Published August 17, 2010 - 12:32pm
NEW: Discuss this topic in the Google+ community for SEC fans.
For this preview of Auburn’s 2010 football team, I have turned to a variety of writers on the internet to get their viewpoints. Here is what I found.
Tailgate Review’s Auburn Preview (read full article)
For the first time since Jason Campbell left campus there is no QB controversy coming out of spring ball. The job is solidly in the hands of JUCO transfer Cameron Newton. Newton is an incredible specimen standing 6’6″ and 250 pounds and he has drawn comparisons to being a “hybrid” of Vince Young and Michael Vick. However at this point in his career Newton is a much better passer than either Young or Vick were at this stage. Newton was not the only newcomer to hit the campus with high praise; freshman RB Michael Dyer is drawing comparisons to former Tiger RBs Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams. He will have to learn the offense and the blocking schemes so he will probably not crack the starting line-up right away. So while he is learning, Newton will hand-off to veterans Mario Fannin and Onterio McCalebb. At wide-out Newton’s primary targets will be Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery; Adams was just shy of 1000 yards receiving and he also had 10 receiving TDs. The offensive line will be solid and steady but not spectacular; the RG position is still up for grabs with the season opener less than 4 weeks away.
Sports Illustrated 2010 Auburn Outlook (read full article)
Coordinator Gus Malzahn’s fast-paced offense set Auburn records in his first season, but the addition of a mobile, strong-armed quarterback could add even more weapons to his arsenal. Juco transfer Cameron Newton remains the favorite to win the starting job, but coaches have been pleased with the fight of senior Neil Caudle and sophomore Barrett Trotter. It’d take a monumental upset for either to win the job this August, but it’s worth remembering that a year ago Kodi Burns was favored to beat out Chris Todd, who went on to throw for 2,612 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Replacing running back Ben Tate (1,362 yards rushing in 2009) might be an even bigger concern. Senior Mario Fannin has been a do-it-all offensive player, blocking, catching passes and playing several positions — but never achieving the stardom that many had predicted for him. He’s now the first in line to replace Tate as the Tigers’ every-down back. Star recruit Michael Dyer will be waiting in the wings if Fannin falters or is injured.
Wide receivers Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery burst onto the scene in 2009, putting up big numbers and combining to grab 75 percent of all passes caught by receivers. Auburn was happy to have ball hogs last year, but coaches would prefer to spread the wealth this season.
Like last year, Auburn will have a proven, SEC-tested line that should be among the best in the league. Four senior starters are back, and two or three of them (most notably Lee Ziemba) could be playing on Sundays soon.
Clemson Website Previews Auburn (read full article)
Former Florida quarterback Cameron Newton took over as the starter during spring practice after leading Blinn College [Texas] to the 2009 NJCAA National Football Championship. Newton is a big quarterback (6-6, 247), but is best remembered as the backup to Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow at Florida in 2007.
He redshirted in 2008, then was thrown off the team by Urban Meyer after an alleged laptop theft and transferred to Blinn, where he played the one season before then transferring to Auburn on December 31st of last season. [Interesting side note: Newton will be replaced this season as the starter at Blinn by former Boston College quarterback Justin Tuggle, who started against Clemson last season in the game marred by lightning and torrential downpours.]
Running back Ben Tate (1,362 yards, 10 touchdowns) has graduated, and he is replaced by sophomore Onterio McCalebb (105 rushes, 606 yards), who has all of the potential to be a big-time player. Senior running back Mario Fannin (34 rushes, 296 yards) also figures to be a part of the action, and he also caught 42 passes for 413 yards and three scores last season.
At wide receiver the Tigers welcome back one of the top SEC receivers in junior Darvin Adams, who hauled in 60 passes for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2009. He will be joined by Terrell Zachery (26-447), Eric Smith (18-226), DeAngelo Benton (6-88) and Emory Blake (9-66) as the top returning pass catchers. Adams and Zachery accounted for over 80 percent of passes caught by Auburn receivers last season, so it will be interesting to see if they spread the ball around more in 2010. Kodi Burns, who has played all over the field, will also see time at wide receiver.
The offensive line only figures to get better as four of their top five starters return in LT Lee Ziemba, LG Mike Berry, C Ryan Pugh and RG Byron Isom. They also added two very good junior college players in Roszell Gayden and Brandon Mosley, one of which is expected to start at right tackle for the departed Andrew McCain.
The offense figures to get only better with a year under its belt in Malzahn’s system, but the big question mark is just how good Newton will be. At Florida, he was known as a less-than-accurate passer, and the one time he was on display for the Auburn media in the spring he didn’t look much better. The offense also has a huge question mark in replacing Tate.
SEC Sports Fan Previews Auburn’s 2010 Team (read full article)
The Tiger QB will have an army of reliable receivers at his disposal. Players who have taken it to the next level and stand to have a stellar season in 2010-11 are Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery. Add in Quindarius Carr, Kodi Burns, DeAngelo Benton, and Emory Blake and you’ve got depth with a capital “D” and no excuse not to be sailing the ball into the end zone.
Auburn put up a rushing stat of 2,756 yards in 2009 giving their running backs some impressive clout with Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb shouldering a lot of those rushing yards. The high production of these running backs has something to do with the experience of the Tiger’s offensive line. The offensive line returns four of last year’s strongest and two sturdy junior college transfers going for the right tackle position making this line one that will pull some respect in the SEC if not command top billing. Experience is the key word when talking about center Ryan Pugh, tackle Lee Ziemba (who passed on the NFL), Mike Berry and Byron Isom. With these four healthy and injury-free, the quarterback and running backs should have some wide open potential.
Kansas City Star Newspaper Article on Auburn Football (read full article)
Leading the offense for Auburn in 2010 will be quarterback Cameron Newton, a former Florida Gator who made a stop at a junior college last season. Once a backup to Tim Tebow, Newton is a junior who will be given every opportunity to shine in offensive coordinator Guz Malzahn’s wide-open attack.
“There’s question marks in terms of what’s he going to do and how is the function of our offense going to be when you’re playing in front of 90,000 people,” says Chizik of Newton.
Despite the lack of SEC experience, however, Newton’s talent is undeniable. Should he falter, senior Neil Caudle will be ready to step in. A couple of starting wideouts are back in place, including standout Darvin Adams, who recorded 60 catches for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
The offensive line returns four starters, and while that is great news, there is a question of whether the team will be able to successfully replace Ben Tate. Last season, the recent second-round pick of the NFL’s Houston Texans rushed for over 1,300 yards. Mario Fannin, a senior, is a multi-talented back who has yet to shine for the Tigers, but he certainly has the talent to do so.
Maddux Sports Ranks Auburn #21 and Provides Review (read full article)
Second-year head coach Gene Chizik will have to replace surprising starter Chris Todd at quarterback, but junior college transfer Cameron Newton could make the offense even better.
This is hard to believe when looking at Todd’s 2009 numbers. He threw for 2,612 yards and 22 touchdowns, and had only six interceptions. However, the mobile Newton has the stronger arm and could fit Auburn’s system even better.
The Tigers will sorely miss star running back Ben Tate, who carried the ball 263 times last season. He ended up with 1,362 rushing yards and ten touchdowns on a 5.2 yards-per-carry average.
Senior Mario Fannin will most likely get the nod in the backfield. He had only 34 carries last season, but averaged 8.4 yards per attempt. While the 34 carries are a small sample size, the numbers show his explosiveness.
Receivers Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery were key pieces in a high-scoring passing game last season. Adams caught 60 balls for 997 yards and ten touchdowns. Zachery hauled in 26 passes for 477 yards, five scores and a ridiculously high average of 18.3 yards per reception.
The offensive line returns four starters and should be among the best in the SEC.
Athlon Sports Ranks Uburn #22 & Gives Positional Review (read full article)
Ben Tate capped an up-and-down career with a superb senior season. Now running backs coach Curtis Luper is trying to work similar magic in Mario Fannin’s final college season. Fannin has been a do-it-all offensive player — blocking, catching passes and playing several positions, but never achieving the stardom that many had predicted for him. This might finally be his chance. Auburn needs an every-down back to replace Tate, and Fannin is first in line. Luper raised eyebrows by predicting that Tate would finish his career with a 1,000-yard season, but Tate ended up reaching that milestone with plenty of room to spare. So Luper repeated the prediction for Fannin this spring. The confidence of his coaches can only help. Fannin was tagged as fumble-prone early in his career, a designation he thought was unfair but could never fully shake. Other critics say Fannin isn’t durable enough. That, too, will be tested if he carries the ball 20 times per game. Star recruit Michael Dyer, a top-5 prep tailback in the class of 2010, will be waiting in the wings if Fannin falters or is injured. Expect to see Dyer’s role increase as the season goes on and he becomes more familiar with the offense.
A year ago, Auburn’s receivers were seen as a weak link. Now one of the concerns is how to keep all of them happy. Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery burst onto the scene in 2009, putting up big numbers and combining to grab 75 percent of all passes caught by receivers. Auburn was happy to have ball hogs last year, but coaches would prefer to spread the wealth this season. There is no shortage of candidates to step up behind Adams and Zachery. Sophomores Emory Blake and DeAngelo Benton got their feet wet as freshmen and are poised for a bigger role in Year 2.
Like last year, Auburn will have a proven, SEC-tested line that should be among the best in the league. Unlike last year, there will actually be some players ready to come off the bench should things go wrong. Auburn has been aggressively adding linemen to fix a serious class imbalance on the line that had made the unit’s depth very questionable. Fortunately for Auburn, no linemen suffered major injuries and reserves generally had to play only in garbage time in ’09. Although Auburn is better equipped to handle surprises this time around, the Tigers would prefer to keep their main unit together. Two or three of the linemen could be playing on Sundays next year, and one (Lee Ziemba) could be doing it right now if he had decided to forgo his senior year. The departure of four seniors will create all sorts of worries for the Tigers in 2011. For now, the problems will be for the opposing team.
As you can see, the addition of Cameron Newton makes Auburn a big threat in the SEC this year. The receivers have experience and depth and the running backs have talent. With one of the best offensive lines in the SEC, Auburn should be able to move the ball down the field.
Now, let’s take a look at Auburn’s Defensive unit heading into the 2010 football season.
Auburn Review From Kentucky Blog – A Sea Of Blue (read full article)
While the Tigers have a couple of outstanding defensive players, overall, the defensive side the ball is the missing element that would make this team very, very good. Off an already porous defense the Tigers lose Antonio Coleman, who had 10.0 sacks last year. Auburn does, though, bring back linebacker Craig Stevens (95 tackles), who is on the preseason Bronko Nagurski watch-list, which goes to the nations top defensive player. The secondary is filled with question marks related to how well three returning members (Mike McNeil, Zac Etheridge, Aairon Savage) come back from injuries. The loss of defensive back Walter McFadden (six interceptions) only adds to the uncertainty.
Tailgate Review Gives Further Auburn Analysis (read full article)
Well as much as the offense will keep the fans standing and away from the concession stands this side of the ball will have them on the edge of their seats. But the fans will be on the edge hoping that this defense is much improved as last years edition was putrid for most of the year. In fact last year’s defense will go down as one of the worst in Tiger history. This year’s defense will not be spectacular but they will get a boost with the return of Safeties Zac Etheridge and Aairon Savage. Both of these suffered horrific and potentially career ending injuries but miraculously both men are back and have been cleared to play. LB Josh Bynes is the emotional leader of this unit and may be the best tackler on this side of the ball. CB Neiko Thorpe has improved from last season and will likely draw the opponents best WR.
2010 OUTLOOK: If the Defense improves and Newton is as good as advertised then the sky’s the limit for Auburn. The schedule sits up very favorably and that is part of the equation when you are trying to sneak up on someone and win a championship. Chizik has everyone buying into his system and philosophy and that is also a necessary part of the equation. I foresee the Tigers having a shot at a 10-2 record provided everything holds to be true. Those two losses should be in conference but that may not be enough to prevent them from playing for the SEC Title.
Sports Illustrated Describes Auburn’s 2010 Defense (read full article)
Plagued by youth and a lack of depth, Auburn’s historically strong defense has endured two straight subpar seasons. It’s a trend that Chizik, who has a background as a top defensive coordinator, would like to reverse.
There will be more bodies and fewer walk-ons in the defensive rotation, which should give coordinator Ted Roof more freedom to experiment. Daren Bates’ move from safety to linebacker might be an example of that increased creativity; Bates could be used as a hybrid player who could shift to nickel in passing situations.
On the line, Antoine Carter (the so-called “new A.C.”) will attempt to fill the leadership and production void left by Antonio Coleman’s departure, while youngsters will offer depth. Seniors Craig Stevens and Josh Bynes will anchor the linebacking corps. Three veteran defensive backs (Aairon Savage, Mike McNeil and Zac Etheridge) are returning from serious injuries. Of the three, only Savage appears to resemble his old self.
Kansas City Star on Auburn’s Defense for 2010 (read full article)
“There’s times on our defense, we played really well (in 2009),” says Chizik. “There was times when we played very poorly. So we’ve had to go back and really kind of reevaluate.”
The Tigers placed last in the SEC in scoring defense a year ago, allowing 27.5 ppg. They struggled against both the run and the pass and simply need to get better. With eight starters back in the fold, there is certainly good reason for optimism.
Start at the linebacker position, where senior Josh Bynes returns after posting 104 tackles last season. Fellow senior Craig Stevens and Daren Bates, a sophomore, are projected to be impact players in the second tier as well. Bates was formerly a safety, and he brings a great deal of athleticism to the field.
Up front, Antoine Carter is a man who will be counted on to provide a consistent pass rush as a senior, something he hasn’t been able to do so far in his collegiate career.
Safety Zac Etheridge is the leader of the defensive backfield, and the senior will be counting on fellow senior Aairon Savage to shine at corner.
Clemson Website Describes Auburn’s Defense (read full article)
Defensive coordinator Ted Roof had his hands full last season, and figures to have his hands full again this season as he tried to improve a unit that allowed only one team to score less than 20 points last season [Louisiana Tech in the opener]. His group gave up 156 yards per game on the ground, and has the task this fall of replacing Antonio Coleman, who led the team with 10 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss in 2009. They also have to replace CB Walter McFadden and DT Jake Ricks.
Perhaps a testament to how good the offense was at times last season is the fact that Auburn’s defense gave up over 30 points in seven different games last season – and the Tigers won four of those. Auburn finished last in the SEC in scoring defense and 11th against the run, and those numbers will have to improve.
Senior Michael Goggans will take over at the open defensive end spot in place of Coleman, while junior Nick Fairley is expected to start at the open defensive tackle slot in place of Ricks.
The Tigers’ strength will come at linebacker, where they have all three starters returning in senior Craig Stevens (95 tackles, 2.5 sacks), Josh Bynes (104 tackles, one sack) and Eltoro Freeman (31 tackles). Bynes is the best of the group, and can be a force to be reckoned with as he has started 21 consecutive games.
The secondary figures to be a solid if not spectacular group, with three of the four starters returning. Senior Demond Washington (36 tackles, 4 PBU) has made his mark more on special teams but teams with Neiko Thorpe (84 tackles, 1 interception) to give Auburn a good tandem at cornerback.
Athlon Sports Gives Review of Defensive Positions (read full article)
The new A.C. or the old A.C.? When talking football with Auburn coaches and players, be sure to avoid confusion by specifying either recently graduated defensive end Antonio Coleman or rising senior defensive end Antoine Carter. Carter isn’t really new. He has been a productive role player almost since he stepped on campus, and he began to take on greater responsibilities last season. Coaches would love to see him continue to grow as a run-stopper while racking up sacks and pressuring the quarterback. The future at the position is bright. Sophomore Dee Ford has gained weight after being thrown into the mix last season. Redshirt freshman Nosa Eguae was slated to play last season until being derailed by a freak injury. Both players will push for starting jobs now and be in position to claim them next season.
Auburn was down to three scholarship linebackers for much of last season. A fourth was considered a luxury. The solution? No backups means no rest for veterans such as Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens. The two players, now seniors, didn’t seem to mind the extra work, but they’ve welcomed an influx of younger linebackers to the mix during the spring and summer. Freshman Jessel Curry, who enrolled early and went through spring practice, might have the best chance of playing immediately. Sophomore Daren Bates will play a linebacker/safety/nickel hybrid, according to coaches. Bates missed the spring after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, so just how coordinator Ted Roof plans to integrate him into the linebacking corps remains to be seen.
Auburn is hoping three veterans are able to return from serious injuries, but there are backup plans available just in case. Aairon Savage has missed the last two seasons because of two separate injuries. Mike McNeil sat out all of 2009 with a broken bone in his leg. Zac Etheridge sustained a serious neck injury last season. Of the three, only Savage appears to resemble his old self. McNeil is said to be “100 percent,” but coaches offered scant praise for him this spring, and Chizik wouldn’t allow him to speak with the media. Etheridge did not participate in spring drills and will need to get medical clearance before he can return this summer.
Auburn Website Provides Detailed Review of Defense (read full article)
The 2009 Auburn Defense suffered from a great lack of depth. That was the buzz phrase last year. It was true, but there was an overall lack of SEC level talent too.
That lack of depth was compounded by an offense that was either quick strike or quick three and out. Yes, the offense does contribute to the overall effectiveness of the defense, and vice versa. Still, Auburn’s defense was just plain bad in 2009. Injuries played a big part, but so did just plain lack of players.
Some of the ugly truth from 2009 on Auburn’s Defense: 12th in SEC Scoring Defense; 11th in Total Defense; 10th in Rushing Defense; 10th in Pass Defense; 12th in First Downs Allowed; 11th in Red Zone Defense; 12th in 4th Down Conversions Allowed. Auburn allowed 15 of 24 (62%) 4th down conversions! That would be a horribly bad number of 3rd down conversions allowed! In the 5 losses in 2009, Auburn held a lead at half in two of the games, and was tied in one. Defense was a problem, and depth was clearly an issue. What a difference a year could make!
Corners and Safeties
The defensive backfield was decimated by injuries last season. In 2010, the loss of Walter McFadden, who was 4th in the SEC in passes defended, and 3rd in Interceptions (6 with 2 TDs) will be biggest shoes to fill. One positive that came from that was the emergence of Daren Bates (So.) at Safety. Although they’re not technically all returning starters, Mike McNeil (Jr.), and Aairon Savage (Sr.) both return to the lineup at the Safety spots, each having missed all of last season due to injuries, as does Zac Ethridge (Sr.) just recently cleared from last year’s late-season neck injury.
T’Sharvan Bell (So.) saw a good bit of action last season, and had a pair of interceptions in the bowl game. Some publications have pegged Bell as one of the most athletic of the DBs on Auburn’s roster, and with NFL potential. Neiko Thorpe (Jr.) is a solid Corner, and Bell could push Demond Washington (Sr.) for playing time or the starting spot at CB. The core of starters will likely be Thorpe and Washington at CB, and McNeil, Savage and Ethridge will rotate at the Safety spots. Daren Bates will be playing more of a hybrid LB/S position most likely, and will be factored in the LB rotation as well, but any injuries could return him to full time safety play. Juniors Mike Slade and Drew Cole also contributed last season.
At any rate, if this bunch can make it through August unscathed, then the depth charts suddenly seems much better stocked. Including Bates there’s a lot of potential personnel combinations to suite whatever opposing offenses show personnel-wise.
Auburn was just plain short on Linebackers last season, and the starters took the overwhelming majority of the snaps in most of the games. That’s just too much to ask in this league. Josh Bynes (Sr.) is the anchor in the middle and has been a solid player there finishing 6th in the SEC in tackles last season. Craig Stevens (Sr.) may be the best LB nobody talks about, and was 11th in the SEC in tackles.
Bynes and Stevens combined for 199 tackles in 2009. Eltoro Freeman came to Auburn with much hype, but last season seemed to be struggle with his assignments, and briefly lost his starting spot. Freeman is penciled in as the starter, but could easily be pushed by Bates if he’s not careful. There’s no doubt Freeman is talented and athletic, and another year in the system can only help. These starters are all in the 225-240 pound range depending on which roster you’re viewing, and all have legitimate SEC Linebacker speed. Jonathan Evans (So.) at 5’11” 230 rounds out the experienced LB core. Added to the mix this year will be incoming Freshmen LaDarius Owens at 6’2” 236, Jessel Curry at 6’1” 210, and 6’0” 230 Jake Holland. It’s unclear which of them will contribute, though Owens seems to be the favorite of the bunch followed by Holland.
Whichever one or ones it is, it seems clear from last year’s linebacker depth problems that they will be most likely asked to step up early and often. As mentioned previously, Daren Bates factors in this mix as well, and does so at 5’11” 203, but with DB speed.
Defensive line was by far the weakest of a porous defense last season at Auburn, and gone is the one bright spot in Antonio Coleman who lead the league in Tackles for Loss and Sacks. It’s this writer’s opinion that the middle of this group, while improved from last season depth-wise, is still short of top notch SEC players in both talent and size.
The Defensive Tackle rotation likely will be Nick Fairley (Jr.) at NG/DT, and Mike Blanc DT (Sr.) at the three technique. Fairley is supposedly beefed up a tad, but listed anywhere from 295 to 315 depending on where you look. He’s not really a classic run stuffer NG type, so much as a middle pass rusher. Zach Clayton (Sr.) at 6’3” 295, who was hampered by a nagging ankle injury last season, can rotate in at both spots. With these three we’ve got a solid rotation, though nothing fancy.
Sophomores Jamar Travis, 6’0” 292 and Derrick Lykes, 6’2” 281 will provide depth at the NG/DT spot. Jeffery Whittaker (Fr.) 6’3” 308 could be called on to contribute as well. Frankly, I think that those first three will have to step it up quite a bit from last season, or it could be ugly again in 2010.
At Defensive End there is a very good, athletic rotation. Seniors Antoine Carter and Michael Goggins at one end are in the 260+ pound range and more the run stopper type DEs. Carter can rush the passer some and will need to step up his game in that area. Nosa Eguae (RFr.), and Dee Ford (So.) are more the pass rush specialist type. Ford saw action in every game last year, but has added some 25-30 pounds, to his 6’4” frame, up to 235-240. Corey Lemonier (Fr.) 6’4” 227 is also being reported to be as advertised, maybe better, and could certainly factor in to pass rush situations.
Finally, Junior College transfer Joel Bononmolo (Jr.), 6’3” 245 arrives in Auburn with much promise. Depth shouldn’t be a problem at DE. Roof could tinker with several on field combinations here to see what works best. The overall look of the defensive line isn’t very flashy, but there’s some nice potential at the DE spots. Going in to fall camp, the overall depth has a much better look than last year’s group.
The 2010 Auburn defense is heavy on upperclassmen and experience, but light on star power. Last year’s missing depth seems to be provided for somewhat in the form of what could be some talented Freshmen and Sophomores at every position. In looking at each of the groups it appears that Roof and Chizik can package size or speed in the front seven depending on the situation, and still have confidence in the talent and overall experience level. Barring injuries, the Auburn Defense could show a remarkable turnaround in 2010, and should show improvement.