Wednesday, August 1, 2012
What to Expect in 2012
In my last post prior to the Chick-fil-a Bowl (my apologies to those offended by Chick-fil-a and their "fringe," "unpatriotic," "out-of-touch," "burn down their chains," "maime the CEO" because he holds the biblical view of the family...I'm hoping the sarcasm is abundantly clear) I ended my post by stating...
"Auburn will hire capable coordinators, will sign a tremendously talented class, and will be right back in the hunt next fall. The roller coaster cycle has us in a downward plunge at the moment and the Chick-fil-A Bowl is our opportunity to begin our ascent. Get ready for the ride cause things are about to get interesting!"
Hire capable coordinators...check. Sign a tremendously talented class...check. Will be right back in the hunt next fall...you better believe it! That process formally begins today as our Auburn Tigers take to the field to start the process of becoming a team.
People ask me daily what I think about this years team. The answer is--it depends on their mental foundation...meaning, how badly do they want to be great and how hard are they willing to work to accomplish greatness? None of us know that answer. Only the guys that put on the helmet, lace up the cleats, study the film, run the sprints, endure the heat, battle their brothers, follow instruction can answer that question. How well they gel and become a team, a group of guys committed to excellence and demanding it every single day, no days off, no prima donnas doing their own thing, will determine how successful they'll be on the scoreboard.
From a pure talent standpoint, this team will be light years ahead of where they were last season. And it starts up front. Auburn's trenches will be virtually unrecognizeable compared to last season. Our defensive front four will wreak havoc in this league from start to finish. They are deep, talented, and hungry to make an impact and the implentation of Brian Vangorder's defense will help this group be more productive than any other over last season. Corey Lemonier will continue to be a beast, however Dee Ford and LaDarius Owens are guys I'm most interested in seeing compete. Both are guys I expect to have break out seasons and become household names across the conference. Jeff Whitaker, Gabe Wright, DeAngelo Blackson, Kenneth Carter provide the interior depth to wear on an offensive line as the game progresses. This group was pushed around last year, they were green and they made life difficult for their defensive teammates. This year will be just the opposite.
The linebackers are my biggest concern this year on the defense...not due to talent, not due to Jake Holland controlling the middle, but due solely to the lack of tested depth. The LBs struggles last season had more to do with the defensive line not holding their own. That won't happen this year and no one will benefit more than Jake Holland. Kris Frost is set to make a push to have his jersey hanging in Anders Bookstore this time next fall and Daren Bates is a football player and will need to be the emotional leader. They just need to stay healthy. Jonathan Evans is the darkhorse here to win some meaningful playing time and frosh Cassanova McKinzy will see the field regularly as well.
The secondary will be damn good. Coach Willie Martinez is a phenomenal DBs coach and he has a plethora of young talent to utilize. I was amazed the difference I saw early in spring with fundamentals, footwork, and confidence. Chris Davis will compete for All conference honors and Mincy/Therezie/Bell are all too good to not play. AU will have a tremendous nickle and dime package when needed. I'm most intereted to see where Jermaine Whitehead lands and how well our safeties tackle. Whitehead is as football savvy as they come and my hope is he ends up at safety alongside Florence. However it shakes out, the defensive backs will create more turnovers and be a superior unit this season, mainly because of the improved play of the front seven.
Offensively (yeah, defense first on this blog!) it starts with Jeff Grimes finding the right 5...and no coach in America has more young, eager, talented linemen from which to choose. I thought our offensive line was our most glaring problem as well as the most obvious disparity between those that competed at the highest level in this conference (Bama, LSU) and those that didn't (us). We WILL run the football this year, but we've got to have 5 guys develop into a cohesive unit quickly to run it with success.
Kiehl Frazier is the guy and will be fine. He'll have some growing pains with a young offensive line, but the better we establish the run, the better life becomes for Kiehl Frazier. I have all the confidence in the world Kiehl is ready for the gig and becomes the QB defenses in this league don't want to play. A true dual threat guy is a nightmare to prepare for and if the running game is hitting on all cylinders, the play-action pass is deadly. Nevermind a quarterback that can tuck and run. Kiehl has the right demeanor, he's a natural leader, and he'll put up terrific numbers this fall.
I'm intrigued to see if one tailback becomes the premiere back or if we take a running back by committee approach. If I had to guess, Mason would be the guy and Grant would be a close second. Jovon Robinson will get carries early as well. Who steps up?
Lutz and Blake are sure things, but another threat needs to emerge. Can Trovon Reed finally live up to the hype? I think he does this season and look for him to play a prominent role in the passing game. I also like Ricardo Louis and think he has all the tools to make an immediate impact. Again, lots of potential in this area...who steps up?
Special teams will continue to loom large and pay enormous dividends for this football team. We're blessed with superb kickers/punters and guys giving effort on special teams because it means something to them. No drop-off here.
I would say if this team doesn't win 9 games this season, it would be a disappointing year. The schedule is a bear and the talent is young, but the talent is better than we've had in a long time. I'm excited for football season and eagerly await to see the creation of this 2012 team! War Eagle!