Published February 6, 2011 - 7:47pm
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Biggest Needs: Offensively Auburn loses a total of 12 guys on the 2-deep depth chart, unfortunately for Auburn fans 7 of those guys are starters. First, let’s start with the departure of Heisman Trophy Winner Cam Newton. There will not be a more difficult task this offseason than replacing Cameron Newton, because Newton accounted for 4,327 total yds and 50 TDs this past season. Add in the early departure of WR Darvin Adams with the graduation of WR Terrell Zachary, and that is over 6,000 yds of offensive production that is gone from the National Champs. Now we move up to the offensive line, and the Tigers lose 4 of their 5 starters on the O-Line. Right tackle Brandon Mosley is the only returning starter next season.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Tigers lose 8 starters and 10 guys on the 2-deep depth chart. On the D-Line, no player will be missed more than Nick Fairley and the impact of his 11.5 sacks. Including Fairley, Auburn loses 3 starters, and 5 total D-Linemen. Moving to the linebackers, Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens are both graduating, and Bynes was a key leader in the Tigers National Championship run. The Tigers lost quite a bit of experience in their defensive backfield, as Zac Etheridge, Aairon Savage, and Demond Washington are all departing.
Note: Even on special teams, the Tigers graduate their starting kicker, punter, holder, and kick returner.
Needs Met: Even without signing Cyrus Kouandjio, Auburn signed one of the best O-Line classes in the nation. They signed 4 O-Linemen, and many think the jewel of the class is Christian Westerman. However, I think that Greg Robinson is an absolute road grader. Auburn added to their offensive backfield with 2 RB’s and 1 QB. If you watched the Under Armour game, then you have already seen the potential of QB Kiehl Frazier. The two running backs that Auburn signed are huge pickups. Tre Mason looks ready to jump in and get carries next year, and I think Quan Bray can play anywhere on the field. Bray told me that the Auburn coaches said he could play anywhere on offense, and he might even return kicks/punts. Their needs in the receiving corps were met, as they signed 2 WR’s and 2 TE’s. Brandon Fulse is a huge tight end pickup, and WR Jaylon Denson looks ready to push for PT next year.
I know that everyone is high on Auburn’s O-line signings, but the Tiger’s DB class looks better in my mind. Here is my reasoning: Sometimes when a team signs a top O-lineman, that player may not play for a couple of years. However, skill position players can come in and contribute much quicker, and I think 4 out of 5 of the DB’s that Auburn signed could play next year. It would not surprise me at all to see Jonathan Rose, Erique Florence, Jermaine Whitehead, and Robenson Therezie on the field next year. Ask me to pick the best of the bunch, and I honestly don’t know. At the LB position, the Tigers signed 4 LB’s, and the best of the 4 is easily Kris Frost. I had the opportunity to see Frost play this year, and I would be shocked if he didn’t play. Moving up to the D-Line, there were 4 D-Linemen in this class. Gabe Wright looks ready to go as an interior D-Lineman, and I really think Wright could play from day 1.
Biggest Get: Pulling Christian Westerman away from Texas was impressive. Considering Auburn’s needs on the O-Line makes him even more important, but to get him to switch from Texas is amazing. It seems that no one ever gets a guy away from Texas.
Biggest Miss: I know this will be a sore spot, but Cyrus Kouandjio is the biggest miss this season. Cyrus is the one player in this class that looks as ready (or more) as Westerman. Auburn didn’t seem to have a chance at Kouandjio about one month ago, but after he committed on NSD, it seemed like Auburn had pulled him away from Bama. However, things changed, and this one will sting for a while.
Final Evaluation: Auburn lost quality players at just about every position, and they signed quality players at every position. This class will help a lot next year, but I think it will be two years to see the real dividends of this class.
Final Grade: A+
Note: For another in depth look at this class, check out Auburn Writer Johnny Smith’s look at this class: http://www.saturdaydownsouth.com/2011/immediate-impact-signees-for-auburn/