Tag Archives: Ray Cotton

Friday night with Tuberville: Part Three

By J.M. Comer

Part three of a three-part series. Sorry for the delay. After the events of this past Thursday, I wonder if this little series is moot. I have the feeling, should Dark Lord Trustee’s wicked hand of impatient, black death reach deep into his pocket of ill-gotten gains and lost souls and produce the buy-out for Tuberville’s contract, we will be without a good man and coach and a lot of his upcoming recruiting class. Ray Cotton could be lost. Let’s beat Ole Miss in the SECOND HALF of the game (The 2008 Auburn Tigers: First-half champions!) and see where this year’s winding path takes us. Thanks to Jerry at The Joe Cribbs Car Wash and Jeremy here at TWER for their guidance on this undertaking. War Eagle!

If you looked at just the first half of the Meade-Southern game two Fridays ago, you would have thought the Southern High Bulldogs were ready to cruise ahead to an easy win. Run the ball. Run out the clock. Loss No. 5 in a row for the Meade High Mustangs.

Cotton, the Mustangs quarterback and verbal commitment to Auburn University, was not connecting his passes to the team’s receivers. Like I mentioned before, you saw promise in Cotton’s throws. But his some of his most precise, beautiful passes were often hitting the cold, leaden hands of his teammates and bouncing away. Some passes were one or two steps in front of his receivers for touchdowns. And, I hate to say it, there could have been an additional turnover or two if Southern’s defense had held on to their gift-wrapped air mail from Cotton. The Mustangs were out of sync and seemed to be a one-trick pony. (I made pun!)

As the second half opened, the Mustangs trailed 14-6. The Mustang’s 6 points were the result of a 1-yard run by Cotton into the endzone. The extra kick was flubbed. Again, focusing on Cotton: He was one, if not THE, fastest, biggest guy on the field. He had the legs to match the arm. To me, he looked like the total — albeit unpolished — package.

This guy could come to Auburn? Would the presence of Auburn’s Coach Tommy Tuberville and Assistant Coach James Willis show the Cotton family the support that they wanted? If you would believe this report: Yes. Yes it did.


Ray Cotton, No. 17, stands next to running back Demetrius Brown under the Friday night lights at Southern High School’s home field. Photo by Ike. He apologizes for the blurriness.

At the beginning of the second half, the two Auburn coaches had departed, or at least were hidden from the view of the fans. They might have went up to the pressbox, I don’t know. Like I said before, there was a buzz through the crowd in the first half of the game. The fans and Mustang team (as well as Thomas, Ike and myself) would keep an eye on the Auburn football council. Folks from the home stand would wander over for a closer look. “Who were these mysterious men dressed in dark blue, with subtle splashes of orange, watching the visitors from afar?”

Raymond Cotton Sr. stayed separate from most of the other fans. He took a proud perch at the top of the bleachers to watch his son. Ray Cotton’s mom (at least, I think it was his mom), walked up and down the fence, following the team along the field (like us and others, it was fun) and shouting encouraging words to her son. The Mustang fans were a small, but rowdy bunch. They were a lot of fun to be around. They had noise makers (blue horns that had a visible toot in the cold, night air) and would stomp on the bleachers from time to time.

“I need to get one of those horns for the West Virginia game,” Thomas said. (In reflection after the West Virginia choke job: The first half would have been horn-filled. The second half, not so much.)

As the Mighty Meade Mustangs rallied, the game became a party.

Maybe the presence of Auburn’s coaches were a distraction. Maybe Cotton was trying to hard to impress Tuberville and Willis. At any rate, a different Mustang team took the field in the second half. Cotton had the arm to match the leg.

On to victory!

Like a flash of lightning, the Meade High Mustangs were back in the game after the first drive of the 3rd quarter. Cotton connected with receiver Trevor Turner on 4th down. It was a 30-yard desperation pass. Turner came through for his quarterback. The timing couldn’t have been better. In an attempt to tie the game, the Mustangs went for the 2-point conversation but failed. The score stood 14-12. The Mustangs galloped close behind.

At this point we were by the fence near the endzone. Directly behind us in the bleachers were Cotton’s father and another Mustang dad. Once again, our orange and blue confused Cotton Sr.’s bleacher buddy, as the dad shouted to us: “Hey, my boy is No. 44 out there. Give him a look too! I tell you what, you can have him for four years. If you don’t like him, just send him back!”

I tried to explain that we were not with Auburn University for probably the fifth time, but because he was laughing so hard, I don’t think he heard me. At this time, Cotton’s father gave us a wary look from his roost. I wondered if Cotton Sr. noticed when I shook my head in disappointment after his son flubbed a play. I thought I had better watch my actions. I probably shouldn’t throw my sandwich to the ground in disgust, screaming obscenities at his boy should he fumble the ball or something. Whether we wanted it or not, Thomas, Ike and I were representatives of Auburn.

Back on the field, the Mustangs defense would shut out the Bulldogs in the second half. The Mustangs were pulling together. The defense was feeding from the trough of offensive glory and vice versa.

Halfway through the 4th quarter, the Mustang’s little running back pulled out the play of the game. Demetrius Brown gained 28 yards on a busted play. He ran to the broken and bleeding left side of the line, facing a multitude of Bulldog defenders. Like a flash, he rolled to the open field to the right and was off to the races. The Bulldogs would pull him down at their 30-yard line. Now, at last the Mustangs could pull ahead.

With two throws in succession to receiver Tuswani Copeland, the Mustangs would go ahead. The game-winning throw from Cotton to Copeland was a 19-yard strike. After failing to get the point after, the Mustangs led 18-14.

The Mustang defense would hold and the team would win. Cotton’s receivers came through in the second half and little Demetrius Brown, in my eyes, came through big time to spark the winning score.

Cotton’s final stats: 147 yards passing with two touchdowns through the air. 97 yards rushing with one rushing touchdown. Cotton had one fumble that I remember in the 4th quarter.

What a game! What a comeback! What a Tiger?

The next few weeks will tell the tale.

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Friday night with Tuberville: Part Two

By J.M. Comer

Part Two of a three-part series. This is a blog with entries from two Auburn fans. This particular series of stories should not to be considered a serious journalism endeavor. And this blog is our impressions on all-things Auburn. For example, we like to use flowery language and poke fun at Bama. Please see Exhibit A and Exhibit B. Oh yeah, for good measure: Exhibit C. This blog entry should be considered my impression, as a fan, of spending a few minutes with Coach Tommy Tuberville and Assistant Coach James Willis. I thought that I would share my thoughts on the scene of Friday night, where I saw glimpses of the past, present and hopefully the future of our Auburn football program. What I took away from the experience? I think our Auburn program is in good hands. I hope that Coaches Tuberville and Willis would not hold it against me that I did not mention that I am a co-author of this blog, on the off-chance that they would stumble across The War Eagle Reader some rainy February afternoon. Maybe I should have mentioned it. I also didn’t bring up Tony Franklin. I thought it would be best to let that one lie buried in a grave. For good or ill, here we go. Please see Part one of this series if you are just tuning in. War Damn Eagle!


Image CC by Flickr user Henley24.

Ike, Thomas and I lined up against the fence at Southern High School. Halftime was drawing close, and Ray Cotton’s team, the Meade High Mustangs, trailed 7-0. The Mustangs were driving on the Bulldogs of Southern High, looking to tie it up. The senior quarterback and Auburn verbal commitment stood tall under center. Calm. Cool. Collected.

The three of us were grinning from ear to ear, sneaking glances out of the corner of our eyes at the Auburn coaching staff down the field to our left. I kept dropping my head and shaking it, looking at the ground. I couldn’t believe it. Coach Tuberville was only a few yards away. I had yelled “War Eagle!” to the coach earlier and I was the happiest guy in Maryland at that moment. You folks in living in Alabama don’t understand. People in other far-flung states are hungry for the sights and sounds, anything to capture the orange-and-blue memories of Saturdays in the South. Here was the living embodiment of Auburn football. The steady hand guiding the rudder during the storm. Right there!

A sidenote: I’d only met Coach Tuberville once before. I waited tables at Cock of the Walk when his family came in one night in 2000. It is a catfish house in Opelika. If you haven’t visited, I’d suggest you give it a try. Good fried seafood. As part of the waiting staff, I wore a pirate-like red shirt with leather laces up the front and a flat-brimmed black hat with a long, red feather. The getup was supposed to reflect Mike Fink, a larger-than-life longboat captain on the Mississippi River in the 1800s. He fought Indians. He wrestled. He drank too much and waved a Bowie knife at unlucky opponents. Then there was me, the 165-pound skinny be-Finked graduate with an English degree passing out hushpuppies. You couldn’t even take me seriously. I flipped your cornbread in the air as part of the act. Will the cornbread land in the skillet? Will it hit the floor? The circumstances at the time weren’t exactly conducive to a serious person-to-person meeting of the minds. All I gathered from the exchange of catfish and cornbread for money was that Tubby’s kids were well behaved and didn’t fill up on too much soda before their meal.

Back to the game at hand: Ray Cotton’s coach decided to let his quarterback stretch his legs.

Cotton was running around the corners. And when he wasn’t doing that, he was pounding it up the middle with success. He didn’t have too much help from the rest of his team of Mustangs at this point in the game. Receivers were dropping the ball. Cotton wasn’t helping himself much either. Some throws were too long. He was throwing to imaginary 6’5″ receivers. Push it forward young man!

We kept glancing over at the studious coaches, trying not to be too obvious. And then Assistant Coach James Willis walked over to say hello.

Ike and Thomas knew who it was instantly. I have to admit, I didn’t have a clue that the man had 344 career tackles at Auburn. I grew up a Tennessee Volunteer fan until I attended Auburn University in 1997. I still am catching up on the Pat Dye years. My coach in the ’80s was Johnny Majors. Don’t hold it against me, dear reader. I hate Alabama twice as much as most folks.

“War Eagle, I’m James Willis,” he said, offering his hand in kinship. I shook it. It was tough as granite. I’d never shook a hand before that felt like steel.

He asked us what we thought of the young quarterback on the field. And then he listened. We chatted for a few minutes as we watched Cotton lead his team to score 6 by pounding it in from the 1-yard line. The Mustangs then missed the extra point. Coach Willis commented that they should have went for 2 points and Thomas and Ike agreed. I’d been away from the high school game for so long that I’d forgotten what a risky endeavour the kicking game was at this level. But I felt like a great football mind as Coach Willis walked away. Not some psuedo-stalker in an Auburn hoodie and jeans.

A state trooper on the sideline came up to us and said that we could come on the track since we were with Auburn University. “Um, no, sir. We’re just here to watch the game,” we mumbled. (This was a reoccurring thing. Everyone thought we were scouts for Auburn. I guarantee, in no way did we look the part. But people on both sides of the field noticed the small Auburn contingent. That’s for sure.)

Enter the Tiger: Tuberville

Tommy Tuberville walked over to us just before halftime. He had a few short minutes before he had to leave. That he took the time to say “hello,” well, it was beyond great. Afterward, we all sat in the stands and wondered if Nick “I don’t have time for this shit” Saban would have done the same.

My first impression of Tommy Tuberville? Focused. Friendly. Knowledgeable. His eyes reminded me of some of a farmer’s eyes, tobacco farmers that lived near my grandfather in the Cumberland Gap. They all had a slight squint from spending hours and hours in the sun. Or maybe Tuberville was more like the men I’d see at Hardee’s when I was a kid in Tennessee on my way to visit my grandparents or to church on a Sunday morning. They’d be dressed up and talking about what happened on the football field Saturday as they drank their coffee and flipped through the paper. Good-natured men, lean from working hard all week, enjoying their time together. (They were Volunteer men with their Bill Dance Orange T hats with the back netting. And God, they hated Alabama.) I’d always watch and listen to them all as my family ate our gravy and biscuits.

I’m saying this because I felt like those men when we were shooting the bull with Coach Tuberville. The talk was light and easy.

(I’m gushing. Gentle reader, please forgive me. This doesn’t happen often, that you meet your team’s head coach. If you want an unbiased analysis of Tuberville, you will not find it here.)

But a lot of the short conversation is still a blur. I was making sure that I didn’t say anything stupid. And I made sure not to talk about the 800-pound gorilla beating its chest, swinging from the scoreboard: Tony Franklin.

Sometimes all my efforts to not stumble over my words didn’t work. For example, I brought up the A-11 formation that The New York Times wrote about last week. I tried to describe it to Coach Tuberville, failing miserably.

“It has a center and two guards. And all the other guys on the offensive … are … um … eligible receivers … there’s a loophole that the California high school coaches are exploiting … yeah … two quarterbacks. I forgot about the two quarterbacks on the field.”

He graciously helped me save face by suggesting it must be like Texas’ “Q package,” which he then described to us, mimicking the moves of the quarterbacks and describing their options.

Also, Coach Tuberville quickly, but gently, corrected Ike for thinking that Southern High was running the Veer formation on offense. He said that Southern was actually running the Delaware Wing-T.

Also, Thomas criticized the throwing motion of Alabama ‘s recruit, A.J. McCarron. He commented that McCarron held his non-throwing arm in an awkward position, looking like a chicken wing or a baby T-Rex arm. “Does he hold that arm like that to block defenders?” Thomas wondered. Coach Tuberville had nothing to add to Big Sexy’s musings. Later, Thomas exclaimed, “Man, that was going nowhere.”

Ike made fun of me for wasting time talking about the weather with Tuberville. (“This is the first cold night here in Maryland this fall. It was hot last week, which is weird for October.”) The weather is my go-to subject whenever there is a brief lull in a conversation. What a waste of breath.

The Iron Bowl was discussed briefly. Tuberville squinted, then smiled. He flashed six fingers for the camera. He knows what makes our hearts soar.

We thanked Coach profusely for spending time with us and then it was time for the coaching staff to depart. I kept thinking about how, if I were in Coach Tuberville’s shoes and was enduring a similar football season, I would have been uptight, looking over my shoulder for real and imagined enemies like Dick Nixon. That he was loose, calm, friendly with us was amazing to me. The man has a plan. If you were a recruit with doubts, wouldn’t you be reassured by the man’s presence, standing tall and steady, watching your team?

Row of Cotton

The second half was about to start. At that point in the game, you could see Cotton’s potential. He could throw. He wasn’t afraid to pound it through the scuffle of linemen. But the Mighty Meade Mustang’s offense was stalling in the red zone. At one point, there was a miscommunication between Cotton and his center. With the ball near the Southern Bulldog 5-yard line, the ball was hiked past the young QB all the way back near the 20-yard line. Yikes! The Mustangs failed to score and make it a 14-13 contest before the half. But Ray Cotton’s Meade High Mustang team would gather their thoughts at halftime. (It appeared that there was no visitors’ locker room at Southern’s home field. The visiting team conferred in the endzone at halftime and discussed their game plan. Keep selling those foodstuffs to fund your facilities, Southern High!)

But Ray Cotton and his Mustang teammates would launch a comeback from the 14-6 deficit in the second half. It would prove to be an inspiring spectacle.

Part three tomorrow. 100% Cotton!

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Friday night with Tuberville: Part One

By J.M. Comer

Part one of a series of stories this week. I present this story to you as what I experienced on Friday night. Coach Tuberville and his assistants did not know that I am part of a blog and their comments were made from coach to fan. I’d like to share some of what I saw, as an Auburn fan. War Damn Eagle.

He sure looks like Jason Campbell, doesn’t he? said Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville.

He does, Coach. He’s even wearing his number, I reply.

He is, isn’t he? Tuberville says, as Meade High School quarterback Ray Cotton (#17) wings a pinpoint throw toward our side of the field, falling incomplete 15 yards down the field possibly because of the young, chilled hands of a cold receiver.

Ray Cotton towers over his teammates. A full head taller than a vast majority of his team and the other on the field. Are we watching the future of Auburn football?

I’m leaning on the fence surrounding the field with my two close friends and Auburn men, Ike Blake and Thomas “Big Sexy” Jones. Our gamble had paid off. Auburn Head Football Coach Tommy Tuberville is talking football and shooting the bull with us on the other side of the waist-high fence as we watch the Mustangs of Meade High School play the Bulldogs of Southern High School on Friday night.

It’s the first cold, clear night of the fall in southern Maryland. That wonderful crisp feeling is in the air. Everyone is wearing their jackets. And Mustang QB Cotton, an Auburn verbal commitment now wavering because of Auburn’s misfortunes, is trying to lead his team to their first win in four tries.

‘Want to go?’

The subject line of the e-mail from Ike on Monday morning asks if Thomas and I are interested in going to see a high school game Friday night. The Washington Post‘s “Recruiting Insider” blog is saying that Ray Cotton and his father, Raymond Cotton Sr., are questioning the events of the past two weeks. Tony Franklin has been fired as Auburn’s offensive coordinator, and Chaos rules the Plains of Auburn. Our team has lost to Vanderbilt and Arkansas in consecutive SEC games. Fingers are pointed. Questions hang in the air unanswered. “What is going on?” “Who is leading the charge?” “Is Tuberville’s job secure?”

Not exactly what you want to see if you are looking out for your son’s future on the grid iron. You can understand Papa Cotton’s misgivings.

The WaPo blog entry says that Coach Tuberville and other Auburn assistants will travel to see Ray Cotton play against Southern High on Friday night just south of Annapolis, Md. Ike is proposing to Thomas and me in his e-mail that we travel down for the 6:30 p.m. EDT kickoff time after work and watch the game and possibly, just possibly, meet Tuberville.

It’s been a tough year if you are an Auburn fan. You can only look to the future at this point or you will drive yourself crazy with the hand wringing. Championship dreams are dead. So why not think about just West Virginia? Just like countless of athletes have parroted over and over, contest after contest, year after year: “We’re taking it one game at a time.”

Let’s beat the Mountaineers and see where it takes us. But why not also think about (for sanity’s sake) good years ahead? Will Ray Cotton stick with a beaten and bruised Auburn Tiger program? He gave his word. But Auburn is a different product right now. Is Auburn selling him a faulty program?

Cotton’s decision will give a glimpse into his character, I’d say.

But first, we should take a look at what he’s made of on the field. Can he play football?

Although Coach Tuberville won’t be able to talk to Cotton right now (damned NCAA rules!) he can be a boots-on-the-ground supporter. And on Friday night, his presence loomed large.

Friday night lights in Maryland

It’s the first high school game for all of us in years.

Southern High School’s Wingate Field offers a sharp contrast to what you are used to seeing in the South.

It’s the first thing Thomas noticed as soon we walked in. “Look how small the home stand is!” Thomas played football for Central High School in northwestern Alabama in the late ’80s. His observations on all-things football hold a lot of weight with me because he’s played and observed the game for a while. (Later, Coach Tuberville made, pretty much, the same comment when looking across the field to the home stands. “It’s a much different atmosphere than football in the South, isn’t it?” We couldn’t agree more.)

The visiting stands are half full with the fans from Meade High, sitting on a hybrid of wood and aluminum. The bathrooms are three blue porta-potties, thankfully far away from the seats.

The home stands are built into the side of a hill (which is kind of cool/weird) and are filled. Southern High has turned out the fans tonight.

Awesomely, the concession stand offers Chick-fil-A, but things are a little pricey. Someone says so to one of the women behind the counter. She snaps, “Do you like using the bathroom in those plastic johns?!?! We’re trying to raise money for a bathroom here!”

We’ve missed a good chunk of the first quarter because of work and traffic. I wonder if any other Auburn fans in the area will be here, as we walk to the visitors’ side. And as we round the bend in the track, I see our coach in a dark blue heavy jacket and silver hair. And yeah, the ears. He’s looking sharp. He is standing and observing the game some assistants a good 30 yards away from off the high school team.

I can’t contain myself: “War Eagle, Coach!”

There is a lull in the game as Coach Tuberville slowly turns with a smile.

“We got us some Auburn fans here. War Eagle!” he says. Others of the coaching council turn around.

There’s Assistant Coach James Willis too. Ike and Thomas are beside themselves.

Mission — success!

Part Two tomorrow: Talking with Coach Willis. Talking with Tubs. Cotton rules the field. War Damn Eagle!

Update on Ray Cotton

The Gold Mine reports:

Quarterback Raymond Cotton, one of Auburn’s biggest commitments for the 2009 signing class, was favorably impressed that Tuberville and assistant coach James Willis flew to Maryland over the weekend to watch him play.

Cotton told AuburnSports.com that he’s still firmly committed to Auburn and plans to visit campus to watch the Georgia game over Nov. 14-16.

Cotton committed to Auburn when he played at Faith Academy in Mobile, before moving to Fort Meade, Md., after the Coast Guard transferred his father to Maryland.

“I like Auburn, but not just because of Auburn’s campus or how big they are, but I know two guys that are going to be there, Coach Tuberville and Coach Willis, and that’s what I want to go do. I want to go play for them,” Cotton told AuburnSports.com. The Web site said Cotton is not taking calls from other schools.

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100% Cotton … Ray Cotton

“When God made a quarterback, he made him like Ray Cotton.” — Meade High School coach Lance Clelland.

“I didn’t understand how important having hope for the football team was here. We want to give them all a reason to keep hoping.” — Meade High School QB Ray Cotton.

After three games this season, Auburn’s verbal commitment Ray Cotton has racked up 706 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Pencil thin mustache? Check!

Height of 6’5″? Check!

#17 jersey? Check!

Sound like someone we all know that plays on Sundays? (Although it seems that Cotton is getting tired of the comparisons already.)

Click for today’s Washington Post video featuring Cotton.

Click for today’s Washington Post story featuring Cotton.

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