Saturday, August 9, 2008
Previewing Auburn's 2008 Season (Offense)
Football season. it's almost here. you can smell it? oh wait, no that's just regular vomit from the Athens townies. student puke is still a few weeks away. but regardless the anticipation for August 30th has built to the point where i can't even stand talking about it anymore. just let me see some football. and not any of this NFL preseason nonsense. i want some real college football. every game counts. Saturdays in the south. SEC speed. rivalry. pageantry. and of course the crushing of my hopes. i've already highlighted Auburn's three biggest rivals and each of their prospects for the 2008 season, and now it's time to tackle my Tigers. and give a recycled (it's all about being green. so no new content. The Earth is First!) version of their chances for this upcoming season in the least biased way possible.
Quarterbacks- a new era begins on the plains after FINALLY finishing the Brandon Cox saga and it's series of diminishing returns. for the first time since Daniel Cobb and Jason Campbell split time back in Campbell's freshman season, Auburn's got itself a QB battle. Kodi Burns is the sophomore who saw some limit action last season, mostly as a runner, and was the hero of Auburn's bowl win. he's the guy i think most fans want to see behind center. he's the one i wanna see anyways. standing in Burns way is Junior transfer Chris Todd. Todd's is the more traditional pocket passer whose played in the Tony Franklin spread offense since he was in highschool. AKA he's got a better grasp of the offense, is more accurate, and Tony Franklin favors him. likely Todd is gonna end up Auburn's starter. Burns will still play a lot, though. you can be sure of that. he's too good an athlete not to use and he's already started to establish himself as one of the leaders on this young Auburn team.
fantasy scenario: Burns is so brilliant and perfect a fit for this new spread offense that Franklin turns over the job to him full time, with Todd giving some relief work or QBing certain packages. meanwhile Kodi tears up SEC defenses with his arm and legs and rushes for close to 1000 yards while passing for 20+ touchdowns and leading Auburn to the SEC title.
realistic scenario: Todd starts the beginning of the year. both QBs play about 50% of the time, with Todd running a more pass oriented offense and Burns leading a more option style offense. Burns struggles a bit and fails to become an accurate enough passer to keep the job full time and Todd is a competent passer, but nothing elite and not the guy who can win you a championship. but both QBs play well enough in a combined effort to land Auburn in a major bowl game and give the team something to build on for next year.
Runningbacks- the running back position has long been a strength at Auburn with nearly every guy who has carried the rock landing himself a roster spot on an NFL squad. Ben Tate and Brad Lester will likely carry on that tradition when they are both done playing for the Tigers. but things will be a little different for both players. gone is the classic i-formation. the players will be asked to make plays in open space and run to the outside more instead of just busting it up the middle. Lester is the best fit for the new scheme as he's a quicker back and also a better receiver. both players will split the bulk of the carries and Tristan Davis will also be in the mix. Davis is one of, if not THE fastest players on the team and he could emerge as a surprise star. true freshman Eric Smith will also likely get some carries and might end up being Auburn's goal line back because of his massive size. the runningback position should remain a strength, despite the change from the west coast to the spread.
fantasy scenario: both Lester and Tate rush for over a 1000 yards and gain ALL-SEC honors. it's Ronnie Brown and Cadillac all over again. Lester becomes a darkhorse Heisman candidate. Tristan Davis makes his mark as a kick and punt return specialist, but also shows off his blazing speed for a few amazing runs during the season. Tate decides to hold off entering the NFL and comes back for one more year. Eric Smith isn't needed and keeps his redshirt.
realistic scenario: the backs are productive and help make the transition to a new offense, but nobody really lights up the record books. if anything i expect improvement from last year's spotty running game.
Receivers- if there was one thing that has caused the offense to decline over the past 2 seasons besides having a rag armed QB who stood around like a statue, was the play of our receiving corp. during 2004 and 2005 it was a major strength with Courtney, Ben, Devin, and Anthony all causing major match up problems for opposing teams...but as those players moved on to the NFL we were left with a void that has yet to be filled. Auburn's go to guy last season was Rodgeriqus Smith, a walk on. highly touted prospects like Montez Billings and Tim Hawthorne have yet to live up to their 4 star ratings and Robert Dunn hasn't become the play maker that a lot of fans thought he would be since coming to Auburn. and so it was time to shake things up. the coaches moved the team's most dynamic player, Mario Fannin, from running back to slot receiver where they hope to get ball to him as much as possible and tight end Tommy Trott lost weight to become a quicker player as he is expected to be a major part of the offense this season after mostly being a blocker the last 2 years. also senior speedster James Swinton will finally get some action after being mostly left on the bench his entire time on the plains. Franklin is hoping his speed can be utilized as a deep threat. sophomore Terrell Zachery (another 4 star recruit) is also expected to play a lot as well after having a big spring, mostly subbing for Fannin and Dunn, but don't be surprised if he's a starter by the end of the season. all in all Auburn has a lot of highly touted players who have all yet to show what they can do. hopefully a new offense and new QBs can ignite some excitement in a passing game that had gotten really stale.
fantasy scenario: Fannin makes the transition from back to receiver with ease and puts up huge numbers as the Tigers big play maker setting himself up as a Heisman contender in 09. Tim Hawthorne has a huge break out year and establishes himself as a star and the go to receiver. Tommy Trott and Robert Dunn are nightmares to cover for linebackers and both end up being the guys who move the chains for the Tigers. Trott also shows that he's a major redzone threat and wracks up easy touchdowns. the rest of the receiving corp is very productive and at least a dozen players (including running backs) catch 20+ balls this season.
realistic scenario: Rod Smith remains the go to guy for this team. Fannin and Hawthorne both have solid years, but not star making turns like i'd hope. Trott proves to be a valuable addition to the passing game. Dunn emerges as a play maker in his senior year. the team shows a lot of major improvement overall and we'll have an experienced receiving corp going into the 09 season.
Offensive Line- last year Auburn gave up an ungodly number of fucking sacks. now a lot of this can be blamed on the fact that the Qb they were protecting couldn't outrun your grandmother and would hold the ball for as long as humanly possible because he enjoyed giving me a heart attack. also the line was young. like 3 true freshman young. luckily those freshman have been thrown into the fire and emerged as a pretty talented unit, headlined by 5 star recruit Lee Ziemba. senior guard Tyrone Green and center Jason Bosley add vetran leadership to go along with the youngsters. all 5 starters have NFL potential and some of the backups are highly rated recruits who add some depth. Mike Berry can step in a play center or tackle if needed. also if you fuck with these kids they will chop block the hell out of you. be warned, all your knees are belong to us!
fantasy scenario: the team gives up less than a sack a game all season and each player receives 1st or 2nd team ALL-SEC honors.
realistic scenario: an improved line struggles a little bit with the new blocking schemes but over all helps the team make a jump to being more productive this season. Kodi Burns' mobility and Chris Todd's quick release also cut down the amount of unnecessary sacks that resulted from former QB Brandon Cox's statue-like presence in the pocket.
In Summation: Auburn's Spread Eagle attack should (being the key word) utilize the speed of the Tigers and the athleticism to produce more points and yards this season than the puttering West Coast offense did over the past 2 years. the only problem is that Auburn will be facing elite defenses week to week. Georgia gave up a lot of points to Troy last year who were running the exact same system and LSU had problems keeping Floria in check....but then again everybody has trouble with Tebow (except Auburn). it's likely that this could be a season of growing pains, especially with a new quarterback. hopefully fans can be patient and Auburn will have a well tuned attack by the end of the year that can take pressure off of our defense and not force them to play mistake free football every single game. if the Tigers can score points and jump out to quick leads then it should allow the defense to take chances that could result in big plays and turnovers.