Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What Can Auburn Expect from Byron Cowart: A Scouting Report

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Byron Cowart became the highest ranked recruit in Auburn's modern recruiting history, capping off a push by the last three Auburn coaching staffs to crest the hill into "elite" recruiting territory that is typically reserved from landing a top recruit. 

Many of you have read my past articles on my own blog, and know that I am typically skeptical of the modern age of recruiting. Games aren't won and lost by stars. They are won by the recruits that are sometimes overshadowed by their rankings, who can be coached, and who fit a system. Sometimes I think that even the coaches fall victim to the recruiting services, recruiting players for a mythical NSD Championship instead of recruiting another, less highly ranked, kid who fits the system. 

While Nick Saban has revolutionized the art of recruiting and it's hard to deny his prowess in churning out lots of wins and NFL-picks, it hasn't directly translated NSD championships to National Championships. If that were the cast, he would have six or seven rings to show for his efforts. 

Instead, there are plenty of Five-Star busts who never achieve their goals or live up to their lofty billing. And, there are plenty of Three-Stars that win National Championships and go on to NFL careers. It's interesting to note that there wasn't a single Five-Star recruit on either of the NFL teams represented in the last Super Bowl. Just think about that for a second.

But, if you want to win, you do need the best players you can get, who can be coached, and who fits your particular system. But how do they stand up to those mythical rankings?

Don't misunderstand. I am not a professional scout. Aside from playing high school ball, getting whipped in flag football every fall by college kids, and watching my TV, that's really the extent of my qualifications. So, read this post and try not to roll your eyes and think "This guy." 

One of my habits in the off-season has been to watch video on these recruits. While it helps me pick out exactly for whom to wait in line at A-Day for an autograph, it is also educational and prepares me expectations. 

As we noted, Cowart is the highest ranked recruit in Auburn history and he will probably hold that ranking for some time. As an Auburn fan (or a rival fan?), some of you are undoubtedly satisfied that, based upon his high school ranking and priority within the coaching staff, that this guy is an immediate impact player and future star. But some of you may not be sold.  Some of you may be skeptic. Many of you are interested in exactly what Auburn is getting. I'd like to weigh in on the topic. 

Check in Friday morning on Track'EmTigers-Auburn's Oldest and Most Respected Blog to read about it! 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Using Quality Factors in Your Pre-Draft Statistical Analysis

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Best5Zach's Best 5 QBs for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Fantasy Receivers for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Fantasy Running Backs for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Tight Ends for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 DSTs for 2015

While reading some publications, I stumbled upon their fantasy rankings. Usually these magazines list about 20-25 different athletes per position. The top 5 are usually pretty easy to pick. Look at the RB position, for instance. Ezekiel Elliot and Nick Chubb are easy picks. They are the elite backs who are going to churn out yardage regardless of who is returning on offense, what style of offense is going to be fielded, and who they play. 

But, the rest of the backs are typically ranked on their future projections based upon past experience. Again, that's probably fine for the top 10 backs out there. But, what after that? 

We have a 20 man league which means that a minimum of 40 backs will be taken on any given day. To be more realistic, most people are going to carry 4 backs on their roster to account for bye weeks and FLEX play. So. 80 backs. Once you get past that first 10-20....how do you judge their future performance?

That was the question that I kept asking myself. Every year we see the same things. There are the sure-fire backs that come off the board starting in the second round. Then there is a slew of backs that averaged about 15 points per game the year before. Then, there are all the potential breakout stars. Make no mistake, if you want to win a league, you will have to have a big time player. But, realistically, leagues are won from consistency. 

Great backs can put up 30 or 40 points per game. But, they can have the box stacked against them. They can be sat in cupcake games. You need those guys that have a low floor and high ceiling each and every week. And, having that guy that scores a minimum of 15 points each and every week is going to win you a lot of weeks. And, really, that's the trick. You want a high seed going into your tournament play. Specifically, you want that bye week where you can really tweak that lineup. 

Initially, it seemed so random which guys thrive and which ones just disappear. Who would build on last years scores? Who would be one-hit-wonders?  Some guys get a steady number of limited carries each game. Some had big games early but disappeared. Some did the opposite.  Some guys had huge inflated scores based on a few big games that put them up in the standings. I wanted stability. But, getting those backs...and you need 2 or 3 of them....can be very difficult. Just like I said earlier, most people draft these guys by past performance. That is, simply on the total points that the player scored the year before. And, I paid attention to the scoring system.

So, I decided that I would try and apply some logic to the situation. 

I began months ago by finding players that offered me the most versatility. These are the kind of guys that are going to get their touches regardless of who they play and where. My typical back may only get 15 carries from the backfield, but he is going to add 5 catches. He may also return kickoffs. Sure, it's nice to have a back like Derrick Henry who is going to get 30 carries in a game. But, you have to consider what happens when LSU stacks the box or Saban sits him. 

I then paid attention to how many games they played and how many touches they got per game. I don't want to see a roller coaster ride. 

Doing this got me pretty far. But, how did I rank the rest?
Using Fantrax, who we use for our league, I downloaded the top 200 returning players per position. Obviously there are really only 2 positions you need that many players....WR and RB. 

Using their rankings, I reorganized using an adjusted score that emphasized touches instead of just points. After all, last year they might have broken 10 TDs of 60 yards or more which gives them a really high total point score that isn't representative of their real worth from year to year. 

I thought of a series of parameters that would help me score each individual back. To me, the important things to consider were things like:
  • Coaching system- Was the current coaching regime a veteran unit? Was it a drastic change in philosophy? 
  • Offensive system- In the case of running backs, did the current system benefit them? I.E. is this an air raid attack where the back is just getting TDs from vulture carries? 
  • Are they a multi-threat? 
  • Strength of Schedule
  • Returning Offensive line
I assigned each of these different parameters a point value and input them into a custom formula which would then rank each player based upon what I call a "Quality Factor." That is, taking their past performance and bouncing it against a quality factor that gives me a true representation of what I can expect from the other factors surrounding the player. 

Then I sorted the players. I am not going to give everything away, but I just want to prove a point. 

Based upon Fantrax, here are the 20-25 ranked running backs who are returning. You see their names and teams, their bye weeks, and their total points scored in 2014. 

20 Perkins, Paul (Jr) - UCLA 6,14 228
21 Lasco II, Daniel (Sr) - Cal 7,14 218
22 Linwood, Shock (Jr) - Bayl 3,9 215
23 Taylor, Anthone (Sr) - Buff 6,14 215
24 Gordon, Michael (Sr) - ArkSt 6,12 203
25 Waller, Marteze (Sr) - Fres 9,14 203

But, if I resort based upon my quality factors, we find that these guys have shifted a good bit.

Perkins is now ranked as the 9th best RB. How does he go from 20 to 9? Well, he has a majority of his offensive line returning, as does his coaching staff. He gets an offensive system bonus because he will be the offensive feature behind a freshman QB. He offers a lot of stability from his ability to catch the ball. The only knock is the relatively hard strength of schedule, but it's the PAC-12 and that can be debatable. Again, now that I type that, it may make sense to you. But, it was awfully easy just to look at my spreadsheet. 

Lasco drops to 24. Linwood up to 18. Taylor all the way down to 38. Gordon to 26 (about the same) and Waller to 30. 

Again, why the big moves from some guys? 

Taylor plays on a team with a high turnover on the offensive line. The coaching staff has been in transit. The offense has been balanced.

Waller only returns parts of his line. The offense isn't geared for him. He isn't a multi-threat. The strength of schedule doesn't benefit him. The only pro he has is that his coaching staff returns. 

But, that's just where the fun starts! Though I did this to separate the mid-level guys, I applied this to the top 40 returning backs and I was amazed at what the formula told me. 

Connor, from Pitt, is the top returning scorer, but my formula knocked him down significantly...all the way to 15! The biggest move was Perine, who was the #2 scorer who checked in at 28. 

That's important info, considering that we are talking about two guys that scored over 300 fantasy points. Is it worth drafting these guys super early if you can swoop in and get 2 (or 3!) of these other mid-level backs, for whom the formula says they will consistently produce.

But, lets be real. Running backs may fluctuate from 300 points to 270, and that really won't win or lose anything. Receivers, however, are the biggest boom-or-bust players on your roster. 

Here is the 20-25th ranked receivers with bye weeks, total points, and per game average:

Sharp, Hunter (Sr) - UtSt 4,14 154 11.85
Braverman, Daniel (Jr) - WestMI 5,14 149 11.46
Williams, Mike (Jr) - Clem 4,14 148 12.33
Morgan, Teldrick (Jr) - NMSt 4,11 148 13.45
Dangerfield, Jared (Sr) - W Ky 11,14 144 11.08
Robinson, Demarcus (Jr) - Fla 8,14 144 13.09

If I rank these guys using a modified-for-receivers formula that takes QBs into account, here is what we see. 

Here is the new 20-25: 

Payton, Jordan (Sr) - UCLA 6,14 141
Williams, D'haquille (Sr) - Aub 6,14 109
Treadwell, Laquon (Jr) - Miss 11,14 92
Higgins, Rashard (Jr) - ColSt 8,14 343
Shepard, Sterling (Sr) - Okla 4,14 162
Morgan, Teldrick (Jr) - NMSt 4,11 148
Interesting. Higgins was the top WR in 2014. Why is he so far down? Well, he lost his offensive-minded coach as well as his QB (to the NFL, no less). 
Treadwell and Williams vault into the Top 25. Both WOULD be higher if it weren't for competitions for catches. Williams, in particular, also will play on a balanced offense. 

Where did the previous 20-25 go? 
Sharp drops to 24. Braverman up to 20. Williams up to 9. Morgan to 25. Dangerfield to 21. Robinson to last place! Not a ton of movement for some, but enough to make you take notice. 

Everyone is looking for an edge. Everyone can get the top names off the board, but trophies are won with the mid-round guys. Can you sort them? I don't think my formula is perfect, but it's very telling. 

If you want more info, comment below! 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Why Jeremy Johnson Doesn't Have to Run and Why We Shouldn't Care That He Won't

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Has anyone else noticed the amount of articles being posted on social media pertaining to Jeremy Johnson and his running/lack of running ability? I have. And it's getting pretty old and played out. 

People say he can. People say he can't. People say he should. People say he shouldn't. And, Gus and Jeremy sometimes weigh in on the subject. 

I'm hear to tell you that his ability to run...or not run...doesn't really matter. 

The comparisons to a one Cam Newton began before Johnson was ever on campus. There are some similarities. Namely, the overall size of each of these men is very similar. And, both can chunk the ball a very very long way. But, to be perfectly honest, that's about the limits of the comparisons, in my eyes. 

Jeremy Johnson is already on par to college-age Cam Newton in his throwing ability. Which means he doesn't HAVE to run. Did you raise your eyebrows? 

His ability to throw the ball was well known when he was in high school. He was described by many people, Gus Malzahn included, as having a real-deal NFL arm. In his limited action in his first two years, he has shown that he has the gift. Not only does he have the ability to make all the throws, but he has the brains to make the decisions on exactly which throw he should make. Of his 2 INTs he has tossed, I recall one being a WR at fault. I can't recall the other. As a sophomore, he was nearly perfect in his limited action. 

In this year's A-Day game, Johnson was nearly flawless in his over-all execution. The only flaws I saw in his game was a particular series in which he was locked on to Duke Williams. He missed Duke on the sidelines on one throw and shorted another dig route that nearly found the ball going the other way. But, after that one series, Johnson opened up his playbook and began making some fairly unbelievable reads. He checked down into the flats. He threw a wheel route to a fullback. He looked a safety off and completed a perfect pass for a TD to Myron Burton. He avoided a sack, stepped up into the pocket, and fired a 50 yarder to Louis. 

And that's where the difference's between Cam and Jeremy really start to glare. Don't get me wrong. Cam was almost perfect all year in 2010 throwing the ball, especially down the stretch. But, anyone who understands the game will tell you that his arm wasn't the only thing completing those passes. Defenses were more terrified of his (and Dyer's) ability to run it down their throat than they were scared of his ability to beat them in the short game throwing. So, why did Cam end up with 30 TD passes? Well, the defenses stacked the box. Cam ran play action passes. And then he threw it as far as he could to a (usually) wide open receiver. However, Cam struggled making reads and finesse passes. Never was it more evident than those early games. But, again, it quickly became evident that he didn't have to. Bear Bryant made one of the most astute observations of the game when he said that "3 things happen when you pass and two of them are bad." Why throw it short when you can run it? To sum it up, Cam was perhaps the greatest running quarterback in modern football history. Yes, Tebow owns a lot of records and all, but Cam churned out the greatest single-season road grate that any of us will ever see. He was, by all definitions, unstoppable. 

Can Johnson run it? Sure. There have been some leaks that Johnson runs a 4.49 50 yard dash. Doubtful, but I am sure he close. Can he run the zone read? Well, yea. He has undoubtedly practiced it for the 2 years he has been on the Plains. And, honestly, it doesn't matter how fast you are when you are that big. If you make the right read, a 6'6" guy can fall forward at the line of scrimmage for 3 yards. I'm not great with math, but that's pretty good. 

The other thing that many pundits are considering is how the offense was run with Nick Marshall. The nimble-footed Marshall was more like Cam than most people will ever admit. The difference is that the handoffs went outside for Cam as opposed to inside with Nick. Cam was a battering ram that took 3 defenders to tackle and a long stride that was nearly impossible to match. Nick was elusive around the edge, but just as fast. He might go down with the first defender, but that defender had to catch him, which was usually a tall order....especially in the backfield. Marshall and Cam were more alike in the throwing game than anyone will ever admit, as well. Both could throw the ball as far as it needed to be thrown. Both struggled at times to check it down. Both had issues with fitting the ball into windows in the short game. But, both these quarterbacks took Auburn to National Championships and lit up the stat sheets and scoreboards.  

Which is why everyone immediately assumes that for Auburn to have success, JJ must be able to run.  If he doesn't, the Gus Bus will derail. 


Though Malzahn's offenses at Auburn have been mostly top-level offenses, we sometimes forget that the offenses that put him on the map were not true dual-threat QBs. They were polished passers who didn't have to run. And, the overall offenses weren't just spread offenses that didn't have a run game. 

Chris Todd set several Auburn records with his single year under Malzahn at Auburn.

Paul Smith, under Malzahn in 2007, threw for 5,000 yards and 47 TDs in a season! He ran for under 200 yards.

David Johnson, while at Tulsa in 2008, threw for over 4,000 yards and 46 TDs while running for less than 200 yards. 

Ryan Applin, with Gus at Arkansas State for a single season, threw for 3,300 yards and 24 TDs against a VERY tough schedule. He ran for 430 yards. 

And yet, each of these offenses had something you wouldn't believe. They featured a running back with at least 1,000 yards. In fact, his two offenses at Tulsa featured one back who ran for 2,700 yards in those two seasons. 

Seems to me that maybe the assumptions that are being made might be a tad over-inflated. Seems to me that we are trying to fit Gus' offense into our idea of an offense instead of letting him mold his own. In fact, there is a lot more truth to that than you might think. Marshall and Netwon were elite athletes....and that's a word I don't throw around lightly. Both were players that had a wide skill set and that he didn't have enough time to mold into his own ideal quarterback. They were the exception and not the rule. So, he fit an offense around them that would work for the time he had. And, he did a fantastic job. Up next is Johnson and we make all of these assumptions. He has to do this like Cam. He has to do that like Marshall.

As much as I love Cam and Nick, both struggled with check downs. Both were off and running when the edge blitz came. And, it's amazing that both of them lasted whole seasons (though it's worth noting that Cam was hurt in the National Championship game and Nick Marshall missed extensive time). Why? Because they were run-first. 

There is another critical aspect of the game many people forget. Auburn frequently ran to run the clock...not just to score. Both the 2013 and 2014 defense were some of the worst defenses fielded on the Plains. The 2010 wasn't exactly a dominating unit, either. The same can be said for every stop that Gus Malzahn has made. That will change in 2015, it would seem. Gus won't ...err....shouldn't....have to worry about clock management anymore. Scoring will be his primary purpose. And, that means a lot of throws. 

Johnson doesn't have to run. And, he probably won't, at least not to the level that we saw with the two aforementioned QBs. And Auburn is going to win a lot of games, anyway. Why? Because Johnson is a true pocket passer and even a casual observation of his in-game play will show that. Just as I said earlier, he has all the tools. He looks off the secondary. He checks down. He uses the whole field. He steps up into the pocket and delivers the ball. And, most importantly, he is scary accurate. 

So, I just laugh when I see these comparisons to the two great Auburn QBs. Who really cares if he can run the zone read when he can throw the ball 30 times a game and go 22-30 for 350, and 3 TDs? Really? Let's not forget that Auburn has one of the most talented and high-potential backfields anywhere in the country. I firmly believe that Roc Thomas will take the place of the traditional QB in the zone read. Instead of making JJ run the ball, he has two potential reads...inside to a Barber/Robinson or outside to Thomas. I wrote earlier about how I think the offense will evolve even further with these talented backs.

Sure, it puts the offense at a slight numbers disadvantage in terms of "helmet on helmet" numbers, but so does losing your QB when you need him most. Let's not forget that Auburn has always had a capable backup on those good offenses who was a veteran (Burns with Todd, Caudell with Newton, Johnson with Marshall). Auburn doesn't really have that this year. 

Johnson also has the most potential at the WR core than any previous QB has had at Auburn under Malzahn. It's going to allow him the ability to spread the ball and create mismatches, which hasn't been possible at Auburn since 2004. That is , of course, the WRs live up to their potential. 

To sum up, Johnson has a very talented backfield, top to bottom as well as a high-potential WR corp. Though White looks like he will be a solid QB in the future, he is pretty new and untested. Running the ball with your QB, regardless of the talent and ability, is risky.  Malzahn won't have to run the ball to manage the clock. If Muschamp does what we all think he will, Malzahn will have the luxury of being able to throw it 30 times a game without worrying about time management or 3-and-outs. Lastly, Johnson is already a more polished passer than either of the run-first QBs that Auburn has found success with (Newton/Marshall) and his game film already proves that. Now, can he do it a whole season? That remains to be seen. But, when I look at all of these bits of information, I see a QB that doesn't have to...and shouldn't...run the ball. It isn't his strength and the offensive game plan shouldn't need it. So, can we stop with all the questions about his ability to run, already? If I didn't know any better, I would think the media called the plays, not Gus. 

Fishing Report for Wheeler Lake 7/16/15

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It was a Thursday. That means it's time to donate some money to our local sticks at the Wildcat out of Ditto! 

Really, I'm starting to think that the limited success we had in the last few years was the old rope-a-dope. Cause, we haven't been CLOSE to smelling a check in awhile.

Last week, the current was ripping so we headed up to the dam. All the big bags come from the dam, right? Well, go read how that turned out.

Fishing Report for Wheeler/Ditto Landing 7/9/15

This week, the situation was nearly IDENTICAL. So, we decided we weren't going to the dam. Instead, we would fish some current brakes fairly close to the marina. Our thought about last week was that the high current had either blown the fish out, or located them so tightly that you had to really be perfect on locating them. We are far from that good. So, we thought that down river the current wouldn't be so pronounced and maybe we could locate them easier.

We pulled up at Hobb's Island and the day started out FANTASTICALLY as the end cap to one of my Shimano Citicas flew off and sank. 

No bites on Hobb's. No bites on some rock piles. We pulled up behind some barges and fished some barge tie ups. 

I did catch a MONSTER on a PTL 7" Tickler. 

And that was about all the action we got. So, we ran down river to a few creek entrances. Nothing at the mouths, so we decided to go flipping.

Now, what's really ironic about losing that end cap to the citica was that I had just bought a new one the night before. And, I was currently flipping with that new Citica when a big ole slob picked up the PowerTeam jig as I was flipping it into cover. 

I slammed the rod back and the drag screamed at me. Meanwhile the fish laughed, opened its mouth, and swam off. I had set everything on the reel up perfectly....except the drag.
A few flips later, another fish picked up the jig as I flipped it. This time, I pounded the fish. Except I hit the poor dink so hard that he flew out of the water and over the boat! The jig went back into the drink...and either the same fish...or another one the same size....pounded the jig again! I caught two fish on one cast! Or maybe the same fish twice on the same cast....Look. It hit the boat both times, so it counts.

After that spot refused to give us any fish, we went down river a little more to a rip rap bank that had ALWAYS produced fish...just never a limit in one sitting.

We were throwing top water and sure enough, we had several bites from decent looking fish, but none of them hooked up.

Time was closing in on us, so we made one last stop at a very similar area which featured current breaks and rip rap banks. Josh bagged a solid 3 pounded on a worm while I cast my Spro around. The fish weren't grouped up as we hoped. Come to think of it, it's been years since I found them there.

We fished into the skinny water in the small cut out around the rip rap and caught several very small bass. Almost every cast, one would pick up the shakey head.

We didn't win. But, the winning bag was only 6 and change. Had I caught that one pig while flipping, we would have won with 2 fish. But, they don't award points for missing fish.

Fishing Report for Wilson 7/17/15

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This past Friday, the NASA fishing club had a night tournament on Wilson. You may recall that I have had a lot of success in tournaments on Wilson. But, it be perfectly transparent, I have done well on tough days. And, my success, aside from a tournament in March, has been dictated by one small spot.  Here are some of the past fishing trips, which you can read about. This ranges from my very first time on the lake, to my first great tournament, to my worst.

Army Cargo Club Tournament on Wilson Lake 3-21-15

Since we had the tournament coming up, Brad and I prefishing the previous Saturday. We didn't really fish but for about 45 minutes. Instead, we checked my honey hole, which produced a magnum fish, which you can see in the report. The rest of the time we spend marking ledges. 

Fishing Report for Wilson 7/11/2015

So, at blast off, we ran all the way down the lake from Safety Harbor to Shoals Creek and got on our little spot. I still don't quite understand what makes this spot so good, but it holds big fish each and every year. I do admit that it does offer the fish a little bit of everything. It offers shallow water with cover. It offers them deep water. It offers a ledge with rock. But, there are a lot of places like that. Maybe I need to branch out and find more spots, but this one has always done me well on big fish. BUT....big fish is all it seems to have. You may only get 3 bites a day on this spot, but they are going to be good bites. (That's what they call "foreshadowing.")

My struggles with finesse fishing are well known. I don't like it. I'd much rather throw cranks or topwater all day. But, my game has evolved in the last 2 years with the shakey head. I am getting better with a jig...but I am not there yet. Funny, as that is one of the most versatile baits a fisherman can throw...but I digress.

In the past, if the fish weren't biting a crank or top water on this spot, I really struggled. This year, at this tournament, I had the faith to sit on this spot for a majority, if not ALL, of the tournament. So, we threw a few topwater baits. We threw some cranks. And, aside from a few short strikes on a Spro Little John DD, they weren't really interested. That really stunk, because the current was really flowing out of Wheeler dam and we both through that the fish should be active. We were seeing 76.000 CFS being pulled. The water was very hot. Like, 92 degrees. So, it was going to be a 3 fish tournament. That would be perfect for this spot!

While I worked my Spro, Brad went to a jig and began crawling it down the ledge and on to the rocks below. After a miss, he noticed that the fish weren't really knocking the jig. Instead, they were simply picking it up and dropping it. We needed them to hold on to it a little longer. Well, I had just the thing for fish that were non-committal. I brought out the PowerTeam Lure's Hog Tonic. Here is a link to get it at Amazon for a few dollars cheaper than anywhere else. 
Don't know what it is? Here is the description:

"The first time you squirt a few drops of Hog Tonic, two things are going to happen. You're gonna gain friends and your gonna lose friends. The friends you're gonna lose will be the people standing closest to you because Hog Tonic stinks to high heaven. But on a good note, the friends you're gonna gain are the ones that breathe water, have big mouths, and just so happen to be the ones you wake up for at 4 am in the morning all pumped up to go catch.

*Note: Be forewarned that the people that do stick around you are only using you to get to your bottle of Hog Tonic! Once your bottle is empty, they will drop you like a bad habit! So what makes fish so crazy over Hog Tonic?  It's funny, most people think it's all about the powerful smell. But the truth is, it's all about the aminos. Hog Tonic is a heavy dose of specific amino acids. No chemicals, no synthetics no byproducts, no artificial ingredients…just 100% pure natural aminos (that's right bassin' peeps, there's no BS in this bottle)! And being that fish need these aminos to survive and grow, they recognize it as soon as it enters their mouths. Their brain registers that it's real, and they don't want to let it go. So you can definitely bank on having more time to set the hook! Once you start fishing with Hog Tonic you'll never want to fish without it…you'll see. ;)
*Fact: Hog Tonic was not tested by a professor at a University on hungry bass in a giant tank under controlled conditions. Hog Tonic was tested and proven on real bass in pressured waters by real fishermen in everyday real life situations. The true results that matter!"

Ok. Enough of the sales pitch. Just trust me. I don't always use additives. In fact, I try not to. But this was a perfect condition where we needed the fish to hold on to the bait a little longer. 
Keep in mind that not only were they not holding it long, but the combination of heavy line and deep water was really limiting both the feel we had on the bait as well as the hook set. So, we doused it up. 
A few casts later, Brad had another fish pick it up. He waited for what felt like forever. I had enough time to watch him feel the fish. After pulling the slack in 3 times, he hammered the fish and I netted a nice 4 pounder. 
I made a note of where he cast and made my own cast as he re-positioned the boat. It had to be a long cast to give it enough like to get to the bottom and allow me to work it slowly. You can watch in the video as we talk ourselves through what we were learning. 
 In retrospect, it has been very encouraging to realize that we have really begun to understand the how and why of this particular spot. I hope I can apply it to the rest of my game, but regardless, watching the videos has given me some hope that eventually I might actually develop into a good fisherman.
Anyway, I drag. And drag. And drag. Then I hit the rock pile. I dead stick the PowerTeam Lures Bull Nose Jig. And, it pays off. A fish picks it up and THIS time, it simply swallows the bait! A quick hook set and a few turns and we had 2 fish for 8 pounds! Heck of a start!

Over the next hour, we averaged a bite every 20 minutes. That's right....we had 3 more bites. Two of those I simply didn't hammer the fish hard enough. I waited for them to swallow the bait. I set the hook and we fought long enough for Brad to get down off the deck and grab the net....and then the fish was gone. In talking with Josh yesterday, he thinks I simply didn't set the hook hard. With that much line out and the fact that I am using 10 pound test, there was too much line stretch. I think he is right. I don't have a nasty hookset. In fact, it's rather sad. But, that happened twice and both those fish were the same quality of fish as the ones we had caught.
I also broke one off....a testament to not using 10 pound test. 
We were getting aggravated and bored when a group of white bass began feeding near us. I made the comment that MAYBE some green fish were under that huge group. So, I cast the Spro Little John DD out. Sure enough, I caught a squeaker! Well, at least we had a limit. 

I tried the Spro again and I received a nasty backlash thanks to my new-found enthusiasm. As a result, I found the line broken by the time I picked out the birds nest...and no bait. $18 down the drain...again. I can't loose the cheap baits...just the expensive ones.

So, we fished. And fished. And fished. Nothing. We knew the fish were there....just not biting. And, we knew that sqeaker was going to cost us, despite having 2 really nice fish.

Speaking of those two, they were both belly up and we had the fizz them. First time I had done it. It worked great for the 1st one, but apparently I didn't do it quite right for the second. Chill. None of them died. 

In the meantime, luck did bring me my lost crank! I was fishing that jig and looked into the water....look what I saw! 

Anyway, we fished a few ledges. We fished by the dam. We didn't have a bite after the sun went down...so we hoped no one else found fish.

Well, they did. Winning boat had 12 and change with a 7 pounder.....no really. 

2nd and 3rd had 11 and change and we had 4th at 8 pounds and 6 ounces. And, that little guy was every bit of that 6 ounces. 

Had we landed even one of the fish that we lost, I feel confident that we would have 2nd. But, coulda woulda shoulda...right? 

We only had 1 smallmouth weighed in, even with 8 boats. And, word was that it was very tough on everyone. The big fish was *supposedly* caught 30 minutes before weigh in. 

I hate losing...especially on lakes that I have confidence on. I think back to that pig I caught while prefishing and wonder if I could get her to bite had I not caught her then. Guess we will never know.

On the bright side, I have more confidence that my spot will win me tournaments. It's just on me to make i happen. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Best5Zach's Best5Questions He Would Have Asked Malzahn at SEC Media Days

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Not that I would every criticize the media members, but some of the questions....if not all of the questions....that Coach Malzahn fielded in his time at SEC Media days were atrocious, and for different reasons. Lot's of questions about satellite camps. One guy asked every coach about their thoughts on cost of attendance. Very little football related questions were asked. And, those that were, were softballs. 

I can't really be too harsh on the media. It's not like Gus would have answered any questions with substance. We all thought that Chizik gave the worst interviews, but Gus is right on up there. I can pretty much sum up  his answers to any and all questions: 

"We want to get out edge back."
"The future is bright."
"XXX is a guy we are really excited about. He's done some things in practice."


So, let's pretend that I was able to sit coach down and ask a few questions. Whether or not he would answer them isn't up to me, but at least it would make us all think. Who knows...maybe he would give us a nugget.

1) Coach, so much has been made of the historically bad defense that was fielded in 2014. A lot of people point fingers at one unit or the other and most people question the overall talent on defense.  But there a few things that make me really point the finger back at the coaching staff because I can't buy a "lack of talent." On the 2014 unit, you had two defensive tackles (Wright/Blackson) who ended up getting drafted. You had both linebackers who could have been drafted or made an NFL roster (and will do so in 2016). You had a secondary with at least SOME NFL-type talent on it (Jones). In 2013, Therezie looked like an NFL player(but he all but disappeared in 2014, which is a question in and of itself). Yet, this unit couldn't stop a runny nose for half a season. Why? I know that's a nebulous question, but I am really interested to understand the particulars of the situation, specifically when you first knew it was an issue and what you tried to do to correct it.

2) Speaking of the defense, the secondary is and has been hammered by media the last few years, specifically people who supposedly know a lot about the game and how it works. It's true that the secondary has been a weak spot since Tuberville left. But, this group seems to be on the receiving end even heavier than previous units. They (the media) seem to think Auburn will have the pass rush it missed in 2014 with Lawson back. The linebackers are both on watch lists. But, the secondary is the liability.  People don't seem to understand what a lack of a pass rush does to a secondary. It is fairly amazing that despite the ridiculous number of downfield passes that were forced upon them, the secondary tied for the most interceptions with Ole Miss, a team whose secondary was worshiped by the media. 

Enter the 2015 secondary who features terrific transfers from Michigan and UGA. Throw in Jones, who is a preseason All-SEC guy. I look at it and I don't see a weak secondary in 2015. In fact, I see the strongest secondary that Auburn has fielded since the last days of Muschamp.  Why are people so down on these guys? What were your thoughts about these guys as the 2014 season closed out? 

3) What are the realistic expectations for Johnson? I mean, in terms of actual numbers? Obviously a first 3,000 yard single season passer has to be a goal. Cam had 30 passing TDs. Can Johnson match that? We recognize that Johnson is a first year starter and that there may be unreasonable expectations from him, considering the overall lack of experience and turnover of personnel. Still, there have to be goals that are written down. What are they? 

4) Piggybacking on that last question, in your time with Auburn, no Gus QB has thrown more than 330 times in a season. To get to 3,000, that's the kind of attempts that you are going to need, bare minimum.  That averages to about 24 passes per game. Your two best passers at Auburn were Chris Todd and Cam Newton. Extrapolating from the numbers of those two QBs, we assume a 65% completion and a 9 yard per completion average, assuming you get 14 games.  Obviously, you had a strong run game with both of those QBs and you didn't need a high volume passing game. Both had Darvin Adams, who was one of the best deep threats in the game. Looks to me that you need that deep threat. You need that guy who can make 50/50 balls really 50%. Is that guy on the field? It isn't Duke Williams. Louis is not a 50/50 guy. Who could it be? 

5) A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about who the real winner in Auburn's backfield will be after the season gets under way. 

The Battle in Auburn's Backfield: Who is the Real Winner

Alabama has utilized a very unique system the last few years where two similar backs with slightly different skillsets have competed for carries, specifically 1st and 2nd down and 3rd and short. However, it was that 3rd and long back, that shifty guy who can catch the ball out of the backfield, who has been the sole piece to breaking open big games. When Lacy and Henry were together, it was Yeldon (who won the game in 2012 against LSU). When it was Henry and Yeldon, it was Drake. That hasn't been your approach, but this year looks strikingly similar. You have two backs who are 2 down backs for sure, in Barber and Robinson. Yet it is Thomas who has that unique skillset that doesn't match up. Will you copy Alabama's approach to using him? Or will he end up buried on the depth chart like many backs before him? We all know that you are a run-first offense, despite what other people say. And, you like to run between the tackles. While Thomas CAN do that, he isn't going to be as good as the other two. What are your real plans for him? 

As a follow on, A lot of people see Thomas filling the position of the speedback.  But he looks to be so much more talented than the previous two (McCalebb/Grant). Yet, in the past, these guys all but disappear in the back half of each season. Literally, every single season, their carries dwindled to nothing down the stretch. Why? 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Best5Zach's German Cucumber Salad Recipe

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If you follow me on social media, you know I love to post about my food...both what I cook and what I eat. Well, Saturday I was getting blown up over a recipe that I had posted. Well, people wanted the recipe for the picture I posted. So, I said I would. It's a very easy (and very good) recipe for enjoying the fruits of your labor!

You will need around 5 small cucumbers (or 3 extra large store bought ones) for 4-5 adults. De-skin them and slice them as thin as you can. Place them in a colander and liberally sprinkle Kosher salt on them. Shake the colander. The object is to remove as much of the water from the cucumbers as possible. It will allow the finished product to be nice and thick. 

While the cucumbers are draining, go pick some fresh herbs from your raised herb garden, which you built like mine! 

I like to use a small palm full of a combination of rosemary and dill. You need about 15 small leaves of the former and around 10 full sprigs of the later. Mince these finely. 

Prepare a mixture with the following:

  • 2 Cups of Sour Cream
  • 1 TBL spoon of mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • Dash of sage
  • Crushed black pepper to your desire
Mix this with your minced herbs

Resalt the slices cucumbers and shake well. The salt you have added for pulling out the water will be adequate for the whole dish. 

Dump the cucumbers in a quarter at the time and stir well to ensure each is properly coated. 

Enjoy! Make sure to share this with your friends and family!

Best5Zach's Over/Under Win Totals for the SEC

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This time of year can be difficult to write about, in terms of SEC football. This year is particularly hard because of the lack of returning QBs, the issues presented by off-the-field- issues and turnover of coaches and coordinators, just to start. 
So, substance is fairly hard to come by. One of the exceptions is usually the over/udner win totals for each team. While the particular pieces that will really define the teams may still be dynamic, the overall talent and philosophies of each team are pretty well understood. That's why over/under win totals are some of the very first odds that Vegas puts out. In addition, it is the perfect place for me to start talking about my thoughts on the upcoming season.
Here is the list of REGULAR SEASON over/unders for each team. I will follow with my own predictions. 
Alabama: 9.5- The biggest question comes right out the gate. The Wisconsin matchup is another in a long line of (seemingly) premier non-conference matchups. But, Alabama has yet to play a legitimate non-conference contender. This one is no different. I have Bama pegged for 8 for sure wins. I will take UGA in Athens. I will take Auburn in Auburn. I feel that Arkansas and Ole Miss are potential sleeper games. However, Ole Miss is bookended by two lightweight games and Arkansas follows the game against UGA. Ole Miss has no run game, which is something you will have to have to win. The chances of Bama losing back to back games is non-existent. I will take the over. 
Arkansas 8- If Arkansas can fill the voids on defense, they could be a game better than last year. I think Brandon Allen is going to be super efficient. And, the running game will be solid. I have Arkansas starting the season 5-0 before dropping two straight against Alabama and Auburn. I think they knock off an Ole Miss team who matches up well up front (Ole Miss defense vs Arkansas offense) but the losses in the secondary will allow Allen to tear up the Rebels. I think the hogs get 2 wins in the last 3 games. The Hogs will be the surprise team in the SEC. I will take the over. 
Auburn: 8.5- Honestly, this is the best place to make some money. Auburn won 8 games in 2014 with one of the worst defenses in the Tiger's history. I think this offense is just as good as previous units and certainly more balanced. Muschamp is worth 2 wins. I count 8 games that I would bet on, straight up. Then I have tough games versus LSU (at LSU), UGA, Bama, and the two Mississippi schools. LSU is at LSU, but they will be 1-dimensional this yearly in the season, which benefits Auburn. UGA and Bama are at home and I think these two games are the two games Muschamp wins for Auburn. The two Mississippi state schools are interesting. I don't think State matches up at all with Auburn, despite having the best player in the conference. The Ole Miss front 7 on defense is STOUT. But, I think Auburn exploits that. I think Auburn gets 10 wins. I will take the over.
Florida: 7- I think this is going to be another tough year for the Gators. I am not sold on McElwain. I see them starting 3-0 and then beating Vandy and FIU. Other than that, I see them dropping the two SEC West showdown games as well as the Mizzu and UGA games for sure. That means they will need to beat both FSU and South Carolina. I think they might could win one of those games, but not both. Granted, FSU has now had it's entire backfield arrested and kicked off the team. Still, the talent gap is wide. I will take the under. 
Georgia: 9- Next to Auburn, this is where I think there is money to be made. 4-0 with Bama coming to town. I think UGA can (And will) win this game. UGA has had a history of dropping an SEC East game they shouldn't. They would have to loose two to not make it to 9 wins. I only see Mizzu as a legitimate threat, but they get them between the hedges. Tennessee is getting hyped and would look to be another threat, AND the game is on Rocky Top. But, ultimately, I don't think UT has the talent, top to bottom....specifically on the offensive line. I think Auburn takes a win (again, Muschamp can win this one). Even dropping the one SEC East game and one against Auburn, that's still 10 games. I will take the over. 
Kentucky: 5.5- This is some super tough sledding to get to 5.5. I simply don't see it. They can, and will, win against LA-Lafeyette and Eastern Kentucky. South Carolina is down and beatable for most of the SEC East, but I don't think UK can go to Columbia and pull it off. Two very tough SEC West draws are both losses. They can beat Vandy and Charlotte. But, I think Louisville takes the 'Cats. I will take the under.
LSU: 8.5- It's the Fouronette show. LSU will not have a servicable QB that can stretch the field. I really feel that the streak of NFL-talent WRs that LSU has recruited is coming to an end. Who wants to play on a team that can't throw? LSU will pound the rock but I think the defense will initially struggle under their 1st year coordinator. I think MSU gets them in Starkvegas and Auburn pounds them in Jordan-Hare. Wins against Eastern Michigan and Syracuse are guarenteed, but the Western Kentucky could be a lot closer than people think. WKU has one of the most prolific offenses out there and they will likely be just as good this year. However, they have the worst defense in college football. This could likely be a game to watch. I think they lose to Bama and Arkansas before dropping one of the last two games against Ole Miss and TAMU. I have them for 7 wins with a chance at 8. I think they have a small chance to win against TAMU late in the season, but that only gets them to 8. I will take the under.
Ole Miss: 8.5 - Ole Miss will have a front loaded schedule that will drive the hype right back to where it has been the last few years. Aside from a loss at Bama, they start 6-1 heading to College Station. I think their depleted secondary fails them against a high-octane TAMU offense which is particularly good is September and October. Additionally, this is a game where the change at defensive coordinator and excellent recruiting by Chavis will pay off. So starts the Ole Miss slide as we have seen each year under Freeze. Can they stick it to LSU late? It's possible. Even winning against State will put them at 8 wins. So, even a win to break up that 4 game slide won't cover. I will take the under. 
Mississippi State: 7 I have the Dogs starting 3-0 before a loss to Auburn. TAMU is a pick 'em, though I lean towards TAMU at home. They can win 3 of the next 4 with that game vs Mizzu being crucial. They drop the game to Bama and Arkansas. That puts them at 6 wins and they will need to beat Ole Miss to make 7. I'm not sure they can make that happen. I will take the under. 
Missouri: 7.5 - Mizzu has a pretty tough schedule for an east team. I see them starting 4-0 before taking on South Carolina at home. The Old Ball Coach has to win this game to have a chance to stay relevant. These two teams stack up very well in coaching and talent. I see this as a push. If UGA does what UGA should do, I think they win a tough game in Columbia. Then the schedule hits another gear. Miss St, UT, BYU, and Arkansas. I see them getting UT and maybe BYU. But, it's hard to bet against Pinkel and I see 8 winnable games. That non-conference BYU game is a big one. Taysome Hill, BYU's QB, has yet to make it through a whole year. This year probably won't be any different. I will take the over
South Carolina: 6.5 - Would you ever think that Spurrier could be a hot seat? Well, it's happening. The game against UNC is very compelling. UNC has a very dynamic QB. Their defense will be much improved with Chizik manning the defense. But, USC has been very good on Thursday nights in the past. Expect this to be the P Cooper show. October 10th will be a litmus test. LSU should be hitting stride on offense, if they haven't fallen completely on their face. They play at College Station and I think TAMU gets them for the second time in 2 years. Can they beat UT in Rocky Top? Let's call that a push, as I am not sold on UT. I think Florida experiences a lot of growing pains and the Gamecocks win in Columbia. Citadel is a win. Then, they get Clemson, which they have beaten for something like 7 times in a row. Now, they have no Chad Morris, which I think was the power behind the throne. I see them winning 7 games, so I will take the over. 
Tennessee: 8 - I think this one is fairly easy. Big Game Bob Stoops HAS to win this game. His whole conference will be looking at him. OU has the talent. I think he reels off a big win. UT drops  3 straight against Arkansas, UGA, and Bama. Either Mizzu or South Carolina pulls out a big win down the stretch. Even if UT wins both those games, they are stuck on the line at 8. I don't see that happening. I will take the under
Texas A&M: 8 - To win 8 games, TAMU must beat Arizona State in the opener. That's going to be a big time offensive showcase. It will be interesting to see the over/under on points. ASU does have to replace a top NFL draft pick in Strong as well as their QB. However, DJ Foster moves to wideout to make way for a talented backfield. Ultimately, I think the TAMU defense wins when they have to. I have them down for 8 wins plus a pickem for LSU in the last game of the season. TAMU has been exposed late in the season and I think that LSU's QB situation won't be great, but it will be better. The matchup between Chavis and Miles will tell the tale. I got to think TAMU has the edge. 
Vanderbilt: 3.5 Who care. I see 1 win on this schedule with a possible win against MTSU. I will take the under.