When Auburn went into Thibodaux, Louisiana, a tiny Cajun town in deep south Louisiana, to nab Trovon Reed and Greg Robinson away from LSU, among others, more than a few heads were turne. Add Thayer Evans of Fox Sports to the long lists of those questioning those recruiting successes. He has a very interesting, investigate piece today taking a close look at the recruitment of both Reed and Robinson, and how Sean Nelson, a local Wal-Mart oil change mechanic -- as God as my witness, you can't make this stuff up -- has played such a critical role in their recruitment and how he has generated so much controversy.
First off, let's just jump directly into the deep end, not-so-subtle pay-for-play allegations by their high school coach, implicating Trooper Taylor and the aforementioned Sean Nelson:
Former Thibodaux High coach Dennis Lorio says several coaches and students saw Robinson show off cash and a new iPhone at school after a visit to Auburn. Robinson wrote in a Facebook message in July that he got the phone when "I came to Alabama."
But Lorio, a former LSU graduate assistant, says Auburn’s sudden recruiting success here is curious.
"How did players from Thibodaux, La., become so interested in Auburn?" Lorio asks. "That’s a really good question. Trooper Taylor and Sean Nelson would know."
Nelson, of course, was inspired by God, whose is for some reason apparently becoming pretty active in recruiting circles these days:
He says he didn’t realize Reed had a chance to play college football until the youngster performed well at an LSU camp early in his high school career, and says he didn’t have a plan for Reed’s recruitment until a higher power stepped in.
"God gave me a vision," he says.
According to Nelson, God told him to take Reed to camps and "live on the Internet" so he could do research and network with web-based recruiting gurus.
Another inevitability, Nelson also recently started his own non-profit mentoring program, of which Robinson is a member:
Nelson says his mentoring program, Total Package, consists of 30 kids, has 10 workers and is based out of a local church. He says not all boys in the program are involved in athletics, but for those like Robinson, the program provides opportunities to work out with an adult in the evenings.
And, surprising for a program supposedly so big on family, the real Robinson family isn't at all happy and are concerned about intentions and sinister activity:
But reaction to Robinson’s Auburn pledge wasn’t so positive among his family. His grandmother, Lydia Robinson, is unhappy about his choice for many reasons and hopes he changes his mind before signing day on Feb. 2.
She doesn’t think highly of Auburn’s coaches, who she says "weren’t very intelligent." She is especially not fond of Taylor, who she says "got a lot of lies in there when he was talking."
Robinson, who won’t say where she wants her grandson to attend college, says she is also upset that Nelson and Taylor had her grandson take several visits to Auburn without her or his mother’s permission. At times, she says, she didn’t know his whereabouts.
"They were wrong for doing that," she says.
So let me summarize, if I may: Reed was long since considered an LSU lock, but his mother dies, and Nelson takes over as his guardian and with God as the wind beneath his wings starts taking him back-and-forth to Auburn, and suddenly Reed shocks everyone by committing to and eventually signing with Auburn. Somewhere around then, the non-profit organization is founded, and the next thing you know Robinson spurns LSU and commits to Auburn, all the while his family does not support the decision along with his high school coach claiming that he was showing off cash and an iPhone that Robinson himself claimed to have gotten while visiting Auburn. Oh no, definitely nothing sinister going on here.
And, as somewhat of an aside, speaking of this non-profit mentoring organization, exactly what wisdom does some coonass oil change guy at Wal-Mart feel the need to impart upon the youth of south Louisiana? Oh no, nothing shady at all about that.
Now, I don't claim to be a Thibodaux expert by any stretch, but I lived in New Orleans for three years and I have family in south Louisiana, and I know enough about Thibodaux to know if someone told you that 99% of that town consists of bleeds-purple-and-gold LSU fans, that someone is seriously underestimating the number of LSU fans in that town. And when a program like Auburn -- not Texas, not Texas A&M, not Florida, but Auburn -- starts coming into that town and stealing heavily-recruited prospects away from in-state LSU, it's hard not to believe that something is amiss somewhere.
It is this which truly intrigues with the successes that Auburn has experienced on the recruiting trails in the past year. It is not just Cam Newton and those specific pay-for-play allegations, it's everything else taken in its totality. You have an Auburn program, with middle-of-the-pack facilities by SEC standards, coming off of a losing season and the termination of their long-time head coach by hiring a head coach who was a laughingstock even within their own fan base, and from there they proceed to go outside of the state of Alabama and succeed in several recruiting coups in non-traditional areas by stealing top-end talent away from power programs that were all having far more on-field success than they were at the time. And I am really supposed to believe that it is all due to this nebulous concept of "family"? None of that even begins to pass the smell test.
Nearly every one of those major coups in non-traditional areas have involved some things that have to make any rational observer wonder. You have Cam Newton, of course, and that whole saga, but then you also have Walt Williams and his bogus recruiting "service" steering players to Auburn with his relationship with Gus Malzahn, of which directly involves Michael Dyer, you have Dakota Mosley posing with all his cash in relation to that, you now have the high school coach of two major signees making pay-for-play allegations, and Corey Lemonier shows up in a Corvette three days after National Signing Day. It doesn't take much of a cynic to conclude something is not right here.
And now we see the national media starting investigations of their own into the recruiting practices of Auburn regarding players not named Cam Newton. To the contrary of what many Auburn people contend, none of this is going away, and if anything the scope of the allegations and the media investigations into those allegations are expanding.
It should be obvious to any remotely informed observer that Auburn is ruffling more than a few feathers within their own conference with their recruiting coups in the backyard of rival SEC schools, and if anyone needs to be convinced of how dangerous that can be then I suggest you give Mike DuBose and Ronnie Cottrell a phone call and seek their input on the subject. I'll say this much: given what they have done and are attempting to continue doing, Auburn had better be as clean and as pure as the Virgin Mary, and failing that as smart as Stephen Hawking to cover their transgressions. I'm betting they are neither. Keep 'em coming, Thayer.