Auburn’s Hugh Freeze high on former USF speedster Brian Battie

Notes | The Tigers’ new coach says the Bulls transfer could “add great value to us.”
Former record-setting USF kick returner Brian Battie, who entered the NCAA transfer portal in January, turned heads at Auburn during his inaugural spring practice with the Tigers.
Former record-setting USF kick returner Brian Battie, who entered the NCAA transfer portal in January, turned heads at Auburn during his inaugural spring practice with the Tigers. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published July 18

NASHVILLE — Based on first-year Auburn coach Hugh Freeze’s comments Tuesday, former USF record-setting speedster Brian Battie will find a place on the field for the Tigers this fall.

Battie (5-7, 170 pounds) made a national splash in 2021, leading the nation with three kickoff returns for touchdowns and tying an NCAA single-game record with two 100-yard returns in the same contest (a 54-42 loss to Houston).

He became only the Bulls’ sixth 1,000-yard rusher last season, collecting 1,186 yards and averaging nearly 100 per game before entering the NCAA transfer portal in early January.

“When we took him, truthfully I was like, ‘Man, this guy is too small to play in this league and run inside the tackle, but he’s going to really help us in the return game and he’s going to really help us on some special designed outside runs,’ ” Freeze said.

“Then we get into practice and we start running inside zone with him and the guy is wiggling through holes and falling forward. So I got really, really excited about him, and I think he’s going to add great value to us.”

Fewer first-down clock stoppages

A rule change being implemented in college football this fall isn’t necessarily expected to put a restrictor plate on the breakneck pace of the modern game.

But it just might cut down on offenses’ collective tread.

Starting this season, the game clock will keep running after a team gets a first down inbounds, except in the final two minutes of each half. Additionally, teams won’t be allowed to call consecutive timeouts during the same dead-ball period, essentially limiting just how long teams can ice a kicker.

The changes were explained Tuesday morning at the SEC Media Days by league officials coordinator John McDaid, who noted college games averaged 178 plays last season (and 177 in the SEC). While that figure represents a five-year low, the average barely has changed in the last half-decade.

“There’s not necessarily concern for games that average 180 plays a game,” McDaid said. “There is concern for games that have 200-plus plays per game. There are a number of them each and every year in each and every conference.”

The first-down rule basically reflects the NFL’s. McDaid said the rules committee (comprising administrators, athletic directors, coaches, officials) discussed other possible changes for the purpose of reducing the number of plays per game, but adopted only the amended first-down rule.

“We have this rule change for this year,” McDaid said. “We’re going to see what effect it has on our game from an overall number of plays.”

Too much team speed

Georgia coach Kirby Smart speaks on Tuesday.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart speaks on Tuesday. [ GEORGE WALKER IV | AP ]

Shortly after indicating how his program continues mourning the deaths of a player and staffer killed in what police say was a high-speed street race in January, Georgia coach Kirby Smart was asked about the sequence of traffic-related incidents that have followed.

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The latest: Bulldogs outside linebacker Samuel M’Pemba was ticketed for driving 88 mph in a 55-mph zone, according to records from the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, ESPN reported. His speeding citation occurred about an hour before receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint made an appearance in court in Athens and pleaded guilty to driving 90 mph in a 45-mph zone.

Before the incident involving M’Pemba, ESPN reported that Georgia football players and their cars have been involved in at least 10 reports of traffic-related moving violations in Athens-Clarke County since Jan. 15.

On that night, offensive lineman Devin Willock and football staff member Chandler LeCroy were killed in a wreck in which police allege LeCroy’s SUV was racing a car being driving by former Bulldogs defensive tackle Jalen Carter.

“We actually don’t have more (traffic citations and incidents) now than we’ve had in the past,” Smart said Tuesday. “What concerns me most is the safety of our players, and when you drive at high speeds it’s unsafe. We don’t want that to happen.

“But I’m also smart enough to understand and know that 18- to 20-year-olds is when this happens. It’s when it happened to me as a student-athlete. That’s when speeding happens. What we want to do is take that out and make it safe and not have high speeds.”

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