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Blog Entry

Spring Practice Primer: Auburn

Posted on: March 25, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2011 2:00 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice  . So we here at the Eye on College Football    will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers   . Today, we look at Auburn , which started spring practice on Wednesday.

Spring Practice Question: Does Auburn have the playmakers to stay in contention?

In 2010, no team in America deserved the "big-play team" label more than Auburn. It's an easy argument, offensively speaking; the Tigers finished No. 1 among all BCS teams in yards per-play, first overall in yards per-pass attempt, and second overall per-rushing attempt. Cam Newton alone accounted for 46 plays of 20 yards or greater, or an average of more than three such players per game.

But it wasn't just the offense. The Tiger defense hemorrhaged yards and points at a rate far, far greater than any previous BCS championship-winning team, finishing a mediocre 60th in the FBS in total defense and 53rd in scoring defense. But led by Nick Fairley's constant presence in opposing backfields, the Tigers made up for it with an SEC- leading (and sixth nationally ) 99 tackles-for-loss. Combine that with a penchant for timely turnovers -- like Antoine Carter's famous strip-from-behind of Mark Ingram to keep Auburn alive during their first-half struggles against Alabama -- and the Auburn defense kept its head just enough above water (BCS title game excepted) for the offense to power its way to a crystal football.

Entering 2011, it's likely Auburn will need more of the same. The offense won't be built to grind out four-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust drives, not with Newton's third-down magic gone and four offensive line starters representing nearly 200 career starts having departed. (Not that Gus Malzahn has ever designed his offenses to plug away Wisconsin- style, of course.) The defense may not be able to get a whole lot worse in terms of down-to-down success, but it may not get much better, either, with all three members of the late-season defensive tackle rotation graduated, six of their top seven tacklers gone, the top three safeties departed (following Mike McNeil's involvement in the recent four-player armed robbery embarrassment), two senior defensive ends, etc.

All of that means that to either move the ball or get stops, Auburn will have to stick to the same big-play formula that worked so well in 2010. But this begs the question that's going to hang over the Tigers throughout spring practice: who's going to make those big plays? No Newton, no Fairley, no Carter, no Darvin Adams, no Terrell Zachery (the underrated big-play threat at wideout who averaged better than 14 yards a reception), no Josh Bynes, no Zac Etheridge ... where are those difference-making plays going to come from?

There's an easy answer for Auburn at running back, at least, where Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb form what should be one of the better inside-outside running combos in the SEC, if not the country. (Though both will need to stay healthy; Auburn's third option at tailback is likely to be true freshman Tre Mason.) But everywhere else, the "Help Wanted" sign will be in the window. A few candidates that will need to prove themselves up to the job this spring:

Corey Lemonier: The only returning starter on Auburn's defensive line is redshirt sophomore end Nosa Eguae, but it's the hotly recruited sophomore defensive end from south Florida who's most likely to emerge as a pass-rushing force in the vein of former Tiger greats like Quentin Groves. In any case, it's the ends that will have to fill Fairley's disruptive shoes; with nothing but new tackles on the inside, they'll have their hands full focusing on plugging up opposing running games.

Trovon Reed: Another member of the Tigers' well-regarded 2010 recruiting haul, Reed was on track to play a sizable role last fall as both receiver and Wildcat quarterback before an injury in fall camp forced him to redshirt. Emory Blake is a nice start, but there would seem to be room in the Tiger receiving corps for a poor man's Percy Harvin- type rushing/receiving threat; if healthy, Reed needs to show he can fill that role.

Neiko Thorpe: One of the few bright spots in Auburn's disastrous 5-7 2008 campaign, Thorpe was expected by many on the Plains to develop into a lockdown, All-SEC corner after a freshman season that saw him hold down a starting job from Day 1 and make freshman all-conference. It hasn't happened, as Thorpe has spent much of the past two seasons getting beaten deep and watching other players (Walt McFadden, Demond Washington) emerge as Auburn's best one-on-one cover guys. Now Ted Roof has moved Thorpe to safety, both to take advantage of Thorpe's size (6'2", 185) and provide cover at one of Auburn's thinnest positions. If the position switch doesn't generate some big plays out of the Auburn secondary, it's not easy to see what will.

Spring Practice Primers
Then, of course, there's Barrett Trotter, the likely heir to Newton's throne after serving as the Heisman winner's backup last season. Though Trotter still has to fend off challenges from Clint Moseley this spring and highly-regarded incoming freshman Kiehl Frazier this fall,his mobility and knowledge of the offense should see him safely through to the starter's job ... if he can make the downfield throws that have been Malzahn's stock-in-trade since the day he moved to the college ranks.

Thanks to three years of savvy recruiting by Chizik and Co., there's no shortage of candidates for the playmaking roles Auburn so desperately needs. But it's one thing to put those candidates on a roster; it's another to see them perform on the practice field, the spring game, under the lights. If players like those above aren't putting their best foot forward this spring, it's hard to see how Auburn doesn't fall out of contention in their follow-up season in the most cutthroat division in college football.


Since: Oct 25, 2010
Posted on: April 5, 2011 6:49 pm

Spring Practice Primer: Auburn

Since: Dec 1, 2010
Posted on: March 28, 2011 11:49 am

Spring Practice Primer: Auburn

Yeah, Yeah Yeah.  Rattle on dummies.  If the defense plays like it should we'll go to another BCS Bowl.  We've got a great RB tandem,  some good recievers and a better secondary.  

Since: Sep 5, 2008
Posted on: March 27, 2011 5:42 pm

Can Auburn repeat?


Since: Jul 12, 2010
Posted on: March 27, 2011 11:36 am

Spring Practice Primer: Auburn

Auburn is staring at a 5th place finish in the SEC West.  They have no offensive line.  They have no cheater at QB.  Auburn will lose at least three road games and could lose all five.  I would be worried about qualifying for a Bowl Game if I were an Auburn fan, With tgames at Clemson, South carolina, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia, and home games against Alabama (guaranteed loss) and Mississippi State, 5-7 is realistic.

What is more realistic is that you are merely a MORON !!!!

Since: Nov 19, 2006
Posted on: March 27, 2011 9:52 am

Spring Practice Primer: Auburn

Auburn is staring at a 5th place finish in the SEC West.  They have no offensive line.  They have no cheater at QB.  Auburn will lose at least three road games and could lose all five.  I would be worried about qualifying for a Bowl Game if I were an Auburn fan, With tgames at Clemson, South carolina, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia, and home games against Alabama (guaranteed loss) and Mississippi State, 5-7 is realistic.

Since: Jul 12, 2010
Posted on: March 26, 2011 3:33 pm

Spring Practice Primer: Auburn

You are in the wrong blog you Tuscaloser Tide person.  Go take your jealousy and post it where someone cares and quit wasting our space.  Ha, maybe we will win just 5 games next year, but you can rest assured that 1 of those wins will be against the Tuscaloser Tide.  Heck, we spotted you 24 points last season and we ALL KNOW WHAT HAPPENED then. You should bow to your little sister, the one that has thoroughly beaten you the last 7 of 10 years and 15 of the last 25...As for cheating, dont see it.  As for paying our players, well, they worked hard, surely didnt pay them enough.  So take that, with your 13 thousand national championships and shove it up your urethra.  WAR DAMN EAGLE !!!

Since: Dec 3, 2006
Posted on: March 26, 2011 11:14 am

Spring Practice Primer: Auburn

Haters line up, Auburn's paying players, winning championships, and stealin' your womenz!

Since: Mar 26, 2011
Posted on: March 26, 2011 10:06 am

Spring Practice Primer: Auburn

the barners will win about as many as they should have last year without all the cheating and the paying of players....maybe win about 5r games

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