Talent Columns

For Chiziks, Family and Football Run Deep

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An exciting time has arrived for numerous high school athletes throughout the country. The second season of an early signing period opened Wednesday, December 19th. For Auburn High standout Cally Chizik football has been a significant factor and teacher throughout his life.

Most notably, Cally’s father Gene Chizik who was a hot commodity as defensive coordinator at Auburn before moving on to become co-coordinator of the Texas Longhorns’ defense during their 2005 national title run is no stranger to success. The elder Chizik was hired again by Auburn, the second time though as head coach, and in 2010 under his guidance with an experienced roster alongside the dominance of Cam Newton and Nick Fairley led Auburn back to the promise land — a national title.

It was the program’s first national championship in more than fifty years.

Cally Chizik, who had numerous roles on Auburn High’s squad, was primarily a shut-down corner, but also a wide receiver and the team’s punt returner. He will take his talents to the next level as a member of the Furman Paladins.

While the younger Chizik lacks prototypical height some schools crave, he is not short on football acumen and radiates passion. It’s that reason some believe he would do well to follow in his father’s footsteps as a coach when his playing days end.

For now, it’s a new beginning. Don’t be surprised if this isn’t the last you hear from Chizik. After all, it runs in the family.





Photo Credit: John Wild AO Tourism

Riley’s Ramblings: Improvements Auburn Baseball Needs To Make Before Taking The Field Against Missouri

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Auburn baseball dropped two out of three to a good Kentucky team last weekend which made their record 21-5. Even though it was an exhibition matchup, Auburn’s win in the Capital City Classic in Montgomery should provide some momentum for the Tigers going into another SEC matchup this weekend against Missouri. Casey Mize pitched well enough to win on Friday as he pitched seven innings with five hits, two earned runs, and twelve strikeouts, but a ninth inning comeback by the Wildcats off of Calvin Coker resulted in a loss. Davis Daniel pitched well in a 4-3 Auburn victory on Saturday, but Tanner Burns lasted just two innings with a tough Kentucky offence in a blowout loss.


Despite losing the series, Auburn can still learn from mistakes. Auburn’s bullpen and clutch hitting needs to sharpen up a lot if Auburn wants to be successful in conference play. Over the weekend, the Tigers left a total of 21 runners on base. Auburn finds a lot of situations in which their RBI guys are at the plate with runners on, and can’t cash in.


Even with the series loss, Auburn is still respected by both Baseball America (9th) and D1 Baseball (13th) in their polls this week. Auburn is back at home this weekend against an unranked Missouri squad. Missouri is still a solid SEC opponent with a 19-6 record and won last weekend’s series over Mississippi State at home. However, they are not nearly as talented as Texas A&M and Kentucky are, so as long as the Tigers come through with key hits with runners in scoring position, Auburn could look to sweep at home on Easter weekend which would be a huge momentum boost for them before a tough road series against Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Blackerby Breakdown: Nate Craig-Myers will see a lager role in 2018

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Over the last third of the season a year ago, many Auburn fans were screaming to see more of wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers in Auburn’s passing game. With some damage being done to the Tigers’ receiving depth over the course of spring practice, Craig-Myers may see an even larger role in Gus Malzahn’s offense this season.

In Auburn’s game against Mercer last year, Craig-Myers was used at a pretty high clip as he was a fixture in Auburn’s offense on that Saturday. He was able to make a difference in a couple of different ways but in this edition of the Blackerby Breakdown, let’s look at what he can do to improve his game for next season.

Fight for the football

No offense to Mercer’s defensive backs but Craig-Myers should have been able to come away with this football. The Mercer defender rips the ball away from the receiver and goes into the stat sheet as an interception against Jarrett Stidham.

Win 50/50 balls

Larger-framed receivers are expected to be able to win contested matchups. In 2018, Craig-Myers was not able to consistently win in these situations. He has a chance to be looked at more in 2018 in the redzone and help out Stidham. In the play above, he should have been able to convert this situation into a reception and in 2018 he will have a chance to do just that.

Step up

This last point is not a gif (obviously) but on Tuesday’s edition of The Auburn Podcast, host Zac Blackerby talks about how Craig-Myers is a guy who must step up in Auburn’s offense in 2018.




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The first weekend of the NCAA tournament was a bloodbath. My bracket looks like Iwo Jima. I’m not even upset though, because the basketball was so consistently thrilling. From upsets like UMBC over Virginia and Buffalo over Arizona to amazing finishes like Loyola-Chicago/Tennessee and Michigan/Houston, the first four days of March Madness reminded everyone why it is one of the most entertaining sporting events on the calendar.

Unfortunately, Auburn’s run came to an end earlier than fans would have liked, as Clemson beat Auburn (I’m sure getting tired of saying that) in commanding fashion, 84-53. The game featured Auburn’s worst performance of the season, as the good Tigers went nearly two hours without making a shot. That might not be true but I’m not looking it up. I’m treating the stats on that Auburn/Clemson debacle like they’re the Ark of the Covenant.

As disappointing as the end of the season turned out to be, it’s impossible to deny that this was a historic season for head coach Bruce Pearl and his team. Auburn was one of the country’s most moribund major conference basketball programs when Pearl arrived. Former AU athletic director Jay Jacobs famously suggested that Auburn should bulldoze its arena and grow some crops if Pearl couldn’t build a winner. Even before two of its best players were suspended for the entire season after an assistant coach told the FBI that he helped procure illegal benefits for them (ALLEGEDLY), Auburn was expected to finish near the bottom of the SEC – as usual. Instead, they finished with a 26-8 overall record and won the regular season SEC championship.

The season was extraordinary, despite Auburn fading down the stretch and losing five of its final eight. The most obvious reason for the season’s derailment was the gruesome injury to center Anfernee McLemore, an imposing presence around the rim who was most likely on his way to winning the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award. Auburn’s frontcourt was already thin, and losing McLemore was simply too much for Auburn to overcome.

With the entire roster of contributors from 2017-2018 expected to return next season, there will be more anticipation for the 2018-2019 season than any year in recent memory. After the Clemson game, Pearl hypothesized that Auburn’s three-man backcourt started feeling pressure and stopped sharing the ball effectively after McLemore’s injury. If Pearl can get everyone on the same page again, Auburn competing for an SEC championship won’t surprise anyone next season.


– The injury to Auburn WR Eli Stove – also known as “Niceville High School’s Eli Stove” – will open even more playing time for the less-prominent backs and receivers on the roster. Stove was Auburn’s go-to guy for the jet sweeps and other receiver-centric run plays that Gus Malzahn loves to deploy, and finding a suitable replacement will become one of the priorities of the spring. WR Marquis McClain (a Northwest Florida guy, just like Stove) and RB Devin Barrett could be two of the most likely candidates.

– I had Arizona winning it all, but Buffalo played so well in its upset victory over the Wildcats that I couldn’t help but find myself rooting for the Bulls to pull it off and continue pouring it on.

– I know it’s boring to pick the reigning World Series champs to repeat, but the Houston Astros only got better in the offseason. Every impact bat on the Astros is still young, while adding Gerrit Cole to an already formidable rotation will make it even more difficult for the rest of baseball to catch up.

Until next time!

Riley’s Ramblings: Pitching Key in Auburn’s First SEC Road Series of the Season

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Another successful series went into the books for Auburn Baseball over the weekend against Texas A&M, as the Tigers took two out of three in their SEC series opener. The series win propelled Auburn to a number six ranking in the latest Baseball America Top 25 Poll on Tuesday after being in the thirteenth spot last week and is ranked ninth in D1Baseball’s poll from Tuesday.


Despite a tough 6-4 loss at Georgia Tech on Tuesday night, the Tigers still hold an impressive 19-3 record (2-1 in conference) going into their first road conference series of the season at Kentucky. Kentucky is currently 15-6 on the season and just got swept by Arkansas in the first series in conference play. Despite getting swept, Baseball America has the talented Wildcats ranked eighth and D1Baseball has them ranked sixth in the country.


This weekend’s series will be a true road test for the Tigers in early conference play. No series is an easy one in the SEC, which is undoubtably the toughest conference in college baseball, especially on the road. Kentucky has been led offensively so far this season by their red hot infielder, Luke Heyer. Heyer is batting .365 with 27 RBI and leads the team with ten home runs. The Wildcats are defiantly a team led by their offense, as they have outscored their opponents 190 to 114 so far this season. The heart of Kentucky’s lineup led by Heyer, T.J. Collitt, and Tristian Pompey can be extremely lethal when they get hot. Kentucky has already hung up double digits in ten of the first sixteen games played this season.


That means that Auburn’s pitching staff and deep bullpen will be key to win the series. Casey Mize will put his perfect 5-0 record on the line on Friday afternoon. It did not seem possible for Mize to pitch better this season than last season, but so far he has looked virtually unhittable for the Tigers with a 1.96 ERA and 51 strikeouts. If Mize can turn in a good start in Lexington on Friday, it will give Auburn a huge push to win the series on the road.


Davis Daniel and Tanner Burns are both looking for bounce back starts after disappointing starts in the Texas A&M series. Neither of them pitched poorly enough to not give their team a chance to win, but a deep quality start from Daniel and Burns would give the Tigers a great chance to come home with a second conference win on the season.


Riley Hubbard

ESPN 106.7

Riley’s Ramblings: Auburn Basketball Needs To Learn From Mistakes and Auburn Baseball’s Series Against Texas A&M Shows They Are a Contender

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A win is a win, and although it wasn’t pretty in round one, the four-seed Auburn Tigers are getting ready for a Sunday night match up against Clemson in the round of sixty-four. Auburn needs to focus on fixing their mistakes from their game on Friday afternoon which included a lot of bad shooting from the Tigers. Auburn shot just 35.6% from the field and a feeble 20.8% from behind the three point line. Most people can agree that Auburn is lucky that their ability to get turnovers (21) and a bit of poor shooting from Charleston kept them from getting upset in San Diego.


Just because they struggled on Friday does not mean that they are likely to lose to the number five seed Clemson on Sunday night. Auburn needs to quickly learn from their mistakes because another shooting performance like Friday night would likely end the tournament run. Clemson took down twelve-seed New Mexico State on Friday by a 79-68 final to punch their ticket to the round of thirty-two. Auburn will be tasked with slowing down the hot shooting Tigers which shot an incredible 55.9% from the field (42.9% from the three-point line).


Currently, Clemson is a 1.5 point underdog, but Auburn will need to get hot shooting the ball because when they get momentum on offense (which was rare on Friday) they are hard to beat. (6:10 tip on TBS)


With March Madness going on, SEC conference opening weekend was almost forgotten. After another excellent start from Casey Mize (7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER) on Friday and a blowout eighth inning highlighted by a Steven Williams grand slam on Saturday, Auburn has already won the series against Texas A&M. Texas A&M is not a slouch either- The Aggies are ranked ninth in the country by D1 Baseball and tenth by Baseball America. Auburn will send Tanner Burns to the mound on Sunday to try and finish off the series sweep, which would be huge for Auburn going forward (1:00 first pitch on SEC Network+).


Auburn’s record is now pushed up to an impressive 19-1 (2-0 in SEC) with five series win including Texas A&M. The SEC is undoubtedly the toughest conference in the country with eight of the fourteen teems in the Baseball America Top 25. Behind one of the best aces in the county in Casey Mize and a solid offense, the Tigers look like they can be one of the best teams in the conference. Casey Mize has made every series opener for Auburn feel like a guaranteed win and deserves a lot of credit. Mize is currently 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 51 strikeouts in five starts. He is shown incredible swing and miss stuff and threw the first no-hitter from an Auburn pitcher since 2003. This team is a lot of fun to watch and based on the first two games of the Texas A&M series, is going to be a tough out for other teams around the league.


Blackerby Breakdown: Kam Martin’s elite speed can make a difference

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In this week’s edition of the Blackerby Breakdown, we look at Auburn running back and his elite speed and how it has been displayed so far as part of his Auburn career.

Martin houses a big run

In this play, it is clear that Martin is fast enough to fly through the entire Georgia Southern defense. Granted the offensive line did an excellent job, the defense was out of position, and the defensive backs were turned away from Martin, he still was able to reach the end zone.

Martin gets to the open field

Once again, Martin’s speed paired with the offensive line doing their job will equal solid chunk yards for the Auburn offense. he does some minor change of direction to better his position in the open field and makes the most of this run.

Martin shows patience and burst

Auburn fans saw a lot of poise out of their key running back last season. Martin did not show it often but he did on this run against Georgia Southern. After passing behind the line to diagnose the defense, he was able to burst through the line and pick up solid yardage.

Painter’s Points: Auburn, College of Charleston reemerge in The Big Dance

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Auburn basketball finished the 2017-2018 SEC regular season as champions, well, co-champions alongside the Tennessee Volunteers, who Auburn defeated in Knoxville by double digits.

While Bruce Pearl’s team secured a No. 1 seed for the SEC Tournament, the Tigers limped down the final stretch of the season losing five of their final nine games.

So, Auburn took their No.1 seed to St. Louis and immediately proceeded to lose to its biggest rival in embarrassing fashion. That includes a second-half drumming from archival Alabama in the conference tournament.

After Auburn’s exit from the SEC tournament, Bruce Pearl said, “Losing (Friday against Alabama) doesn’t take any of the shine off of what this team accomplished. We just weren’t able to build on it by winning three games (in the SEC Tournament) and winning our next championship.”

Still, the Tigers are well positioned with a favorable matchup against the College of Charleston. Pearl described their first-round opponent with respect when he said, “College of Charleston is a three-headed monster. They’ve got two great guards that play the point, the two and they got a great four-man. All those guys can shoot three’s, average over 17 points a game. They have three great payers and lots of other good pieces.”

It is clear that Pearl understands the perception of his program weakened during February and early March. Auburn needs to regain its edge and has had time to rest. Now they can gain confidence and build momentum against a winnable, albeit no pushover, Charleston team.

Charleston coach Earl Grant said, “We have experience, size, depth and toughness. We’ve been able to win on the road and on neutral courts this season. We are built to win.”

Auburn has its work cut out for them in San Diego, but also appears to have an advantage in skill, pace of play and even personnel match ups since the big men for Charleston play limited minutes. I expect a sporadic game, but ultimately believe Auburn pulls away in the second half if they can force turnovers and put Charleston in a point deficit that slow-paced teams oft struggle to rally from.

Auburn would be wise to score points early, build its confidence, focus on shot selection and find an offensive rhythm while playing aggressive defense that forces Charleston into an uncomfortable up-tempo style that likely leads to increased turnovers.


Dive deeper into Painter’s Points:

  • Auburn plays their first round in San Diego; the Tigers will tip off against the Cougars Friday at 6:27 p.m. CT on truTV
  • The winner will advance to play the winner of Clemson (5) and New Mexico State (12)
  • Auburn has not been to the NCAA tournament since 2003
  • First College of Charleston NCAA tournament appearance since 1999
  • College of Charleston touts a No. 13 seed
  • The Cougars finished their season at 26-7
  • Auburn is currently a 10.5-point favorite
  • ESPN gives Auburn an 87.8 percent chance to win
  • According to ESPN, the People’s Bracket placed Auburn in the Sweet 16 with a potential Kansas matchup looming
  • To meet Kansas in the Sweet 16 Auburn must likely beat a formidable Clemson team
  • Charleston’s 9.6 turnovers per game is fourth best in the country (351 ranked teams)
  • Charleston (26-7, 14-4 Colonial Athletic Association) comes into the tournament having won 14 of 15 games
  • Additionally, the Cougars won their conference tournament (Colonial Athletic Association)
  • Auburn leads the all-time series against Charleston 3-0
  • The two teams last met in the 2012 ESPN Charleston Classic at TD Arena. The Tigers won the game 55-51.


Riley’s Ramblings: Undefeated Auburn Baseball Recieving National Attention and Saturday is a Must Win For Auburn Basketball

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For the sixth time in program history, Auburn University is undefeated through their first nine games of the season. Auburn baseball has been on a roll recently, highlighted by their two series sweeps of Longwood State and Bryant University at home. On Monday, Baseball America released their latest college baseball top 25 rankings that featured the Tigers in the number 25 spot. Their 8-7 victory over South Alabama in Mobile on Tuesday night must be a momentum booster as well, because the Jaguars are ranked 21st in the nation by Baseball America and 20th in the nation by D1Baseball and should lead to Auburn going up in the rankings.


The biggest bright spot during the young season has been their weekend rotation. Through two starts and 12.0 innings, Auburn Freshman Tanner Burns has only given up one earned run and earned the win in his first start against Longwood State. Casey Mize got the win in both of his starts and has racked up 16 strikeouts in his 11.0 innings of work. Andrew Mitchell and Calvin Coker have also been very solid for the Tigers out of the bullpen.


Auburn will put their perfect record on the line this weekend against BYU at home. Game one will start at 5:00 and games two and three will be a double header on Saturday (12:00 and 3:30). Auburn is going in a positive direction in nonconference play and will need to use these games to keep gaining momentum and team chemistry until conference play starts on March 16th against Texas A&M.


The double digit win against rival Alabama at home looked like it was going to be a huge momentum booster for Auburn Basketball, but the last couple of games have not gone to plan for the Tigers as they lost to Florida and Arkansas on the road. After dropping the last two games, the SEC regular season title that seemed to be in the bag for Auburn is now in question with one regular season game left. Auburn and Tennessee are tied at the top of the conference standings and Auburn either needs to win against South Carolina on Saturday or have Tennessee lose against Georgia (Auburn receives the tiebreaker for winning the head-to-head matchup).


Auburn looks like they have fallen victim to playing teams late in the season that are on the bubble in Florida and Arkansas and probably want the win more than the Tigers do. However, Auburn has a great chance to rebound against South Carolina at home on Saturday afternoon. Auburn has been almost unbeatable in front of the home crowd, and getting the win would be huge as it would give them the number one seed in the SEC Tournament in St. Louis.


Despite the two tough road losses and the injury to Anfrenee Maclamore, Auburn is still a great team with a lot of heart. Fans need to keep in mind that they are still ranked 14th in the nation and are projected to be a three seed in the NCAA Tournament by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. I can easily see Auburn as a sweet sixteen team if they shoot the ball well going into the NCAA Tournament.


Peck’s Picks: Tougher Than Leather

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Auburn University’s men’s basketball team continued its remarkable season on Wednesday night with a 76-66 victory over the visiting Kentucky Wildcats in Auburn Arena.

Even though the #10 Tigers entered the game as a substantial favorite, Kentucky’s historic dominance of Auburn and the Wildcats size advantage suggested that the game should be close throughout, and it was. Even when Kentucky is having a disappointing season, they’re still Kentucky, a team with four projected 2018 NBA Draft first-round picks in their starting lineup.

Auburn started the game cold from the three-point line; to overcome, the Tigers had to rely on transition defense, spectacular free-throw shooting, and sheer will until shots started to fall. Bryce Brown, playing his first game since injuring his shoulder against Texas A&M,

Throughout the final ten minutes of the game, Kentucky’s players seemed to lack energy. Auburn’s pressing style and desire to play at a fast tempo has left opposing teams gasping for air in the closing minutes; despite Kentucky’s vast athleticism and experience playing up-tempo basketball, they were no different. Auburn exhausted Kentucky on both ends of the floor, leaving Kentucky with nothing left in the gas tank when the game was in its most crucial moments.

Tigers point guard Jared Harper, who now leads the conference in assists per game, made all 9 of his free throw attempts and showcased his fearless, willing-to-shoot-from-anywhere attitude. At 5’10” and 170 pounds, it’s understandable for the uninitiated to wonder if Harper is strong enough to withstand the pounding that he takes because of the physical style he plays, but Harper is representative of the team for which he plays: he’s tough, he’s fast, he’ll bother you with his defense, and people who overlook him are making a big mistake.

With Brown back in the fold and seemingly showing no ill-effects from his injured shoulder, head coach Bruce Pearl will try to keep his foot on the gas and ensure that Auburn finishes this special season with a bang. With five regular-season games left before the SEC tournament, Pearl could rack up 27 or 28 wins and keep Auburn in excellent position for a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Basketball can break your heart, though: Auburn could go cold again, or stumble against a team equipped to exploit its lack of size inside (or a team that won’t waver if forced to play 40 up-tempo minutes). The unknowability of the NCAA Tournament is one of the things that makes it a preferred sporting event.

Until Selection Sunday gets here and shows us Auburn’s exact path to college basketball’s national championship, all the Tigers can do is continue to win.



– Even before A&M’s victory in Auburn Arena, I was struck by how many good teams are in the SEC this year. Tennessee coach Rick Barnes lobbied for nine SEC teams to make the tournament after his team beat Kentucky, and the idea doesn’t seem too farfetched as the middle of the conference continues to get bigger and bigger. Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, and LSU appear to be the only teams in the league with no real shot of qualifying for the tournament as an at-large. The other eleven almost assuredly won’t all make it, but they’re all firmly in the hunt – including Auburn’s opponent on the road Saturday, South Carolina.

– I’m not sure what made Josh McDaniels decide to bail on the Colts in the hours before his introductory press conference, but I understand why he wouldn’t want to coach that franchise. Even though there are an extremely limited number of NFL head coaching positions, the Colts are simply in too much turmoil. Questions linger about the owner’s fitness for office, but more pressing questions remain about the health and long-term prognosis of quarterback Andrew Luck. When Luck was at Stanford, he was pegged as a surefire NFL great, and he displayed immense promise in his initial seasons with the Colts. Unfortunately, his shoulder injury has been mishandled and years have been shaved off his prime, and now it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever become the player everyone was certain he could be. It echoes the story of Cubs pitcher Mark Prior, who also showed all-time-great promise but ultimately had his career derailed by injuries that kept him from living up to his potential on the field. Hopefully I’m wrong and Luck can reestablish himself as one of the league’s best players, but the decision by McDaniels leads me to believe it won’t happen anytime soon.

– With pitchers and catchers on the verge of reporting, here are some things I’m looking forward to about this year’s Major League Baseball season: the addition of Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees, the continued brilliance of Mike Trout, the Astros infield, the race for the NL Central, the Giants attempt to bounce back after last year’s disastrous season, the glut of power-hitting first basemen in the National League (Goldschmidt, Votto, Freeman, Bellinger, Rizzo, and possibly Eric Hosmer if somebody signs him), and the big-name hitters that could find themselves traded during the year (like Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, or even Bryce Harper).

Until next week, enjoy the games!