Anticipation and expectations are high once again for the Auburn Tigers in 2017. The announced A-Day Game crowd of more than 46,000 at Jordan-Hare Stadium reflects that kind of emotion as the Tigers look to get back to the top of the SEC standings this season.
Here’s a look at Auburn post-spring football, its strengths and weaknesses.
- Running back: Coming into spring ball, this position appeared to be one of the most, if not the most solid of all. But it was somewhat disconcerting that Kamryn Pettway, the SEC’s leading rusher a year ago, was held out of the A-Day Game and Kerryon Johnson suffered an ankle sprain during it. If both are healthy and ready to go in the fall, they should compare favorably to the best tandem backs in the SEC.
- Quarterback: Jarrett Stidham did what Auburn was hopeful he would this spring, take charge of the offense and inject a passing game that new OC Chip Lindsay was brought in to implement. Will he become as magical as JUCO transfers Cam Newton and Nick Marshall before him? Only time will tell, but Stidham has all the tools to become a very good quarterback for Auburn and a piece of the puzzle that has been missing the last couple of seasons.
- Kicking game: A two-time Lou Groza Award finalist, Daniel Carlson is among the best kickers in the country. In this year’s A-Day Game, Carlson punched through five field goals in as many attempts including a booming 55-yarder. One of the best legs in college football, Carlson also showed off his punting ability, although he isn’t expected to man that position. He stepped up as a fill-in during the A-Day Game and in six attempts averaged 43.8 yards per punt, including a 51-yarder.
- Secondary: Depth appears to be an issue, especially at safety, but if Jamel Dean and Jayvaughn Myers recover from injuries sustained last season, that won’t be the case at the corners. The front-line players are talented enough with Carlton Davis and Javaris Davis at the corners, and seniors Tray Matthews and Stephen Roberts manning the safety spots. But backing up those starters appears to be an issue that must be addressed before the season kicks off.
- Punter: Sophomore Ian Shannon steps up to assume the duties in 2017. With just three punts under his belt as a freshman (30.67 average) this becomes one of the biggest question marks of the Auburn team in 2017. He missed the A-Day Game due to a death in his family after a mediocre spring, bringing consistency into question. Shannon must be at least an adequate weapon for Auburn to accomplish its team goals this season.
- Offensive line: Although there are possibilities with some veterans perhaps sliding to other positions along the line, the Tigers entered spring camp needing to fill holes at left guard and right tackle. With Braden Smith moving from right guard to right tackle, sophomore Mike Horton has been given the opportunity to be Auburn’s next right guard. The left guard position remains a question mark that still must be addressed before the Tigers take the field for the Sept. 2 season opener.