There has been a lot written in this off season about just how far the Auburn Football team might slide from last year's 14-0 National Championship year. Some have even placed the Tigers as the underdog in eight games for 2011.
You really can't blame the "experts," after all the Tigers will face one of the toughest schedules in the nation this fall and will do so without the aid of their top three stars (Cam Newton, Nick Fairley, and Darvin Adams) who left early for the NFL Draft. Added to that obstacle is the fact they lost one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country as well as saw 24 seniors graduate.
I think even the most optimistic of Tiger fans would have to concede that Auburn is going to lose some games this year. There-in lies the question, "Just how many games will be won after losing so many players?"
Assistant Head Coach Trooper Taylor says that even with all those negatives ... that Auburn is different - Auburn has a tradition, a tradition of winning. And Taylor says he tells the players every day that, " Tradition never graduates."
"What I want them to understand is that (low expectations) are everyone else's perception. I talk to them about it everyday. I want them to realize that tradition never graduates."
And of course Taylor is right. The Tigers winning ways go back to the early days of college football when legendary coach John Heisman roamed the sidelines for Auburn. Since those days, Auburn has a 71% historical winning average and is listed as the 14th best college football program in history by The College Football Research Center; ninth in the last 50 years.
Auburn has won four (before the formation of the SEC) Southern Conference Championships, seven Divisional Championships, seven SEC Championships, two National Championships, and gone undefeated twelve times. The worst that Auburn has ever finished after a championship season was 9-4 in 1984. Now I can't predict the number of wins that the Tigers will have in 2011. But I will predict it will not be a losing season or even a five loss regular season record.
Besides Auburn does have some big pluses in their favor besides the 'Tradition' factor. To start with the Tigers have always been a team that has played an underdog role, time and again confounding the naysayers. Secondly AU has one of the best coaching staffs in the country. Next, is the infusion of new talent from three highly rated recruiting classes as well as a mix of championship players from last year. Finally the Tigers are not entirely without star power.
Last year's MVP of the National Championship game, Mike Dyer rushed for 1,093 yards and was named this past week to the Maxwell Award watch list which goes to the nation's best player. Phillip Lutzenkirchen, who caught the winning touchdown in the Iron Bowl, was also named to the John Mackey Award watch list for the nation's best tight end; and Emory Blake, who led the team in touchdown receptions in 2010, was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list for the nation's top receiver.
Added to that group will be both the lightening fast running back Onterio McCaleb, who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and three year veteran QB Barret Trotter. Track 'Em Tigers Acid Reign had this to say about Trotter last February, "Trotter is ready, and he's going to be big-time. Mark it down!" When the Acid man makes that kind of statement, you can take it to the bank.
The Auburn offensive line will be anchored by last year's starter Brando Mosley and AJ Greene, a starter who will be coming back from an injury to provide leadership. The defensive line will be in good shape with Jeff Whitaker, Corey Lemonier, and Kenneth Carter. And the defensive secondary may even be better this year.
The bottom line for this author is that the Tigers will be a competitive team in all their games in 2011. Remember you read it here first. Auburn will have a good year and will play in the post season!
After all "Tradition never graduates."