BY AARON BRENNER | email@example.com
AUBURN, Ala. — Back on Feb. 13 – I know, that seems eons ago to me too – I was the Auburn beat writer rep answering a few questions entering spring football for The Saturday Edge, a web site dishing out info on the SEC and college football.
In the same style as before, here’s a wrap-up Q&A before we enter the dog days of summer. Answers are my own. I was particularly intrigued to answer the third of these four questions.
What was the biggest takeaway this past month? Were any of the pre-spring question marks successfully addressed?
Easily, the storyline was howfreakingfastAuburnwillmoveonoffense. The players’ heads were spinning after just one practice, and I’m not sure they ever got completely used to their old offensive coordinator slash new head coach’s tempo, which clearly trickled down to all the new assistants who obliged to Gus Malzahn’s orders.
Name a few unknown players who could have breakout seasons.
Justin Garrett is known to beat writers and diehard, attentive fans who read the coverage. To the rest of the SEC and nation at the moment, he’s just a guy with two first names. That’ll change as soon as he produces his first impact game with double-digit tackles or two forced turnovers. He’s loving that “star” hybrid spot in Ellis Johnson’s defense. Also file away names like tailback Cameron Artis-Payne, receiver Jaylon Denson and defensive end Kenneth Carter.
Grade each position group & special teams (ex. QB – B, RB – B+, etc) …… time permitting, if the grade is exceptionally high or low, can you expand on why you believe this to be so?
QBs: C. Nobody separated himself. Troubling news.
RBs: A-. Tre Mason wants three 1,000-yard rushers. Might not be so outlandish.
WRs: B-. Decent options. Not great right now. Check back in August.
OL: B+. Starting five seems in place, but they’ll have their hands full with SEC Ds.
DL: B. Rodney Garner has to be salivating over the incoming freshmen.
LB: C+. Some uncertainty here, even though the potential is fairly respectable.
DB: A. Corners have been great, Garrett’s locked in at star. Just need a free safety.
ST: B-. Punter and kicker are solid seniors, but return game lacks playmakers.
Are there any “surprises” we can expect from this team (is there a reason that makes you think this team is better or not as good as the pundits/public think they are)?
I’d say the consensus is Auburn’s looking at a 7-5 regular season, and maybe a Gator or Music City Bowl appearance. Which would pretty much match Gene Chizik’s first year in 2009 coming off a bowl-less season. Gus Malzahn’s system has the capability to fire off an upset at LSU or in Jordan-Hare Stadium vs. Georgia. Conversely, the young Tigers, still licking wounds from 3-9, are just as susceptible at home to Mississippi State or Ole Miss the first five weeks of the season.
Generally, this fan base would settle for a bowl game. Considering the steady yet unspectacular progress, the schedule appears too daunting to expect a 10-win renaissance … but as J.P. said in Angels in the Outfield: “hey, it could happen.”