With the calendar about to change to June, we are inching closer to the countdown of the 2009 football season. This year more than others, it feels like there hasn't been an off-season. Thanks to Gene Chizik and staff we've been treated to a new story each week. And so far, the news has been all good.
But now we shift into the prognostication part of the year where the preseason magazines begin hitting the shelves and web sites start weighing in on the SEC and the national championship races. Unlike last season, you'll be hard pressed to find someone pick Auburn at the top of the conference heap. For that matter, it'll be tough to find them picked in the top half of the SEC West. That's not much of a news flash for Tiger fans.
Will Auburn be improved over last year? Can they become bowl eligible? Most of these questions will be answered by one position - quarterback. As Chizik makes his way around the Southeast speaking to numerous Auburn clubs, it has become apparent from his remarks that he saw the same thing during spring drills that we all saw during A-Day - his team still doesn't have an answer for the most important position on the field.
"The position has not been won -- that's the main point of emphasis," Chizik said. "We've got some young guys who will come in and challenge for the job. Certainly the ones who have been on campus have an advantage of 15 days anyway, but the quarterback situation probably won't be solved until right before the season starts."
For the first time, Chizik said last week that heralded incoming freshmen Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley will challenge incumbent Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle for the starting role. That's good news if you are a freshman, but bad if you expect to win in the SEC.
Do you feel like it's Groundhog Day all over again? Obviously, offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is not happy with the progress made so far. Early in the year, Chizik seemed confident in naming a quarterback by midway through spring practice. Now he's pushing the deadline to late August. It begs of the old saying, "you can't make chicken salad out of chicken _ _ _ _."
Look for the genius of Gus Malzahn to be tested early. It's hard to imagine Burns improving enough over last season to be much of an asset in this new offense. The wildcard in all of this is Chris Todd, who's again recovering from injury. Does anyone really believe the coaching staff will have the guts to put him again?
That leaves Auburn with three unproven commodities in Caudle, Rollison and Moseley. First year quarterbacks rarely make for unforgettable seasons. So back to our question - How will Auburn do? It's hard to imagine Chizik's first team winning more than seven. My guess is Caudle will get the nod against Louisiana Tech. Like Tommy Tuberville's debut against Appalachian State in 1999, look for Auburn to win a close one against Derek Dooley's bunch.
Beyond that, it's anyone's guess where this team goes from there. Lucky for us, Athlon's, Lindy's, The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated already have it figured out. Let the predictions begin!
If you live in the East Alabama/West Georgia area, you still have a chance to hear and meet Coach Chizik. He'll be speaking at the Columbus/Phenix City Auburn Club on May 20th. The cost is $20 for members and $50 for non-members. For more information, visit the club's web site at cpcauburnclub.com.