(Bumped to the main layout. - ed.)
There is without a doubt we, as Auburn fans, are living in very frustrating times. Last night my frustration piqued around 3:30AM as I was replaying an argument I had with an aquaintence of mine who happens to also be an Oregon fan. Hee thought he would take the time to make fun of me for saying K-State was better than Oregon (this referred to another argument we had prior to K-State and Oregon's loses). He continue to claim that Oregon was the best one loss team in the country and could beat any of those other one loss teams. To which I responded, "Except Stanford but they're a two loss team so I guess Oregon wouldn't have to worry about playing them again."
He then proceeded to throw strings of expletives and insults my way (to which I returned with equally vitirolic words), claims that the SEC is top heavy and overrated (to which I said the current "parity" in the PAC-12 is comparable to the ACC) and of course the final straw of any asshole fan, "how does it feel to have paid for a national championship?" I paused for a moment and asked him to explain what he meant.
"Uh, Scam Newton, duh! Everyone knows you guys paid him."
"Cam Newton. Let me ask you something; what position did Cam Newton play for Auburn?"
"And on what side of the ball is that position?"
"So how did Cam Newton, who played quarterback, which is an offensive position in the game of football, keep Oregon, which ranked first in three different offensive categories, from beating Auburn? How? Tell me how he did that? You want to know who beat Oregon? Auburn's defense, as shitty as it was, beat Oregon. A defense composed of mostly three star players and yes, that includes Nick Fairley. A defense that was coached by a man who hadn't known a winning season in over a decade who came from some of the worst teams at Minnesota ever and was 6-45 at Duke! Ted Roof! Ted fucking Roof and those players held Oregon to 100 yards below their season average, 25 points below their scoring average and held the nations leading rusher and scorer to 43 yards! TED ROOOOOOF! OREGON LOST TO HIM! SO YEAH NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP BOUGHT AND PAID FOR YOU [expletive expletive more expletives]!!"
I wish I could say that the argument ended there but it didn't and there was a lot more yelling and cursing and now someone who I actually got along with I'm going to have to ignore for a bit. Afterwards I went home and began thinking about that defense and those players who composed it. None of them were particularly phenomenal with the exception of Nick Fairley. Sure, plenty of them had some really good impactful plays but not with any real consistency or none that I truly remember. With that thought-worm wriggling in my brain it brought me to Auburn's current defense, which ranks currently at 82nd in total defense between NCST and Wazzu. I thought to myself, "how can these guys be so bad? Didn't Auburn recruit some quality players? Especially after the National Championship? I just don't get it." So I did some research.
I decided to look at Auburn's 2011 recruiting class and compare it to Auburn's 2005 recruiting class. Why 2005? Because this was the signing class right after Auburn's 2004 season, which at the time was pretty much considered the pinnacle before 2010. I looked through the 2005 signing list for names of players that had similarities in position on the field, ranking by the recruiting service I was using, Rivals, and also how recognizable those players were to me (objectivity what's that?). Almost immediately I found four players that fit the aforementioned criteria: Walter McFadden, Aarion Savage, Jonathan Wilhite and Jerraud Powers.
All four of these players were recruited as defensive backs for Auburn. Each one of them were ranked at three stars by Rivals. All of them I knew quite well because I yelled at them numerous times through my TV (I apologized to Jerraud though, that pass to Byrd was just all luck and Powers couldn't have covered him better, nothing you could do, bro).
Also all of these guys would see significant playing time. Powers and Savage were named to the All-SEC freshmen team. Powers, Wilhite and McFadden would all go pro with Jerraud still playing for the team that drafted him in the third round, the Colts. Savage was playing on the 2010 Auburn team but was injured in the Arkansas game and now currently works for the football program. In other words these guys were pretty good.
Ok, so now on to the 2011 class and knowing that I would have to find four players who matched the ones listed above otherwise all this nonsense wouldn't work. Well, it so happens that Auburn recruited four defensive backs in 2011: Erique Florence, Jonathan Rose, Robinson Therezie and Jermaine Whitehead. Not only that but each one of these guys were ranked FOUR stars by Rivals and just like the guys six years prior to them they saw playing time right from the get go.
So how do the 2011 players match up to the 2005 signees? Well, the 2011 guys are in their sophomore season so how did the 2005 guys do in 2007? Honestly, the 2005 players blow them out of the water. The 2007 Auburn defense was nationally ranked 6th in scoring allowing 16.7 points per game, 8th in yards per game at 298.3 and racked up 14 interceptions. Yes, I know that's what the team did not the four individuals themselves so let's look at them. Powers led the group we're discussing with 63 total tackles with Wilhite at 30, Savage at 26 and McFadden with 10.
The 2011 signees record as such for the 2012 season: Whithead with 86 total tackles followed by Florence with 8, Therezie with 3 and Rose with none due to having to sit out a year for transferring to Nebraska...wait, what? Well, despite the perceived talent these fellows came onto a team that was crowded at their positions. There were a total of 12 defensive backs that recorded tackles this season. The guys in front of Florence and Therezie who recorded more tackles and saw more playing time? Bell and Holsey are the only 4 stars and Holsey was recruited this year. Granted most of those guys came in the year before that didn't stop Power, Wilhite, Savage and McFadden from getting out on that field.
So what does all this mean? Is this a condemnation of the recruiting rankings? Is this evidence against those that are responsible for these players development didn't do just that? Could it be that their teammates who weren't so highly thought of just put out more effort than them and they earned that playing time?
There's a cynical adage that I like that says talent, technique and teamwork will always overcome heart. Well, we know that pure talent can only carry someone so far and talent really isn't anything without developed technique. Technique itself depends on (in this situation) the individual's ability to work and develop with the team. For that to take place an individual's heart has to be in "it."
Now, look at this team and try your best to remember that 2007 team.
What do you see?