Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Auburn Realist: Waaaay to Early Predictions for 2014 Part 3

The Auburn Realist

You can find links to all of my Auburn Realist Blog posts here.
The Auburn Realist: Overview

In case you missed our Waaaayyy Too Early Predictions for the first 1/3 of the season, take some time to go read it. Then make a comment or two!

Then, go read Waaaayyy Too Early Predictions Part 2. 

So, here we are.  Amen Corner. I admit that I hate that expression. 

So, we enter November undefeated (hopefully). I admit that I don't think the Tigers will go undefeated, regardless of what I write in this post. I do feel like they will loose 1 game before they get to Tuscaloosa. Yet, I can't put a finger on it. I want to say it's LSU, but they will still be breaking in a new QB, they have lost a couple of big time receivers and backs including Beckham and Hill. But, LSU has owned Auburn over the last 10 years. It is what it is, I guess. 

Nov. 15 at Georgia Athens, GA
Nov. 29 at Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL 

Aside from the game on the 22nd, November is a rough month. 

The Aggies will visit Auburn in the first game of November. I am sure we all recall what happened the last time this team came to town. I can attest that it is one of the few games that I never even attempted to watch or listen to. I am might glad I didn't. In fact, in the preseason of 2012, I was really looking forward to seeing the first SEC West matchup between these two teams. But, as the season got underway (namely, the loss to Vandy) I decided to unload my  tickets for a good sum of money. I assume to a TAMU fan. 

The biggest question surrounding the TAMU program is obviously who replaces Jonny Football. Though the did have a string of seemingly SEC ready QBs ready to compete, the list gets shorter every day it seems as Joekel left the fold just last week. Then Seals-Jones gets the boot, whom many people figured would be the safety blanket of a new QB. Perhaps the biggest question is, how will TAMU fare without a proven running back? Not that a running back has been a significant portion of the offense in the first two years under Sumlin, because it hasn't. But, if a new QB doesn't have a game breaking receiver a la Evans or a proven offensive line (who has lost top rounders in back to back years), how will the new QB survive. Sure, it's always possible that the next big name really is The Next Big Name. Face it, TAMU has brought in two back to back NASTY classes of athletes. 

But, we have seen both sides of that coin. Honestly, only Alabama has proven to take the highest quality recruits and transmit that into immediate and lasting success. TAMU has already have significant issues with maintain order as it is. Can Sumlin balance the high risk vs high reward that comes with this caliber athlete? My spider senses say no. 

This is going to be a battle of offenses. Heck, this game would be more interesting if the two offenses lined up against each other. Though Sumlin has said that the defense has made big strides, that isn't saying much. His defenses have been deplorable and one year simply can't and won't make that much difference.  Add into the fact that only Auburn's defense will make a real step forward in improvement. Auburn's defense really came to life against TAMU last year, perhaps because they were playing against an offense that was similar in speed. Auburn's D-line shut down TAMU, even with Jonny at the helm. This year won't be any different. Add that they play in Jordan-Hare against a fired up crowd and you will have a great game that won't really be close in the 4th.
Auburn 37-TAMU 17

Nov. 15 at Georgia Athens, GA
I am proud to say that I was at the Prayer in Jordan-Hare. It was one of those moments you will never forget. Though the series is almost perfectly even, overall (Auburn 55-54) and even the last 10 years have been fairly even (6-4 Georgia), it's worth noting that Georgia has owned Auburn outside of the magic years of 2004, 2010, and 2013. In fact, Auburn has one only one game at Athens in the last 10 years, that game in 2005.

Obviously, the biggest question the Dawgs will face will be the replacement of Murray. But, luckily for them, they have an extremely potent running attack...if not the best in Gurley and Marshall. Very much like TAMU, a lot depends on the quarterback play, though at least they have a QB with a few reps under his belt in Mason. He has, by all accounts, done everything to be a winner at UGA, though he will probably never surpass the shadow of Murray. That could either work perfectly or terribly for the dogs. Mason does have a set of capable returning receivers in Conley and Bennet. 

Richt is assuredly on the hot seat, as he is every year it seems.  Will his defense take a step forward and regain the elite status that it had held for so long? Offensively, the Dawgs will be fine and extremely balanced. But, will the defense be able to stop what will prove to be the best offense in college football? This game is perhaps the biggest chance for someone to knock off Auburn, especially coming off of a quality SEC West win the week before. With the game being in Athens, where Auburn has had some many problems and the chance to even the overall series, I have to admit that I see UGA pulling off a huge win. Now, don't be surprised if I change my thinking once the season starts, because I can totally see Auburn having ZERO trouble with UGA with a much improved defense. 
Georgia 31 Auburn 27

This will probably be a sloppy game. Auburn won't gameplan for these guys and will spend what little time the starters play in fixing the mistakes of the previous week in Athens. Additionally, with Bama on the horizon, great care will be given to rest starters. 
Auburn 45-Samford 10

Monday, April 28, 2014

Turkey Hunting 4/25/14

Last year I had said that I wanted to get a lot more turkey hunting done in 2014. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. Up until this last trip, I had only gotten to hunt one other time, and I came back empty handed.  But, we did see turkeys and I did get some pretty good footage of them. You can read that post and check out the video by going HERE.

So, dad and I decided to make a Friday trip to Tennessee to see if we could scratch up some turkeys. But, unlike the last trip, we decided that we would bust the first jake or gobbler that came in range, rather than pass up turkeys.

We setup in the exact same place as the last trip, but we didn't see any turkeys on the roost, as we had done in the past. In fact, as the sun crept into the sky, we didn't see anything other than our own decoys. At about 6:30, a set of hens came over the hill and began feeding next to the decoys. They hung around for awhile before deciding to head off.

We were fairly certain that the hunt was over until the hens came back to our spot. Across the field, we spied a group of turkeys. With the hens in position, we knew it had to be the group of jakes we had seen the last trip.

As the hens clucked and called, the jakes made a bee-line across the field towards us. I setup my shot, making way to much movement and noise, but the blind isn't really made for two people to hunt. At most, it's made for a caller and a hunter. Though the hens knew something was going on, the jakes made no notice of us.

I turned the GoPro on and filmed the jakes getting into the kill zone. Unfortunately, as you can see, the GoPro was tilted up at the time of the shot.

But, I did get the shot off and I leveled the bird. He didn't move. But the other jakes did. 2 flew away, but a 3rd made a short hop and landed. Dad saw an opportunity to get a shot off, so he had me hit the deck. He was able to get a long shot off, but he connected on it!

We flipped the blind over and retrieved our kills! Getting a double is hard to do, but we pulled it off!

I tell ya, my Browning with the 3" 5 shot Hornaday round is deadly on these birds!

That evening, I sliced up the turkey breast, marinated it in my own custom EOTWAWKI marinade, and we chowed down on some grilled-to-perfection turkey!

Monday, April 21, 2014

What Did A-Day Tell Us About the Offense

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In case you didn't read my post from a month back, leading into spring practice, go take a gander.
What Will A-Day Tell Us About the Offense

The Development of Cameron Artis-Payne
The number one topic I discussed was centered around the development of Cameron Artis-Payne. Would he be the successor to Mason? As we all know, the run game wasn't exactly showcased. But CAP did manage to churn out 97 yards on 12 carries including a nifty breakaway run that showed some serious moves AND speed. He punched in a nice run on the Tiger's first score of the day as well. I know you have all seen it on ESPN, but he runs VERY similar to Ben Tate. It's ironic that the two shared the same number. They even look alike, if you asked me. Of course, I will pat myself on the back for saying that he looked like Tate in running form, months ago. But, the lack of dedication to run plays in the game limited our view into who will become the feature back. Neither he nor Grant really set themselves apart, though Grant had a monster game in his own right. There simply weren't enough touches....less than 20 between them, though they accounted for multiple TDs and over 200 yards between them. I still think he will be the every down back. Dyer was able to come in and start as a freshman, it's true. But he didn't have the competition top fend off, nor did he have to develop into a pass blocker. He had both Fannin and Smith to do that for him in 2010. Roc Thomas and Pettway won't have this luxury. Not only will they have to prove themselves superior in running the ball, but able to pick up pass blocking, and manage to do it in fall camp. I don't see it, 5 stars or not.

The Development of Receivers
Personally, I think we all saw exactly what we needed to see. One of my biggest questions on seeing this offense become an elite and balanced attack revolved around what we would get in the slot receiver...if we would get one at all. I said in the previous post that the slot would define this offense. Would it be 70/30 run? Or could they find a guy who could be a dagger in the middle of the field? We have 3 candidates: Bray, Louis, and Reed. Reed moved to defense. So that made that question a little shorter. Specifically, would Bray step up and become the guy we needed him...and recruited be. Though it's true that the Auburn run game was so powerful that the passing game was an afterthought, the coaching staff tried to give Bray his chances to use a great blend of size and speed in the open field to hurt defenses in front of the best running game in the nation and the nations top vertical threat in Coates. We saw it a few times last year...taking passes behind the line for first downs, for example. But more often that not, we saw some drops and we saw him getting held up in the backfield. I secretly found myself asking what it would be like if we had two dominate vertical receivers that pulled the secondaries attention down field while the front seven tried to deal with a potent run game. Could Bray turn into a good route running and sticky hands slot man? I went so far as to say this was the most important thing to see in A-Day. Would these guys get open, and if they did, would they drop the ball? Saturday showed me what I wanted to see. Bray turned in a solid day with 2 TDs on slick route running. Most importantly, he didn't drop any balls. Louis, however, showcased those hands again and dropped one easy pass and gave little effort on another that should have put him in the endzone. If Bray can keep up the production that we saw on Saturday, this team will steam roll people. I would venture a guess that this will be Auburn's most prolific offense. Ever.

The Emergence of D'haquille Williams and the Effect on Sammy Coates
Even though Williams had never stepped foot on the field as a Tiger, we were all expecting BIG things. I have really tempered my expectations of the "next big thing". I was impressed with Duke. Really impressed. Though it was easy to be happy after seeing him abuse his fellow teammates in the secondary on a fade catch, it was the rest of the game I was interested to see. How would he do in space? Would he have a connection with Marshall? Lastly, what would Coates do under that type of pressure? The answer is one I am very excited to report. Williams was all over the field once the coaching staff made him full time first team. He was all over the field at that point. One play in particular stands out: Marshall scrambled out of the pocket and away from most of his receivers. He found Williams streaking in a dig route. Not only was the pass excellent, but the over all timing and skill that Williams showcased to get the ball and make a move up field. It was obvious from that moment on that Marshall and Williams already have a connection. 

Then there are the intangibles. After William's TD, he showed a love and energy for the crowd, who loved him right back. He was in the endzone. He was in the stands. The crowd loved it. 

The other intangible he brings is the pressure on Coates to become a more complete player. I believe he has done just that. Coates was able to do his thing...finding the long ball....but he was also a threat in the intermediate passing game, where he has been uncomfortable in the past. The emergence of Williams will strengthen his resolve to be more than a deep threat. He will have to. 

How Little Will We See Marshall

We saw enough, which was more than I thought we would see. Marshall played much of the first half, though he was done by halfway through the second quarter, giving up snaps to Johnson. The good news is, we all saw what we needed to see. Though he didn't hit the first couple of passes JUST right, the media has done a good job portraying these passes as misfires. Let's not forget that both were caught, albeit out of bounds, but were 2 feet from being home-runs from the first snap of the game. The 20MPH wind did him zero good. To me, Marshall looked fantastic. He was composed. He hit the checkdowns. He made big time throws. Johnson, however, clearly looked like he knew he was a #2. For the first half, he looked a little too relaxed. He had no drive or urgency. I can't say I blame the kid. In the 2nd half, however, he looked much better. 

How Will the Line Replace Greg Robinson

With more talent, it would seem. The line isn't a finished product, but it pushed the 2nd team defense all over the field, leading to 7 straight scores. 

Weekend of 4/17-20/2014

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The Auburn Realist: Overview

Wow. What a weekend! I started it early on Thursday night when Josh and I fished the Thursday Night Wildcat Tournament out of Ditto Landing on Wheeler. You can read about it and catch the vid on my blogpost here!

No. We didn't win. We didn't even get close. But we caught some fish and had a great time. I managed to catch 4 species of bass in one outing, which made me feel slightly better about donating my money to the other fishermen.

Friday morning, we all woke up early and headed to Auburn for a little baseball that night and then the annual spring game on Saturday! Now, I have to say that the ride down was a tough one. We brought the camper, since all of us were going and there isn't enough room at Kevin's house. Let me tell ya. Between the stress of hauling it and the stress of paying for the gas....I was SOOO glad just to pull into his driveway. I had to fill the Yukon up. Twice. Just on the trip down there. Add in the 30MPH winds and a nasty driving made for a long day.

But we got there. When we did, we immediately got an email from Auburn saying that the game was canceled. We had planned to eat at the park for dinner, so now we had no plans. No worries. Kevin and I headed to Publix for some fried chicken! Of course, we couldn't help but head by Cigar &Fine Spirits for some victory cigars. After all, we knew we were going to win on Saturday. If you like a great cigar and awesome atmosphere, check them out at 1849 Ogletree Road. We try and drop by any chance we get. They have great music, a fabulously stocked humidor, and fine spirits.

We stayed inside for the evening and visited...until I had to go out in the rain to set the camper up. THAT was fun. But, I am the daddy and that's what daddys do. Right?

We called it an early night, curling up in the camper and headed off to sleep.

As soon as the sun crept into the sky, the kids were ready to get out and play. We ate a quick breakfast, then headed to watch some Auburn Baseball!

The game got off to a super fast start at Auburn had a sacrifice single for a run and then a 3 run homer in the next at bat. South Carolina was able to scratch back to a 4-2 game, but Auburn put it away.

We enjoyed an awesome lunch. Now, it did cost me $42. But we all ate great. The baseball concessions are a LOT better than the football concessions. I had a brat with kraut and onions as well as a loaded cheeseburger. The kids had nachos and hot dogs. Alyse had the special, which was pork tacos with fresh trimmings. I did steal one and it was GREAT.

Late in the game, I took the big kids to watch the Tiger Walk from the top of the Plainsman Park. I was able to get some good footage.

Then, as Auburn sealed the deal, we headed into Jordan-Hare with all of our Auburn buddies! The crowd was primed and the atmosphere was AWESOME! The first half was explosive as Nick Marshall torched the defense over and over. Coach Malzhan gave our the SEC Championship rings to the graduated or NFL eligible players. It was very touching. Griffin didn't make it to halftime. as you can see. And, he rewarded me with free slobber.

Gavin, however, had his nap on the way into the stadium, so he made sure to pay attention. He is gauging the future talent! 

The second half was glorified garbage time, but everyone stayed because they wanted autographs .I know I did. But, almost as soon as the game was over, here came the rain! It made for a pretty awful session, but we all stayed! Because the crowd was so large, I was only able to visit with a few players. I was able to meet "Duke" Williams, Jeremy Johnson, and my favorite defender, Therezie. All were gracious with their time!
Aubree gets an autograph from Marcus Davis

Our favorite, Robenson Therezie

Stanton Truitt shows Aubree some love! 

Me and the future, Jeremy Johnson

Me and "Duke" Williams! 
 After our adventures in the Loveliest Village, we were dead tired. We grabbed a pizza from Sam's and called it an evening. As we hung out, Kevin and I prepared our Easter Lunch.

Talk about finger-licking good!

And just like that, it was time to head home. Ironic that the nicest weather we had all weekend was on the drive home. So much so that I now have a sun burn on my left arm....but that's how it goes!

Fishing Report for Wheeler/ Ditto Thursday Night Wildcat Tournament

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Man, have I been missing the Thursday night Wildcat Tournaments out of Ditto. I'm sure all the guys who fish it have missed me (and my money) as well. But, life is busy these days, with multiple kids playing ball and all. Since Aubree started playing ball 3 years ago, I have fished maybe 3 of these tournaments.

I started fishing this tournament in the summer of 2010 and Josh and I did extremely well. I fished a few times in 2011 and none in 2012 and 2013, as far as I can remember.

In February, while watching the BassMaster Classic live and in person, Josh and I made the decision that we would make every effort to fish more of these events. We missed the first few of them, but we both found ourselves free last Thursday. He had done some prefishing and had caught some decent fish up shallow, so we decided that we would fish the back of Flint River in an effort to catch some spawning fish.

So, at blastoff, up river we went. We had forgotten what it was like to NOT be the first boat out of the hole, but we soon remembered as we were bounced around from one wake to the next. My booty STILL hurts. We were the first boat in the back of the Flint. Pretty quickly we had both boated a whitebass, but we were unable to coax any greenfish to bite. Now, keep in mind that this tournament runs from 5-830. Discounting 30 minutes of run time, you have 3 hours to catch fish. We spent the first 2 getting skunked before we decided to move.

We decided to make a move to some bluffs, which was about as opposite as you could get from the shallow flat that we had been fishing.

On my first cast with an XCalibur square bill crank, I thought I had snagged a leaf. But the leaf splashed and fought. Turns out, it was a tiny little bass. Not sure if I would catch anything else, I decided to have a little fun.
But, even as I was taking this picture, Josh was able to scare up a keeper fish on a shakey head in 25 feet of water.

A few minutes later, we doubled up. Except that I caught another tiny fish and he one that was slightly larger...but not quite a keeper.

After catching my 3rd tiny bass, I decided to put the crank down and throw the shakey head since Josh was getting bit about every cast. Sure enough, on my first few casts, I would get bites, but the fish were finicky and I couldn't hook up with them. Eventually I let one eat the worm enough and I jerked about a mean mouth, which is a hybrid small mouth/spotted bass. I don't recall ever catching one before, but I knew the fish was not quite a spot and not quite a smallmouth when I boated him. But, he measured, so in the tank he went.

Over the next 30 minutes, we were able to catch several fish on shakey heads, but none that measured. Bites were plentiful, though they only came in a small area of the bluff which seemed to hold a lot of fish. We noticed that it was slightly deeper than the surrounding areas. Maybe it was a current break and the fish were holding down on the bottom.

The only good fish I hooked in to pulled back a little hard to be a bass, consequently snapping my line. But it got my blood pressure up!

Regardless, we made one last ditch move into the back of Butler Basin. I was able to flip up a little smallmouth that wasn't large enough to measure, though it was a good 14.75 inch fish.

We ran back to the marina to watch the weigh in. It took 11 pounds to win and slightly less to get a check. We had a great time, caught some fish, just not the right size fish! I did find it very cool that I caught 4 different species of bass!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Keeping KJ: The Recruitment and Retention of Kerryon Johnson

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The Auburn Realist: Overview

I would be a liar if I told you that I thought Kerryon Johnson was going to commit to Auburn. But he did, and it really is a sign of things to come for the recruitment of the Great State of Alabama. But, we have been here before....twice.... so let's all temper our expectation....for many reasons.

1) It's April 2014 and we are talking about a kid that won't be on any college campus until 2015. That's a long time and anything....ANYTHING....can happen between now and then. Specifically, the attempt to flip Johnson.
2) Though he appears to be QUITE the weapon, leading Madison Academy to back-to-back 3A titles, I have...and always will...temper my personal expectations of any high profile athlete who doesn't come from a 4A or larger school.

More on each of those later. First, let's talk a little about the player. He is listed at 6'1" 200 pounds and he looks every bit of that. He has wracked up yardage through the air and on the ground. He has returned punts. He has picked off passes. He looks the part, but more importantly, does everything that you would expect from the 2nd best player in Alabama. And, from 2:35 yesterday, he says he is going to Auburn.

Sound familiar? Well, it should. Recall what we said about Raashan Evans and his late flip...then Bama and what that meant. You can read my thoughts in Recruiting Raashan. We saw the same type thing in several other big time recruits from the last few years. While Auburn is slowly getting a foothold in the state of Alabama, the truly elite players from the state seem to find their way to East Alabama more frequently than not. There was that moment, when Raashan committed to Auburn, that we all felt that Auburn truly was on equal footing with The Process. The numbers still looked solid for Auburn from the 2013 class, headed up by Roc Thomas and Tre Williams, but the loss of Evans on top of the other top heavy elite players cemented what we all kind of knew: the Tide still owned the state.

But, this year looks to be different already. The number 2 man in the state announced his decision at 2:35 yesterday that he would attend school on the Plains. I was shocked. You were shocked. Pretty much everyone was, but maybe we shouldn't have been.

Personally, I saw him as an FSU lock. He grew up an FSU fan. The 'Noles are currently on top and figure to be in the spotlight all season next season. Winston set the bar that the pipeline in Alabama for elite recruits doesn't run East-West, but can also go south. With FSU needing an elite back and showing the willingness to put young players on the field early, it looked to be a perfect situation for Johnson to bolt for warmer climates.

And, while Bama fans play the same card we have always seen them play in this situation..."Saban didn't want him", it may be more true than we would like to give them credit for. That doesn't mean that Saban didn't have an offer out for him. He did. And he wanted him badly, but not on offense. Saban wanted KJ for a safety. While you may not see that written "officially", think about this:  Since the days of Prothro, Bama hasn't fielded the type athlete on offense of the type that Johnson embodies. He can run between the tackles and he can stretch the field vertically, but he doesn't do just one or the other, as Saban would prefer. He does have great closing speed, superior safety size, decent hands, and an exceptional vertical leap. All of these things are the perfect measurables for an NFL talent safety at Alabama.

So, why did he choose Auburn when Auburn seemed like a big time darkhorse pick, despite being in the final 3?

Auburn offered him the opportunity that few places short of Eugene, OR can offer. Auburn has the offense to promise players to "get them the ball" in an infinite amount of ways. Madison Academy did a fine job of doing just this. If you watch his tape, specifically from 2013, you will see him between the tackles, in sweeps and pitches, in screen passing, in the vertical passing game, and in direct snap situations. Honestly, there wasn't a way that WASN'T used to get KJ the ball.

Additionally, Auburn has a direct need for this type player, just as we wrote about in "What Will A-Day Tell Us about the Offense". Auburn needs a flexible slot player. One that has the speed to take the jet sweeps, catch the ball in space, make defenders miss in the open field,  outrun the secondary, and occasionally be a true vertical threat. In the past year, Auburn has tried to used Louis, Bray and Reed, but neither have been able to do all the things needed. Louis has been deadly in sweeps, but inconsistent everywhere else. Reed has largely been an all around bust. Bray has been little used as well, though he has shown the ability to catch the ball, but not much else. The point is, you have 3 players listed and none of them can do all the things needed. KJ can do all these things AND line up in the backfield and run between the tackles.

I say that, but I caution that I am entirely sold on him being a swiss army knife quite yet. He has a lot of work to do in all phases of his game, if he wants to be successful. As a RB in the SEC, his pad level is terrible. If you want to live past September, you better realize that you have to get those pads much lower. You aren't playing a 3A defense who may have one guy over 200 pounds playing defense....who is lined up over your center. In this league, you won't find a player under 220 until you are in the secondary. Additionally, his vertical leap bailed him out on many down field catches. He was able to jump over most everyone and make catches with his body. He will have to improve on catching the ball with his hands. Lastly, I have real questions about his speed, which is why I believe he ultimately will play a more true slot role, which is still an upgrade from the 3 players listed. I don't ever see him lining up regularly in the backfield.

My biggest caution isn't something that he really could have helped. He played against inferior competition. I know that sounds demeaning, but just bear with me.While Madison Academy has won back to back championships, let us remember that this is a team who can RECRUIT players and plays at a 3A level. Like I said earlier, short of a down lineman, KJ has yet to be lined up against someone of equal physical size and/or prowess, much less a team filled with that type players. For this reason, you can attribute much of the highlight reel which shows him jumping over, stepping around, and stiff-arming competition at will. I wondered this morning at breakfast, how will he react when he meets #27 in spring practice in 2015? He won't be able to juke and run over the Star. How will he react to getting hit in the mouth by someone of similar size and speed?

So there you have it. I have stated my piece on being cautious. But I am not just cautious, I am cautiously optimistic, and not just because of his physical gifts. While it's certainly true that his recruitment is far from over, it shows that Auburn can and will remain in the minds of the top prospects in the state, regardless of where they ultimately end up. It is a great sign that the pipeline doesn't just run to Tuscaloosa with the rare stop in Auburn. And, it shows that Winston's defection was the exception....and not the rule.

The real battle now will be the retention of KJ, which, in my opinion, is harder than getting the recruit. After a decision has been made, especially a whole season away from signing date, it favors the teams NOT picked more so than the team whose hat was worn yesterday. For example, if Auburn falters this year, anyone can come in and proclaim them a "one and done" team. They are over the hill. They are on the decline. They can find and exploit all the chinks in the chain....real or imaginary. And, regardless of what type season the opponents have, they can claim both as positives for flipping. Have a championship run? Just imagine what it will be like next year! Have a terrible season? Tell KJ that he can come to Bryant-Denny and change it all. The pressure is truly building for Auburn to hold him in the fold until signing day...which is a LONG time away. How do they do it? Well, secretly I wonder if a coach at Madison Academy will be given a staff position in 2015. Sound funny? Ask Coach Malzahn how that works. Expect KJ to attend every home game this coming season. Expect him at every recruiting event. Expect him at Tiger Trek 2014. Why? Because if he is with the team, he isn't with another.

It can't be stated enough that Auburn is slowly...maddeningly slow....chipping away at the facade that Bama has, and always will, own the elite in Alabama. Yes, I am well aware that Auburn has flipped commitments only to have them flip back....and on multiple occasions a la Calloway, Yeldon, etc. But, as I stated earlier, at least Auburn is in the race to get these guys, which is a far cry from what we have seen in the last decade plus. I expect that no expense will be spared in making sure this happens, if no other reason than to send a message which really started last year when Auburn was able to hold on to Williams through a whole year. It says that Auburn is on the minds of the Elite. It says that we can be more than a signing day flip for some of these guys. It says that Auburn will recruit just as hard and work harder to retain the very best.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Family Fishing at Humphrey Lake

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You may have read in my blog post from Turkey Hunting that our family lake had been through a nasty storm. It had damaged the pavilion and knocked down a lot of trees. I needed to get up there and try to get a game plan together for how we were going to repair the pavilion and get it cleaned up.

Of course, we didn't tell the kids that's why were going up there. See, they have been on us for WEEKS to go camping up at Humphrey Lake. The problem was that we have two kids playing ball now and there is no such thing as a free weekend. So, getting up early on Saturday was the best we could afford.

We made the 1.5hr drive, watching "Frozen" and putting up with the singing, and arrived to see the devastation. I took video of the damage while Alyse took still pictures.

 We set out lunch and had a nice picnic, which was a roast beef sandwich for me. For Griffin, our picky eater, PB&J, a boiled egg, and guacamole.
 We got right to fishing and I was able to find some bedding bass and catch a decent one while flipping. I immediately came up with the idea of doing a flipping tutorial,

Griffin wouldn't get NEAR the fish and even Aubree had lost her nerve...which was unlike her. Gavin, however, had no problem playing with the fish. We went out on the boat for awhile. Griffin was terrified. He was constantly worried about us falling in, or the boat sinking. I guess he didn't like a little boat the rocks every time someone moves. We managed to catch a few fish and missed even more. Alyse missed the biggest fish of the day...and one of the nicer ones I have seen up at that lake in a few years. It's kinda my fault though. She was throwing a wacky rigged PTL Sick Stick, set the hook, got it to the boat, and I told her to boat swing it. She didn't want to for fear of hitting a kid in the face. Out the hook came!

The kids became exhausted and we laid them down to sleep.

Griffin REFUSES to take that camo jacket off. I mean, we got one naked kid and one wearing a coat. Jeeze.

Alyse and I slipped off to fish....for about 10 minutes. And then they woke up.

The good news is that I remembered to stop and buy night crawlers. After finding the honey hole, Aubree and Alyse SLAYED the bream, filling up a whole stringer.

Alyse even caught this baby bass, which she was the most proud of!
Gavin enjoyed roaming, but we made sure to have his life jacket on at all times.
In the meantime, I got on a good flipping bite using the PTL Gator. I flipped up a good mess of bass plus a bream, which I am not sure how it is even possible to accomplish. Every few minutes, I would look over to where the kids and wife were fishing and see them hauling in another one!

 I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up the brush (and placing them in the lake for improved fishing!). We stopped to snap this pic of the kids.
Griffin was able to watch some turkeys playing in the big field next to pavilion while I worked. He really enjoyed that.

Then, we had the best part of the day! My grandparents have been begging me to bring home fish. So, we did just that. My granny cooks fish like no one's business and at 8pm, we sat down to eat a fine meal! The kids helped clean and cook the fish!

What a GREAT day. I hope they will always remember this day. And, I hope there are many more!

Best5Garden Updates for 4/13/14

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In case you missed last weeks update, go read it here. 
Long story short, the kids helped Alyse plant our seeds. We ended up getting between 4-7 seeds per seed cup with a 90% growth rate. So, things started getting pretty crowded in those seed cups. 
Knowing that I wanted to try and recoup some of my investment, I had planned to sell some of the plants all along. Knowing that, I thought that the best plan was transplant some of the sprouts into new cups. But, I had worried about damaging and killing both the transplantees and there rooted brethren. 
So, instead of going wild and thinning out all 100 or so sprouts, I started with a small selection and gave the process a trial run. Sure enough, I had great success by using great care. How did we do it? Very gently. 
Anyway, we started out by transplanting a host of Cherry and Romas last Sunday. 

Yesterday, we continued our transplanting effort and transplanted a host of Juliets, Beefsteak, and Arkansas Traveler. 

That gives me, and potential buyers, a good selection of different tomatoes to choose from. If you want tart little salad tomatoes in bulk, buy the cherrys. Looking for a nice thick cut for your hamburgers? Beefsteak is all you. 

However, there are some questions that we faced this week that we didn't have to face last week. Last week, the root system for each sprout was no more than half an inch long with little to no tendrils snaking off of the tap root. That isn't the case this week, as the root system is much longer and features multiple tendrils. I wonder if the process of digging them out will kill them as some of the tendrils are undoubtedly broken. We did the best we could, but it may not have been good enough.

Additionally, some of the sprouts have threaded their roots into the biodegradable cups themselves, making them impossibly to transplant. As a matter of fact, many of the cups need to be planted in a much bigger bowl, or in the ground itself. The former isn't an issue, as I have a lot of larger plant bowls. But, I have yet to do anything with my gardening space, mostly because we are trying to sell our house and don't' want to waste our time and money. But, I am going to have to make a decision quickly. 

Most of the transplants will give me a pretty good indication of their vitality by this afternoon. If most of them look good, I will transplant a few more of the larger tomato (fruit size, that is...IE beefsteak) and hope for the best.  I have plenty of cups and I don't' want to toss out any sprouts. The name of the game is maximize, right? I want to maximize these seeds, whether that means in my own personal plants final production or the ability to make a little cash. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Weekly Update for 4/7-11/14

So, I was *supposed* to be doing real work stuff this morning. I am conducting a capability demonstration of phased array ultrasonics on friction stir weld pull plugs. What's that? Well, go google it. Basically, we are looking to implement an inspection on future flight hardware to ensure it's viability. The work begins years before the first piece of the rocket is ever built. You have to be sure the technique works and the inspector is capable. So, here we are. I designed the test and I do the grading. The inspectors come in and use phased array ultrasonics to look for cracks, just as your doctor may do a mamogram once a year for prevention and an x-ray for a potential bone break.

Anyway, I came to work to continue this work, but no one is here. Probably on account of the AWESOME weather. SO, I figured I would update you all since I can't work on rockets.

Monday was a fairly slow day. I had a little of this and a little of that going on. I did write a Weekend Update, so check that out. I sold some guns. Traded for some. Played some softball. You know. Typical weekend. I hit the gym to lose some fat and get this shoulder back ready for NASA softball. But, I chickened out and stayed on the elliptical.

Give me a break. I only have an hour a day. So I spent that whole hour on the elliptical. Cardio, brah. That's where it's at. Also, I watch Adult Swim episodes on my phone and I text my "mass text" buddies funny stories of my home life. If you want to get in on that, let me know. I am good for a laugh a day. And all 7 people on my mass text list says:

That night I decided to take Griffin to see Captain America. I figured he would enjoy it, and indeed he did. We met my dad at the theater and I bought him a large Coke and popcorn. For all of us. Of which he proceeded to eat the entire kernel at a time. He loved the movie, though I would find his head on my shoulder at scary times during the previews and during the actual movie. At one point, dragons were featured in the preview. He looked up at my dad, scrunched his brows, and said "i don't like dragons. I won't go see that movie." But, he made it through the entire movie on the edge of his seat.

Tuesday was another typical day. I made it to the gym, only to discover that I had destroyed ANOTHER set of ear buds. Only one side worked. That made listening to Nine Inch Nails difficult. So, since I only had half the hype music, I only had half the effort. 30 minutes on the elliptical on Tuesday.

Aubree had a game that evening....against THAT team. Do you know THAT team? The overly competitive coaches who manage to draft better than you Ever. Single. Year. They practice more than you, though it's ironic that one of them is the official scheduler for the league. They seem to affect game play each and every at bat? Oh, and they have the kids that tell your team how much they suck? THAT team. I hate that team. My blood pressure hits 170 as soon as I step on the field. It doesn't go down for 3 days. Anyway, they beat us handily.
The highlight of the game was their coach playing headgames with ours....telling our fielders where to throw the ball. That was choice. But hey, as Blackstreet said:
Alyse had a game, so naturally she missed the game. And the game within the game. I don't even know if she won her game at the sportsplex or not.

Wednesday, Griffin had a game. What's to say? He had a good time. He hit the ball. He paid attention. He wants to play and he makes friends with his teammates.

I took off yesterday to do some Turkey Hunting with my dad. We had a good trip. We say turkeys. We caught fish. And yes, in my world, that goes together. Go read about it. Watch the vid.

Chick-Fil-A had a "Superhero" night. If your kids came dressed as a superhero, they eat for free. So, all 3 kids got a mask and in we went.

Turnts out, Gavin doesn't care for the huge cow superhero from CFA. Superman...ok. Spiderman. YES!. Cow?
Even with free kids meals, we spent $20. TWENTY DOLLARS!?!?!?!?! Turns out, eating healthy is expensive. So, a salad and a wrap with one lemonade? $20. Now, two large #1s? Half that. Lesson learned.

Last night, we played the same team. Again. Before the game, our head coach spoke to their coach and the umpire. They discussed the things we had seen and heard the other night, including the girls from the other team saying "you stink" to our girls as they shook hands after the game. Ultimately, the loss on Tuesday had our girls fired up. They played our of their minds on defense and held a 3-2 for 3 innings. It was 4-3 the other way after 5 innings. Eventually the talent caught up with us and they had a massive offensive inning and won 12-7, though it should be noted that our defensive mistakes, on top of playing down a player, killed us.

As we shook hands, the other teams girls made a show of telling our girls "good game" and telling themselves "you stink." The other coach then pulled me and our coach to the side and tried to say that his girls do that to their own players after every game. I couldn't listen to that garbage and I called him out on it, though I immediately felt bad about it. But, I was appalled that someone would think so little of me and my coach to try and pass off a half-baked excuse like that on us. So, I let him know. You know me. Making friends. Which is why I have precisely 5 people on this earth that can put up with me.

So, we did some gardening this week. Best5Garden is coming along great. Go read about it! 

Best5Garden 2014 Updates

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So, I meant to update you all LAST week about the garden. I plan on doing a weekly update, but not much was going on. However, this week has seen an explosion of growth.

First, go check out the original post for Best5Garden 2014

So, you may recall that Alyse and the kids were the ones planting the seeds. As they finished up planting the seeds in the grow cups, I noticed that they were planting between 7 to 10 seeds per cup. Which is about triple what REALLY should be in each one. But, not know what the mortality rate would be in each batch of seeds, we figured we would worry about it later.

Each night the tray of cups goes underneath the grow light with a heater next to them. Every morning, the tray goes outside for good ole natural sunlight.

Sunday, exactly a week after we planted the seeds (planted 4/6/14) , we had our first sprout...a carnival pepper.
24 short hours later, we had a small amount of growth, this time with tomato sprouts mixed in.
Fast forward to yesterday. Constant 24 hour light and heat, mixed with the gorgeous weather during the day has brought us this:
We have nearly 90% growth in each cup. Some of these cups, especially the tomatoes, have upwards of 7 plants. What to do? That many plants can't survive in that confined space for very long. Last year, we experimented with planting 3 plants together in each cup. In most cases, all 3 grew and it proved to be too much to tend after transplanting in the garden.

Alyse suggested simply pulling up several. But, I have a kinship with each and every one of these sprouts now and I couldn't decide on who stays and who dies. But, I knew that I wanted to sell some of these plants as half grown producers, so I figured, instead of opening an new package of seeds....why not transplant these? Of course, the question is...will they survive the transplant? That remains to be seen.
So, we transplanted several of the Cherry and early girl tomatoes. If they have a high survivablity, we will do the same to the rest of the the tomatoes.
Additionally, I noticed a whole section of pepper plants with no sprouts. I don't know if it's the location on the tray of the cups or maybe just a bad batch of seeds. I dug around in 4 cups and found only two sprouts, neither of which had made much progress. I transplanted these together and replanted the cups with tomatoes, though I can't remember which...I THINK it was Early Girl.

We continue to learn lessons: this week, to label better. Masking tape and hand written notes won't work...especially if kept outside. They simple blow away. I am writing with a Sharpy on blue masking tape, and putting a label on each side of the carton.

Turkey Hunting 4/10/14

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Turkey hunting has been a recent hobby that I have picked up. I think I went turkey hunting one time as a child. Not that I don't enjoy it, just that we didn't have turkeys around to hunt. But, there has been a recent resurgence in the population.

The real reason I like it is because the hunts (at least ours) are relatively short. So, I can hunt in the morning and still get to work by 9. And, I can do it day after day.

I also like the active hunter element of turkey hunting, though I admit that my dad does all the work. I just sit in the blind. But I do video....

Anyway, we decided to make the run to our family land in Tennessee instead of hunting locally. But, I had comp time to burn....

So, up at 3:30AM and uphill we went. We arrived a little later than we wanted, but we were able to get setup before dawn.

We setup in a large field on top of the foothills of Fly, Tn. The few times I have hunted this spot, we have literally set up right underneath the turkey's roosts. Today wasn't any difference. Shortly before dawn, we were able to look up in the trees and count the number of turkeys we could see. Of course, that would be "big dark shapes" in the tree. Though we did notice one was bigger than the rest.

One by one the turkeys fluffed themselves out and glided down from their roosts. All but one, which I kept trying to get on video. That bird flew the other way.

Almost immediately we had turkeys in range. As the sun peaked over the trees, we counted several Jakes among the few hens. They preened themselves and grazed in the cow pasture, just outside of the blind. IT made for good video, or at least as good as the old Flip camera was capable of taking.

We talked quietly about what we planned to do. We figured that the big bird that had gone the other way was the local gobbler. We hoped that he didn't see us setting up, though we admitted that it was a very real possibility. I could shoot the jakes easily at this range, even take my pick of them.

I had this one crazy bird picked out, who constantly was humping the ground or beating a rhythm with either his foot or wings, constantly. (I got that on video as well). About that time, we heard the gobbler calling from the distance. With several hens and jakes already around us, we decided to wait and see if he came within range.

We waited as the local turkeys played. They seemed intent on staying local to us, circling the blind.

From across the field we spotted another turkey coming towards us. As it approached, we identified it as a hen. We could hear her cluck and carry on, but as luck would have it, it wasn't a greeting. It was a call to get moving. She was the bellcow of this group of turkeys. Slowly, the turkeys made their way towards her. When they joined together, they made an about face and headed back towards where she had come from.

Occasionally we would hear the gobbler, but he remained in the distance, obviously aware that we were there. Dad things he has probably become a wise old bird from being shot at.

Oh well, we got some video, watched the hens chase each other, and even managed to catch a few fish at Humphrey Lake before we left!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Weekend of 4/5-7/14

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I don't get sick very often. Really, only once a year. But starting on Wednesday I lost all my appetite and had a very upset stomach that felt like drunk bees were swarming.

Friday started off VERY interesting. My Granny called me to inform me that my granddad had nearly met his maker while sleeping. Yes, I know you are thinking about health issues or some such. Not my granddad. No, he was up at our land in Tennessee camping, getting ready to turkey hunt. He was sleeping in his car underneath the pavilion. A bad storm came through and blew the roof off the joint and knocked down a ton of trees, stranding him.. Luckily, my cousins who are local took care of it. But, I am the new president of the LLC and I will have to spend some time up there VERY soon, looks like. Hopefully this weekend.....

Oh, and he is ok. He doesn't hear so well, so I doubt he knew what was going on until he woke up.

But, I had to buck up because Griffin had a game on Friday and Aubree had a practice and I am an assistant. Aubree and I got to the field early so we get some hitting in. Oh, and I made a trade for some guns late that afternoon including this very nice Pre-WWII Mosin-Nagant.

Anyway, I kept it together for practice and we had a good one. Got home and got in bed. Saturday was going to be a long day, as both kids had games.  I get very into Aubree's games. I have gotten to know about half the team very well because they have played together for 3 seasons now. I picture myself as a Nick Saban type coach. I know, blasphemy, but I am not a fist pumper. When things are going well, I cross my arms over my chest and look disgusted, as if I EXPECT them to do well. And when things go bad, I hop and scream. Ok, not at every kid...just mine. And the other coach's kid. And the shortstop. And the 3rd baseman.....

Also, I do the Les Mile's clap. A Lot. I can't help it.
And, I throw my pink Killa Kupcake hat on occasion a la Spurrier
Ok. I made that part up.

Anyway, the girls have lost their first two games because they couldn't put together a full game. Aubree in particular has had tremendous problems making plays at 2nd. She makes great stops, then hesitates on what to do with the ball when their are other base runners. The batting hasn't been great, but it's been ok. Slow starts have been the biggest killer. In both games, the top of the lineup has struggled in the first inning. You cannot go the first inning without getting runs on the board. In both games, they have gone without a run in the first at bat.

Aubree has moved into the lead-off spot. I lived my life as the lead off hitter, but for different reasons. Aubree is a 90% hitter, but she has zero speed. I was the opposite, really. As long as I put a bat on the ball, I could beat out a throw. She has to hit the ball hard to have a chance. But, she is getting better!

Anyway, she had a decent game hitting, though she grounded out a baserunner...she did get a couple of RBIs. On her last at bat, she had a 2 RBI homer, though her run didn't count as she was the last batter of the inning. Crazy rules. The defense, across the board, was fantastic! After allowing 7 runs in 2 innings, the D responded by a 3 inning shutout.

Anyway, the girls came through in the clutch and won the game.

Additionally, Griffin's team won their first game as well. I know it seems unfair that I am SOOO into her games, but not his. Truth be told, he is barely old enough to play. He takes school instruction VERY well, but he isn't quite there yet for ball. However, he has a GREAT time. He loves the team camaraderie. And, I especially thankful that he could be on a team with a former teammate of mine. Here is a pic of Griffin with teammate Jaylen. His father and I played football together for many many years.
That evening, Alyse and I went to our friend Tory's house and watched the basketball games. Tory is from Wisconsin, so he had a lot riding on the game with Kentucky. I still hadn't eaten a real meal yet because of the stomach bug, but Alyse, Tory, and Alex ate pizza. It smelled good and my brain wanted it. My stomach said otherwise. Man, do I love some Papa John's with garlic butter.... It was a great game that ended with some questionable coaching decisions on the part of the Wisconsin coach's part. Tory took it hard. Thanks to the million time-outs that college basketball has, it was late when we picked the kids up and got home. I wondered if we would make church.

As we were loading up to go Church, I spotted Gavin chasing a squirrel! 
And, I also spotted this! 

Church was great, as always. 

We had lunch with the inlaws, then it was softball time! 

You may recall the great game we played last week, where we had to play some great defense and get the bats going. Well, this game started off about the same. Defense was a little loose. Bats weren't working real well. Except this week the rain pelted us and it never got any better. This team was not nearly as good as we are, when we play our game. But they had enough to beat us. There were some impressive highlights (lowlights). 

My personal favorite was having a high fly ball hit at me in center field. I get under it and as it dropped, I assume the wind began moving the ball as it came down. I got my right hand up to make a good secure catch. Except the ball hit my right hand. It was quite painful (still is) to both my ego and my fingers. 

I was also toasted by one of the lady players for the team who stroked one over my head. 

Additionally, my batting was terrible. I grounded out, hit a nice line drive to left field that the player didn't have to move more than a foot to catch. 

On every at bat, I was thrown a pitch that didn't get above my chest. Any league that I have ever played on, the umpire would call that an illegal pitch. But, this guy wasn't. So, I dealt with having 2 strikes on me and hit the ball. 

And on my last at bat, I got tossed a strike on the first pitch. Again, it didn't get above my chest. Additionally, it hit the plate.  So I finally turned around and asked the umpire what the deal was. I mean, I know it's raining and I know he gets paid by the game. But, if you are going to throw some calls, at least make it during game play. That was a mistake. The next pitch came in low and flat and hit the plate. He rang me up and sent me to the dugout. 

I was not happy. 

I have, in the past, been bad about going into "walk mode" when I get a few balls thrown at me during an at bat. It has cost me a number of times because I forgot that umpires are largely trying to call a game to end it as quickly as possible instead of calling it for correctness. I told myself I would not strike out this year. Any. If I got 2 strikes on me, I was swinging at the next pitch and didn't matter if I had to step up in the box or swing over my head. Game 2 this year and I already broke my promise. Now, again, the ball  WAS illegal. And it hit the plate. But, I gotta remember what I am dealing with.

Anyway, we lost. And this team doesn't do losing very well. 

Alyse and I celebrated by punishing my recovering stomach to Hooters. Cause that's what a recovering stomach needs, right?

Hooters had been off my radar the last few years. The service has sucked. The food has sucked. But, the last few visits...well...the food hasn't sucked. The service continues to be questionable at best. This meal was no different. We stood inside the door for easily 10 minutes as at LEAST 3 managers came to the front, looked at the "sections" list, then went on to do something else. At one point, a manager went on a tirade to another about a server....who was getting sent home. Eventually, a server asked if we had been helped. 
Nope. Been standing here. No one has so much as said "hello" to us. She did the right thing and went to get a manager. He came and got us, asked how many, if we were on the list. We proceeded to tell him that he and his coworkers had walked right past us at least 10 times and not acknowledged us. The amazing thing was, he offered no explanation or apology. He just sat us down and went on with his day. 

Everything was up from there, though. The server was great. The food was terrific, and Alyse and I can eat at Hooters for $21. Ah, how things change. I used to eat 25 wings by myself. With a side of curly fries. And a dessert. Now we share 10 wings and a fry. 

Anyway, have a great day!