Post-spring strengths and weakensses: Auburn
Coming off a slightly disappointing year, expectations are high on the Plains.
With a new defensive coordinator and a tantalizing new quarterback, many around the country view Auburn as a potential playoff team in 2015.
With Auburn heading into summer along with the rest of the SEC, let’s take stock of the teams considerable strengths and where potential weaknesses may be.
- A deep backfield — Outside of Georgia, Auburn has perhaps the most talented backfield in the conference. Former five-star recruit Roc Thomas and junior college transfer Jovon Robinson both have massive potential, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if whoever ends up getting the bulk of the carries leads the SEC in rushing. There’s also Peyton Barber, who has the most experience in the system after serving as a reserve the last two years. Auburn will once again be one of the best rushing attacks in the nation, and it likely doesn’t matter who ends up as the lead back thanks to all the talent on hand.
- Passing game is settled — Auburn has a huge leg up on most of the SEC for the simple fact that its quarterback position is solidified. Jeremy Johnson was long Nick Marshall’s heir apparent, and he lived up to expectations this spring. The Tigers also know who Johnson will be throwing to, with D’haquille Williams and Ricardo Louis both returning and versatile weapon Jason Smith being added to the mix. Just by knowing who will make up the passing game, Auburn is ahead of most other contenders in the SEC.
- Veterans on defense — Will Muschamp will look to revamp Auburn’s defense, a group that gave up 30 or more points in its final seven FBS games last year. He gets to do with eight returning starters, plus the addition of defensive end stalwart Carl Lawson back into the mix after he missed last season. A DC as good as Muschamp having so much veteran talent is bad news for the rest of the conference.
- Secondary uncertainty — One place Auburn did lose a lot of production is from the defensive backfield. Auburn tied for the conference lead with 22 interceptions last year, but just under half of those picks are gone thanks to graduation. Johnathan Ford and Jonathan Jones are the only two returning starters, and Jones is already dealing with a foot injury that knocked him out of the spring game. The defense got lit up through the air on A-Day, and it’s something Muschamp will have to rectify by fall.
- Replacing offensive line departures — Avery Young and Shon Coleman are both stalwarts, while OL coach J.B. Grimes is smitten with guard Alex Kozan. However, replacing a Rimington Award winner at center is not an easy task, especially when his two potential replacements haven’t played the position at the FBS level; Austin Golson is a converted guard, while Xavier Dampeer sat behind Reese Dismukes since transferring from junior college.
- Lack of secondary receiving option — For the last few years, tight end C.J. Uzomah provided a solid middle-of-the-field outlet for Auburn quarterbacks. With Uzomah now in the NFL, there’s no clear option yet for that dump-off receiver. While the Tigers do have an array of threats out wide, they’ll need a safety valve for Johnson no matter how proficient he is at throwing downfield.