What you need to know ... The
offense averaged 32.3 points per game last year, but it wasn't
consistent and ended on a sour note with a surprising
stinker against Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl. Despite the
loss of top tackles Marcus McNeill and Troy Reddick along with
the top three receivers and starting tight end Cooper Wallace,
expect things to be even better. QB Brandon Cox knows what he's
doing, Kenny Irons leads a deep and talented backfield, and
there's more than enough explosion to go around among the
receivers. The problem is inexperience in the receiving corps
and depth on the offensive line, but neither should be a issue
unless there's a big injury problem early on.
Passing: Brandon Cox
177-306, 2,324 yds, 15 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Kenny Irons
256 carries, 1,293 yds, 13 TD
Receiving: Courtney Taylor
22 catches, 278 yds, 1TD
Star of the offense: Senior RB Kenny Irons
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior OT
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Prechae Rodriguez
Best pro prospect: Irons
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Irons, 2) QB Brandon
Cox, 3) WR Courtney Taylor
Strength of the offense: Running backs
Weakness of the offense: Offensive line depth
giving enough credit to the quarterbacks to say offensive
coordinator Al Borges can simply plug in a player who'll
produce, but the system is passer-friendly. Brandon Cox did a
wonderful job in his first year at the helm, but now he'll be
expected to raise his completion percentage from 58% to around
65% to really get the attack humming. The backup situation is
excellent with Blake Field a solid emergency option with a game
of starting experience under his belt. 6-4, 242-pound Calvin
Booker was an intriguing prospect before deciding to transfer.
The key to the unit: Getting more deep production and
getting better play from Brandon Cox in the big games.
Quarterback Rating: 8
- Brandon Cox, Jr. - 177-306, 58%, 2,324 yds, 15 TD, 8
Cox might not have been Jason Campbell, but he had an excellent
year after spending two years learning under the current
Washington Redskin. He was deadly accurate ripping apart
mediocre defenses when given time, but when he was off, he was
really off. He only struggled in three games, and it just so
happened to be the three games Auburn lost throwing four picks
in the opener against Georgia Tech, completing 16 of 40 passes
in the loss to LSU, and completing a mere 15 of 33 passes in the
Capital One Bowl loss to Wisconsin. He was the league's most
efficient passer in the Al Borges system, and now he'll be asked
to do even more with the offense and make even more deep plays.
Don't expect much in the way of rushing yards or scrambling, but
he's not a statue.
- Blake Field, Soph. - 17-31, 55%, 237 yds, 3 TD
While not huge like fellow backup Calvin Booker, he has a good
arm and he has a good grasp of the offense despite not playing
much with the first team. He stepped in when Brandon Cox missed
the Western Carolina game and completed 13 of 22 passes for 200
yards and three touchdowns in the easy win. He's all but
cemented as the number two man. He was a superior high school
- Calvin Booker, Soph. - He would've been a key number three
quarterback, but he chose to transfer. He's a huge 6-4, 242-pound bomber
who saw the field in the win over Western Carolina but didn't do
anything more than hand off.
What was seen as a potential
problem before last season after losing Carnell Williams and
Ronnie Brown turned into a positive with the emergence of Kenny
Irons, who not only led the SEC in rushing, but also made life
easier for new starting QB Brandon Cox. Brad Lester is a good
second option who just needs a little more work to be a star.
You could do a lot worse than have big Carl Stewart and veteran
Tre Smith carrying the ground game. The fullbacks are purely
blockers. Mike McLaughlin has to show he can handle the
full-time workload, but he should grow into a dominant run
The key to the unit: Keeping Kenny Irons fresh. The
Tigers have too many backs to let Irons get banged up in the
blowouts or in the meaningless games. Using more of a rotation
and getting more work for Brad Lester, Carl Stewart and Tre
Smith will be important so Irons has a full tank of gas for the
Running Back Rating: 9.5
- Kenny Irons, Sr. - 256 carries, 1,293 yds, 13 TDs, 5.1
ypc, 14 catches, 164 yds
The South Carolina transfer ripped it up in spring practice of
2005, but didn't get into the mix until the third game of
the season when he tore off 147 yards and two touchdowns in the
win over Ball State on just 11 carries. He then went on to be
one of the SEC's best players with eight 100-yard days showing off
tremendous home-run hitting speed highlighted by a brilliant
218-yard day in the loss to LSU. He's not necessarily a power
runner, but he's physical and doesn't go down easily. When he
has a sliver of daylight, he'll tear off a huge gain.
- Fullback Mike McLaughlin, Soph.
Purely a special teamer last year, the 236-pound sophomore will
be in charge of opening up holes for Kenny Irons. He has the
power to be a good short-yardage runner and was great around the
goal line in high school. Don't expect too much work with Auburn
rarely giving its backs the ball, but McLaughlin could be used a
little bit as a receiver.
- Brad Lester, Soph. - 52 carries, 339 yds, 5 TDs
Lester had a fine redshirt freshman season finishing second on
the team in rushing despite missing a few games with an injured
groin. He's not all that big at 5-11 and 184 pounds, but he
makes things happen when he gets the ball in his hands taking a
kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown against Ball State and rushing
for 34 yards on just two carries against Georgia. His workload
dropped over the second half of the season, but he'll play a far
more prominent role this year.
- Carl Stewart, Jr. - 42 carries, 151 yds, 3.6 ypc, 1 TD
Stewart is the biggest back in the mix at 6-1 and 220 pounds,
but he hasn't seen much more than the occasional carry along
with 91 yards against The Citadel in 2004 and with 51 yards
against Ball State last year. He has mostly been a blocker and
has good hands when used as a receiver. He would work well as a
fullback, but he's going to keep getting used as a big tailback.
- Tre Smith, Jr. - 56 carries, 285 yds, 5.1 ypc, 3 TD, 9
catches, 105 yds, 1 TD
After missing almost all of 2004 with a shoulder injury, Smith
was the starter going into last season but didn't get more than
backup work until the Kentucky game when he ran for 99 yards and
a touchdown on 13 carries. He has a good combination of
quickness and strength for his size, but he's still going to
work as a backup with his biggest role as a punt returner after
returning 26 for 203 yards last year with a career average of
8.6 yards per try. He could also be used on kickoffs if needed.
- Fullback Andrew Turman, Jr.
Turman only saw the field against Western Kentucky as he's still
getting the hang of being a fullback. A linebacker in high
school, the strong 228-pounder should play a more prominent role
this year purely as a blocker playing behind Mike McLaughlin.
It's an overstatement to call Auburn's receiving corps a
disappointment last year, but it wasn't as good as it should've
been considering all the returning experience and all the
explosiveness. There's no need to shed many tears even though Ben Obomanu, Devin Aromashodu and Anthony Mix are
gone taking away the team's top three receivers. Courtney Taylor
returns and looks to put his lousy 2005 behind him as he's
flanked by a slew of very fast, but very inexperienced
receivers. Prechae Rodriguez has all the makings of a great
number two receiver, while Robert Dunn, Montez Billings and
Rodgeriqus Smith all have the speed and potential to play big
roles. The Tigers also lose starting tight end Cooper Wallace,
but should be fine with senior Cole Bennett ready to show off
his good hands in a starting role and two good prospects, Tommy
Trott and Gabe McKenzie, behind him.
The key to the unit: Getting all the young potential
to come through right away and hope for Courtney Taylor to look
like an NFL target again.
Receiver Rating: 8
- Courtney Taylor, Sr. - 22 catches, 278 yds, 12.6 ypc, 1
Taylor got hit with an ankle injury early on and was never quite
right the rest of the season. One of the SEC's best receivers in
2004 with 43 catches for 737 yards and six touchdowns with a
17.1 yard-per-catch average, he showed little of the same
explosiveness last year failing to get into the end zone until
the Capital One Bowl. He's a big, strong target who was great in
2004 at breaking tackles and gaining yards after the catch, and
now he needs to revert to his old form for the offense to
- Prechae Rodriguez, Jr. - 13 catches, 240 yds, 18.5 ypc,
The JUCO transfer had a hard time getting passes thrown his way
with so many other targets in the mix, but he made an impact
when he did make a play averaging 18.5 yards per grab catching
six passes for 134 yards and a touchdown over a two game stretch
against Ole Miss and Kentucky. He's 6-4 and has great deep
speed, and now he'll be asked to grow into the team's most
- Robert Dunn, Soph. - 2 catches, 29 yds, 14.5 ypc
One the team's star recruits a few years ago, the former Georgia
Mr. Football saw a little bit of work as a true freshman as a
punt returner with five for 36 yards. He's a speedy receiver
who'll take over one of the vacant starting jobs this fall.
While he doesn't have the size of Prechae Rodriguez or Courtney
Taylor, he's got playmaker written all over him.
- Tight end Cole Bennett, Sr. - 9 catches, 107 yds, 11.9
ypc, 2 TD
A part-time starter last year, Bennett should be ready for a
huge year. He's a good-sized target at 6-5 and 261 pounds with
surprising athleticism. He wasn't use as much in the passing
game as he should've and will likely make his biggest mark as a
blocker, but he'll be a load for most defensive backs to handle
when he gets the ball on the move.
- Lee Guess, Jr. - 3 catches, 52 yds, 17.3 ypc, 1 TD
One of the team's faster receivers, Guess will try to do more
than be a mop-up receiver pushing for time behind Prechae
Rodriguez. He's not all that big at 5-10 and 177 pounds, but his
wheels should eventually get him more work.
- Montez Billings, RFr.
He has the measurables. Billings is 6-2, 180 pounds and fast,
fast, fast winning the Alabama state high school 200-meter dash
in 2004 with a time of 21.74. He's too
good an athlete to keep out of the mix for long even though he's
a bit raw. He'll start out
behind Courtney Taylor.
- Rodgeriqus Smith, Soph. - 6 catches, 109 yds, 18.2 ypc
After seeing time early with a string of four straight games
with at least one catch, Smith was out of mix and didn't catch a
pass over the final seven games. He's a terrific athlete who'll
combine with Robert Dunn at one of the open starting slots.
- Tight end Tommy Trott, RFr.
While not nearly as big as Cole Bennett, the 6-5,
247-pound Trott has fantastic hands and should grow into a
threat in the passing attack. He still has room to add about ten
pounds to be more of a blocker, but he shouldn't have a problem
being physical after spending part of his time in high school as
a top defensive end.
The line was good last year, but it wasn't as good as it
could've been considering the talent at tackle and the emergence of Tim
Duckworth as an all-star at guard. Things might even be better this year
despite the loss of Marcus McNeill and Troy Reddick on the outside with
the likely emergence of King Dunlap, who is more
athletic than McNeill and Reddick, and the further
development inside of guard Ben Grubbs and center Joe Cope. Jonathan
Palmer was tried out at center, but will likely move to tackle unless
Leon Hart improves this summer. This is a huge, huge, huge line that
will average 310 pounds per man depending on the lineup. The pass protection
could stand to be better after allowing 21 sacks and the run blocking
could stand to be more consistent, but when this group is humming, look
The key to the unit: Developing depth. The line is in
big trouble if it has an injury problem early in the year. There's a
scary lack of experience behind the top six players.
Offensive Line Rating: 8
- OT King Dunlap, Jr.
A monster at 6-8 and 313 pounds, Dunlap is one of the few players who
can literally fill the shoes of All-American Marcus McNeill. One of the
program's star recruits of a few years ago, Dunlap has enough
experience, and enough of the trust of the coaching staff, to play at a
high level right away at left tackle. Run blocking won't be an issue,
but he'll have to prove he can consistently keep his feet moving well in
- OG Ben Grubbs, Sr.
One of the line's most reliable players over the last few years. the
6-3, 301-pound senior is a good athlete for his size and a dominating
run blocker. After starting his career as a defensive lineman and a
tight end, Grubbs now looks and plays like a veteran offensive lineman
and should grow into an All-SEC caliber performer.
- C Joe Cope, Sr.
While not all that big a 6-0 and 276 pounds, he's a technician and a
stronger player than he gets credit for. Most teams try to push him
around and see the former walk-on as an easy target to pound on, but he
more than holds his own.
- OG Tim Duckworth, Jr.
There was some concern about Duckworth's ability to make the shift from
defensive tackle to offensive line, but he came through with an All-SEC
season and improved more and more each week. He's expected to be an
All-America caliber performer now that he knows what he's doing. The
6-3, 310-pound junior is impossible to move.
- OT Jonathan Palmer, Sr.
The longtime veteran might be destined to finally be a full-time starter
at tackle after Leon Hart didn't play as well as the coaching staff
wanted him to this spring. At 6-4 and 325 pounds he offers far more size at center
than the 276-pound Joe Cope if he moves back to his more natural spot in
the middle, and he has 33 games of experience as a
backup at several spots.
- OG/OT Leon Hart, Jr.
Hart is just now starting to grow into his potential. At 6-4 and 300
pounds, he's a big blocker who's also versatile enough to play anywhere
on the line. After being tried out at guard and center, he tried his
hand at tackle this spring but didn't work out as expected. Now he'll
back up Tim Duckworth at right guard while still working at tackle. appears to
have found a home at right tackle where he'll take over Troy Reddick's
- OG Tyronne Green, Soph.
Green started out at guard, moved to defensive tackle, and now moves
back to guard where he'll push for time behind Ben Grubbs on the left
side. He's a big 6-3, 317-pounder who could use a bit more experience
before being relied on for either guard spot in a full-time role.
- OT Oscar Gonzalez, RFr.
A future star on the line, the 6-7, 294-pound redshirt
freshman will be groomed to be the team's next massive left tackle. He's
athletic for his size and should grow into a good reserve behind King