AUBURN, Ala. – Three A-Days ago, Cam Newton only threw eight passes. Completed three.
Florida fans questioned Tim Tebow’s ability to go from gimmick to general for the 2007 season. Sam Bradford’s 2008 spring game at Oklahoma was marred by three interceptions; Johnny Manziel failed to complete half his passes and averaged just 5.7 yards an attempt in last year’s Texas A&M spring game.
Would four future Heisman winners be enough to sway you on where this is going?
I can’t sit here and tell you spring doesn’t matter. If it doesn’t, they wouldn’t bother with the activity – or at least we fans and media wouldn’t be dumb enough to squeeze four to six weeks of coverage and attention out of it. (Would we? Don’t answer that.)
But we’ve got to stop expecting any coaching staff – especially a brand-new one like Auburn’s, with very little preconceived notions of the existing players – to have answers for us without delay.
It’s a now-now-now world, where we stomp our feet like Veruca Salt and demand a depth chart this instant.
I roll my eyes at coachspeak as much as the next guy, but I can buy into any coach who downplays any questions about an inside linebacker playing outside or a third-string skill player gets a few snaps with the second-stringers.
Here’s where I think we can read into spring developments:
- Major position changes, like if a receiver starts playing cornerback or something. In this year’s case, I think Justin Garrett standing out at Ellis Johnson’s ‘star’ safety position in the 4-2-5 is quite significant.
- Guys missing significant time due to injury. Should Tre Mason be worried that his left leg injury is giving coaches more time to love Cameron Artis-Payne? It’s not unheard of for incumbent starters to lose their gig due to spring absence.
- Altered body types from the previous season. CJ Uzomah looks cut and ready to be a matchup nightmare. Kiehl Frazier looks like he needs to regain some athleticism after gaining weight in the offseason – he says he’ll burn it off quickly, but actions speak louder than words.
Other than that, it’s all conjecture. Yeah, it’s fun for water-cooler talk, but that’s about it.
Ultimately, these 15 practices in Auburn – and Arkansas, and Tennessee and Kentucky, come to mention it – are icebreakers in the heat of a Southern spring.
The “evaluation period” – apologies for coachspeak rubbing off – gives Johnson and Dameyune Craig and Rodney Garner an opportunity to see who fits the schemes Auburn’s installing five months from now.
Spring ball’s a nice appetizer to fill a month, an interlude bridging March Madness to summer vacation.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
Aaron Brenner, firstname.lastname@example.org