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May 31, 2013

Getting stronger at No. 6 in our countdown

6) Ryan Russell, strength and conditioning coach

By Aaron Brenner

Don’t scoff at the No. 6 placement. How about some numbers for you: 69 and 6. Sixty-nine fourth-quarter points allowed in the first eight games of 2012. Six fourth-quarter points scored in the first eight games of 2012. It’s almost too incredible to believe: just two field goals in 200 crunch-time minutes, and a whole bucket of points allowed in that same time frame. Pride and passion have something to do with it. But the rash of injuries indicates endurance plays a role too.

Say what you want about Kevin Yoxall; plenty of former Auburn players did when he was dismissed, and they were none too pleased. https://twitter.com/lutzenkirchen/status/276831786707857408 But the current Tigers say they love Russell – a one-time Auburn assistant brought over with the Gus Malzahn parade from Arkansas State – and his rampaging ways and trademark howl during “flex” periods keep the intensity high during a dogged practice. We’ve seen some fairly daunting weight changes, both gains and losses, among several players who were previously too light or too heavy for their position. Even if most his work is done in the offseason rather than the fall, Russell’s program is critical to leveling that horrific 69-6 mark. Absolutely critical.

May 30, 2013

From the garden spot to No. 7 in the countdown

Nick Marshall

Just a quick recap of what this countdown is. Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at our choices for the 25 people who will have a short-term and a long-term effect on the rebuilding of the Auburn football program.

7) Nick Marshall, junior, quarterback

By Aaron Brenner

Auburn quarterbacks scored 8 touchdowns and threw 15 interceptions last year. Marshall scored 37 touchdowns (19 rushing, 18 passing) and threw 20 interceptions at Garden City Community College. So obviously, Marshall’s got to protect the football (he also fumbled eight times and lost five), but the talent is there to make life difficult for opposing defenses, a year after Auburn produced one of the most abysmal quarterbacking years you could imagine.
http://www.wareagleextra.com/?p=7377

Last we heard, Marshall is enrolling for summer courses, which means he’d be allowed to work out with teammates and begin absorbing the playbook. Huge, because it takes more than throwing spirals and breaking tackles to play quarterback in any offense, not the least of which is this particular one. The former Georgia defensive back (who was dismissed for violation of team rules) is desperate for a second chance; what better than to reinvent himself as a star with a rival school?

May 29, 2013

He returns to Auburn and finds his way into the countdown at No. 8

Rodney Garner

Just a quick recap of what this countdown is. Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at our choices for the 25 people who will have a short-term and a long-term effect on the rebuilding of the Auburn football program.

8) Rodney Garner, defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator

By Aaron Brenner

It’s one thing for players to like their coaches, or respect them, or say they do, anyway. When players revere their coach, that’s something special and significant. Garner spent 15 years in one place, which says something about his loyalty. (Granted, he was given a look for Auburn’s head coaching vacancy when Tommy Tuberville left after the 2008 season.)
http://www.wareagleextra.com/?p=7337

Georgia could not have been pleased to see Garner go to the interdivisional rival, especially because of his impact on recruiting the finest defensive linemen in the state. Now those guys are ending up at Auburn – not that they weren’t already, i.e. Gabe Wright and Jeffrey Whitaker. But now that Carl Lawson (who stuck with the program after committing to the Gene Chizik regime) and Montravius Adams are on their way to Auburn too, that state could end up becoming a major mining ground for Auburn recruits. Garner will be worth every penny of his sensibly exorbitant contract for an assistant coach.

May 28, 2013

SEC QBs should be aware of No. 9 in our countdown

AUBURN FOOTBALL

Just a quick recap of what this countdown is. Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at our choices for the 25 people who will have a short-term and a long-term effect on the rebuilding of the Auburn football program.

9) Carl Lawson, freshman, defensive end

By Aaron Brenner

The SEC’s got this reputation as a defensive league; yet four of the last six Heisman winners have been SEC offensive players, including three quarterbacks. The Jadeveon Clowneys of the league are more and more important; Sam Montgomery, Damontre Moore and Jarvis Jones make their money at the next level by making cameos in these golden boys’ nightmares.

Corey Lemonier split for the next level, which could be the best thing that ever happened to Lawson. Opposite Dee Ford, who’s quite comfortable coming from the QB’s line of visual, there must be an impact pass-rusher who can handle himself against SEC left tackles. Nosa Eguae and Kenneth Carter do certain things well; like lead. But this team needs playmakers. Lawson can do that from day one. At least in year one of this inaugural Gus Malzahn class, he’s the most relevant commit out of high school

May 27, 2013

Running into our countdown at No. 10

Auburn 31, ULM Louisiana-Monroe 28

Just a quick recap of what this countdown is. Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at our choices for the 25 people who will have a short-term and a long-term effect on the rebuilding of the Auburn football program.

10) Tre Mason, junior, running back

By Aaron Brenner

One of the more amusing recurring moments from the press box last year would be the immediate aftermath of a long Tre Mason run. No naming names, but another reporter would predict, “there he goes, out of the game, and they won’t give it to him for the rest of the drive.” It wasn’t snark; it was sage. Mason’s usage was occasionally puzzling; he even had a mini-blow-up after the Vanderbilt loss (17-13; Mason 16 rush, 85 yards, TD) when he all but demanded the ball more often.
http://www.wareagleextra.com/?p=6623

It was clear the primary motive in the season finale at Tuscaloosa was to get Mason his 1,000 yards – the motive not just for Mason, but for the whole team. It makes no sense otherwise to make that, a 49-0 loss, the first SEC game in which Mason got 20 carries. Just imagine if Mason got what he wanted: a healthy ankle, and close to 200 SEC carries. It probably won’t happen, with Cameron Artis-Payne and perhaps Corey Grant quite capable of cracking the rotation. But just imagine.

May 26, 2013

A senior comes in at No. 11 in our countdown

AUBURN FOOTBALL

Just a quick recap of what this countdown is. Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at our choices for the 25 people who will have a short-term and a long-term effect on the rebuilding of the Auburn football program.

11) Chris Davis, senior, cornerback

By Aaron Brenner

The best cover corner Auburn has to offer, and there wouldn’t appear to be a contender come fall – not since Mackenro Alexander’s twin, Mackenzie, picked Clemson. Jonathon Mincy’s more of your tackling corner, which is why he’s got the field position; Davis will handle the boundary, usually assigned to the opponent’s best receiver.

The Tigers had their ups and downs against top receivers: Mississippi State’s Chad Bumphis and Arkansas’ Cobi Hamilton were held in check, but Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins and Alabama’s Amari Cooper combined for 18 catches, 228 yards and three touchdowns against Davis. The Clemson opener was particularly disastrous for Davis. Provided he’s healed from concussion symptoms last fall, a bounceback year is a must-have from the senior corner.

May 25, 2013

Let’s stay on defense for No. 12 in our countdown

Photo by Todd Van Emst

Photo by Todd Van Emst

Just a quick recap of what this countdown is. Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at our choices for the 25 people who will have a short-term and a long-term effect on the rebuilding of the Auburn football program.

12) Kris Frost, sophomore, linebacker

Aaron Brenner

The storyline continues that Frost is limited only by his own grasp of the playbook. Which, fair or unfair, can’t be disproven until gametime this fall. Frost is crazy athletic, well-spoken; the kind of guy you trust in the middle. With only five tackles in ten games played last year, it’s too early to assess his tackling capabilities.

http://www.wareagleextra.com/?p=8376

There’s still a rational chance Jake Holland takes the starting job back; just because Frost got more reps than Holland in spring guarantees nothing for Frost, though Holland had his struggles last season. Hopefully for Auburn. Backing up Daren Bates should have helped Frost in the mythical ‘clipboard’ role. But can Frost adapt to the new schemes, since in Brian VanGorder’s view he struggled to master that playbook?

May 24, 2013

Big freshman checks in at No. 13 in countdown

Montravius Adams

Just a quick recap of what this countdown is. Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at our choices for the 25 people who will have a short-term and a long-term effect on the rebuilding of the Auburn football program.

13) Montravius Adams, freshman, defensive tackle

Aaron Brenner

AUBURN FOOTBALL

Among the schools pursuing Adams right up to signing day, Auburn was considered to be the ugly stepsister at the ball. Georgia, Clemson and Alabama (in whichever order was in Adams’ mind; or that of many recruiting analysts) were the forerunners. Auburn was just kind of … there. And then Rodney Garner pulled off the stunner, coaxing Adams to pick the Tigers. Which is what elicited that reaction you see above, when Adams presented himself in that airbrushed hat and shirt on Feb. 6.

This is a big deal because Adams is a big dude. He’ll join another group of large men soon; at 6-foot-3, 310 pounds as a high schooler, Adams supplements the cast of Angelo Blackson, Ben Bradley, JaBrian Niles, Jeffrey Whitaker and Gabe Wright who break 300-pound scales. (Niles and Wright were under 300 last year, as was Kenneth Carter, who’s moved from tackle to end.) Throw in Garner’s acumen for teaching inside techniques, and expect Adams to be part of a very good run defense for a very long time.

May 23, 2013

Going wide for No. 14 in the countdown

Jaylon Denson, Jonathan Jones

Just a quick recap of what this countdown is. Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at our choices for the 25 people who will have a short-term and a long-term effect on the rebuilding of the Auburn football program.

14) Jaylon Denson, sophomore, wide receiver

Aaron Brenner

Pointed this out the week leading up to signing day: Denson’s one catch was the only one in 2012 by a receiver taller than 6-foot-2. Unless Tony Stevens comes right in and shows the group what’s what – and hey, he might (he’s a prized recruit) – Denson’s got to step his game up. Fortunately, the coaches love him. Rhett Lashlee considered him the most consistent receiver during spring.

Most of Denson’s value will be directly tied to his quarterback’s ability to get him the football in space. But Denson can help whomever that might be by a) running crisp routes, and b) showing sticky hands when his number’s called and the ball’s thrown on target. That was a problem area with Sammie Coates last year; Denson must improve the deep passing game.

May 22, 2013

Kiehl Frazier, Rhett Lashlee

Just a quick recap of what this countdown is. Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at our choices for the 25 people who will have a short-term and a long-term effect on the rebuilding of the Auburn football program.

15) Rhett Lashlee, offensive coordinator
Aaron Brenner, Special to the Ledger-Enquirer
One of three SEC play-callers born in the 1980s, Lashlee will celebrate his 30th birthday this summer. He’s been working for Gus Malzahn half his life, starting as a Shiloh quarterback and culminating as his right-hand man for the Auburn offense. The sooner he’s a head coach (Kliff Kingsbury, anyone?), the better it’ll be for Auburn. Because that would mean he worked wonders with the Tigers’ quarterbacks.
http://www.wareagleextra.com/?p=7205

Chances are, you’re not going to see Lashlee and the Tigers bend much from Malzahn’s recipe for success. Why try to be a jack of all trades when you can master a couple primary schemes, and watch defenses dare to stop it? That said, if this system were so easy, then Miss Piggy could run the offense and Auburn would still drop 30 a game. It doesn’t work that way. Kiehl Frazier, Jonathan Wallace and everybody else must learn the basics of playing quarterback, which Lashlee did very well in high school and now must coach.