Today we review the eighth SEC team in our series, the Auburn Tigers. Other reviews so far:
Michael Dyer. He didn’t leave under the best terms, but he was the best thing on a disappointing offense last year, and his absence will likely be felt this season. The Tigers make the move to a pro style offense that will allegedly feature the kind of between the tackles running that demands a physical every-down back like Dyer. Sophomore Tre Mason and junior Onterio McCalebb have both shown flashes of talent at times, but neither one has proven effective between the tackles. Transfers Mike Blakely and Corey Grant will both take their shots at the role, but with equal uncertainty at quarterback, Michael Dyer’s return would have been a tremendous boost to a new offense that doesn’t feature very many pieces recruited to play it.
Most Important Returning Player
Phillip Lutzenkirchen. It’s hard to believe that a player with eight touchdown catches might be under-utilized, but Lutzenkirchen could make a solid case for that. Arguably the best tight end in the country, and certainly the most valuable, expect him to become a more integral part of an offense that will most likely try to play more of a ball control style both as a matter of clock management and to help build confidence in whoever eventually wins the quarterback battle.
Highest Ranked Recruit
Jordan Diamond. The four-star offensive tackle has the frame already to compete in the SEC and his ranking as the fifth tackle overall in the country would suggest his head is capable of following. The Tigers would benefit from having him learn sooner rather than later as they are young across the line. They exited the spring with only one player older than sophomore on the line, including two freshmen. The two deep is even younger, with freshmen backing up four of the five positions and a sophomore behind the fifth. Given their youth, Diamond will have an opportunity to play early if his ability matches his ranking.
Most Important Off-Season Acquisition
Defensive Coordinator Brian Van Gorder
. Maybe. I hinted at this in comments on the Mississippi State preview
with commenter Barney
, but while I do not question Van Gorder’s ability, I question whether or not he’ll be allowed to use it. Barney’s argument was that Gene Chizik
would be a fool not to hand over the reigns to an NFL coordinator, but it’s not quite that simple. BVG was a coordinator in the NFL, but he was a soon-to-be former NFL coordinator prior to taking the Auburn position as it was no secret that Mike Smith
was ready for a change in Atlanta. Having an “NFL Guy” is a recruiting tool, it’s not a basis for a defense. That’s not to say that Van Gorder isn’t qualified at the college level. His Georgia defenses were very good. The thing that makes me think he was hired for the NFL label and not his coaching is Chizik. Ted Roof
was the scapegoat for the declining defenses of the past three seasons, but most likely, they were Chizik’s units in much the same way as most other head coaches with a history on one side of the ball or the other. Nick Saban
has a defensive coordinator, Urban Meyer
has an offensive coordinator, but no one questions whose really in charge. It is possible that Chizik has decided to take his hands off the defense and let BVG run the show. For that reason, I’ve picked Van Gorder as the biggest offseason acquisition, but I’m not sold that he’s the panacea for the defense that Auburn fans are hoping for simply because I’m not sure his boss will get out of the way.
Alabama. Always Alabama.
Clemson Tigers – L
@ Mississippi State Bulldogs – L
Louisiana Monroe Warhawks – W
LSU Tigers- L
Arkansas Razorbacks – L
@ Ole Miss Rebels – W
@ Vanderbilt – W
Texas A&M Aggies - L
New Mexico State Aggies – W
Georgia Bulldogs – L
Alabama A&M Bulldogs – W
@ Alabama Crimson Tide – L
Final Record – 5-7*
*I do not believe this will actually be the way the season plays out. I think Auburn will probably have a winning record, but it’s going to require the kind of bounces they’ve found a way to get the past couple years, and I just can’t predict bounces.