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A Change on the Plains

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Days like these are not far away.
Days like these are not far away.

Auburn needed Saturday like Bobby Petrino needed that motorcycle wreck. Petrino got his punishment because he had it coming. Auburn celebrated Saturday morning because it too deserved it.

Since Auburn fans filed out of Jordan-Hare Stadium following its national championship celebration in January 2011, there hasn't been a lot to smile about on the Plains. Four deviant, self-absorbed bit players chose to commit armed robbery. A certified moron destroyed the trees at Toomer's.

HBO did a hatchet job on Auburn for an alleged pay-for-play scheme that resulted in nothing but bad press. On the field, things may have felt worse. Despite eight wins a year ago, blowout losses to Arkansas, LSU, Georgia and Alabama made last season feel significantly worse.

The mood on Saturday was considerably brighter. Like the first day of baseball season, hope is again in the air. Auburn folks gathered to celebrate the past and look to the future.

Despite the downturn in the Auburn economy, there's no arguing recovery is on the way. Saturday was a day to take stock of the future. Gene Chizik has put together the three best recruiting classes in school history.

The payoff is coming. You can see it with your own eyes.

The upgrade at the defensive coordinator position is enormous. The hiring of teacher-first Scott Loeffler as offensive coordinator can already be felt in the play of Kiehl Frazier.

On a week where we listened to sickening testimony from Auburn's former star running back about the life he and his former teammates lived off the field, it felt good to celebrate the men who did things right while at Auburn.

It felt good to watch the young kids who struggled so mightily last year, look so much more confident this year. Many of them looked physically changed, but word is the biggest change has come from the neck up.

No one will ever taken 2010 from the Auburn people, but what we are witnessing now is the bloom of sustained growth.

It won't be easy. Alabama is at the top of its game. With a morally corrupt, but exceptionally good football coach, things will only get tougher. Arkansas has the talent and money to compete even without Petrino. Les Miles may win 12 games next season or four. You never know what you'll get from that program.

Auburn is not headed to the BCS Championship next year. It probably won't play in Atlanta in early December. However, there's a feeling again at Auburn. It's not your standard feeling of hope.

It's a feeling that Auburn is again on the cusp of something special. Look around the campus. Look around the program. Auburn didn't get the respect it deserved following 2010. The good news is Chizik didn't stop to notice.

His goal is not to just beat Alabama. Tommy Tuberville figured that out. Chizik has bigger plans. On Saturday, we saw the first sprouts.

It sure feels good to be an Auburn Tiger again.