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2013 Auburn Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 10, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Auburn Tiger Offense


Auburn Tigers

Preview 2013 - Offense

- 2013 Auburn Preview | 2013 Auburn Offense
- 2013 Auburn Defense | 2013 Auburn Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: Last in the SEC in total offense, 112th in the nation in scoring and pass offense, last in sacks allowed – enough of that. Gus Malzahn is back at the helm with co-offensive coordinators Rhett Lashlee and Dameyune Craig ready to change things around in a big hurry. The talent across the board is undeniable with a roster loaded with four and five-star talents who haven’t come close to reaching their potential. The line has a world of upside and the receiving corps has prototype size/speed ratio targets, but someone needs to get them the ball on a regular basis with Nick Marshall an untested starting passer. Running back Tre Mason is a good piece of the puzzle to work around, but with the offense about to go into hyperdrive with the pace cranked up, getting steady quarterback play is a must.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Kiehl Frazier
62-116, 753 yds, 2 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Tre Mason
171 carries, 1,002 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: Quan Bray
14catches, 94 yds, 0 TD

Star of the offense: Junior RB Tre Mason
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior QB Nick Marshall
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Ricardo Louis
Best pro prospect: Sophomore OT Greg Robinson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) C Reese Dismukes, 2) Mason, 3) Robinson
Strength of the offense: Raw Talent & Upside, Running Back
Weakness of the offense: Proven Production, Wide Receiver Production

Quarterbacks

It’s the third year since Cam Newton came up with his special 2010 season, and Auburn still doesn’t have a reliable starting quarterback. It was never a settled situation throughout last season, but sophomore Jonathan Wallace gave it a shot late in his true freshman campaign starting the last four games and finishing with 720 yards and four scores with four picks. A decent runner, the 6-2, 209-pounder took off for 71 yards against Texas A&M, but he wasn’t able to get lose on a regular basis. Forced to deal with Georgia and Alabama, he wasn’t bad against the Dawgs but wasn’t given much help against anyone else – the jury is still out on what he can do. He’s still learning on the fly, but he the talent to work well in the Malzahn offense.

Junior Kiehl Frazier was never supposed to be another Cam, but he was a superstar recruit with all the dual-threat skills to blossom into something special. His problem has been his consistency, struggling to get the offense moving and generate points while throwing way too many picks, giving up three against Mississippi State and two against LSU. He only completed 53% of his throws for 753 yards with two touchdowns and eight scores, and he didn’t take off enough to use his rushing abilities. At 6-2 and 234 pounds with a live arm and good quickness, everything is in place, but he wasn't able to put it all together, and now he'll move to safety..

Watch Out For … JUCO transfer Nick Marshall, who started out his career as a defensive back at Georgia seeing time at corner. A natural quarterback, he ended up taking Garden City CC to a big year throwing for 3,142 yards and 18 scores while running for 1,095 yards and 19 touchdowns. He’ll get every chance to take the job now, while star recruit Jeremy Johnson is also deep in the starting hunt. The 6-5, 215-pounder is a good runner, but he’s at his best pushing the ball all over the field with his excellent next-level arm, throwing for 3,193 yards and 31 scores on the way to being named Alabama’s Mr. Football.
Strength: The coaching staff. It’s not like the post-Cam Malzahn worked wonders before taking off for the Arkansas State head coaching job, but he’s going to get the most out of an interesting group. There’s a ton of raw talent to play around with, and the coaches are there to make it all work.
Weakness: Playing football. All the stars next to the names don’t mean anything if the top recruits can’t get the job done. The Tigers didn’t do anything down the field last season and averaged just 157 yards per game through the air. With eight touchdown passes and 15 picks, the quarterbacks have plenty of work to do.
Outlook: It was a long, long exercise trying to figure out the starter. For all the talk about Frazier/Wallace or Wallace/Frazier, with Frazier's move to the defensive backfield, Marshall swooped in and now has to save the day after being named starter. There’s a world of talent, but the production has to come.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

Not everything turned to be a disaster. With Michael Dyer gone, junior Tre Mason turned into the main man for the running game, battling his way for a tough 1,002 yards and eight scores, averaging 5.9 yards per carry, with 106 yards against Clemson to start the season, 82 against Alabama to finish things up, and three 100-yard games on the year. The 5-10, 196-pound star of the 2010 recruiting class is a speed back with fantastic straight-line speed. While he’s not going to pound away for the tough yards, he’ll battle when needed.

Mason needs help with Onterio McCalebb gone. Junior Corey Grant started out his career at Alabama before transferring over to the Tigers. A fantastic all-around back and a top recruit, he has good size and blazing, track-star speed, winning the Alabama state 100-meter dash two years in a row. Now he needs to become a factor – fast. Also in the rotation is JUCO transfer Cameron Artis-Payne, a top JUCO transfer who looked great at times this spring after tearing off over 2,000 yards and 25 scores last year for Allan Hancock JC. At 5-11 and 208 pounds he has good size, nice toughness inside and just enough pop to make plays for the passing game on the outside.

Former Illinois transfer Jay Prosch stepped in and turned into a good blocker for the ground game. An All-American for the Illini, he was a decent short-yardage runner in his first year for the Tigers and even came up with a few catches. Incredibly strong, he destroys his man when locked up. Adding a bit more size to the position is 6-4, 257-pound redshirt freshman Ricky Parks, a tight end by nature he has nice hands and good all-around athleticism. He’s not the blocker Prosch is, but he’ll see time in a variety of ways.

Watch Out For … Jonathan Ford, a 5-11, 175-pound playmaker with the speed and quickness to be used as a receiver and the nose for the goal line to become a feature back. An Alabama high school all-star performer, he tore off 1,669 yards and 27 scores in his senior season.
Strength: Speed and quickness. Mason has home run hitting ability when he gets a little room to move, and no one on the team has better raw wheels than Grant. The Tiger backs can always move, with Mason and McCalebb combining to average around six yards per carry last season. Artis-Payne and Grant should have no problems helping out Mason.
Weakness: The passing game. Until the Tigers prove they can once again throw a forward pass on a regular basis without screwing up, defenses are going to load up on the line to stop the run. The production wasn’t bad last season against the mediocre teams, but consistency will be the key until the quarterbacks come around.
Outlook: Mason had a better year than he got credit for, and now he should have an easier time. McCalebb was a nice complementary speedster, but Grant should do more with a bigger opportunity. There’s talent and upside, and overall this could be the strength of the offense early on if the line is doing its job.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Receivers

There might not be much proven production in the receiving corps, but there’s a whole bunch of promise and upside. 6-3, 216-pound junior Jaylon Denson only came up with one catch for 12 yards, but he appears to be a natural fit for the new offense with excellent size, good blocking ability and soft hands.

The a potential is there for Denson to become a No. 1 target in time, but he’ll have to be a part of a rotation with speedster Sammie Coates and the promising Melvin Ray.The 6-2, 201-pound Coates has special athleticism, speed and size to be a matchup nightmare, and while the sophomore only caught six passes, he made the most of his chances averaging 19.4 yards per play with a touchdown against ULM and a nine-yard score against Alabama A&M. At 6-3 and 218 pounds, Ray is a huge sophomore with nice hands. A good enough baseball player to kick around in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system, now he’s working on becoming a deep threat for the Tigers.

5-10, 183-pound junior Quan Bray is the leading returning receiver, but he only caught 14 passes for a mere 94 yards, averaging 6.7 yards per grab. He has the speed and quickness, and he’s an elite athlete who can be used as a runner, but he hasn’t exploded over the last few years and hasn’t established himself as a possible No. 1 target. He’ll combine with junior Trovon Reed came to Auburn as one of the top recruits in the country, but he wasn’t able to shake a knee injury early on in his career and last season took a step back catching just nine passes for 122 yards and a score after making 21 grabs two years ago. Also in the rotation with Bray and Reed is offseason star Ricardo Louis, a dangerous 6-2, 217-pound sophomore who caught three passes for 36 yards last year but has the potential to become a major playmaker in the new attack. It’s all there with size, speed and deep ball ability, but now he needs the ball.

Gone is Philip Lutzenkirchen at tight end after a disappointing, injury-plagued career at tight end, and now it’ll be up to junior Brandon Fulse to become more of a receiver. The 6-4, 264-pound veteran packed on a few pounds to be more of a blocker, but he has the hands and route running abilities to come up with more play after catching just one pass for eight yards. 6-4, 253-pound junior C.J. Uzomah is a big target who’ll be used as a huge wide receiver more than a blocker. He became a dangerous receiver when he got the ball his way catching seven passes for 136 yards and a score, averaging a 19.4 yards per grab, and now he’ll play a bigger role.

Watch Out For … new recruits Tony Stevens and Jason Smith. Auburn hasn’t had a ton of luck with top receiver pickups, but the 6-3, 175-pound Stevens and 6-1, 180-pound Smith have the upside to become big factors over the next few years. Smith is a quarterback who’s future is as a pass catcher with tremendous quickness and upside – he can do a little of everything. Stevens is a speed receiver who’ll stretch the field.
Strength: Potential. Louis, Denson and Coates might not be big names now, but they have the size and the upside to crank up big numbers if the quarterback play is better. They have to make plays on their own, but if everything else in the offense works, this crew should come up big.
Weakness: Production. Emory Blake led the team with 50 catches, and Bray was the second-most productive wide receiver making 14 catches. No other wideout had double-digit catches. It’s time to start making the quarterbacks look better.
Outlook: The Auburn receivers look the part with size, speed and athleticism, but they haven’t shown up over the last few years. It would be a different story if Cam Newton was under center, but this crew has to use its collective talent to start making more plays. The talent is there, and now the production has to follow.
Unit Rating: 7

Offensive Line

Sophomore Greg Robinson came to Auburn as one of the nation’s top guard recruits, but he was moved over to tackle where he fought through the growing pains in his first season. At 6-5 and 314 pounds he has excellent size and can move, and he has the smarts to become a leader up front, but his next-level future is at right tackle or more likely at guard. He needs to be far stronger in pass protection, but he has the potential to grow into a fantastic run blocker. Working the other side is sophomore Patrick Miller, a large 6-7, 283-pound riser who took over the starting job midway through last season and showed excellent upside. Like Robinson, pass protection was a bit of an issue. He put on a little weight but he’s still rangy and more of a pusher than a blaster. He moves extremely well and should be a great fit for the sped-up offense.

Junior Chad Slade has moved all over the place, starting out his career at right tackle before moving to left guard and last season spending most of his time at right guard. His versatility helps up front, but his spot is in the interior of the right side where at 6-5 and 308 pounds he has the size and experience to blast away for the ground game. He’s set at one guard, but the left guard job is up in the air between redshirt freshmen Alex Kozan and Jordan Diamond. The 6-4, 292-pound Kozan is built like a tackle, but the jury was out as a recruit over where he’d be the best fit. He can move well enough to play on the outside, but he’ll start out at guard, while the 6-6, 314-pound Diamond was a fantastic tackle recruit out of Chicago and could end up seeing time at a few spots.

Anchoring the talented front five is junior Reese Dismukes, a two-year starter and excellent leader, helping to take his Alabama state high school team to a state title, he is growing into the job in the middle and should be more athletic and steadier playing at around 290 pounds on his 6-3 frame after working early on over 300 pounds. He’s quick off the ball and has a world of upside in his third year as a starter. Providing the depth is JUCO transfer Devonte Danzey, a 6-4, 284-pound ready-made backup from Hutchinson CC with the versatility to move to tackle if needed.

Watch Out For … guard prospect Deon Mix. Auburn has so much young talent for the line that finding reinforcements wasn’t a priority, but the 6-4, 315-pounder could push for a spot early on with the strength and power to at least add decent depth.
Strength: Tremendous talent. Arguably the strongest area of recruiting over the last few years has been on the line with loads of four and five-star talents being brought in. It might be taking a while, but if it all comes together, watch out.
Weakness: Consistency. Injuries were a big problem at times over the last few years, and waiting for all the young stars to gel has been an issue, but more than anything else the line can’t seem to come up with the same performance from one game to the next. The pass protection has to be better and the run blocking has to be far steadier.
Outlook: There’s more than enough talent to expect and hope for a night-and-day turnaround. With the up-tempo attack the line should be able to get into more of a groove, but the promise has to translate into production. The skill players have speed, athleticism and talent, and now the line has to give everyone time to work.
Unit Rating: 7
 
- 2013 Auburn Preview | 2013 Auburn Offense
- 2013 Auburn Defense | 2013 Auburn Depth Chart