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Auburn not only is the home of the crystal football, but it appears to be the clubhouse leader for the 2011 Fulmer Cup.
Wide receiver Antonio Goodwin, wide receiver Shaun Kitchens, starting safety Mike McNeil and tight end Dakota Mosley have all been permanently dismissed from the Auburn football program. The four players were arrested early Friday morning and charged with five counts each of first-degree robbery, one count each of first-degree burglary and one count each of theft. The four players are being held in the Lee County Detention Center on $511,000 bond.
"The players arrested in connection with this deeply troubling incident have been permanently dismissed from our football team, said Auburn head coach Gene Chizik in a statement. "While we realize the legal process will run its course and these young men have a right for their case to be heard, playing for Auburn University is an honor and a privilege. It is not a right. We hold our student-athletes to a high standard of conduct on and off the field as representatives of Auburn University, and this kind of behavior is not tolerated."
Good for Gene Chizik for not delaying the decision to announce the dismissal of these players. The last thing Auburn, a team that has taken its share of PR hits over the last few months, needs right now is more controversy. The arrests alone are bad enough. But let's be honest, when you have players that are facing a minimum of 20 years in the big house, it's really not much of a debate whether or not to give them their walking papers.
So where does this leave Auburn? The Tigers already have a big challenge ahead of them in 2011, replacing the Heisman Trophy winner, the Lombardi Award winner, the best offensive line in the country and a senior-laden wide receiver corps. The arrests certainly don't help matters, especially in the pass-catching department.
With Darvin Adams, Terrell Zachery and Kodi Burns all gone, the battle for playing time at wide receiver is expected to be one of the fiercest battles this spring on the Plains. Emory Blake is still expected to be the go-to target for the Tigers, but Kitchens and Goodwin were both expected to contend for playing time. They both were key pieces of Auburn's highly-rated 2010 recruiting class, and saw limited snaps as true freshmen at wide receiver and on special teams. With the duo now off the team, that puts even more pressure on highly recruited wide receivers DeAngelo Benton and Trovon Reed to step up and realize their potential.
McNeil was a key contributor at safety for the 2010 national champions. The rising senior started for the Tigers last season, after sitting out the 2009 season with a leg injury. His dismissal leaves Auburn with a ton of question marks in the secondary. Neiko Thorpe, the lone returning starter, moved from cornerback to safety last week. So essentially, the Tigers will have four new starters in the defensive backfield when they open the season September 3 against Utah State. That might not be an issue against the Aggies, but games against Mississippi State and Clemson following the opener, the Tigers won't have a lot of time to work out the kinks.
Mosley was not expected to see meaningful snaps in 2011, but his loss certainly hurts the depth at tight end behind Philip Lutzenkirchen.
Are they stars? No. But the loss of these four players certainly is a blow to the 2011 Auburn Tigers.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee
2010/2011 Off-Season Column Archive:
Auburn Players Arrested, Dismissed – March 12, 2011
Five Thoughts on LSU's Spring – March 11, 2011
CFN Analysis – The Too Busy Offseason – March 11, 2011
Five Thoughts on Georgia's Spring – March 9, 2011
CFN Analysis – Should Jim Tressel Have Been Fired – March 8, 2011
Five Thoughts on Mississippi State's Spring – March 6, 2011
Wheels On Newton Saga Keep Spinning – February 28, 2011
Six SEC West Spring Storylines – February 24, 2011
Kiffin and the Tennessee Issue – February 23, 2011
Six SEC East Spring Storylines – February 17, 2011
CFN Analysis – The SEC Schedule – February 10, 2011
Ealey Suspension Leaves Georgia In A Bind – February 9, 2011
SEC Signing Day Review – February 3, 2011
CFN Analysis – Signing Day 2011 – February 2, 2011
Dream Team Won't Save Richt – January 31, 2011
Five Thoughts On Kragthorpe – January 24, 2011
Ridiculously Early SEC West Rankings – January 23, 2011
LSU Hires OC Four Years Too Late – January 20, 2011
Ridiculously Early SEC East Rankings – January 19, 2011
CFN Analysis: Cam Turns Pro – January 14, 2011
BCS National Championship Review – January 11, 2011
CFN Analysis: Cotton Bowl – January 8, 2011
Five Thoughts On Why Auburn Wins – January 7, 2011
Five Thoughts On Dan Quinn – January 5, 2011
Tuesday Question: Should Rich Rod Be Fired – January 4, 2011
Five Thoughts on Charlie Weis – January 4, 2011
CFN Analysis: Charlie Weis as the Florida OC – January 3, 2011
CFN Analysis: Outback Bowl – January 1, 2011
CFN Analysis: Gator Bowl – January 1, 2011
CFN Analysis: Capital One Bowl – January 1, 2011
CFN Analysis: Liberty Bowl – December 31, 2010
CFN Analysis: Music City Bowl – December 30, 2010
End Of The Season Accountability – December 27, 2010
Pryor Can't Be Compared To Newton – December 23, 2010
Ranking The SEC Bowl Games – December 19, 2010
Malzahn Makes The Right Move – December 14, 2010
Five Thoughts on Muschamp – December 12, 2010
CFN Analysis: Florida Hires Muschamp – December 12, 2010
CFN Analysis: Cam's Heisman Landslide – December 11, 2010
Five Thoughts On Urban Meyer – December 9, 2010
Meyer Leaves Legacy, Question Marks – December 8, 2010
Click here for the 2010 regular season archive
Click here for the 2010 Three & Out archive