Look, by now you know the questions that face Auburn heading into Spring Practice tomorrow. You've seen the lists. You've read all of the "5 Burning Questions" articles elsewhere. Some even have 10 or more. So, let's rank a bunch of them by varying degrees of heat.
What Will Chip Lindsey's Offense Look Like?
It's going to look a lot like Gus Malzahn's, that's how it's going to look. At least to the uneducated (like me). I do think there will be a lot more Run-Pass Option plays and the passing game will definitely have new life breathed into it. Auburn's running game, though, should stay close to the same.
Oh, and hopefully it will look fast.
Here's the thing about it, though: we may get a glimpse of what it's going to look like during A-Day, but until Auburn hits the field against Georgia Southern next Fall, we're not really going to know anything. Auburn played at a break-neck pace in A-Day the past few years and that hasn't translated to the regular season. And don't even think you're going to see any innovative new wrinkles in A-Day. They're not going to show the rest of college football what we're going to look like until the season starts. That's why this earns a relatively cool ranking. Do we really want to know about it? Absolutely. Are we going to learn something this spring? Probably not.
Heat Status: Sweet, delicious ice cream sitting in the freezer. It's ice cold right now, but we can't wait to warm it up a bit and consume it later on.
What Will the Offensive Line Look Like?
I mentioned in my position group analysis that this could go so many different ways that it almost doesn't warrant going into detail on it. We'll probably have a decent idea of what the line will look like once Spring ends, but don't forget that transfer Casey Dunn isn't arriving until summer. He'll have a chance to win a starting spot.
This one is a bit warmer on the rankings scale because it's very important. It's still in the relatively cool stage, though, because I trust Herb Hand to build a solid unit no matter who is on the field and because it's another one that we're not going to get complete answers on until Fall Practice. So, it's interesting, but it's not exactly burning.
Heat Status: As cold as the bowl of Texas chili Lydon B. Johnson got mad about and threw against the wall of the Air Force One and then demanded it be cleaned up and the carpet replaced before he got back on the plane an hour later that a former Air Force One Steward I met in the VA once told me about. That guy was awesome. The Steward, not LBJ.
Who Will Fill Josh Holsey and Rudy Ford's Spots on Defense?
Rudy Ford was a key part of Auburn's defensive success last year and so was Josh Holsey. It's a shame that Holsey was left out of so many of the traditional post-season NFL showcase events. He'll get his chance to shine at Auburn's Pro Day, though, and hopefully, will find his way onto a roster.
Now, Auburn has to replace them. There are quite a few candidates to choose from, too. Daniel Thomas did a pretty good job filling in for Ford during the Iron Bowl. Montavious Atkinson could slide back and play Nickel in a role similar to Robenson Therezie at the Star spot a few years back. Stephen Roberts and Nick Ruffin have been building towards more playing time. Then, there are the younger guys. Marlon Character Jr. Jayvaughn Myers. Jeremiah Dinson should be back from his injury.
Those were two key players in Auburn's success last year, and we're going to need some word that someone - preferably more than one - are stepping up to fill the void.
Heat Status: Burning the roof of your mouth on hot pizza that you knew you should have let cool off a bit before you ate it, but dang it, you can't wait that long. It gives you some mild discomfort for a day or two, but it was worth it.
Who Wins The Starting Quarterback Job?
We're going into Spring with a few viable options here, and that feels really good. Will John Franklin III flourish under Chip Lindsey? Will Sean White be healthy enough to compete in the Spring? Will Tyler Queen get his shot? Can Malik Willis make an impact as a true freshman? Is Woody Barrett ready? Will we all laugh at this as Jarrett Stidham rolls through the competition and earns the starting nod?
It's a big question. It's also another one that's not going to get answered this Spring unless Sean White is able to give it 100% during Spring drills. That's why it earns this spot behind the final question.
Heat Status: The first day I was in Kuwait back in 2006, stepped out of a tent with a cool bottle of water I got from a refrigerator, walked 300 yards to another tent, and the water was already warm and my rifle was already too hot to touch without gloves because 135 degrees isn't just hot. It's DAMN hot. And you know it's going to last a long time because it's the desert, so you might as well just get used to it. Like we're going to have to get used to wondering about this question for a few more months.
Who will replace Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson?
Auburn's defense was a big part of last season's success. A big part of the defense's success came from the wrecking crew of Adams and Lawson. This probably would have earned the spot above QB no matter the circumstances, honestly. Just look at the 2014 season and the part of 2015 when we didn't have Lawson and therefore didn't have a good edge rusher. The defense did not play all that well.
Marlon Davidson is a definite candidate on the edge. So is Paul James III. Nick Coe could put his name in the hat as a redshirt freshman. On the inside, I look for Derrick Brown to really step into a big role. Dontavius Russell could have a monster junior season with more playing time. This could also be the time for Byron Cowart to really shine on the interior.
Someone could also pull a Davidson and come out of nowhere. If anyone does that, I'd look for Antwuan Jackson or Nick Coe.
Auburn's offense is probably still going to fight some hiccups along the way. We need to have that dominant defense, again, and that dominant defense begins with a dominant defensive front. That's why this, to me, is the biggest question going into the season. Auburn has struggled severely in seasons where the Tigers don't have a serious pass-rushing threat and otherwise stout defensive line. We have to have that again in 2017.
Heat Status: Hot as the fire of the sun. I ran out of food examples, and this one is really the one on my mind more than anything, so if there's one that deserves true "burning" status, it's this one. I think it really is that important. More so than the QB question, because I think we can win with one of a number of the QBs on the roster as long as the defense can hold.