Monday, April 27, 2015

Fishing Report for Wheeler Lake 4/25/15

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With a club tournament coming up the next day, Brad and I needed to get on the water to do a little prefishing. This would be the 3rd time that I had fished the lower section of The first was in 2011 and the second was just few weeks ago when John and I mustered a solid 15 pound bag to cash a check in a club tournament. You can read about that trip and watch the vid in the link below:

Since we had found some high quality fish back in the Elk, I suggested that we put in at the Elk River ramp and give it a try, even though I knew that the chances of those fish still being there and eating the same thing after a month was slim. But, we were catching them in a small shallow cove right off of the Elk River channel. I figured they couldn't, or wouldn't, go far. 

What I didn't think about was the sheer amount of rain that we have had the last few months and how that would change the dynamic of the lake. The small cove was all but unrecognizable. And, the fish weren't biting like the were. Admittedly, we didn't fish there much. In total honesty, neither of us were comfortable running in the Elk at dawn because of the amount of flotsam. It was down right dangerous.  We decided to make our way out of the Elk, stopping by the rip-rap bank on the island at the mouth of the Elk. 

I had foregone my usual stained water color choice in crankbaits, chartreuse, in favor of a spring craw color because the water had such stain that I didn't think the fish were seeing it. That change came on the heels of multiple slaps on the crank. On the first cast with the Spro Little John, I caught a short fish. Brad caught one on the A-Rig on the next cast...and we thought me might be onto something.

Just kidding. 

We moved into First Creek to a secondary point that Brad had scouted out on his map. It produced one decent largemouth on a jig, but little else. 

After fishing much of the same thing over the next few hours, we decided that whatever we were doing was wrong and we needed to do the opposite. So, we moved across the river and fished main river bluffs. We figured we would need to cover a lot of water in order to find the exact bluffs that held fish, so Brad used a lipless crank and I used a squarebill. 

Moving onto the down river point of a cove, Brad quickly caught two very short smallmouth. We moved to the up river point where he caught another smallmouth, as did I. All were very shallow, hitting the baits as they fell, or in Brad's case, as he jerked it free of shallow rock. 

We contemplated just hitting the points, but noticed that this type of bluff had a very specific feature that continued up river. So, instead of point hopping, we continued up the bank. Another 3 or 4 small mouth later, we knew we were really honing in on the pattern. 

And then I made a mistake. 

"As long as I don't hang about a 5 pounder today, I think we will be fine tomorrow."  I said, as I cast the square bill all the way to the bank. 5 pound fish aren't unheard of on this lake, or even really rare, but they are hard to find when you need them. In all honesty, I don't think we (regardless of partners) have caught 2 5 pound fish during a tournament. And, about 5 turns of the handle in, the rod doubled up on me and I knew we were in trouble. I bet I am the only person to ever swear while reeling in a big fish like this. Because of the depth I hung it, I was relatively certain that I had a good largemouth. But, after 3 jumps and 5 minutes of fighting me from under the boat, we netted a massive smallmouth....just the one we would need 24 hours later. 

I know, I shouldn't complain. It was an awesome fish. I just couldn't do that again. So, we started the big motor and went looking for another bank similar to this one. About 500 yards up river, we found a second one. After Brad boated a few short fish, I tossed the square bill up to the bank, slapped a few chunk rocks, and slammed into another fish, who pulled back just as hard. We both laughed as the fish broke the water and I secretly hoped she would throw the crank, But, she didn't and I hoisted an absolute PIG into the boat, knowing our chances of winning tomorrow, specifically with THIS pattern, were now VERY slim. Check out this beast.

I was done with prefishing after that cast.

No. I don't have video of me actually catching these giants. Just a video of the aftermath.

We were pretty sure we had a great pattern. The only issue was the rain that would be moving in later that evening. Because they were on main river bluffs, we didn't think the fish would leave. They may push deeper, but they wouldn't leave entirely. So, I would need a second technique, at least, to target those deeper depths. I decided that my arsenal would include a 1/4 ounce jig, the square bill, and a heavier 3/8ths ounce jig. That would be the only baits I would throw all day.

Well, the rain came, but not the storms we expected....and that was a good thing. We hit our main river point first and it fired right up for us. And I mean, from literally the first cast. Brad hauled in a BARELY short smallmouth off the jig. Then I had a hit on the squarebill, which pulled off. In the meantime, Brad hauled in another short fish. On my next cast, a sank the hooks into a smallmouth that fought me for what seemed like forever. It passed the 15 inch mark and went into the livewell. Not to be out done, Brad buried a jig into yet another smallmouth. This one SQUEAKED over the 15 inch line and went into the livewell to join the other.

4 fish in as many minutes. Really, it was 4 fish on 4 casts. We both thought we would pick right back up where we left off the day before. Not wanting to exhaust our spot, we moved up the bank as we had done the day before. But, as the sun rose, the bites all but died.

We pulled the trolling motor up and ran down the point. The point produced a small smallmouth apiece for both of us, then they quit.

We moved to the next similar bank with mixed results.

We would check back to the point in between spots, but we found mixed results. Some places would yield a fish or two, some would not. The ones that did give us fish were usually short, or were random.

For example, we might catch a fish flipping wood in a small cut. We caught a bedding fish in another spot. By lunch, we still didn't have a limit and we were starting to get a little.....aggravated.

So, as we sat down to eat a bite, we talked it over.

We were reasonable CERTAIN that the point was holding a lot of fish. Every time we checked back to it, we caught fish real quick. But, the size was dropping. We thought to ourselves: "have we THOUGHT about what the fish are doing?" and as we did, we realized that the rain may have pushed the majority of the fish out a little deeper....maybe even where we were holding the boat. The ones we were catching were just the active fish on the outside of the group.

That mean fishing deeper. Significantly deeper. Say, all the way out to 30 feet. The point dropped off sharp on the river side and tapered off on the cove side. The fish seemed to be on that edge, out on the last contour line of the point before it also dropped off.

So, we decided to back off the point and grind it. Initially we both threw jigs.....but they weren't touching it.

Brad went to his confidence bait, the A-Rig, and I went to mine. Well....I went to the only bait I had confidence with at that depth....the shakey head.

Initially I threw a Strike King Ball-and-Chain with a PowerTeam Lures 5" Sick sitck in Watermelon Red Flake. The fish would pick it up, but wouldn't chomp it. For some reason, something told me to throw something similar....but different.

I tied on a PowerTeam Lures 3/8th ounce Pea Head shakey head backed with a 7" PowerTeam Lures Finicky Tickler. And, instead of throwing that on a spinning rod, I threw it on a 6'6" medium power, fast action rod and a Shimano Citica reel and 10 pound Seguar InvizX. Why? Well, at that depth, you have a lot of line out. In my experience, bites are harder to feel when you have that much small diameter line because of the amount of stretch. And, when you do feel bites, you have to have infinitely more hook set power BECAUSE of that stretch, so much power that a spinning rod will fold up.

As Incubus once said, "and the magic medicine worked." The last 2 hours were a whirlwind. If I could keep from breaking off the shakey head, I was getting bites. Of those bites, I might hook into every other one. I bet I went through 15 shakey heads, though (don't tell my wife!). But, it was reliable for a bite every 5th cast. Other than breaking off a really nice fish, I was able to get us a ton of numbers. Brad was able to turn the A-Rig into a numbers producing machine as well.

What we couldn't do was find the size we had found 24 hours previous. While I didn't expect to find another set of 5 pounders, I DID expect to at least find a plethora of 3-4 pounders.

We would find numbers going up the bluffs. Brad would throw ahead of the boat and parallel the bluff. I would flip and skip the shakey head under trees and around rocks. We caught. We culled. We culled again....but only by ounces.

We decided that our best bet to find size was back where we started, on the point. We devoted our last hour to that very place, sticking with the shakey head and A-rig.

The bites weren't plentiful, but they were there. However, they weren't really taking the bait. They did what they had done earlier in the day to the jig. They would pick it up and immediately drop it. Almost like they were looking for something else. We talked about what else we could do...but we just couldn't think of anything. It was too deep for a crank, which was my only real option.

Dejected, we took what we thought was around 12 pounds to the scales, full prepared that it would take between 15 to 18 pounds to get a check.

We were only right on our weight.

One of the club members had run all the way to Decatur (I am fairly certain I know where) to fish dirt shallow for spawning fish. He had returned with 22 whopping pounds, including a 6 and a half pound fish. Without a decent kicker, we were bumped back to the midpack, despite catching something over 30 fish. I have video from 30. I know I missed more. Most of those were smallmouth! That is, by far ,the most smallies I have caught in one day, which made it worth losing. I hate losing. I really do. But, we had an absolute blast.

Oh, and we DID come up with what we SHOULD have thrown on those deeper fish. A C-Rig.

When I told Josh yesterday at softball that we hadn't thought of it...he gave me this look like I was an alien. Now, that is his go-to bait...not mine. But I should have thought about it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Fantasy Running Backs for 2015

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Zach's Best 5

Ezekiel Elliott(Ohio State)- Elliot finished the 2014 season as the 3rd leading rusher in all of college football with nearly 1900 yards and 18 TDs. He fumbled only twice all year and lost only 1. Perhaps no other team with playoff hopes plays an easier schedule than Ohio State. Though they lead off the season at Virginia Tech, the team who handed them their only loss in 2014, the Buckeye's first taste of competition comes in the form of the Penn State Nittany Lions, who they have at home in week 7. Other than Penn State, the Buckeye's play absolutely no one for the first 11 weeks. Though they are loaded at QB, Myer losses Devon Smith, his lone deep threat. Expect lots of carries in the away game against Virginia Tech followed by a potential for a second half scratch in weeks 3 and 4. Also, keep an eye on how his 2nd wrist surgery will effect him. In conclusion, despite having the deepest QBs in the country, Elliot was a top performer in 2014 and there is little chance that he doesn't remain a top 10 scorer in 2015

Donnel Pumphrey (SDSU)-Pumphrey had only 4 games where he had under 20 carries in 2014. 3 of those were the first 3 games of the season. Pumphrey was held under 100 yards only 3 times, but rushed for over 150 yards in 4 different games. He lost 4 fumbles, though that's hardly a legitimate concern. What I really like about Pumphrey is that he had only 1 game in  2014 where he didn't have a reception, though he had no reception TDs. That streak can't stand in 2015. Getting a bonus 2 points every game is awfully nice. Having a real chance to snake a 7 point play at some point in the season is tempting. Against their better competition (UNC, Boise, Oregon State), Pumphrey still managed to get his. Though the Aztecs lost all 3 games, Pumphrey still managed 340 yards and 5 TDs. Other than having 3 bye weeks, the only major concern I have comes in game 8 against Utah State, who has been phenomenal against the run. 

James Connor(Pitt)-Few backs in the country had as many carries as Connor. The 6'2" 250 pound back isn't a homerun threat, but he can break the long one on occasion. In the meantime, he can take 30+ carries a game. The carries dropped off mid-season, but Connor still managed multiple TD games in all but a blowout win against Syracuse with Miami the nest week. With a new head coach Narduzzi replacing Chryst, one can expect the defensive minded coach to take advantage to an upper classman workhorse in his backfield.  The season stacks up perfectly for Connor, with a bye the week before a showdown with Virginia Tech, which will allow the Panthers to maximize his production. Be cautious with starting him against UNC, even though the 2014 matchup with them was one of his best performances. The Tarheels have a much better defensive coordinator. Additionally, be aware of Louisville following an away game against Duke. But, in all honesty, it's hard to go wrong against a guy who gets the number of carries he gets. Especially inside the 20. 

Derrick Henry(Ala)-The perfect storm is brewing for fantasy owners with Henry. The Tide finished A-day with a combined 6 INTs tossed and a wide open QB battle going into the fall. The Tide have talent at WR, but nothing to compare to Amari Cooper. Additionally, Drake is more of a 3rd and long back than a combo back, as we have seen the Tide use in the past. With Saban's affinity to control the clock, Henry could average 25 carries a game. Perhaps not a homerun hitter, few backs in the country have the ability to pound out 3 yards per carry....even without an offensive line. Certainly not a team with a cupcake schedule, that works in Henry's favor. The only thing that may steal points from him will be OJ Howard in the redzone. But, I wouldn't sweat it. 

Paul Perkins (UCLA)- Despite the obvious focus on Hundley, Perkins turned in a solid 2015 campaign. He is a bit boom or bust in terms of rush yards, but he makes up for it in other ways. First off, Perkins is a focus against premier competition. His best games were against Oregon, Colorado, Texas, Arizona State, and Kansas State. Against lesser opponents, he is best left on the bench or as a flex player. Normally, I want a guy who is guaranteed 20 carries and 100 yards per game. Knowing how he is played makes him valuable to me, more so for knowing who to start and who to sit than his obvious potential for big games. But, he is serviceable in all weeks because of his value as a pass catcher. Perkins caught 26 balls for 2 TDs  in 2014. With Hundley gone and the a fairly tough overall schedule, Perkins is a must have. 

Next Best 5 Up

Nick Chubb(UGA)-A explosive replacement for Todd Gurley, Chubb had a monster of a second half of the year as a replacement back. Like 2014, he will be valuable down the stretch and may not be a great early round pick. Why? Because the Dogs are breaking in yet another QB. The first 4 games won't be premier competition and the 5th is against the Tide. I am not discounting the Gamecocks, but I don't have much expectations for them in 2015. Expect Richt to keep a tight hold of his carries leading into that showdown in Tuscaloosa while tuning up the passing game with his new QB and experienced WRs. His only legitimate chance to win that game is with a healthy Chubb. UL-Monroe, Vandy,  South Carolina, and Southern University are not the time to use up your feature back. Does that mean he won't have points? No. But, there is as likely a chance of him to blow up then to find himself on the bench in the second half. He would make a great Flex play, if you have a good 1 and 2 back already. Down the stretch, there are few players I would rather have, though the week 11 game at Auburn, against an improving Muschamp defense may be a shaky play. Rest assured that he will still be one of the first players taken, over all. I think he will be over-value, especially early in the season. And, I do believe in a sophomore slump. Keep in mind that he WILL be pulled in garbage time to give carries to Michele and Douglass. 

Justin Jackson(NW)-Because he was a freshman, his workload early in 2014 was limited, which kept him off a lot of fantasy radars. The Wildcats open up against Stanford, which could be a shaky play to begin the year. But, one thing is for certain, the Wildcats have some huge questions at QB and a playmaker in Jackson. Jackson had 22 catches out of the backfield and 1 TD to go with his 1200 rushing yards and 10 TDs. What I REALLY like about him, other than his use as a pass catcher in PPR leagues, is that he is a near lock for a 100-yard game, which is a hard requirement for me. Outside of a slow start, he was held under 100 yards only 2 games, but still managed 6 receptions and a TD. Northwestern is a great team to get a player from because they don't have huge drop offs due to graduation year to year. When they have a playmaker, they can win lots of games, but they will always be fundamentally sound, especially up front. This guy has real value and will probably be available later in the draft than he should. I would keep an eye on how the Wildcats do against Duke, as that will be a real litmus test for the rest of the year. 

Shock Linwood(BAY)-No Bryce Petty means go time for Linwood. Having shared carries in 2013 with Seastrunk and taking a backseat to Petty (until the injury), Linwood closed the year in solid fashion until a tough bowl game. What I like about Linwood is that he found the endzone in all by 2 games last year and had 4 multi-TD games. Used sparingly in the passing game, his 7 catches still gives him so added value. Though he only had 4 100-plus yard games, he hovered right at that line in every single regular season game, despite playing on a pass-first offense. Other than Kansas State, all of the big games are at home.  

DJ Foster (Ariz)-Few guys in the country are used like Foster. This is a guy who who will slip through the cracks early in the draft because he will be sorted as a RB based upon rushing yards. Yet Foster isn't valued because of his rushing yards, but his touches. He caught an astounding 62 passes last year, though he only scored on 3. As a pure running back, he hovered around a 15 touch average. While he is capable of big rushing games, don't rely on that for his value. His value is that he is going to score you points and he has the potential to have a 40+ point game at any point. Just keep in mind that he struggles in big games. My feeling is that those will be week 4 and 9. He is also a shakey play against TAMU. I don't think I would start him as a 1 or 2 against an upstart Chavis-led defense. 

Leonard Fournette(LSU)-Fournette is a combination of Chubb and Henry. If you are looking for a player who has a QB issue in front of him, coming off a strong coming out year...look no further. Miles eased him into his true freshman season, limiting him to under 20 carries until playing Florida. Against one of the best defenses in the country, he went off for 150 yards. He finished the year with 5 100-yard games despite not always being the featured back. That won't happen again this year. However, like Chubb...I believe in the sophomore slump. I also believe that he wont' be used in week 1 as Miles tunes up his passing game and saves him for the following week against Mississippi State in Starkville. A week 2 showdown in one of the loudest stadiums should be the perfect time to unleash Fournette. The following week against Auburn will be another slugfest. The only way they will stay in that game is by 20+ carries and the play action pass. He may not have the total yardage, but expect lots of carries. Week 8 will be a good time to trade him high, as he will be going into a cupcake matchup, then a bye week, then  4 straight SEC matchups against good defenses. I can't state that enough. Going into the playoffs isn't the time for a big time bust, which is a very real possibility with him. 

Zach's Top Sneaky Plays

Jarvion Franklin(WMi)-Few backs had more carries(306) than Franklin in 2014. However, he wilted down the stretch and began to have fumblitis late in the year. Additionally, the Broncos face much stiffer competition in 2015. They open with Michigan State, then have Ohio State in week 4. Someone will take him early based upon his achievements in 2014, but will surely we ready to unload him after week 4, specifically because he has a bye in week 5. If you can get him cheap (or free) at that point, it is worth snatching him up in midseason. This is the kind of guy who will win you the league, especially in the playoff when you need stability. 

Corey Clement (Wisc)- Honestly, I don't expect this to be a great secret. In his sparingly used 2014 season, he did a fair amount of damage when stepping in for Melvin Gordon. Additionally, he caught 14 passes in light duty.  He will be the last of Bielema's recruits and Bielema never missed on a running back. Chryst steps in as the new head coach and giving Clement the ball gives him a lot of stability, especially considering that Wisconsin closed the year with dreadful QB play and development. Week 1 doesn't get any tougher (BAMA) and many people may be hesitant to take a chance on a new starter, especially considering week 1. However, if you take the week 1 matchup out of the equation, you can ride Clement the rest of the season. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

A-Day 2015 Adventures

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A-Day has become a Best5Family tradition for the last few years, and for good reason. Initially, we saw it as a great time to bring our kids to watch some Auburn football, cause, you for real ain't cheap. Now, it's funny looking back because we started coming when we had 1 kid. Now we have 3. 

And, just as our family has grown, so has the Auburn A-Day experience. A-Day has become an entire weekend event that features softball and baseball, gymnastics, concerts, you name it. 

I've stepped up my game as well, as you can see from the post from last year. 

So, for 2015, the Auburn/Alabama softball matchup would be during A-Day weekend. As I have a daughter that is really into softball (hint, it isn't just her....we are really in to it too), catching this Top 10 matchup was a must. I knew that this would sell out, so I bough tickets months in advance. That was a good plan, since that is exactly what happened. 

But, as luck would have it, my wife was called out of town on business. So, I had an extra ticket. No worries. I convinced my best friend, and local guy, Kevin to come with. Even if it rained. Which it did. A lot. 

And, because of the rain, there were wrecks galore on interstate 65, including the closure of a section of 65, where they routed all the traffic into the small town of Clanton. Even though we left at 11am, we didn't get to Auburn until 5:30. My nerves were SHOT. But, we loaded right back up and headed to the game. Rainsuits and all. Also, the kids would not let us go on our car. We HAD to take the Jeep. Good. Cause I was tired of driving. 

The rain slacked off and we managed to stay somewhat dry. The kids enjoyed typical ballpark fare of nachos and chicken fingers. Then, despite the rain and the temps in the cream. Whatever. Oh...and Griffin tried sunflower seeds for the first time. initially he just crunched them all up. Then spit the whole thing out. I explained how it worked. The next time, he popped them all in...then spit them in his hand and worked them individually. Close. By the 3rd handful, he figured it out!

Aubree decided on a deep fried snickers! 

The typically hard-hitting Tigers struggled mightily and dropped the game...badly. It wasn't that they didn't play well, because they did. Their defense was impeccable, but the Tide's hitting was superb, sending a grand-slam and several other homeruns out of the park. Their pitch of choice? 2-strike riseballs. They obviously did their homework. 

The Auburn hitters? Ehh.....

Despite getting runners on with no outs, no less than twice did the Tigers manage 3 outs and no runs. We left early. 

Up early on Saturday, we headed to Jordan-Hare.

Waiting in my Facebook inbox was a strange request. Apparently my good friend Palmer's brother was in town and wanted to see the game. He is a Miss State fan from Buffalo New York...who lives in Atlanta. Though I had never met him, we were able to find him despite a typical crowded Tiger Walk. He used my extra ticket to get in.

On the way in, we spotted a tent that had some guys signing autographs. I didn't immediately recognize them, but Kevin did. It was Kevin Green and Chris Davis. Well, we had to get those signatures! 

We headed into the gates. I am not a real fast learner, so it's taken me 7 years to figure out the best places to sit so that we don't get rail-roaded onto the field after the game. We sat in the "Auburn" endzone right above the playclock. That was an awesome choice, as we were right by the gate to get on the field and the first row above the shrubs, allowing us to have a lot of leg room.

It also meant that anything dropped would be lost, as Griffin found out the hard way. He dropped his Lego R2-D2, which is now a permanent resident of the stadium. 

I really hoped the band would march. But they don't.....Arrgggg

Almost as soon as we sat, the kids sent me for food. Go figure. But, Sodexo is now allowing $2 refills in the 3rd and 4th quarter with your souvenir cups, so that was good.  The downside was that Griffin had to pee 20 times. 

The 2nd half was unwatchable. Not only does the clock dun continuously, but it was 90% run plays.  And, then we were on the field.

Luckily the first half was worth watching and even provided an answer to some of the questions I had going into A-Day.

Now, I have been lucky enough to get all the autographs I want. How do I do that? Well, I am an awesome scout of talent, so I get them when the players are freshman and sophomores. I am only half serious. The truth is, I don't like waiting in line. 

We went the first 15 minutes without getting ANY. 

Along the way, I spotted Auburn recruit Elijah Holyfield, who is Evander's son. That was cool.
Our plan was to get all the RBs to sign one ball. Then Sean White. Then any NFL-talent guys, specifically Johnathan Jones. Then whoever else we could find.

The plan worked perfectly and we even got some pics! As always, the players were welcoming and polite!

After the autograph session, we headed back to Kevin's for some drunk chicken! 

Best5Zach's Best 5 Offensive Answers After A-Day

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Well, A-Day 2015 is in the books. Did you go? Did you have a great time? We did! Read all about it!

A-Day 2015 Adventures

In case you missed it, I had 5 questions heading into the spring. Well, I have a lot more than that, but I had 5 specific questions on the offense. Go read them.

Best5Zach's Best 5 Offensive Questions Heading Into Spring

Now, I will have a lot more to say on the subject of A-Day, so stay tuned. For right now, let's talk about these questions. 

The Jeremy Johnson Era

Well, the hype-inning has begun. Is it deserved? Yes. And no. Let me explain. 

There is little doubt that Johnson may be the finest specimen of pocket passer Auburn has had in a generation. Scratching your head? Thinking of a certain guy who threw for 2,800 yards? Cam's legacy of passing stats are going to be hard to overcome, but recognize that Cam had little to no short game. He ran it for over 1,400 yards in 2010. And, when he didn't, he handed it off to Dyer or he threw a bomb to a usually open receiver. There was little in the middle. Why? Opposing defenses were terrified of him and stacked the box. His rudimentary play fake left one-on-one coverage, typically a defender with his back turned, against Darvin Adams, one of the better deep-ball guys we have seen. Because of this, Cam's completion percentage was unusually high, as was his yards per completion. Lost in the mix are the yards per attempt, which was also high. Why the differentiation? Receivers weren't catching short passes and running with Cam. 

But that doesn't stop the hype. Yet, I caution everyone on penciling him as a finalist OR for putting him down as a 3,000 yard passer. Yet. 

Though most of everything you read will lead you to believe that Johnson was nearly perfect, he was far from it. Going 14-22 for for 252 and 2 TDs/0 INTs appears solid, but I have cause for caution. That completion ratio was low. It was more of what we would expect from a run-first threat like Marshall, or a standard pocket passes. Not from a Heisman contender. And not against the #2 defense who was really using a fill-in secondary at points. Let's recall that Both starting corners were out, including a 2nd team All-SEC Jones. 

Why the low completion? 

Johnson targeted Duke Williams frequently.....even forcefully.  After a first completion, Johnson was locked on Duke leading to a high throw on the sidelines that Duke couldn't corral. He threw a deep one into double coverage and threw it behind. He then missed Duke on a post throw, the ball again being short and slightly behind a relatively open Williams. Why was he off on a throw that we know he can make?

I found myself amazed that a guy of Johnson's size, knowing that the pass rushers couldn't hit him, was throwing off his back foot. That particular play was a microcosm of many throws throughout that day where Johnson made a forced throw which didn't snap out of his hand and go exactly where he wanted. 

But, after the jitters wore off, Johnson was on point. Case in point? The 65 yard rope to Ricardo Louis. 

What I was REALLY happy with, was that Johnson began to really run the offense and not force the ball to Williams, which led to some gems. In particular, a gorgeous sideline throw and catch to Chandler Cox. Then, a nice TD toss to the Offensive MVP, Myron Burton, who had quite the coming out party.

That leads nicely into the next point. 

The Development of Receivers OUTSIDE of Duke

Burton WHO? Be honest, who thought they would see this stat? 
  • Myron Burton: 7 catches, 124 yards, 1 TD
Not me. During the National Signing Day week, I wrote about Auburn's need for another game-breaking WR and how I thought we might have one, specifically, a guy named Slayton, who is yet to make it on campus. But, we needed another possession receiver a la Bray. Louis did catch 3 passes, including the 65 yard bomb. But, he continues to look like a homerun threat as a deep ball and speed sweep guy.  Ray and  Davis were targeted usual. Truitt, a guy the coaches have talked a lot about, was held out as was Tony Stevens. 

Instead of the names we have seen on the field, the redshirt freshman exploded on the field. Outside of some talk about his preparation for the Outback Bowl, no one knew who this guy was. The 3-Star 6'1" 200 pounder gave coaches a lot to think about. He did everything right on Saturday. He took short passes in traffic and took his licks. He got wide open on his TD catch. He fought for an under-thrown ball on the 5 yard line. 

I leave you with this parting thought, regarding the topic of this point: We all assumed that Duke would have developed his skills outside of catching the ball to an NFL level. After all, I was glad to see him come back because I thought he needed work. You can read my thoughts on the subject below. 

And yet, I left A-Day scratching my head about Duke's performance. Go watch Roc Thomas' TD run. Duke made ZERO effort to seal the edge. Had Johnson not gotten out there to block, that play never would have happened. After watching other plays and focusing on Duke, I could tell whether it was a run or pass play by his demeanor. 

Who is Next at Tight End
Laye took all the snaps that I could see. Yet, not a pass was thrown to him. No surprise there. I really want to see the tight end matchup featured more. But, alas, I'm not the coach. 

Next at Center
Both centers played well. While Golson looks to be a clear number 1, Dampeer played against better competition and didn't seem to have any real issues. While Dampeer has been in the system longer, Golson has the more talent of the 2. The only hangup we have on Golson is his overall size. For once, being bigger isn't always better. However, I didn't see ANY issues with him moving around and making the blocks. Auburn is in fine shape, though I thought we might not have a real replacement for Dismukes. I do think they need someone for the future, which I wrote about below.

Will Auburn Copy Bama's RB System
If they are, they didn't show it Saturday. I don't recall seeing 2 backs in the game at the same time, unless you count Cox or Pettway. Where Malzahn has used a back in the pass for a tunnel screen, we saw WRs like Davis. Much more on the subject, though. 

Stay tuned. And, as always, let's hear your comments. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Best5Zach's Caprese Salad Recipe

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While writing my last article on how to prepurpose an old set of boxsprings into a raised herb garden, I realize that I have been slacking with blogging some of my favorite recipes. I have many good recipes, at least I think so. Such as my bacon wrapped venison tenderloin and cucumber vinaigrette salad. You can find those on the links below:

Best5Zach's Vinaigrette Cucumber Salad

Anyway, so I realized while writing the aforementioned blog on the herb garden, that I had not written about my caprese salad. That's a shame. Everyone should try it. 

First off, using your own herbs is almost a necessity. A single sprig of a fresh herb is worth a whole bottle of its dried counterpart. The full flavor and consistency of fresh herbs cannot be replaced from a jar. Period. Which is why it was imperative that I setup an herb garden at my new house. You can read about it here:

Additionally, using your own vine ripened tomatoes is always better than using store bought. Now, I realize that isn't always an issue, but everyone can afford to raise a plant or two.  I can tell you that there have been single side dishes, such as this caprese salad, which validated all of the hard work of an entire spring and summer. All for just a few PERFECT tomatoes. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as vine-ripened store bought. It just isn't possible. And, though you can certainly get some quality products at your local grocery, it's all about timing. The earlier in the year you buy it, the worse it will be. You will get those gritty and mealy tomatoes. On the flip side, the better they get, later in the year, the harder it is to find them available. Many times the choice product is gone by the time you get to the store. 

Finding a good mozzarella cheese and quality vinegar isn't' as hard as finding the herbs and tomatoes, but the quality is frequently reflected in the cost. I'm not going to tell you to buy a $25 bottle of vinegar nor a $12 block of mozzarella. Quite the opposite. While you can certainly improve your product, there is a diminishing return on investment. Besides, 90% of the flavor is carried with the tomatoes and herbs. 

Anyway, that's a long start to a short recipe. 

Here is what you need:
  • 2 cups of balsamic vinegar
  • 10-12 leaves of fresh sweet basil
  • 1 fist-sized block of mozzarella
  • black peppercorns and grinder
  • small amount of kosher salt
  • 1 table spoon of brown sugar
  • A bottle of extra virgin olive oil (optional)

In a small sauce pan, slowly reduce the balsamic vinegar. This is down by heating until you achieve a low roil. You do not want to scorch it. Additionally, make sure that your overhead fan is running. You want to hold the temperature as low as you can and still manage to reduce it. I add a single table spoon of brown sugar to make sure that I get a nice consistent and highly viscous reduction.It also adds a significant amount of sweetness to off-set the tart of the vinegar.  While 2 cups is a lot, and will produce more than you need, controlling 2 cups is a lot easier to control than the actual half cup you will use. When the reduction is complete, allow it to cool. 

While the vinegar is cooling, wash and strain you sweet basil leaves. I like to cut the leaves into strips. 

Cut your tomato into slices. I usually cut mine into 1/4" slices and arrange them on the plate. As I eat them, I will cut them into quarters. 

Cut your mozzarella into your desired shape and size chunks. I cut mine into thick 1" slices. Basically, when I cut my tomato into quarter slices as I eat, I want a piece of cheese as large as the slice.  

Now, lay the tomatoes on your plate. Then arrange the cheese on top. Sprinkle your sweet basil leaves liberally on top of the cheese. 

Though not necessary, I like a light drizzle of olive oil over the salad.

When the reduced vinegar is cool, drizzle it onto the top of your salad. The cooler it is, the more viscous it becomes, so don't be surprised by its resistance to flow. You can add as much or as little as you like. 

Lastly, lightly sprinkle kosher salt onto the the salad before grinding fresh black peppercorns onto the top. 


How to Build a raised Herb Garden from Repurposed Box Springs

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Our new furniture FINALLY arrived the other day.  The old furniture was already out in the rec room, but our old bed was still in our room. Cause, you know, we needed somewhere to sleep for the past month.

I had just finished getting the chicken feeder project wrapped up, which you can read about below, so, ALyse was ready to put me to work.

So, after breaking down the old bed, Alyse informed me that I needed to drag the old box spring and mattress out to the curb. The box spring is actually two twin boxsprings that were sat together.  No problem. I have this lawnmower with a small trailer that will make quick work of that.

After reloading the mattress 5 times between the front door and the road and ultimately giving up on the lawnmower idea all together, I went back for the two box springs. 

In that moment of fatigue, the perfect storm of ideas hit me.

First, after building this chicken pen, I had a new appreciation for the cost of constructions. Laying before me were two perfectly good box springs made of wood. While I had no used for them in their current configuration, I was too cheap to throw out perfectly good wood. 

Ok, so let me just stop there and come clean. 

What really happened was that I complained to Alyse that I didn't want to go through that again. And, we could use the wood (totally an excuse not to work, but bear with me.) She took one look at the two box springs and said....

"You should build a raised herb garden to put inside the pool fence."

And Cousin Eddy said:

Sure, that got me out of a lot of work, but it also accomplished a lot of other things.

First off, if you don't cook with fresh herbs, you are missing out COMPLETELY. A fresh minced sprig of dill is worth a whole bottle of the dried equivalent. And, there is NOTHING better than fresh sweet basil on a caprese salad. Right now, I had no herbs. They were left at the old house. 

I use both in my favorite salad recipe:

Best5Zach's Vinaigrette Cucumber Salad

Secondly, it would allow me to have my herbs right out the back door. The fenced in pool area is right out the back door and there is no available land to plant due to concrete and lava rock. A raised bed would allow me to have my herbs within reach. 

And lastly, it allowed me to repurpose something while saving me work. Ok, that isn't quite right. I would be working MORE doing this, but at least it was for a good cause.

First thing I did was remove all of the padding and cloth. Easy enough.I even managed NOT to stick myself with 30 year old staples. 

Then came removing the staples. Not so bad. But, during all the prying and jerking to remove the old staples which held the cloth and padding on......

That's when I realized that the entire box spring was held together with staples, even the wood sections, which provided no structural rigidity. That would have to be addressed immediately before the entire thing fell apart..literally. So, I picked up a box of screws from my shelves(because I think fasteners are one of the most important items you should stock up on, read the following blog) and went to town.

On the first box spring, I went ahead and left the slats on the bed (the slats run across the mattress between the rails to keep you from falling through) and added a screw to each end, plus on to the middle beam. Then, I flipped it over so that the slats were on the ground and the box spring was open end up.

On the second box spring, I knocked all of the slats off completely and added them to the first set, because the slats were spaced around 6" apart and that was too wide to hold the earth we would be filling these with. Now, instead of 6" centers, we were down to around 1" between each slat. Perfect for holding the earth. 

On both of the box springs, I left the center runner in so that I could divide the bed into two sections. Filling up the whole thing in one siting, even with earth, would be a chore. I figured I would fill one side up and plant it, leaving the other open for some other planting session.

I then stacked the second box spring on top of the first and screwed the running boards together, which secured the two into one solid structure. 

I then covered both sides with landscaping paper.

Then, we moved it inside the pool fence where we filled it with a mixture of potting soil and earth before we planted the 2 sweet basil, 1 Rosemary and 2 dill plants. It took 1.5 rolls of landscaping paper, 4 bags of potting soil, 2 bags of earth to fill half the frame. 

Now, I have half a mind to put a set of 6" caster wheels on this thing so I can move it. 

It will also need to be water proofed, either with stain, paint, or siding. Your choice. 

List of Materials
  • Two twin size box springs
  • 1 box of multi-purpose screws
  • 2 rolls of landscaping paper
  • 8 bags of potting soil
  • 4 bags of earth
  • Your choice of herbs or flowers
  • Your choice of water-proofing agents (pain, sealant, stain, or siding)
List of Tools
  • Hammer
  • Pliers
  • Cordless Driver
  • Box Knife

Best5Chickens Update 4/13/15: How to Build a Chicken Feeder

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It's kinda ironic to me that the most frustrating part of setting up my chicken Mecca was the perceived easiest aspect of the whole process. Digging post holes, making a rain water collection system, assembling the chicken house? Easy. Putting together a feeder? Turned out to be a head scratcher...but for reason totally avoidable. 

Real quick: if you haven't kept up with all the other they are. Go read. 

Best5Chickens 4/6/15

Alyse had found some pretty cool feeders on Pintrest that used PVC pipe. The idea is to create a system that allows you to feed your chickens for several days without having to actually be there. A chicken feeder for the family on the go....which is totes us. She showed it to me one night before bed while I was watching Breaking Bad. A few PVC fittings and pipes. A little flashing. Some angles. Done. 

That next day, I headed to the local hardware store. 3" PVC pipe? Check. Several assorted 3" elbows and beds? Check. 

Got home. Realized that the OD on 3" is 3.5" and the ID of the bends is 3". After looking like a caveman for 10 minutes, banging pieces together that would never fit, I went on to the next project.

On my next trip to the hardware store, I took a tape measure. Overkill? Yes. I could just read the labels that say "3.5" ID Fitting." But that's too easy. And, I don't trust them. I sourced a few MORE elbows and bends and headed home to finish this seemingly easy project.

And so I did. Well, sorta.

Initially, I was going to let the 36" tall section of 3" PVC gravity feed into a long-sweeping 90 degree elbow, where the feed would trickles onto the ground. I recognized that I would have to cover the opening with flashing at some point, to keep rain from molding all of the food. But, I wanted to test it before we got that far.

So, we sat it up and poured feed down the shoot. It worked....too well. Every single piece of feed came flying out the other end of the tube at rocket speed. Cause, you know, gravity and a low friction environment. 

I tried several iterations of adding back-bends, steep angles, and other tricks...while Alyse continually reminded me that I should just look at the examples that she showed me. 

Follow some one else's directions? Never. 

But see, my wife isn't like most wives. She has no problem reminding me who utterly stupid I am. After moping in the shop for a few minutes, I asked her to pull up the Pinterest designs, of which there were two or three. 

I decided to make a hybrid of the ones I saw...because I am no conformist but I AM lazy. Also, I can't leave anything alone. I have to improve every design....even those that are perfectly fine. 

The solution? 

Here we go. 

The long section is 36" inches into a a long sweeping 90 degree elbow. Another 3" PVC section 18 inches long into a cap. 

In the 18 inch section, I used a 1"hole saw to make 3 holes equally spaced between the 90 degree bend and the cap. 

Now, it needs flashing to keep rain run off from getting into the feed. So, I took a piece of extra vinyl siding I had, measured the length of the lower section, and cut it to fit. With two small length multi-purpose screws, I secured it to the top of the pipe. Around the screw heads I ran a bead of silicone. I trimmed the vinyl siding so that I could fit the backside )away from the holes) flush against a surface. In the gap between the siding and the pipe, I ran some sealing expanding foam. 

Happy with my result, I took it into the pen to the fence post I would mount it to. After resting the bottome on 2 4x4 blocks (to get it off the ground), I secured it to the post with fencing wire. 

It was at the point that I realized that I had made the whole contraption the same over-all height of the fencing post. It looked I took some measurements. But, it would make it AWFULLY hard to get the cap off, as the cap was secured tight to the post. 

With a sigh of exasperation, I cut the wire and headed back to the shop. 

I changed the 36" overall height to 48", reinstalled everything, and secured it. Boom. It works. 

I made sure the chickens knew where their food was and watched them enjoy it. 

I also added a batting cage netting top to the fence, which should keep out the birds of prey.

So, if you were wondering about a parts list, here ya go:

  • 1 48" section of 3" PVC
  • 1 18" section of 3" PVC
  • 1 long sweep 3.5" ID 90 degree elbow
  • 1 3.5" ID cap
  • 1 1" hole saw
  • 1 18" section of vinyl siding
  • 1 small tube of silicone
  • 1 can of expanding/sealing foam
  • 1 roll of fending wire
  • 2 short multi-purpose screws
  • 1 metal fence post

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Best5Garden Update for 4/9/2015

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Well, there isn't much to report. The weather has alternated between PERFECT and LOUSY. With the soil remaining wet, these perfect days have been put to waste as I can't till up the garden. All I've been able to do is transport my seedlings into and out of the garage for the daily sun. 

That's really an aggravation, believe me. I'd love to use my indoor grower, but it hasn't made it to the new house yet. Instead of leaving all of the cups in one place and letting them sit under a light, I have to pick each one up by hand and walk it outside. I tried using a plastic tote, but you STILL have to pick them up out of the tote and place them on the ground. Or, you can leave them in the tote and they will get around 1 hour of sun total. 

So, one at a time it is. Which means spills. I was beginning to think I had knocked every single seed out of the cups until this morning. We had several sprouts this morning from our tomatoes. No action from our herbs or flowers. 

As soon as the ground dries out (won't be this week) I will get the garden tilled and primed. 

I am very excited because we have a plethora of earthworms. Every time it rains, they come out of the woodwork...err...soil. Everywhere you step has worms. According to my sources, that indicated good soil....which we DIDN'T have at the old house. 

In the meantime, we have kept busy getting our chickens housed! If you haven't read up on that, check out our posts!