SEC: Montez Billings

Billings won't be back at Auburn

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
7:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


Auburn senior receiver Montez Billings has decided to leave the team, the university announced late Friday.

Having already received his degree in May, Billings was serving an NCAA-mandated four-game suspension that Auburn officials said was for academic reasons. He was eligible to come back after the Ball State game next week.

But Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Friday that Billings was moving on and wouldn't be back.

"Montez has his degree and has decided to leave the Auburn football team to pursue other opportunities," Chizik said in a statement. "We appreciate what he gave to the football program during his career and wish him the best in his future endeavors."

Billings was Auburn's leading returning receiver after catching 24 passes for 277 yards last season. But he was sidelined by an NCAA ruling in late August and suspended for the first four games this season.

Auburn's Adams, Zachery catching on just fine

September, 17, 2009
9/17/09
11:27
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


Everybody wanted to know who was going to catch the ball for Auburn heading into the season.

Montez Billings had been suspended for the first four games for academic reasons, and Tim Hawthorne broke a bone in his foot during summer workouts.

There wasn’t any experience to speak of. With Billings and Hawthorne both sidelined, sophomore Quindarius Carr was the leading returning wide receiver on the team with six catches a year ago.

The prevailing theory was that freshmen DeAngelo Benton and Emory Blake were going to have to play key roles if the Tigers’ passing game was going to flourish.

Two games into the season, neither Benton nor Blake have caught a pass, but Auburn’s passing game is clicking just fine.

That’s because sophomore Darvin Adams and junior Terrell Zachery have stepped up in a big way. Adams is averaging 20.9 yards on nine catches and Zachery 27.8 yards on five catches. Zachery’s 93-yard touchdown catch from Chris Todd in the opener against Louisiana Tech was the longest in school history.

Auburn receivers coach Trooper Taylor would still like to get Benton and Blake involved, but not at the expense of Adams and Zachery.

“Right now, two guys are making plays, and if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it,” Taylor said. “Those two guys have really stood out and have earned what they’re getting.”

Benton, in particular, could get more of a chance this week. He missed some practice time last week because of a death in the family.

It looks like the Tigers could be without tight end Tommy Trott against West Virginia after Trott injured his right knee in last week’s game. True freshman Phillip Lutzenkirchen is set to step in for Todd, and the Auburn coaches are really excited about Lutzenkirchen’s ability to get open and catch the ball.

Lunchtime links: LSU whips through final scrimmage

August, 26, 2009
8/26/09
3:46
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Seeing what all is out there in the world of SEC football:

Coming off its final scrimmage of the preseason on Tuesday, LSU is seeing the competition heating up at several spots.
With Mohamed Massaquoi gone, Georgia is counting on Michael Moore to take the heat off A.J. Green.
Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez had plenty of reasons to stay closer to home and go to Connecticut, but he chose the Gators for all the right reasons and is glad he did.
Despite an assortment of bumps and bruises, some more serious than others, Kentucky coach Rich Brooks likes his depth at running back.
Alabama coach Nick Saban says he isn't commenting on the Julio Jones/Mark Ingram fishing trip until there's a resolution.
Auburn receiver Montez Billings still hasn't been cleared to play in the Tigers' opener against Louisiana Tech. He graduated in May, but Auburn coach Gene Chizik has said the matter is in somebody else's hands.
South Carolina is flipping things in its secondary. Akeem Auguste is moving from cornerback to free safety, while Chris Culliver is moving from free safety to cornerback.
Arkansas running back Broderick Green was more than just a little sick last week when he missed five practices. He had pneumonia. Green returned to practice Tuesday.

Who's going to catch passes for Auburn?

July, 13, 2009
7/13/09
10:20
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

It's good to be back after spending a little time with the family last week.

Sounds like nothing major happened in the SEC while I was gone, but I couldn't help but notice that Auburn suffered another hit at wide receiver.

Junior Tim Hawthorne broke a bone in his right foot during summer workouts and could be sidelined for up to eight weeks. His recovery time will almost certainly spill over into the start of preseason practice.

The Tigers were already hurting in terms of experience at the position.

Regardless of how quickly Hawthorne recovers, look for offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to use everybody he can in the passing game this season. That includes a deep pool of tight ends -- seniors Tommy Trott and Gabe McKenzie and freshman Philip Lutzenkirchen -- as well as the running backs.

Malzahn is committed to getting the ball into Mario Fannin's hands, as Fannin will play more of a hybrid role this season.

Hawthorne's injury is also a reminder of how much Auburn needs freshman receivers DeAngelo Benton and Emory Blake to come through this season. Both players have the talent and size to be immediate contributors.

Right now, there just aren't a lot of answers at receiver for the Tigers.

Remember, there was an academic holdup with Montez Billings during the spring. That means the door is wide open for guys like Phillip Pierre-Louis, Quindarius Carr, Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery to show what they can do this fall.

I realize everybody wants to know who's going to be throwing passes for Auburn, and it remains to be seen how that's going to shake out among Kodi Burns, Neil Caudle and Tyrik Rollison.

But an equally pressing question: Who's going to be catching passes?

That one's still hanging out there as well. If you take Billings out of the equation, there's not a wide receiver returning that caught more than eight passes last season.

In other words, the unknowns far outweigh the known with the Tigers' passing game in 2009.

McKenzie back with Auburn, Billings still waiting

May, 21, 2009
5/21/09
8:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Thanks to reports from Auburn beat writer Evan Woodbery of The Mobile Press-Register, we find out that tight end Gabe McKenzie has returned to full participation after missing the spring because of undisclosed health issues.

That's the good news for the Tigers.

The status of receiver Montez Billings is still up in the air. Coach Gene Chizik told The Press-Register that Billings is still working through an academic issue even though he graduated earlier this month.

Billings missed spring practice. He's the Tigers' leading returning receiver, catching 24 passes for 277 yards last season.

The receiver position was already a huge question mark going into next season, although it helps tremendously that heralded signee DeAngelo Benton has made it through the NCAA Clearinghouse and will be eligible to play.

Auburn spring wrap-up

May, 5, 2009
5/05/09
9:15
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Auburn Tigers
2008 overall record: 5-7

2008 conference record: 2-6

Returning starters

Offense: 7; Defense: 7; Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Kodi Burns, RB Ben Tate, RB/WR Mario Fannin, WR Montez Billings, OT Lee Ziemba, DE Antonio Coleman, CB Aairon Savage, S Mike McNeil, S Zac Etheridge

Key losses

WR Rod Smith, OG Tyronne Green, DT Sen'Derrick Marks, DT Tez Doolittle, CB Jerraud Powers

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Ben Tate* (664 yards)
Passing: Kodi Burns* (1,050 yards)
Receiving: Rod Smith (332 yards)
Tackles: Zac Etheridge* (75)
Sacks: Antonio Coleman* (6)
Interceptions: Josh Bynes* (3)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Louisiana Tech
Sept. 12 Mississippi State
Sept. 19 West Virginia
Sept. 26 Ball State
Oct. 3 at Tennessee
Oct. 10 at Arkansas
Oct. 17 Kentucky
Oct. 24 at LSU
Oct. 31 Ole Miss
Nov. 7 Furman
Nov. 14 at Georgia
Nov. 27 Alabama
Two-horse race: Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn narrowed the quarterback race to juniors Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle toward the end of spring, and they will get most of the reps when preseason practice begins. Malzahn has never been a two-quarterback guy, so it will be interesting to see who emerges. Redshirt freshman Barrett Trotter was also in the race for most of the spring.

Buying into Chizik: When Gene Chizik was announced as Auburn's new coach, even some of the most loyal Tigers fans had to stop and scratch their heads. But the players quickly bought into his no-nonsense approach. The entire program needed a jolt of confidence after the way last season ended, and Chizik was able to get everybody's attention with an extremely physical spring.

Getting Fannin the ball: Keep your eyes closely on Mario Fannin next fall. He's liable to line up just about anywhere. The key is getting him the ball because he's one of the most explosive playmakers on the team. Malzahn has several things in store for Fannin whether he's at receiver, running back or quarterback in the Wildcat formation.

Fall questions

Mastering the spread: The spread offense was a dirty word on the Plains after the way it imploded last season under Tony Franklin. But no two spreads are the same, and Malzahn insists his spread will start with a physical running game. For that to be effective, the Tigers still have to prove they can throw the ball well enough to keep defenses honest.

Complementing Coleman: We know senior defensive end Antonio Coleman is one of the most accomplished big-play artists in the league. Who are going to be his running mates? Junior defensive end Michael Goggans and junior linebacker Craig Stevens are certainly candidates, while cornerback Aairon Savage also returns after missing last season with a knee injury.

Benton's arrival: Without a doubt, receiver DeAngelo Benton was the Tigers' most important signee. He has everything it takes to be a go-to receiver in this league. He failed to qualify academically after initially signing with LSU out of high school, but was recently certified by the NCAA Clearinghouse, according to his hometown newspaper, and will enroll at Auburn this summer.

Auburn's Billings out with academic issue

April, 15, 2009
4/15/09
8:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Strike Montez Billings' name from the SEC's all-injured team this spring.

On Tuesday, I had a post listing several of the marquee players in the league who had missed most or all of spring practice because of an injury, and Billings was on that list.

But for the first time this spring, Auburn coach Gene Chizik clarified Billings' absence Tuesday night as an academic issue and not an injury. Billings is the Tigers' leading returning receiver after catching 24 passes for 277 yards last season.

Also, it looks like starting safety Mike McNeil will be out for at least two months after breaking his leg in last Saturday's scrimmage. The Tigers were already without their other starting safety, Zac Etheridge, who's been held out of contact work because of a shoulder injury.

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