Photo by Michael Buckelew
Malzahn stays busy, adds new coach, recruit to revamped Auburn program
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn has hired longtime Southeastern Conference assistant Melvin Smith as cornerbacks coach.
Gus Malzahn announced the hiring Tuesday of Smith, who spent the past seven seasons coaching cornerbacks and the secondary at Mississippi State.
Malzahn says Smith “is an outstanding secondary coach and is one of the top recruiters in the Southeastern Conference.”
Smith has spent 18 of his 31 years in coaching working at SEC schools. He coached Johnthan Banks, the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award winner.
The Bulldogs’ defense led the SEC with 30 forced turnovers this season.
Smith has worked previously with co-defensive coordinators Ellis Johnson and Charlie Harbison and offensive line coach J.B. Grimes.
Smith’s college coaching stops have included Texas A&M, Alabama, Mississippi and Delta State.
JUCO STAR SIGNS WITH TIGERS: Auburn has signed its second junior college transfer since Malzahn’s hiring as head coach.
Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College offensive lineman Devonte Danzey signed to play for the Tigers and has three more years of eligibility.
The 6-foot-3, 303-pound Danzey is the nation’s top-ranked junior college offensive guard, according to 247sports. The Tampa, Fla., native was named a first-team All-Jayhawk Conference tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2012 after helping Hutchinson to a 9-3 record and a No. 12 national ranking.
Danzey blocked for running back Terrell Lane, who broke both the school single-game rushing record (308 yards) and single-season rushing record (1,632 yards).
The Tigers signed running back Cameron Artis-Payne of Allan Hancock Community College in Santa Maria, Calif., on Dec. 19.
ORLANDO — Seventh-ranked Georgia conducted a two-hour practice in full pads Thursday as it continued preparations for its upcoming bowl game with No. 23 Nebraska.
Georgia coach Mark Richt and the Bulldogs are busy preparing for the Cornhuskers in Orlando and not dwelling on how the SEC Championship game turned out.
“They won’t forget about it, but life goes on, they’ve gotten back to work, we know there’s been a lot of time between that last game and this one,” said Richt. “We had some great practices on campus, then home for Christmas for a few days, which was great, but now everybody is back. They know we’ve got a serious bit of business to take care of here. But in between the business time, there’s going to be some time for fun too.”
Georgia offensive guard Chris Burnette said the team is locked in.
“(Thursday) was one of the most crucial practices, because we want to stay focused on our business,” Burnette said. “We want to enjoy our time after practice at the parks, but we’re here to win a football game. It’s going to be a tough battle, and we need to make sure we’re ready. It was good to have Wednesday’s night practice to get everybody back in the right mindset. We were on the road all day and having that one helped get everybody back in the swing of things and remind everybody this is what we’re here for.”
After practice, the team had the option of attending Universal Studio starting in the afternoon, followed by a special opportunity at 10 p.m. titled “Dawgs on Top Night at Universal Studios.”
Today, the team will have another morning workout, and the afternoon entertainment options include visiting SeaWorld and attending the Russell Athletic Bowl pitting Virginia Tech versus Rutgers.
The Bulldogs face the Cornhuskers on Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. in the Capital One Bowl. It will be televised by ABC.
USC'S BARKLEY RULED OUT VS. TECH:
EL PASO, Texas — Matt Barkley came to Southern California as a hot-shot recruit, seemingly destined to be the Trojans’ next star quarterback. For the most part he delivered on that promise during a record-breaking four-year run as USC’s starter.
Barkley, though, won’t get to give a grand finale.
He won’t play in the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech on New Year’s Eve because of a lingering injury to his right shoulder. Doctor’s didn’t clear him to play, coach Lane Kiffin said.
“It’s a tough day,” Barkley said. “As you heard from Coach Kiffin I won’t be playing on the 31st. I’ve worked as hard as I could to get back for this game, but nature’s not allowing it and the doctors aren’t allowing it, which is the most important thing. They’re looking out for my best interest, and I trust their judgment in how things have turned out.
Kiffin said Max Wittek will start. The redshirt freshman will be making his second career start.
“I’m still here for the guys and still trying to help Max and even Cody (Kessler), if he needs to play — to help those guys get ready and with the game plan. I’m trying to be here as much as I can for this team to finish strong.”
Barkley’s throwing shoulder was injured during USC’s second-to-last game against UCLA and he didn’t play in the season-finale against Notre Dame. Wittek started the game and the Trojans lost to the Fighting Irish to fall to 7-5 on the season.
“I know he wanted to play,” Kiffin said. “He wanted to finish on a good note. He’s not been hurt very much in his four years here, but unfortunately when he has he’s missed some really big games.”
Barkley was a celebrated prospect from southern California— he went to the same high school as Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart — who grew up dreaming of playing for USC. He won the starting job as a freshman in 2009, beat Ohio State on the road in second game of his career and appeared on the way to becoming a college football star to rival Leinart, Carson Palmer and Mark Sanchez.
Barkley went on to rewrite the Pac-12 record book during a USC-record 47 starts over four seasons, becoming the conference leader in touchdown passes, yards passing, completions and total offense.
But so much more was expected from him and the Trojans this season, when Barkley announced last January that he would return for his senior year.
Coming off a 10-2 season, and out of a two-year stay in NCAA jail for rules violations, USC started this season ranked No. 1 and a consensus national title contender. Barkley was the Heisman Trophy favorite and an almost certain high first-round NFL draft pick.
Neither he nor the Trojans could reach those high expectations.
Barkley was not bad. He threw for 3,273 yards in 11 games and 36 touchdowns. But he also threw 15 interceptions, the most since his freshman season.
“I’m at peace. Yeah, absolutely,” Barkley said. “I try to find peace in every situation. It’s not what I thought would happen, it’s not I don’t think the most ideal situation. But at the same time, I do have peace and I know that whatever the case is right now, I can make it into a great case come April (in the NFL draft), which is what my goal is now.”
He will end his career having played in the postseason just once. He led USC to a victory against Boston College in the Emerald Bowl in ’09 as a freshman.
Barkley, the only three-time captain in USC history, owns 20 school records and 10 Pac-12 records. He is the Pac-12’s leader in total offense (12,214), yards passing (12,327), completions (1,001), TD passes (116) and combined rushing and passing TDs (122). He’s also the only player in league history to have 2,500 yards or more of total offense four times.
“I think that Matt has had a great career here at USC,” Kiffin said.