War Eagle, everybody! We're already midway through spring drills, and the Auburn Tigers continue to work hard and improve. Like any year, the list of walking wounded continues to grow, and it's likely that A-Day will be another offense vs. defense scrimmage, instead of dividing the team into two squads. With three years of great recruiting in, the Tigers do have good depth in some areas, but a few spots are only a single injury from disaster. The fullback position comes to mind as one place Auburn will be looking for immediate help from the incoming fall class.
One has to be impressed with the confidence of the Auburn players. Most SEC pundits have picked Auburn to finish the 2012 season somewhere around 4th place in the SEC West. Auburn's leader in the secondary, T'Sharvan Bell insists that this team is more talented than the national champion 2010 squad. He may be right, but a lot of pieces must still fit together for another run like that to happen!
One thing that sticks out from watching practice video is that Auburn has a lot of defensive linemen this spring. Even with Nosa Eguae and Kenneth Carter out, the Tigers are rotating about ten guys up front. By this time, I'd have liked to hear that the O-line is having trouble blocking this guy or that guy, but it hasn't happened. I think the players that are allowed to speak to the media are pretty guarded on what details they reveal from these practices.
The linebacker corps took another hit this week. Sophomore Jawara White, who was running at 2nd team middle linebacker is out indefinitely. He missed fall camp last year with a serious spinal condition, and is reportedly experiencing headaches and numbness. Here's hoping White's situation improves. The starters at linebacker continue to be Kris Frost, Jake Holland and Darren Bates. The best of the backups seems to be sophomore Justin Garrett, who is reportedly pushing Bates for a starting job. That's pretty impressive, considering that Bates is a 3-year starter.
Another area that has some depth to work with is the secondary. The Tigers continue to juggle the lineup. Joining returning starter Chris Davis is sophomore Robenson Therezie on the other side. Therezie was said to have made a leaping interception on a corner route yesterday, and has an amazing upside. Right now, the top two backups are sophomores Jonathan Mincy and Jonathan Rose. Sophomore Jermaine Whitehead is cemented as the starting nickle-back, but may be pushing junior Demetruce McNeal for the strong safety spot. Coaches continue to rave about the talent in the secondary.
It seems this spring that there has really been an emphasis on the running game. With young backs, and a team that suffered up front on defense last fall, it's probably the right thing to do. None of the coaches on either side of the ball have come out and said that their side is winning the battles. Running backs coach Curtis Luper does not seem happy with the performance of his backs on most days, while linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen is looking for somebody to step up. Sounds like a good battle is going on!
The injury situation on junior kicker Cody Parkey became a little clearer yesterday. Seems he has a muscle pull, and the staff is being cautious with it. That's allowed a lot of work for incoming freshman kicker Alex Kviklys, who seems to be making most of his kicks.
It was good to hear that probable starting left tackle Greg Robinson was back at practice. There's always that "uh oh" feeling whenever a player is said to be missing for "personal reasons." Turns out that Robinson's father has been ill. Let's all keep the Robinson's in our prayers.
One constant from this camp is that the offense continues to be determined to run the ball right at the defense. The amazing thing is that they are doing this with junior Jay Prosch handling the fullback spot, and sophomores Brandon Fulse and C. J. Uzomah at tight end. I suspect that junior journeyman Blake Burgess is also getting a lot of work at tight end. All signs point to the Tigers running the ball a lot this fall.
With junior quarterback Clint Moseley continuing to be limited with a sore shoulder, sophomore Khiel Frazier continues to get most of the reps at quarterback. If we've learned anything from the Chizik era, though, it's that the quarterback race is never truly over. Remember that in 2009, quarterback Chris Todd didn't even throw in spring drills, but won the starting job a week into fall camp. It will be interesting to see how things play out this year.
One thing you won't hear out of Auburn's coaches is poor-mouthing. The Auburn coaches pick their words carefully. Contrast that with South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. After the visored one was disappointed with his team, he was quoted as saying, "I see why coaches close practices now. They don't want people to see how bad they are, I guess." It's more vintage Spurrier. I think he has high expectations for this team, and I'll be surprised if they aren't in the SEC East race all year.
Our favorite walk-on kicker prospect Mo Isom was on TV this week, and did a great interview on "Ellen." Stick through the whole scene, because you actually get to see her kick a couple of balls near the end. It's well worth watching!