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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reactions to the NCAA's decision on Billings

AUBURN, Ala. — The NCAA has ruled Auburn senior wide receiver Montez Billings out for the first four games of the season because of an academic issue, the school announced Thursday.

Billings, who returned to practice this August after sitting out the spring, graduated in May but still had an undisclosed NCAA-related academic issue he had to satisfy before he was cleared for games. Head coach Gene Chizik recently said the issue was “out of his hands.”

“This is unfortunate for Montez, but we’ve exhausted all avenues to get him on the field as soon as possible,” said Auburn senior associate athletics director Rich McGlynn, who handles NCAA compliance. “While we don’t necessarily agree with the NCAA’s ruling, we have to respect and abide by their decision.”

Billings will be eligible to play in Week 5, Auburn’s first SEC road game at Tennessee on Oct. 3.

“We would have liked to had a decision that was more favorable,” Chizik said. “But it is what it is, like I said, and we’re moving on. He’s been great. And he’s looking forward to getting back for the fifth game of the year.”

The 6-foot-2, 183-pound Billings is the Tigers’ leading returning receiver. He caught 24 passes for 277 yards last season. Auburn’s other returning healthy receivers combined for 15 catches last year.

Billings has started 20 games in three years. The senior from Pelham, Ala., has 55 career catches for 645 yards and one touchdown.

With Billings’ status hanging in the air for the last few months, Chizik said the team wasn’t caught off guard by the Thursday’s news.

“Any time there’s a guy who you know can play for you and he’s not, you’ve got to make provisions for that,” he said. “We’ve always got a plan.”

Make sure to follow the blog on Twitter before reading this other news and notes ....
  • So what does that mean for Billings in the interim? His practice role diminished as Auburn began preparation for its Sept. 5 opener against Louisiana Tech. He has worked with the scout team this week, sporting a blue, nameless No. 19 jersey during Thursday’s practice instead of his usual No. 84. “He’s in the all meetings, in terms of staying with our offense,” Chizik said. “He’s going to help our football team anyway we ask him to help it. Scout team, if that shoe fits, then that’s what we’ll do. But he’s certainly going to stay up on everything because we’re looking forward to getting him to help us.”
  • And what does that mean for the Tigers' receiving corps? Auburn has several options in Billings’ absence. Freshman DeAngelo Benton recently moved up to the top spot on the depth chart at the “9” position, according to Taylor. Other options include Darvin Adams, a slot receiver who missed Thursday’s practice with an undisclosed injury, and converted quarterback Kodi Burns.
  • Emory Blake, a polished freshman from Austin, Texas, will be in the mix as well. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound receiver had worked mostly as an outside receiver on the other side of the ball (the “2” position), but is taking reps at the “9” now. “Coach Troop says every day is an interview and the doors are always open,” Blake said. “You just have to come in and make plays every day and if you do that, you’ll see your way on the field.”
  • Sophomore Quindarius Carr, who can play all three receiver positions, is also in the running for playing time. “He’s kind of my catch-all,” Taylor said. “I feel like I can move all the way around.”
  • Special teams coordinator Jay Boulware wouldn’t say for certain that punter Clinton Durst and place-kicker Wes Byrum will start when Auburn opens its season against Louisiana Tech on Sept. 5, but he made it sound like that will be the case. “It’s sure looking that way,” Boulware said.
  • Durst, a second-team preseason All-SEC pick who averaged 42.1 yards a punt last year, briefly quit the team in January in a scholarship dispute. He returned for spring ball and battled Ryan Shoemaker for the starting job. Durst separated himself with a strong August, and head coach Gene Chizik rewarded the senior with a scholarship less than two weeks ago.
  • Byrum has bounced back from a 2008 season during which he went 11-for-19 on field goal attempts. He briefly lost the top spot to walk-on Chandler Brooks in the spring but has since come on strong, pulling ahead of Brooks and Morgan Hull. During a live kicking drill at the beginning of Thursday’s practice, the junior drilled a 50-yarder to cap the session, clearing the bar with yards to spare. “We’ll see how Byrum carries over,” Boulware said. “He’s done a phenomenal job for us this camp and he’s had a number of days where he’s knocked every field goal through at the top of practice, and that’s big. Last spring he couldn’t do that. So we’ll see where he ends up.”
  • Injured wide receiver Tim Hawthorne, who has been sidelined with a broken foot since the summer, was not in pads Thursday, but he also was not wearing a protective boot on his right foot for the first time while participating in catching drills with receivers. Does that mean the receiver is any closer to a return? “I don’t really know,” Taylor said. “I would like to (play him). If he can help us, I’ll put him out there. I’m definitely going to give him a shot because he’s earned it with his leadership, what he’s done this summer and even while he’s been hurt. He’s been incredible as a leader with these young guys.”
  • Auburn has been spared by the flu bug that’s affected much of the area recently. Other than backup quarterback Tyrik Rollison, who missed Tuesday’s practice, and Hawthorne, nobody else has shown flu-like symptoms so far. “We’ve been really good,” Chizik said. “I think our training staff has done a good job of being proactive to prepare us for that. It’s running rampant, obviously, around the state. We’ve been pretty fortunate up to this point.”
  • BB&T Corporation has replaced Colonial Bank as one of the corporate sponsors of Auburn athletics. The North Carolina-based bank, which recently secured the assets of the Montgomery-based Colonial BancGroup Inc., will sponsor the university’s football, basketball and baseball programs, placing its logo at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum and Plainsman Park. Colonial Bank was founded by Bobby Lowder, an Auburn Trustee and prominent Tigers football donor. BB&T acquired 90 branches in Alabama with its purchase of Colonial and is now the fourth-largest bank in the state.
  • DE Antonio Coleman talked about coming out of a stance where he's standing up. "It just lets me get out in space and drop in coverage or come off the edge," he said. "I’m used to it. I’ve done it before, but it’s been a couple years. I did it with (Will) Muschamp. We did some of it last year, but it wasn’t much at all. I’m just getting back used to it. ... I prefer both. I like to be multiple – outside linebacker, defensive end – just moving around and giving the offense problems. " Coleman says he envisions his future NFL career being a hybrid type role. "That’s what I’m banking on," he said.
  • LB Adam Herring told us that he had surgery on his heel in December. That's the mysterious injury that's kept him out until this week.
  • Auburn will go to Jordan-Hare Stadium today for its final practice this week. Chizik plans to do situational work at the stadium. The Tigers will take Saturday off before going into their regular game week schedule starting Sunday.


paul said...

hey andy, enjoy the blog, just wanted to point out that tennessee isn't auburns SEC opener, Miss St is isnt it??

Andy Bitter said...

Well caught. Brain camp on my part. It's fixed.