2012 Auburn Preview – Offense
Auburn RB Onterio McCalebb
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Auburn Tiger Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know:
New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler will change things up a bit from the Gus Malzahn era. There should be more from the passing game and a better balance, but that can only happen if the young – but talented – line can start to pass protect a little better. The quarterback situation will be under the spotlight all season long with Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley two good passers who can get the ball down the field, and now the veteran receiving corps has to start making more consistent plays. Philip Lutzenkirchen is on the verge of being one of the nation's elite tight ends, while Emory Blake is a good deep threat receiver to stretch the field. It will take a committee to replace Michael Dyer with a solid rotation of talented backs in place to make the running game even more of a positive.
Star of the offense: Senior TE Philip Lutzenkirchen
Passing: Clint Moseley
66-108, 800 yds, 5 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Onterio McCalebb
112 carries, 641 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Emory Blake
36 catches, 613 yds, 5 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore QB Kiehl Frazier and/or junior QB Clint Moseley
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman OT Greg Robinson
Best pro prospect: Lutzenkirchen
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Lutzenkirchen, 2) C Reese Dismukes, 3) WR Emory Blake
Strength of the offense: Experience, Running Game
Weakness of the offense: Proven Quarterback, Pass Protection
The fight for the starting quarterback job isn't going to stop even after the Tigers name a starter, but the most talented option on the lot is sophomore Kiehl Frazier, a 6-2, 228-pound dual threat playmaker who was Scout.com's No. 4 quarterback prospect last year. He was thrown to the wolves when nothing was working for the passing game and he struggled, completing just 5-of-12 passes for 34 yards with two picks in his limited action, but he ran well finishing third on the team with 327 yards and three scores averaging 4.3 yards per carry. All the tools are there with the athleticism, arm and upside, but the offense is changing up a bit and there will be some major rocky spots before he'll reach his potential.
Junior Clint Moseley is a big 6-4, 233-pound passer with the most experience. He wasn't awful completing 61% of his throws for 800 yards and five scores with three picks. The former Alabama Mr. Football has a huge arm and he can push the ball all over the place, but he's not a runner and he's just going to be a passer. He took over the starting job over the back half of the season and had his moments, but four of the five touchdown passes came against Ole Miss and he couldn't get the offense moving against LSU, Alabama or Georgia. He'd be the safe choice with his passing skills.
While new-recruit Zeke Pike isn't necessarily going to get a real shot at the starting job right away, he has all the skills to be the star of the near future. While the 6-6, 229-pound pro-style passer has size and a great arm, he can also run taking off for 728 yards and 16 scores last season. He'll almost certainly be the No. 3 man in the mix, he'll get just enough of a chance to push for the backup job.
Watch Out For … Frazier. Moseley is fine, and he got the bad break of having to go against some of the nastiest defenses on the slate when he got his chance, but Frazier is the potential star to build around.
Strength: Options. Moseley got in enough work over the second half of last year to be considered an experienced veteran, and Frazier has been around just long enough to not be green. Losing Barrett Trotter isn't going to matter with more talented options now being worked with.
Weakness: Production. Nothing really worked. The passing game only cranked out 2,022 yards and 17 scores with 13 picks. There was going to be a rebuilding period, but it would've been nice of the passing game could've done more. Now there's not a sure-thing, absolute No. 1 to rely on going into the season.
Outlook: Auburn always seems to wait until late before naming its starting quarterback, but Frazier is the best option and Moseley isn't a bad choice. There isn't a Cam Newton waiting in the wings, and no one ever thought that anyone could replace one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football history, but the Tigers need more passing production.
Unit Rating: 7
Senior Onterio McCalebb isn't built to be a workhorse in any way at just 5-11 and 168 pounds, but the former superstar recruit has come up with a decent career as a key part of the attack with tremendous speed and home run hitting ability. Used mostly on the outside since he's not going to power over anyone on the inside, he finished second on the team with 641 yards and seven scores averaging 5.7 yards per carry, while also finishing second as a receiver with 32 catches for 344 yards and two scores. A complementary runner last year and a steady receiver, he came through when needed with 109 rushing yards and a score on just ten carries, along with 53 receiving yards and a score on just two catches, in the bowl win over Virginia. Now he's going to have to be ready for a ramped up workload.
With Dyer gone, sophomore Tre Mason is getting the chance to ramp up his carries and game a bit. The 5-10, 196-pound star of the 2010 recruiting class is a speed back who dominated as a kickoff returner while finishing the year with 161 rushing yards and a score on just nine carries. With a bit more bulk than McCalebb he could be used a bit more for the tough yards, but his game is about quickness.
5-11, 203-pound sophomore Corey Grant sat out after starting out his career at Alabama. A top prospect when he signed on with the Tide, he can be used in a variety of ways as a returner and receiver as well as a good, quick runner. He'll combine with 5-9, 206-pound redshirt freshman Mike Blakely, one of the nation's top running back recruits who redshirted last year but is needed this season as the team's biggest back. It's all relative, he's not a pounder, but he's built to run through the inside with the talent and potential be a key part of the rotation.
Looking to add more immediate power is true freshman Jovon Robinson, a decent recruit with 6-1, 220-pound size and just enough speed to get by. A four-star prospect according to Scout, he's a tough runner who could find a niche right away as a short-yardage runner and goal line back.
The offense will likely use a fullback a bit more this year, and that's where Illinois transfer Jay Prosch will step in. The 6-0, 253-pound blaster of a blocker earned All-America honors for the Illini as a great blocker and a special teamer, and now his job will be to hit someone. He'll never touch the ball, but he should be a key part of the running game and a fan favorite with his physical style.
Watch Out For … Mason. With Dyer taking off the opportunities will be there for someone to take over a big role. He's a great talent who appears to be taking the chance by the horns. While he won't be Dyer, he should make a huge impact.
Strength: The rotation. The Tigers are loaded with quick, athletic backs who all had tremendous high school résumés. McCalebb, Mason, Grant and Blakely are all legitimate SEC backs who can all produce when given the chance.
Weakness: Michael Dyer. Considering the problems with the passing game and the issues moving the offense, Dyer should've been given some more consideration for all-star honors and might have been the SEC's most valuable player rushing for 1,242 yards and ten scores even though EVERYONE keyed on stopping him. It will take a village to pick up the slack.
Outlook: The running game turned out to be fine even though Cam Newton was gone, but losing Michael Dyer will be a bit of a problem this year. McCalebb is more of a No. 2 back than a star to work around meaning Mason, Grant and Blakely have to combine to produce whenever given the chance. They will. The running backs will combine for 2,000 yards, and while they might not be spectacular, they'll be great.
Unit Rating: 8
Even with promise at wideout, the star of the passing game should be Philip Lutzenkirchen, a superior talent who has yet to breakout as a top receiver. Great around the goal line, 14 of his 44 career catches have gone for scores, but now he should be used even more as a go-to guy after catching 24 passes for 238 yards and seven touchdowns. At 6-5 and 256 pounds he has great size, phenomenal hands and Rob Gronkowski-like upside. He has all the prototype NFL skills with 4.7 speed, toughness and receiving ability. Now it's salary drive time. He'll be backed up by sophomore Brandon Fulse, a 6-4, 250-pound receiver with great skills and the ability to be a good all-around tight end when Lutzenkirchen takes off next year to the NFL. Fulse bulked up a bit, but he's still like a bit wide receiver after making two catches for 12 yards as a true freshman.
The receiving corps had to undergo a major overhaul, but the groundwork was set thanks to a decent year from senior Emory Blake, a 6-2, 197-pound veteran who led the team with 36 catches for 613 yards and five scores, averaging 17 yards per grab. He emerged as a go-to target for Cam Newton as a big-time playmaker, and he was about it last season at times even though he got hurt and missed a bulk of time. He caught seven passes for 108 yards and a score against Mississippi State and caught six balls for 108 yards in the bowl win over Virginia. The unquestioned No. 1wide receiver target, he should be even better now that the quarterback situation is more experienced.
5-9, 190-pound junior Travante Stallworth turned into a spot starter finishing with 13 catches for 214 yards and a score. While he's not all that big, he has elite speed and good open field skills. Now one of the starting jobs is his with the ability to become a major factor if he can stay healthy. He'll work in a rotation with senior DeAngelo Benton, a 6-2, 208-pound veteran who was a star recruit for Gene Chizik's first recruiting class, but the Parade All-American hasn't come close to playing up to his potential. He has the size and the wheels, but he only caught seven passes for 136 yards and a score last season.
Looking to break out is Sammie Coates, a 6-2, 200-pound star-in-waiting with special athleticism and the speed to be a matchup nightmare. He can't hang on to the ball in practices and he might only be a one-trick deep threat early on, but all the skills are there to become an occasional home run hitter.
Sophomore Quan Bray came on at the end of his true freshman season to finish with 17 catches for 93 yards. While he only averaged 5.5 yards per catch, he has the speed and quickness to do far, far more. An elite athlete, he can be used as a runner as well as a receiver, getting ten carries for 29 yards. A do-it-all playmaker, he'll also see a little work as a kick returner. He'll work in a rotation with Trovon Reed, a 6-0, 186-pound sophomore who finished fourth on the team with 21 catches for 164 yards. He came to the Plains as one of the top recruits in the country, but he hasn't been able to fully shake a knee injury and hasn't done much to produce. He has the ability, but now it's time to start making some big things happen.
Watch Out For … Lutzenkirchen. All the talent is there to be special, and now will the offense use him for more than three catches per game? On skills he could be the best tight end in America and a first round draft pick if he can break out.
Strength: The base. Lutzenkirchen and Blake are good pieces to start with, and everything else should fill in around them. Reed, Bray and Stallworth all have the upside and talent to make the passing game start to do more.
Weakness: Proven quarterback play. Can anyone get these guys the ball? Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley are promising passers with a ton of talent and upside, but they weren't exactly consistent last season. It might be a chicken and egg situation, but the receivers will only improve if the quarterbacks are better.
Outlook: The receivers haven't exactly been along for the ride over the last few years, but the Auburn offense revolves mostly around the ground game. This year the potential is there for the receivers to do far more with the top six pass catchers, including RB Onterio McCalebb, returning. While the group will be solid, watch out for Lutzenkirchen to become phenomenal.
Unit Rating: 7
The O line had to undergo a major overhaul last year and it has to do a little work again. 6-5, 309-pound redshirt freshman Greg Robinson was one of the nation's top guard recruits last year and a huge get for the program, and now he's going to be tried out at left tackle where he should grow into a whale of a run blocker. His NFL future – and there will likely be an NFL future – will be on the inside, but he's going to get the first shot on the outside in place of A.J. Greene.
Likely moving from left guard to right tackle is Chad Slade, a 6-5, 314-pound sophomore who started the opener at right tackle and moved to right guard before settling in at left guard. Quick and strong as well as versatile, he'd be best suited for the inside but will get every shot to hold down the job on the outside in place of Brandon Mosley. However, 6-7, 273-pound freshman Patrick Miller might sneak into a starting spot if he doesn't spend the year backing up Robinson. he's too tall and thin, needing at least a year in the weight room, but he moves extremely well and he could be a good option right away in pass protection.
Sophomore Reese Dismukes enrolled early and took over the starting center job as a true freshman, starting all 13 games. The 6-3, 302-pounder left his Alabama high school team to the state title, and now after beefing up a bit he should be a star as the quarterback up front for the next three years. He might not have been consistent, but he's smart, athletic, and good enough to soon be in the hunt for All-America honors.
While Dismukes got the call right away, redshirt freshman Christian Westerman redshirted instead of being thrown to the wolves. Now he should grow into a top right guard after hitting the weights and bulking up to 298 pounds on his 6-3 frame. One of the nation's top recruits last season, he ripped out the heart of Texas by choosing the SEC. While he'll start at guard, he could easily move to tackle without a problem
if he can stay healthy. Banged up this spring, Westerman's backup, sophomore Eric Mack, will play a bigger role. A 6-3 330-pounder,
he dropped a ton of weight and should be more effective after seeing a little time as a true freshman. Fortunately, from all accounts he's
expected to be fine after being hit in the hip in the tragic shooting
incident in early June.
6-5, 336-pound senior John Sullen is a veteran who started 11 times at right guard but now will move over to the left side. He'll move around where needed with good size and tremendous strength as a run blocker. After signing with the Tigers with little hype, he has grown into a mainstay as a hard worker and one of the key veteran blockers.
Watch Out For … Robinson. There are plenty of good young blockers up front, but Robinson has to become a star at left tackle. If he can be merely competent, he'll be a key rock for the Tiger line for the next four years.
Strength: Young talent. Robinson has a world of upside, while Westerman was an elite recruit who should start to show why. Dismukes is an excellent center who's about to be among the best in the SEC. This is a great looking line to rely on for a while.
Weakness: Consistent blocking. The run blocking was fine but the pass protection was a problem. The Tigers have to do some shuffling and have to change things around a bit, but no matter what the configuration the production has to be better.
Outlook: The talent is there and some of the lumps were taken last year, but it's going to take a little more time for everything to gel. Robinson, Dismukes and Westerman form a terrific young base, while Sullen and Slade are solid. This won't be even close to the best line in the SEC West, but it shouldn't be a liability and the upside is enormous.
Unit Rating: 7
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