Gene Chizik has some tough decisions to make, but having an array of talent to make those decisions difficult is a problem he's happy to deal with.
Nearly two weeks into the football team's fall practice, we've learned very little other than just about every position is up for grabs. With new coordinators on both sides of the ball, that's not entirely unexpected. The offense struggled to move the ball at times, and the defense struggled to keep it from moving. Auburn hopes to improve in both aspects with the new, more physical approach that Loeffler and VanGorder bring to the table. The team finally has talent and depth in key positions, but who will be on the field is still a bit of a mystery.
Very little information has come out of fall practices to this point, and who lines up with the 1's and 2's has changed just about daily. So, these projections are sure to be wrong in some instances. But hey, it gives us some something to talk about and a general idea of what the team may look like.
Quarterback -- It would shock us if Kiehl Frazier isn't the guy. By all accounts, he's looked much more confident and comfortable with the new offense. Clint Moseley is still a bit hampered with the shoulder injury, and true freshman Jonathan Wallace has gotten a lot of praise from the coaches in the first week. It's not out of the realm of possibility that he pushes Clint for the No. 2 role, especially if the shoulder doesn't get better.
Running Back -- O-Mac is a known commodity. He has speed to burn, and he chases squirrels around the quad in his free time. But, he's not going to be the guy hammering it up between the tackles to get those tough yards. Tre Mason has added weight and gotten up to around 200 pounds in the off-season in an effort to help him handle the grind of being a primary ball carrier int he SEC. He'll be pushed hard by Mike Blakely, who may have the most raw talent of the bunch. All three will get carries. It remains to be seen what role Corey Grant will play, but he could be a return specialist. Then there is the cloud hovering over Jovon Robinson right now, which may force him to redshirt, and that is IF he's even able to stick around.
Wide Receiver - Talk about questions Emory Blake is the only sure bet for substantial playing time. Someone has to step up and be the No. 2, and No. 3, and ... well, you get the picture. There is plenty of talent, but it comes down to who wants to step up their game to the next level and take the reigns. Trovon Reed looks to be a leading candidate if he can stay healthy, although, he could end up playing some slot, too. Stallworth is another steady option in the slot. Watch for Coates and Denson to show some flashes of the talent that got them noticed out of high school. Will things finally click for Benton?
Tight End -- This might be the easiest position to project. There is one thing to say here -- get Lutz the ball. We expect Loeffler to run some multiple tight end sets, so look for Brandon Fulse and newcomer Ricky Parks to see plenty of playing time.
Offensive Line -- There is only one guy with a spot nailed down, and he'll anchor the line at the center position. Beyond that, there is a plethora of talented but inexperienced guys. Grimes is one of the top OL coaches in the business, and he'll have his work cut out deciding the best rotation to put on the field. How quickly the line gels will go a long way in determining early season success. What we have above is an early projection, a guess, really. Grimes will put his best five out there and will shuffle players between guard and tackle to find that perfect mix.
Defensive Line -- Corey Lemonier has garnered some pre-season watch list attention, so we are pretty sure he'll have one side of the line locked down. Dee Ford was making some noise before getting hurt last year, and has apparently continued his progression this off-season. They could form a pretty scary duo coming off the end for opposing quarterbacks as long as the guys in the middle can command enough attention to prevent the ends from being double teamed. One thing you'll notice is that Auburn has depth here for the first time in a while.
Linebacker -- Questions, questions, questions. While BVG's defense demands that the man in the middle call the shots, Darren Bates is undoubtedly the leader of the group. Jake Holland will have to step up and hold off a push from freshman Cassanova McKinzy. Jonathan Evans has experience, but can Kris Frost put it all together and show off the tremedous amount of talent he possesses?
Secondary -- Chris Davis is a key player here. He'll be the No. 1 corner. He may also handle nickel duties when Auburn goes to that set. In that case T-Bell would be the third corner and slide in to one of the outside slots with Davis covering the slot guy. Therezie is as confident as they come, and looks to lock down the other side. He may remind some people of a young Jerraud Powers. Moving Whitehead to safety is a smart move. He's a heady player that can handle all of the responsibilities put on the safety by coaches BVG and Martinez.
Shuffling of positions and movement up and down the depth chart is going to happen throughout fall camp. It's going to be interesting to see what this team looks like when they invade Dome on Sept. 1 to face Clemson. The one thing to take away is that there is talent and depth on this roster -- finally.
Be sure to keep an eye out for our positions previews in the coming days. We'll get more in depth and break down each position.