When the final whistle sounds on the football season each year, we're left with the long dark tea time of the soul that is the offseason. Eight months of suffering broken up by small, brief increments of light to feed our hunger. The NFL Playoffs provide a slow withdrawal from the height of college football. Then, a month or two afterwards, comes Spring Practice.
With Spring Practice comes the annual Spring Game. That football methadone to give us the little fix we need as we head into the darkest part of the offseason. The part where endless hype and speculation runs rampant. For one brief moment, though, we get some semblance of joy in seeing our team on the field again.
Spring games, to me, are still very important to the college football tradition. I wrote about a few reasons why I believe that last season. I still believe that to be true. Fans need to see something. Of course, fans being fans, we're going to look at what is really only a glorified practice and attempt to draw way too many definitive conclusions about the 2016 Auburn football team from what we see on the field.
Whether what we see is any true reflection of the product we'll see in the fall - and history says that's a mixed bag - we're still going to enjoy every minute of it. We'll enjoy watching the highlights and wondering who is going to contribute the most, who will play QB, who will be the WRs, how does the defense look?
In the end, we'll walk away with our hunger diminished, but not quenched. The QBs won't be live, so we won't know what might have happened on that "sack" when a defensive lineman barely touched the QB. Some key players won't play much or they won't play at all. Whether the team plays 1s vs 1s or 1s vs 2s or some other combination will affect the game, as well. We'll have seen something that resembles football, but it's still not.
That being said, what should we really look for? What should we not? I've got some thoughts.
Things To Watch
Ball Control - Word is that John Franklin III has had some issues with fumbles on the zone read. He wants to keep too often, and it results in troubles. That's one reason why he was live in the last scrimmage and the other QBs were not. How will he, and the other QBs, look running the zone read? I doubt we'll see he QBs other than Franklin keep the ball on runs, but you never know. Also in the realm of "ball control" is whether or not the QBs are making good reads or if they're throwing to the defense too often.
Accuracy - We know JJ struggled with this, last year. Franklin has been said to have some issues with it, as well. White was mostly great during the season, although there were struggles in the bowl game (although not as many as you may remember if you go back and watch it, again). Are the QBs putting the ball into a position where the wide receivers can make plays?
Catching the Ball - In that same vein, are the receivers actually catching the ball? That's pretty important since there were issues with it last season.
How Well Does the Offensive Line Play? Yesterday, Rhett Lashlee said he had a pretty good idea who the best 5-6 linemen on the team are. How will they perform? You're going to have to watch this one early, though, as I don't think you'll see Kozan, Dampeer, and some of the others much past the first few series. Of course, that can also give us a chance to see their backups, which could be very important. It will give us somewhat of a glimpse towards 2017 since almost everyone on this current offensive line could leave following 2016.
How Does the Defense Play Against the Run? We're not likely to see Roc and Jovon much more than the first few series. How will they do against them, though? And against Malik Miller, Kamryn Pettway, and Chandler Cox? How are the linebackers? That's the biggest question mark on what could be a very talented defense, so I want to see them flying to the ball. I want to see that "running through someone's soul" that Travis Williams talked about. \
Things Not To Watch:
Don't Get Wrapped Up in the QB Question. Sure, we would like to know who is going to play QB in the fall. We're not going to know that based on this game. Cam Newton's A-Day was nothing to get excited about. Nick Marshall didn't even get an A-Day game before he came the starter. The QBs aren't going to be live. No matter what you think you can infer from tomorrow's game, you're still not going to know who the QB will be in the Fall.
Does the Offense Struggle? Does the Defense Struggle? It's A-Day. Not everyone who will start is playing. Not everyone who will start that IS playing will play more than a few series. The coaches aren't going to be showing anything other than the base offense. We don't even know the format of which units will face each other, yet. If the offense struggles, it's not going to be the end of the world. I think the defense is far beyond the offense right now.
Really Almost Everything. I just listed a bunch of stuff up above to watch, but even that stuff isn't really going to matter. Oh, the WRs look bad? You didn't see any of the four recruits coming in (even Kyle Davis, an early enrollee). The line struggled! Everybody does against Carl Lawson. The offense looks predictable! Well a) doesn't it kinda always? and b) IT'S A TELEVISED PRACTICE. Gus doesn't let the media see most of his practices, you think they're going to show things like Woody during A-Day? No. In the end, this is just a fun scrimmage we get to watch and get our football fix. It won't mean much in the grand scheme of things.
How to Watch, Stream, Listen:
Time: 3pm CST
TV: SEC Network
Stream: Watch ESPN
Listen: Auburn IMG Network