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Auburn Football 2014 First Half Review - The Offense and Special Teams

We're just over halfway through the football season and hitting a home stretch that is daunting to say the least. Let's look at some questions we had during the preseason and where things stand, now.

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

For reference to pre-season thoughts, here's a link to the Hub for all of my 2014 Position Previews.

Quarterback:

I was not very concerned during the preseason about the quarterback position. I'm still not. Sure, Marshall hasn't improved as a passer on the level that we all hoped, but he is still a very effective quarterback. Hopefully this off-week allowed Gus and Rhett to work on the issues that have lead to so many batted balls. Marshall hasn't throw very many straight up bad pass interceptions this season. Most have been on tipped balls. He still runs the zone read well, and he's still a threat to take it to the house on any play if he gets a seam.

Johnson has performed exactly as we hoped. I know there are some calling for him to be the starting QB, but really step back and look at what this team has done with Marshall at the helm. Marshall is an excellent leader, he's an electric playmaker, and there have been plenty of times his receivers haven't helped him out in ways they could. Johnson is the future (and man, does that future look bright), but Marshall is still the man.

Running Back:

I included the H-back/Fullback in this in the preseason, and that's still the most glaring issue. No one has stepped up to take the Jay Prosch roll on in the manner that Prosch played it. The man was an absolute beast. Braden Smith got some work there during the last game. It'll be interesting to see if that continues.

CAP is not the runner that Tre Mason was, but he's still putting up excellent yardage. Corey Grant has almost disappeared from the offense of late, and hopefully that changes going forward. If it doesn't, I'm sure there's a reason for it.

For the newcomers, we've really only seen a lot of Roc Thomas. Peyton Barber has seen very limited playing time. Roc has not played much, but when he has played he shows signs of being an amazing running back who will truly shine in the spotlight.

Wide Receivers:

Duke Williams has been everything we dreamed of and more. Sure, he's made some bad reads that led to bad passes (thinking of the blitz against LaTech (or was it SJSU?) when Marshall threw a ball that landed at his feet), and he's dropped a few head scratchers (Kansas State - but he wasn't alone with weird drops in that one). However, his amazing catches have made up for it. He's lived up to being a highlight machine.

Sammie Coates has been hampered by injury in the early going and hasn't been able to play up to the way he did last season. He's starting to get back in stride now, though. I do wish he would lay out and dive for more of those passes that look juuuust a bit too far, but that's me as a 32 year old guy watching from the bleachers or my couch saying that. It may be that he's worried about messing his knee up more.

Elsewhere, Quan Bray has been having a good season. Melvin Ray looked great in the first few games. Marcus Davis hasn't been doing much, but it's a crowded receiving corps so he hasn't had much opportunity. Ricardo Louis is Ricardo Louis. I really look forward to Stanton Truitt getting more involved, though that will probably have to wait until next season.

All in all, I've been mostly happy with the receiving corps, and that feels so good to say after what we usually deal with at Auburn with receivers. It's rare we have so many good receivers at the same time.

Offensive Line:

We really miss Alex Kozan. The line is starting to come together now, but in the early going it was obvious how much Kozan meant to that line. Greg Robinson was a big loss too, but Shon Coleman has been playing well in his place. The shuffling of the line following Pat Miller's injury seems to have helped out, but I just don't know how the line is going to look from week to week at this point. They are not the dominating force that they were last season.

For the most part the line has been good in pass protection. We're not getting that second level push as much as last season though, which is a big part of why the running game hasn't taken off in the way we hoped. By no means is this a bad offensive line. They're still good, but they aren't last season's line. That's why we've needed the passing game to step up more to take pressure off the need to run the football so much. We're really going to need improvement in both areas if Auburn wants to win out.

Special Teams:

Daniel Carlson has been great pulling double duty as punter and place kicker. He's booming it on kick-offs, he's been pretty accurate on field goals, and his punts have been serviceable. They haven't been Steven Clark level, but Clark had a special talent at punting.

Quan Bray has been awesome as the punt returner. I think he's back to #2 in the country now, but he's been a play maker who is a threat to take it to the house every time. It's nice to have someone back there who doesn't scare you to death on whether they'll actually catch the ball and who is also able to make something happen. We've got one of the best in the country in Bray.

So what are your thoughts on the offense? What's been working better than you hoped? Worse? Surprises?