Auburn Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Auburn Eagles
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Auburn Tigers Preview 2006 - Auburn Further Analysis

1st and Ten – How Good Can He Be? – On January 3rd, 2005, the Auburn Tigers had three first round draft picks in their backfield.  But, when the New Orleans night turned into a grim January 4th, 2005 morning, the questions of how the Tigers would make it without Jason Campbell, Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams began.  It took until about mid-season when one man decided that it was his time, his team and his ball, and that has made Kenny Irons one of the most dangerous ball carriers in the nation.  Once Irons got cranked up and rolling, the Tigers became the hottest team in the country.  Irons seems to run angry – he runs with such power and explosion.  He might be able to run past defenders in the secondary, but when he turns the corner and gets his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage, he’s getting ready to punish someone.  Hopefully, for Tiger fans, that someone would be wearing a different color jersey.  Nearly 1,300 yards later, Irons wrecked havoc on the SEC, and he’s back to do the same for 2006.  Unfortunately for Irons, he’s lost a couple of key components, well, some big components, actually, in Marcus McNeill and Troy Reddick, on his offensive line.  With both tackles graduating, Irons will have to run more between the tackles on power isolations and inside zone runs, but he became more of a complete runner throughout last season and running in the A/B gaps shouldn’t worry him or the Tigers.   

2nd and Seven – If your safeties are bigger than your linebackers… - It’s not a question that most teams are faced with, well, unless you’re an Auburn Tiger defensive coach, player or fan.  However, the Tigers have flourished with speed, in lieu of size, at the linebacker position over the past few years, and this year’s group will be similar to those of the past.  Will Herring, last year’s starting safety will move up to a linebacker spot, and in so doing, he becomes the biggest potential starting linebacker.  Regardless, when speed met size in the Capital One Bowl last season, it was Wisconsin’s size and strength that won out in a big way.  These linebackers aren’t going to have the luxury of playing behind a nose tackle like TJ Jackson or a defensive end like Stanley McClover, so it might be a little tougher to succeed without those two star defensive linemen.  Consequently, if there’s a significant amount of pressure on any one unit this season, helloooo, linebackers.

3rd and Three – Consistent Cox – The breakout of Kenny Irons by midseason seemed to mask the play of Brandon Cox, the soon-to-be junior quarterback, who took over for Jason Campbell, a first round NFL draft pick.  Cox had nearly a 2 to 1 TD to interception ratio and had some key moments, including the throw to Devin Aromashodu against Georgia that put the Tigers in position to make the game winning field goal.  Shoot, he threw only three interceptions in the last nine games of the regular season.  However, in the Capital One Bowl, Cox did not play well, finishing 15 of 33 and one pick.  As Cox was harassed into such a poor day, the Tiger offense never found its end of year groove.  With Irons getting 25 to 30 carries a week, Cox must keep defenses from loading the box.  When he does, Al Borges’ Tiger offense could and will be lethal.

4th and One – Where There’s a Gunn, there’s smoke, wait, oh, something like that – The loss of Stanley McClover, a tremendous speed pass rusher, would typically signal rough times for Auburn, but that’s far from the truth.  Marquies Gunn and Quentin Groves have plenty of experience rushing the edge, and do it with the same speed and tenacity that McClover brought to the party.  SEC quarterbacks need to be on the lookout for the two linebacker sized (man, what is it about linebackers with this team) players at defensive end.  Oh yeah, where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire.  Just wait until you see these two guys smoke off the edge.

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