I am the eternal optimist. I know it. All of you who read my stuff know it. So, sure, there's a fair bit of sunshine pumping in this review of an A-Day that many have been griping about. That's just the way I am, though.
Do I have concerns following A-Day? Sure. I mention those here, too. I have absolutely zero clue who is going to be the starting QB this fall. I think we're in trouble if receivers not named "Marcus Davis" don't step up. I think the 2nd team offensive line needs improvement, though I hope we don't need any of them.
What am I thrilled about? The defense. All of it. More on that, later. Jovon Robinson, Kamryn Pettway, and Chandler Cox all looked great running the football. I hate that we didn't see more of Malik Miller. There were other flashes of great things, too.
So, finally, here is my very in-depth review of A-Day. I broke the 1st and 2nd Quarters down individually. Given the nature of the running clock in the 2nd half, I put all of that into one, and didn't focus on it as much since we started getting the walk-ons and others in the game, then.
There really wasn't a lot of good that came out of the 1st Quarter. The Sean White deep pass to Marcus Davis was a thing of absolute beauty. It was also a 1st down play, too. So, for those who wants Auburn to do something more than run on 1st down, there's a glimpse of what you could see. Sean White's accuracy in the 1st Quarter in general was pretty good. He hit the deep ball and a few wheel routes that were perfectly spotted.
Chandler Cox's run was excellent, as well. Not just because he burst through a hole, but because he didn't force the play. He let Kozan get around on his pull and open the hole, then he slipped behind Kozan and was off to the races. If that were a faster player, he's gone. I'll take 70 yards by the big man any day, though.
The defense. Carl Lawson would have run through Sean White's entire existence - mind, body, and soul - on this sack if it had been full speed. There were other bright spots on the defense in the 1st quarter, as well. Marlon Davidson made his presence known, which is exciting for a true freshman rusher. I'm still not certain whether's he's going to play end or move inside to tackle. Montravius Adams was blasting through the line, as well.
The fumbles. Sean White just lost control of the snap on his early fumble. Jeremy Johnson had a fumble on a zone-read, but that was also with a running back who is not exactly used to the read. Then there's Jeremy's accuracy issues, which showed up a few times like this over throw. Who knows where the miscommunication was on the 3rd down pass in the redzone. It's obvious Marcus Davis thought Jeremy was at fault, but I don't know.
Sean White showed he could be a running threat on the very first play. I do think if that had been live, though, then Darrell Williams would have leveled him. Still, it showed he has wheels and is capable of making an occasional play to keep the defense honest if needed. This wheel route was another good one, but, again, I think Tre Williams destroys him at full speed. So while I'm complementing White, I also have to give huge props to two linebackers, and I'm almost as excited about saying that as I am about anything else.
Marlon Davidson again made his presence known on a few plays early in the 2nd Quarter (all on the drive in the two links above; just look for #3). He was really bursting around the edge and getting into the backfield in time to disrupt and even drag down the runners. Davidson is going to be something special for Auburn. The defensive line has so much potential it almost makes me giddy.
Oh, hello Jovon. Nice to see you. Keep doing more of this. Also on that play is Roc Thomas as the slot/speed sweep guy, and let's also keep doing more of that. Roc had arguably the best hands on the team last year when he was healthy, so putting him in the slot could be an excellent way to get the best playmakers on the field all at the same time.
Hello, Paul James. Also more of this from the defense, please. That was fantastic. Whether it's at defensive end or linebacker (another player we don't know where he'll end up), he looks ready to play. Which, as the #1 JUCO defensive end, he should be ready to play. Jeff Holland looked good at the Buck in place of Carl Lawson. He got into the backfield with some speed on this play. The announcers said it was John Broussard, but that's definitely Holland, who also wore #26 at times during A-Day.
I love the way Kamryn Pettway runs. He is a beast and loves knocking the defensive players back.
I'm going to complain about the playcalls in the redzone, but I don't think they were really terrible. Bear in mind, this is a "vanilla" play book, but we were still throwing to the endzone and attempting to make some plays. There were some overthrows, but also some spot-on throws.
Some of the pass blocking could use some work, too. I wasn't paying as close attention to the linemen as I should, but I think the 1st team offensive line will be just fine. The 2nd team worries me, so I definitely hope there are no big injuries.
This pass by Sean White was ill-advised. It was a heads-up play by Tony Stevens to punch it out of T.J. Davis' hands, though, and prevent the interception. Also, hey, welcome back T.J. Davis! Glad to see him healthy again after tearing his ACL last Spring.
Markell Boston, don't do this type of thing. Please, we don't need dumb personnel fouls that help the other team get in field goal range. I'm still having issues getting over the last time that happened.
Good and Bad
We have a special section for this touchdown pass. It was preceeded by some good throws by Franklin that showed he's capable of the short sideline passes that are a key to the offense. The pass itself, though, looked forced, as Franklin definitely wasn't set and looked to be in the Rex Grossman "F^#$ it, I'm going deep" mode.
Then there's the defensive coverage. I have no idea how Javaris Davis got that turned around and lost on what should have been an easily defensible play if he pays more attention. I'm glad to see that none of the potential starters in the defensive backfield were in on that play.
But, hey, it was tossed deep and Marcus Davis came up with the catch and walked into the endzone, so I'll take it.
In the 2nd half, the primary QBs began rotating with walk-on Devin Adams going live. Adams didn't look demonstrably good or bad running the offense, but he didn't have much to work with. The primary players in the QB competition did still have some series, though.
After wondering what the running back situation would be like, I am quite happy with Jovon, Kamryn, and Chandler Cox. That's before we consider Roc (who, as I've said, I think belongs in the slot/sweep roll) and Kerryon Johnson. Chandler Cox showed his long-run abilities in the 1st quarter, and Kamryn Pettway opened the third by showing his and his mean streak of taking on defenders.
Jeremy Johnson settled down a bit and threw some good passes. He threw some bad ones, too, though. On the opening drive he threw two passes out of the back of the endzone. I'm not sure if those were purposeful throwaways, or just bad passes. He followed that up with the great touchdown pass to Roc Thomas in absolutely perfect position. That play right there is why Roc belongs in the slot. He's got great hands and big play ability.
A Prince Tega Wanogho Jr sighting! Prince Tega chased Sean White into a rushed throw early in the 4th quarter. Mike Horton, the lineman he was up against, garnered a lot of praise last season as someone ready to play, and Prince Tega drove him backwards with relative ease. I don't know whether that's Prince Tega's strength or just a bad play by Horton, but at 6'8 250 lbs, I can't wait to see more of #98 on the field.
Ryan Davis is quick. I have a feeling the double-reverse may be more back in play this season like we used in 2009. There are going to be a number of wide-receivers who have track star speed, and I hope we effectively utilize them. Unfortunately, one of those fast WRs also threw the dumb block-in-the-back penalty that negated that long TD run. Also, can we talk about Sean White's wheels running down the field right with Ryan Davis to try to get out in front to block? Wow.
Going back to that Pettway run, but looking at it from the defensive perspective, I think T.J. Davis learned he doesn't want to throw a shoulder at somoene like Pettway. Go for the legs, fellas. We don't need any more Fournette moments, next year.
Darius Slayton, when Jeremy Johnson puts it right in the bread basket, you absolutely have to catch it. We need you to be one of the deep threats (see above) because of your speed, but you've got to make the catch when it's that perfect. I will give him one possible reason for being distracted: he had to make a slight adjustment to not get tripped by the official. Still should have caught it and walked in for the big touchdown pass.
Darrell Williams and Tre Williams remind me of another pair of linebackers named Williams who worked out quite well for Auburn: Travis and Antarrious. Jeff Holland played well at linebacker, as well. He busted into the backfield a few times from the Buck position. The linebackers were the biggest area of concern going into the Spring, and I really think they acquitted themselves quite well during A-Day. That's before T.J. Neal even gets on campus. If the linebackers come together as a good unit, then Auburn's defense could actually be pretty deadly.
#LEGATRON. Good grief, he hit two 50+ field goals, and he looked fantastic on every kick. If he has gotten over his issues with the short field goals (which are where most of his misses were last season), then just please go ahead and give him the Lou Groza. He deserves it.
To stick with the kickers for a second, there's a legitimate competition between Ian Shannon and Kevin Phillips at punter. Shannon was booming some kicks into the wind. Phillips was a good punter last season, but he had his moments. Maybe we can move him over to the QB race after that pass in the Birmingham Bowl.
On the QBs, I could think of legitimate arguments for almost every single one of them. I can think of arguments against every single one of them. If you said "one of them has to start right this second," then I'd say Sean White. He has the best overall accuracy, and he does have wheels to run on occasion and try to keep the defense honest. He makes some questionable decisions at times, but overall I think he looked the best last Saturday. However, I think John Franklin III could easily overtake White by the Clemson game.
I am loving the H-Back/RB experiment. Loving it. Pettway was a high school running back, so he's not unfamiliar with running the football. Now that he's bulked up, he has potential to be that really big bruising running back. Chandler Cox does, too. I think we'll see those guys get a number of carriers this year, especially in short yardage. It also revives my dream of last season of having them both on the field at the same time in a Jumbo Package.
Wide Receivers. We need some to step up. Stanton Truitt is still coming off injury, Kyle Davis, too, and then three legitimate contenders aren't on campus, yet. Those who are, outside of Marcus Davis, need some improvement. Jason Smith didn't have a bad day, overall, but he's not on the level of Marcus Davis. Tony Stevens made a great catch out-of-bounds, but that's typical of him. Gus said in practice last year that he would make highlight catches and then miss on high school catches. This was already at the top of my worries, along with linebacker, for the 2016 season. It is very definitely now my biggest worry.
So that's it. There are concerns, yes. Until we see the linebackers live against another team where they don't blow easy tackles like they have over the last few years, I'm not ready to say they're going to be great. They could be, but we don't know yet. I don't know about the QBs or the WRs. I do think the defense has potential to be the best we've seen since 2010 and possibly since 2008.
I am the eternal optimist. This team will be better than last season. The defense alone will ensure that. There is potential on the offense, too. If Gus can return to pre-2015 form in play calling, the offense could be great depending on QB play.
We'll see. Football is over for the Spring. The next time we'll see the Tigers play will be September 3rd against Clemson.