Whew, has it already been a year? Is it really time to get geared up for AU football again? I'm happy to say, "HECK YES IT IS!!!" I haven't spent much time this summer focused on football. School and work have gotten the best of me to this point, but I've got the fever again and so I put together a list of some things I think have a strong chance of comin to fruition in 2012 for our Tigers.
I won't get into the schedule yet, because my brain would probably overheat from the subsequent analysis required.
On offense, Loeffler, pounding the rock, and flight of the golden eagle majestic air attacks:
- Despite his experience and physical talents, I think O-Mac will have a more limited role on the offense this year than many expect. His size has never quite been where it needs to be for him to be a truly effective traditional RB in the SEC. Add to that the fact that every offensive player is learning Loeffler's system at the same time and I think McCalebb gets somewhat "pigeon holed" into a more specialized role on the offense. This doesn't mean we'll forget who this guy is however. I look for McCalebb to possibly catch more passes out of the backfield, be one heckuva decoy, and also possibly thrash defenses in the option along side Kiehl Frazier. He'll still get his sweeps other plays that allow a player with his quickness to create favorable situations, but I sense a much more "no nonsense" attitude brewing for the Loeffler guided AU offense.
- Lutzenkirchen will provide a much needed reliable target in the passing game. With Prosch coming in and most likely eliminating the need for Lutz to constantly lead block, the tight end will flourish. This is good news for our quarterback play. We desperately need multiple, significant receiving threats for our passing attack to work properly. A positive side effect of Lutz's new "freedom" will be that our 2-minute offense will be pretty darn good this year. Assuming our offensive line play elevates in 2012. Which leads me to my next point...
- Offensive line play will be much better this season, but not without its growing pains. Fans expecting to see Auburn man-handling its way down field might want to stay home for the first 1/3-1/2 of the season. But this is a group that will improve as the year progresses. Jeff Grimes has proven he can do his job well. I fully believe that this offensive line group will enter the season much improved and will continue to get better before our very eyes. We'll take our knocks here early (albeit much less so than last year) but by the season's mid point we'll see a lot of guys "getting it" and putting together some impressive line play.
- Sammie Coates and C.J. Uzomah. Learn those names. You'll be hearing them a lot as they become the "breakout" offensive players of the year. You'll also hear a lot of opposing teams' fans at games asking, "Who the hell is that guy?!." and, "When did T.J. Houshmandzadeh have a son?!" To an extent, Uzomah will push Lutz for playing time this year and I firmly believe Loeffler will find ways to get Uzomah surprise touches when the defense is searching for the Majestic German. AND Sammie Coates will finally step into the role of official wing-man to Auburn's No.1 receiver Emory Blake. The duo of Coates and Blake anchored at opposite sides of the field will tremendously raise the level of some other WR's who have yet to live up to expectations (Reed, Benton, etc.)
- Jay Prosch. Pour your heart and soul into rooting for this kid (as if you already won't). He's a great a person, a valuable addition to the Auburn family, and he is going to help this offense possibly more so than any other singular player outside of the quarterback in 2012. War Damn Eagle! War Damn Prosch!
- Runningbacks. Plain and simple with the subtraction of Mike Dyer we are better at this position this year. Tre Mason, Mike Blakely, Onterio McCalebb, and Corey Grant will form what I consider one of the strongest groups of backs in the nation IF all of these guys can perform. However, it will be very very important for Blakley (or Grant) to step up early and establish himself as our dependable physical, big back. We have to have this.
- Quarterback play. For whatever reason, as I sit here anticipating the season, I am not willing to accept anything less than great production at this position. Admittedly an unfair position to take. My reasoning for this is simply that Scott Loeffler was brought in and hailed thoroughly for one distinct thing: coaching quarterbacks and extracting every possible ounce of ability out of them. Kiehl Frazier's talent seems a perfect fit for someone like Loeffler. I am very anxious to see what results from their work together. As it is every season, outstanding QB play can propel these Tigers to extreme heights. But if our quarterback struggles, it will filter down into every aspect of the offense. I don't think that will be the case, but this factor remains a major wildcard for me. I can envision incredible achievements and typical sophomore struggles alike. I'd like to assume that in Kiehl Frazier we have an "ahead of the curve" signal caller both physically and mentally speaking.
Defense, stopping the run, punishing the opposing quarterback, mustaches that could get you banned from public playgrounds, soft spots, and defensive back play that will (at times) resemble raw and unfiltered awesomeness.
- The defense will be better this year. Not just by a small amount, but a significant amount. Van Gorder will begin the process of making the Auburn defense resemble what it was that made so many fans love it in the first place.
- The defensive line will be ugly this year. Ugly as in, we'll be hurting people. Not in illegal ways, but there will be guys who run the ball against us and then never run the ball against us again. Also, quarterbacks will be punished much more so than they were last year. Sacks will be up and they will be more timely this year. Nosa Eguae and Corey Lemonier are the real deal. The important people to focus on here are Whitaker, Wright, and Blackson. All guys who can and arguably should have strong seasons. It will be imperative for them (as well as others) to perform like they can to create as many opportunities for our dynamic ends to impose their will on offenses. If the d-line meshes like it should this will be the crown jewel our defense. I get giddy thinking about all of the turnover opportunities that can possibly come out of this defensive line shutting teams out running the ball and forcing the pass. And who will be defending the pass? The freaks...
- I know I stole that from LSU's group of defensive backs last year, but the talent/potential in our secondary is exciting to think about. Bell, Davis, White, Therezie, Florence, McNeal, Smith. They won't be the steel curtain, and I think there is room for improvement but I think we'll finally see an Auburn defense that can lineup against teams with dynamic passing attacks and not get overwhelmed by anyone's athleticism. Which will go a long way in stopping teams from literally pelting us with completed passes like they did in the Ted Roof era. Look for Erique Florence to be a breakout player at Safety this year. He'll be laying wood early and often in 2012. Interceptions will be up as well as more timely I think because of the overall improved athleticism and experience of the secondary.
- Linebacker play will continue to be the soft spot of the defense in 2012. Jake Holland provides great MLB play and he'll get help this year, but I think it will be streaky because of the youth and lack of experience. LB play will be improved overall in terms of athleticism and talent, but look for teams to attack this weakness frequently. Depending on how well this LB core develops in-season, there could be some exciting flashes of things to come in the future.
Cody Parkey Thunderfoot touchbacks, things we'll do on 4th down, and Craig Sanders making mothers nervous.
- Thunderfoot will continue to behave much like a cyborg sent back in time whose only objective is to attempt to launch footballs into space, but not before they either go through the uprights of the goal posts or create a touchback.
- Steven Clark has had his ups and downs but I think he will be very reliable this season.
- Craig Sanders is (sadly) the odd man out at a few positions. This will cause him to focus more of his energy on covering kickoffs and punts. This will lead to the NCAA creating a new rule called the "Craig Sanders Rule" which will basically state that Craig Sanders (or any of his kin) is never allowed to play football again until equipment technology sufficiently improves enough to withstand the impact delivered by a Craig Sanders hit.
And that is my *cough cough* brief arm-chair analysis of the upcoming 2012 season. I could be kind of right and I could be (probably am) dead wrong about a lot of things, but it is always so fun to look toward the season with passionate optimism. Thank God I live in the south, where feeling this fired up about the upcoming college football season in mid-July is perfectly acceptable(and by some people's standards, a little late).
Everybody get your hands up for bodda getta...
My hands are up, are yours?
War Eagle! Beat Clemson!