Published April 25, 2011 - 2:10pm
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I’m not going to waste your time and mine in doing a recap of the Auburn A-Day game. There’s very little that you can tell from a public scrimmage, especially when the coaches keep the play calling very vanilla, and play a lot of role players. No coach wants to show their hands until the cards are on the table.
On offense, some questions remain unanswered. No one seems to have secured a starting position on the offensive line. The quarterback spot is more of a question mark now than before Spring practice began. It was assumed that Barrett Trotter would assume the starting role, but he was pushed hard all Spring by a newly rejuvenated Clint Moseley. It’s unlikely a starter will be named until weeks into Fall practice, as Coach Chizik has indicated that Kiehl Frazier may be in the mix if he does the work necessary to compete this Fall.
Some questions on offense were answered. Auburn moved Anthony Morgan to running back, and along with 295 lb. Ladarious Phillips, incoming freshman Tre Mason, Philip Lutzenkirchen playing some H-Back, and Trovon Reed playing all offensive skill positions, Mike Dyer and Onterrio McCalebb should once again have exceptional seasons. Lutzenkirchen showed to have the hands to be the go-to receiver Darvin Adams was in 2010, and not to overstate his importance to the 2011 Auburn offense, but Trovon Reed may be the straw that stirs the drink this Fall. You can be sure he’ll see the ball a lot, either running it, catching it, playing wildcat or as a returner.
On defense, junior T’Sharvin Bell looks to be the vocal leader of the defense. His elevated play towards the end of last season is one of the reasons Auburn’s defense improved so much. Auburn’s defensive front will be just as talented as last year’s, and maybe more so, but they’ll be a lot younger. Don’t be surprised to see three sophomores and a junior anchoring the front of the Auburn defense. At this point, the favorites at the position would have to be sophomores Corey Lemonier, Jeffrey Whitaker, Nosa Eguae and junior Ken Carter.
At Linebacker, Auburn will still be young, but returns a lot more experience than on the defensive line. Last year’s starter Daren Bates returns at middle linebacker, and these players all got extensive playing time; Jonathan Evans, Eltoro Freeman, Jake Holland, Jessel Curry and Harris Gaston. My guess at this point is that Jake Holland and Eltoro Freeman will fill out the starting positions, but there still is Fall practice for other players to move up, or an incoming freshman such as Kris Frost to impress the coaches.
At defensive back, Auburn will be much more talented than last year’s squad, and less experienced, but have the potential to be much stronger. T’Sharvin Bell should be the leader at cornerback, and true freshman Jonathan Rose is the best bet to be the starting cornerback on the opposite side, replacing last year’s starting cornerback, Neiko Thorpe, who has been moved to his more natural position at safety. Demetrus McNeal will probably claim the other safety spot.
Auburn kick return team looks to be improved in 2011, with Onterrio McCalebb on one side of the field returning kickoffs, and probably Trovon Reed on the other. Both players are capable of taking it to the house every time they touch the football. Returning punt returner Quindarius Carr is assumed to be the punt returner again in 2011. Kody Parkey will replace Wes Byrum at PK, if that’s possible. Parkey was an Under Armour All-American in 2010, so he fits the description of the Auburn team in 2011, talented but inexperienced. Steven Clark, who spelled Ryan Shoemaker in a few games in 2010, will get the nod at punter.
What will 2011 bring to the Auburn Tigers? No one knows. There are far too many intangibles and unknowns to make any intelligent assessments. Will Auburn repeat as national champions? It’s doubtful. Will they fall apart and be one of the cellar dwellers in the West this fall. That’s also doubtful. I think the answer falls somewhere in between. At this point, it comes down to quarterback play, and there’s one intangible that hasn’t been mentioned. In Gus Malzahn’s six years as a college coach, he has had to train a new quarterback in all six seasons. Not once has one of his quarterbacks failed to put up big numbers.