evening.

Last season, Robinson’s 639 yards rushing were tops on the team, as was his 5.5 yards per carry.  With the departure of leading rusher Peyton Barber, Robinson is expected to shoulder a significant portion of AU’s running-game load.

In more positive news, Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham was in attendance at today’s practice.

Last month, Stidham confirmed rampant speculation via Twitter that he would be transferring from the Bears and continuing his playing career elsewhere.  The only restrictions on the quarterback’s transfer is that he’s not permitted to sign with another Big 12 program.

Other than other members of the league, Stidham is free to transfer anywhere he desires, including schools already on BU’s future schedules during his remaining eligibility. Those would include SMU (2016), Rice (2016-2019), Duke (2017/2018) and UT-San Antonio (2017-2018).

If Stidham goes the FBS route for 2016, he would be forced to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws by sitting out the upcoming season, and would then have three season of eligibility remaining beginning in 2017. There had also speculation that Stidham could take the junior college path for a season and then move back to the FBS for his final three seasons, although that now seems unlikely.

A four-star member of the Bears’ 2015 recruiting class, Stidham was rated as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country and the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Texas.

Last season, Stidham started three games as a true freshman in place of the injured Seth Russell before going down with a broken ankle that ended his own season.  He had been penciled in as the Bears’ quarterback of the future when the senior Russell departed after the 2016 season.

Auburn RB Peyton Barber: I went pro because my mother is homeless right now

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Former Auburn running back Peyton Barber surprised many when he declared for the NFL Draft last month. We know it was surprising because the articles detailing his declaration told us so. The first page of “Peyton Barber going pro” Google search yield results from AL.comYahoo and, cough, CollegeFootballTalk linking the words “Barber” and “surprisingly” in the headline.

And, in the typical song-and-dance of the NFL Draft process, it was surprising. He was a redshirt sophomore. Though he churned out 1,016 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2015, he did not garner any All-SEC nods from the league’s coaches. And he joined, at the time, a class of 13 other underclassmen running backs.

But on Wednesday Barber revealed the true reason he went pro.

Oh.

Whether or not we should really be surprised when a player attempts to make money at a job he almost certainly can’t perform past the age 29 notwithstanding, Barber’s statement reminds us that football players are real people with real-life issues that most of us are not privy to. And it also makes Barber one of the biggest rooting interests of this spring’s draft.

Auburn RB Peyton Barber, surprisingly, turning pro

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The deadline for underclassmen to declare early for the NFL Draft in 2016 has now passed. Auburn running back Peyton Barber apparently got in just in time, although few expected him to even be thinking about leaving Auburn in 2016.

“I have decided to forego my eligibility at Auburn and enter the 2016 NFL Draft,” Barber said in a released statement, which was shared by Al.com. “This was a very tough decision for many reasons but after my family and I prayed about it, I know I am ready for the next step and that this is the best decision for me.”

Barber rushed for 1,016 yards and 13 touchdowns for Auburn as a redshirt sophomore in 2015. He will be joining a crowded field of pro hopefuls, with 13 other underclassmen running backs already declaring, in addition to the senior class coming out for a position that has seen a diminished importance in the NFL Draft in recent years, at least in the early rounds. Barber did note he expects to be graduating from Auburn and he will continue working toward his degree while pursuing his NFL dream. This would suggest Barber received an encouraging draft analysis from the NFL’s draft advisory committee.

Barber may be selling high on his college body of work as well, because the Auburn backfield could potentially be stacked next season with the returns of Jovon Robinson and Roc Thomas. So Auburn’s running back depth should still be fine in 2016 even without Barber, but it should be interesting to see how this decision pans out in the draft.

Auburn throttles Paxton Lynch, exits disappointing season with win

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Auburn’s defense disappointed and underwhelmed for most of the 2015 season, but it was that unit that played a pivotal role in sending the Tigers into the offseason on a high note.

Facing one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the country, Auburn (7-6) almost completely shut down Paxton Lynch in claiming a 31-10 win over Memphis (9-4) in the Birmingham Bowl Wednesday afternoon.  The win snapped a mini two-game bowl losing streak for the SEC Tigers and gave them their first postseason win since the Chick-fil-A Bowl following the 2011 season.

Lynch, projected by many observers to be the first quarterback selected in the next NFL draft if he leaves the Tigers early as expected, came into the game in the top 15 nationally in both passing yards and passing touchdowns; against AU, Lynch completed just 17-of-38 passes for 104 yards, zero touchdowns and a critical end-zone interception early in the third quarter on a drive that could’ve given the Tigers their first lead of the game.  Shut out of a touchdown or even a field goal on that drive, the U of M watched as AU scored on three straight possessions to break open what had been a tie ballgame.

The passing yards by Lynch were his worst against an FBS team this season, with the previous low of 156 coming in a loss to Temple Nov. 21.  The junior had thrown for more than 300 yards in eight games this season — AU came into the game 73rd in pass defense, giving up an average of 232.2 yards per game — and topped 400 yards twice.  What might most alarm NFL scouts is the fact that Lynch completed just 44.7 percent of his passes on the day.  His previous low was 61.9, and he had a completion percentage of exactly 69 in the regular season.  The SEC Tigers had allowed quarterbacks to complete 62 percent of their passes the first 12 games of the season.

AU managed a double-digit win despite losing the turnover battle 3-1.  The U of M converted the three turnovers — a trio of interceptions — into 10 points, seven coming on a pick-six by Reggis Ball.  Ball, incidentally, had two of the interceptions for the Tigers, his team-leading fourth and fifth on the season.  All of those turnovers came in the first half, but AU managed to head into the locker room knotted up at 10-all.

Auburn, despite the score, didn’t put up a pile of yards, although they did outgain their football feline counterparts 403-206.  A big reason for that, though, was Marcus Davis giving them a shortish field on a handful of occasions, averaging 15.5 yards on six punt returns.

Jovon Robinson did top the 100-yard mark for the SEC Tigers, leading all rushers with 121 yards.  Peyton Barber, meanwhile, rushed for 44, pushing him over 1,000 yards on the year (1,020) and giving AU back-to-back 1,000-yard rushers.

While the win gives Auburn some much-needed momentum heading into what will be a pivotal — and perhaps final — offseason for Gus Malzahn on The Plains, the loss for Memphis was one final punch in the gut in a season that began with much promise.

The Tigers started 2015 by ripping off eight straight wins, with a 13-point triumph over Ole Miss — one month after the Rebels beat Alabama — bringing the word “playoff” into the conversation for the U of M.  However, the Tigers lost their first three games in the month of November to not only extinguish any playoff talk, but also put the kibosh on an expected New Year’s Six bid.

Add in the fact that they lost their head coach, Justin Fuente, to Virginia Tech, and 2015 will end on a decidedly down note for the AAC program.