Watching Tommy Tuberville speak yesterday with the SEC banner behind him reminded me of Christmas morning as a kid. The long winter of discontent is over. College football is here and all is right with the world.
SEC Media Days got underway in Birmingham Wednesday and Tuberville shared the podium with quarterback Brandon Cox and defensive end Quentin Groves. So what did Tuberville say? Truthfully, he didn’t say much of anything that we didn’t already know.
He agrees with the pundits that the Tigers are a huge question mark heading into the season and has no problem being ranked in the lower half of the top 25. It’s evident that he’s enjoyed the attention that Nick Saban has gotten at Alabama. Being able to fly under the radar is not all bad.
Here are some of my questions heading into the season...
Will the offensive line give Cox and that talented group of running backs time to operate? With King Dunlap returning as the only starter on the offensive line, is there enough talent to overcome the lack of experience?
Can Leon Hart finally live up to expectations and be a solid blocker? How will true freshman Lee Ziemba play into the equation? It’s apparent that he’ll get his shot early. We could spend all day asking questions about the offensive line. Time will tell.
Another question mark is at the wide out position, where Courtney Taylor’s exit leaves a heap of inexperience. Sophomore Montez Billings will have to step up for Auburn to put points on the board.
At running back, the Tigers output should be even better than last year despite losing Kenny Irons. While Brad Lester will start at tailback, keep your eye on Mario Fannin. The job could be his by the end of the season.
On the defensive side of the ball everything will center around All-American defensive end Quentin Groves. He’ll be expected to apply the pressure and give some cover to a young but talented defensive secondary. The loss of David Irons will be more costly to the defense than brother Kenny’s departure from the offense.
It appears that middle linebacker Tray Blackmon will be given a third opportunity to fly straight. Let’s hope he does, because he’s the most linebacker Auburn has seen in more than 10 years.
What could end up making all the difference is Auburn’s special teams. The Tigers head into the season with a new punter and kicker. Whose job it will be is anyone’s guess. Ryan Shoemaker appears to be the leading candidate at punter and Wesley Byrum is the clubhouse leader at kicker. Both of these positions are fluid and subject to change at any time.