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2011 Auburn Preview – Offense
Auburn TE Philip Lutzenkirchen
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Auburn Tiger Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know:
You don’t just replace Cam Newton. There’s talent returning under center, and there’s more on the way, but a mediocre offseason didn’t exactly inspire the same sort of buzz there was last summer. The offense will focus on establishing a solid ground game behind sophomore Mike Dyer and junior speedster Onterio McCalebb, who’ll be used in a variety of ways including receiver. Quarterback might be the big issue, but replacing four starters on the line might be almost as big a task. Tackle Brandon Mosley returns, as does former starter A.J. Greene – who’s returning from a season-ending ankle injury. If the Tigers can get their line situation sorted out early, then all the focus will be on quarterbacks Barrett Trotter, Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier, who’ll get an equal shot at the plum job of running Gus Malzahn’s attack.
Star of the offense: Sophomore RB Mike Dyer
Passing: Barrett Trotter
6-9, 64 yds, 0 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Mike Dyer
182 carries, 1,093 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Emory Blake
33 catches, 554 yds, 8 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior WR Emory Blake
Unsung star on the rise: Freshman WR Trovon Reed
Best pro prospect: Dyer
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Dyer, 2) TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, 3) OT Brandon Mosley
Strength of the offense: Running Back
Weakness of the offense: Proven Quarterback, Depth, Experience
State of the Unit: For the third straight season under Gus Malzahn, the offense is in the midst of an offseason quarterback battle. Things are a little different this year, though. Junior
Barrett Trotter is the likely starter, and it’s not like he’s coming out of left field. The sleeper in the race for the starting job two years ago, he suffered a torn ACL and wasn’t quite the same in last year’s fight for the job. The 6-2, 206-pounder fought tooth and nail for the No. 1 spot last spring, before it became obvious shortly after the end of spring practice that Newton had something special. Does that mean that Trotter can come close to matching Newton’s numbers? Not a chance, but the coaching staff has confidence in him. His strength is throwing the timing routes, which fits well with Malzahn’s ideal scheme, but he also showed some nice touch on deep balls towards the end of an inconsistent spring practice.
Clint Moseley doesn’t have as much game experience as Trotter, but the 6-3, 223 pound former Alabama Mr. Football has a cannon, and he’s coming up with a big push for the starting gig. With a much stronger arm than Trotter, he was ahead in the quarterback race shortly before Auburn’s spring game. If he can master the timing routes that Malzahn loves so much, he could be the guy.
On the way, and the eventual star of the show, is true freshman quarterback
Kiehl Frazier, a 6-3, 210 pound dual-threat playmaker from Springdale, Ark., who was the No. 4 QB recruit in the country last year according to Scout.com. Malzhan is a master at adjusting his playbook to the talents of his personnel, and if he wants to continue to utilize the run/pass system that he made Newton such a star, Frazier may turn out to be the best option.
Watch Out For … Frazier. The newcomer will enter with a working knowledge of Malzhan’s system, which has its roots in the northwest Arkansas region. He will play as a true freshman, but the question will be whether or not he’s able to be consistent enough to take on the full time role.
Strength: Familiarity. All three quarterbacks have been around the system long enough to know it inside and out. Trotter has been around long enough to know what he’s doing, at least mentally, but can he make it translate to the field?
Weakness: Experience. While they all may be familiar with the system, they have a total of nine pass attempts among them
Outlook: Malzahn set records with Chris Todd at quarterback, so he’s certainly capable of coordinating a solid offense with any of the three options. It all depends on the direction the coaching staff wants to take with his offense, and it also depends on whether or not mistakes will be tolerated in a look-to-the-future sort of way.
Unit Rating: 7
State of the Unit: The SEC is loaded with great running backs, and Auburn can keep up with any of them with returning duo of
Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb. Dyer saved the best for last in 2010, rushing for 143 yards and earning offensive MVP honors in the BCS Championship, while showing flashes throughout the year that he was ready to blow up when given the chance. The 5-9, 206 pound true sophomore has the size to take the pounding that comes with SEC football, but also the quickness to make defenders miss. A thick, downhill, power runner who was the 2009 Arkansas Player of the Year running for 2,502 yards and 12 touchdowns, he’s a phenomenal finisher, isn’t afraid to hit someone, and has the speed and quickness to bounce plays to the outside and take it the distance. This will be his offense this year, but he has to prove he can handle the work.
Before Dyer, McCalebb was the superstar recruit that everyone wanted and was supposed to be the franchise. At 5-10 and 172 pounds, the junior speedster has emerged as one of the biggest home run threats in the SEC, quietly running for 810 yards last year turning into a major difference-maker against LSU, Ole Miss and Georgia. Malzhan primarily used McCalebb on jet sweeps and reads on the edge, and with Newton gone and the run threat out of the quarterback position diminished, McCalebb may be getting a few more swing passes and screens. He’s not all that big and he’s not going to power over anyone, but the star that many considered to be the nation’s No. 1 running back recruit last year should put up huge numbers as part of the rotation.
One of the unsung heroes from the national championship run was fullback Eric Smith, who was dismissed from the Auburn program following an offseason arrest. He routinely paved the way and was one of the best pass blocking backs in the SEC. In his place is 6-0, 291-pound redshirt freshman
Ladarious Phillips, who moved from defensive line to fullback – his natural position – following Smith’s dismissal. Don’t let his size fool you; Phillips’ strength comes with his feet, and can carry it enough to be a factor in the ground game from time to time. He needs to improve his blocking, but the size is there to provide a thump.
True freshman Tre Mason, a 5-9, 185 pounder from LaGrange, Ga., has a chance to come in and see significant playing time even with the talent at the top of the depth chart. Mason was one of the stars of Auburn’s 2010 recruiting class, but was overshadowed by the signing of Dyer. Thanks to a couple of late defections during the recruiting process this year, Mason has an opportunity to step in right away and contribute as a speed back in the rotation.
Watch Out For … McCalebb. The junior dedicated himself to getting bigger the past two offseasons, and while he’ll never take a pounding, he should hold up well. He’s one of those players that defenders don’t want to get too close too, because he’s slippery enough to squirt by and make something out of nothing. Too good to keep off the field, he could see time at wide receiver from time to time in a do-it-all role.
Strength: Star power. Dyer and McCalebb make up one of the best running back tandems in the nation with a good combination of thunder and lightning. With the way that Malzahn utilizes his backs, they can pick up the slack with Newton gone.
Weakness: Cam Newton. The final drive against Oregon aside, it was Newton who provided the production in key moments throughout last year leading the SEC in rushing and finishing with 1,473 yards and 20 scores. Dyer and McCalebb have a lot of work to do.
Outlook: If Dyer and McCalebb can both stay healthy, they should put up big numbers, but they have to prove they can do it. The spotlight is on, and they have a lot of production to fill. They’ll be great, and Mason will play his role, and the Tigers should be among the SEC’s leaders in rushing.
Unit Rating: 9.5
State of the Unit: It’s not exactly uh-oh time, but the lack of proven depth last year will now turn into a big deal. Gone are starters Darvin Adams, Kodi Burns and Terrell Zachery; as well as underclassmen Antonio Goodwin and Shaun Kitchens - both of whom were dismissed following their armed robbery arrests this offseason.
Emory Blake emerged as one of Newton’s go-to targets as 2010 progressed finishing third on the team with 32 catches for 526 yards and a team-leading eight scores. Steady, he caught four touchdown passes in the final five games after making big plays here and there over the first half of the season. The 6-1, 197 pound junior has the hands to become a star, and has shown the ability to find ways to get open and become even more of a playmaker.
Needing to make big strides right away is redshirt freshman Trovon Reed, who came to the Plains as one of the top recruits in the country. Expected to play right away, true freshman season was cut short by a nagging knee injury after only two snaps, and now he’s upright and ready to go on the other side of Blake. At 6-0, 188 pounds,
he has just enough size to go along with the talent to be a star, but he lacks experience and he’s not known for having the make-up to take the day-to-day SEC grind. He’s going to be a big-time producer, eventually, and the pressure will be on right away.
Ready to do more at tight end is Philip Lutzenkirchen, who’s widely regarded as having the best hands on the team. He emerged as a red zone force, catching late game touchdowns in victories over South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, finishing the year with 15 grabs for 185 yards and five scores. At 6-4 and 253 pounds, he has prototype tight end size, and now it’s time to start living up to his promise and potential. One of the top tight ends in the 2009 recruiting class, he broke hearts at Georgia and Florida by bringing his tremendous talent to Auburn. He has prototype NFL H-Back skills with 4.7 speed, toughness, and next-level hands.
Also expected to step up and do more is junior Quindarius Carr, who only came up with three catches, but they went for 102 yards and two scores – all against the Sun Belt teams on the slate. He put on about 15 pounds and now looks the part of an SEC wide receiver, but he has to play like it. He's always had the ability to beat defensive backs deep, starring in the spring game two years ago, but at 6-0, 190, now he has the bulk to become a legitimate all-around weapon. With the relative inexperience of the receiving corps, he'll need to be a leader on the field and off of it.
Junior DeAngelo Benton came to the Plains as part of Chizik's inaugural recruiting class in 2009, but so far he hasn’t come close to living up to the hype. The 6-2, 209 pound veteran impressed coaches in spring practice, and had it not been for a few big drops he could have been the MVP of the spring game. A great recruit who got away from LSU, after leading his high school team to the Louisiana state title with 40 catches for 947 yards and 15 scores, he has the tools to become a No. 1 target if he can get fix his butterfingers.
Watch Out For … Lutzenkirchen. He’s not they typical wide receiver, but he has the best hands on the team and knows how to get into the end zone.
Strength: Experience within the system. Malzahn’s system doesn’t necessarily need the best athletes in the world, it needs the players that understand where to go. The top five receivers know what’s expected of them.
Weakness: Depth. There was no doubt that Auburn was going to be very thin at receiver, and then came the offseason when Antonio Goodwin and Shaun Kitchens - two players that were expected to contribute - were kicked off the team following arrests for armed robbery. Much like Chizik’s first year in 2009, the first team will be solid, but if injuries start mounting up, and if some of the recent top recruits aren’t up to snuff, the Tigers could be in trouble.
Outlook: The bread will be buttered with the running game, even without Newton, so the pressure is off the receivers to carry the attack. However, Blake and Lutzenkirchen need to be special and Carr, Reed, and Benton have to show up on a regular basis. They’ll get their chances.
Unit Rating: 7
State of the Unit: Cam Newton was the No. 1 reason the Tigers hoisted the crystal football. The line was No. 2. It was a veteran unit that, aside from A.J. Greene’s season-ending injury in September, made it through the SEC gauntlet relatively unscathed. With four starters gone, the front five will be looking to rebuild, but the talent of the superior 2011 recruiting class is on the line. Help is on the way.
Brandon Mosley stepped in last September at right tackle when Greene went down, and the junior college transfer didn’t miss a beat despite working mostly as a defensive end at Coffeyville JC. At 6-6, 306, the senior enters the season as the unquestioned starter at one of the tackle spots with the size and strength to play at the next level. He’ll be one of the leaders of a unit that is littered with youth and inexperience, and he has to be stronger in pass protection to become the anchor to work around.
Lining up at the other side will be senior A.J. Greene, whom Mosley replaced at right tackle following a season-ending ankle injury in the third week. The 6-5, 298 pound senior impressed out of the blue to earn the starting spot last year during summer workouts, and impressed in his limited work. Now healthy, he’ll get the first look at left tackle, but don’t be surprised to see him splitting reps with Mosley to protect the quarterback’s blind side.
John Sullen will get a shot at right guard following a successful spring, but he’ll could move around where needed. The 6-6, 336 pound hometown kid from Auburn knows the system and saw limited playing time in 2010, and while he might need time, he’s huge and should push people around for the ground game. After signing with the Tigers with little hype a few years ago, but he worked hard and now has the chance to see it all pay off. But he’ll be pushed for time.
True freshman Christian Westerman will likely get the call at left guard after signing on as one of the nation’s top recruits. The 6-5, 295-pounder from Chandler, Ariz. was the No. 1 rated OG in the country, according to Scout.com, and tore out Texas’s heart by going to the SEC. In the past, Auburn has had no problem immediately throwing young offensive linemen into the starting lineup, and that won’t change this season. One of Westerman’s biggest draws to Auburn was immediate playing time, and he may get his wish somewhere along the line as a possible right tackle if he’s not used for his athleticism on the inside.
Another true freshman - early enrollee Reese Dismukes - is in line to get the first team snaps at center after leading his high school team to the Alabama state title. He graduated early and went through spring practice with the Tigers, and while he struggled with shotgun snaps at times, he’s the most talented option. At 6-3 and 290 pounds, he has the size to play in the SEC, but even though he’s good enough to be the quarterback up front right away, he’ll have to work though his lumps.
It’s going to be an ongoing fight for playing time in several spots, and jobs are still there for the taking.
Eric Mack, a highly-touted recruit from the 2010 class, will be in the mix at guard with massive 6-3, 330-pound size; recent-signee
Greg Robinson will join the battle at guard this summer; massive redshirt freshmen
Chad Slade and Aubrey Phillips, along with 277-pound
Ed Christian, are all able to move between guard and tackle to find the right fit; and 6-2, 273-pound sophomore
Blake Burgess will enter summer workouts battling Dismukes for the center spot.
Watch Out For … Mosley. It could have been a disaster for the Tigers when Greene went down last fall, and the experience Mosley gained from being thrown in the fire will help him become a leader of this season’s offensive line. The true freshmen will be the stars, but Mosley will be the man early on.
Strength: Tackles. While Auburn is technically losing four starters, it also gets two good veterans back at tackle in Greene and Mosley, and Westerman might be better than both of them. They both have the talent to be All-SEC linemen.
Weakness: Experience. The three interior spots are up for grabs, and Greene is coming off of an injury at tackle. Communication is key for any offensive line, and Auburn’s starters will need to develop its chemistry quickly. There’s a chance that true freshmen play key roles right away, and then it’s sink-or-swim time.
Outlook: There’s enough talent on the depth chart for this group to become solid if everyone stays healthy, but the season might all depend on the emergence of Westerman and Dismukes. If the new talents play like seasoned veterans, all should be fine … in time.
Unit Rating: 7
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