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2007 Auburn Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 30, 2007


Preview 2007 Auburn Tigers Offense

Auburn Tigers

Preview 2007 - Offense

- 2007 Auburn Preview | 2007 Auburn Defense Preview
-
2007 Auburn Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Auburn Preview 

What you need to know: Where are the stars? The Auburn offense is full of above-average talents who need to mesh into a better, more consistent attack than the one that averaged just 24.77 points and 321 yards per game while doing next to nothing against the top teams. Only one starter, massive tackle King Dunlap, returns to the offensive line, while the receiving corps could be a problem if no one becomes a reliable number two receiver alongside Rodgeriqus Smith. On the plus side, the running backs are deep and talented, Brandon Cox appears ready to be a more productive passer, and the tight ends are the best in the league by far.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Brandon Cox
163-271, 2,198 yds, 14 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Brad Lester
104 carries, 510 yds, 9 TD
Receiving: Rodgeriqus Smith
26 catches, 452 yds, 4 TD

Star of the offense: Junior RB Brad Lester
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior WR
Prechae Rodriguez
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OG Tyronne Green
Best pro prospect: Senior OT King Dunlap
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Lester, 2) QB Brandon Cox, 3) Dunlap
Strength of the offense: Running backs, tight ends
Weakness of the offense: Offensive line starters, number two receiver

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: Can senior Brandon Cox finally be more than just a guy who hands the ball off? Fitting the textbook definition of a serviceable quarterback completing 59% of his passes with 33 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions. While he was always solid, he fell off the map over the last three games of the year completing just 20 of 47 passes hitting rock-bottom with a four-of-12, 35-yard, one touchdown, four interception day in the 37-15 loss to Georgia. Great at ripping apart mediocre defenses, he has to show he can be a big-game quarterback against the best of the best. Against LSU, Arkansas and Florida, he threw just one touchdown pass. At 6-2 and 209-pounds, he has decent size and while he's not a runner, he has a little bit of mobility.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Blake Field has been around long enough to know what he's doing, but he's going to be in a big fight to keep his number two job. He played sparingly completing eight of nine passes for 47 yards with an interception.

Redshirt freshman
Neil Caudle is a pure-passer who was a top recruit for the program last year. He's still trying to find where he fits in, but he has the arm and the potential to fit the offense perfectly.

6-3, 207-pound redshirt freshman Steven Ensminger is the biggest option in the hunt for the number two job, but he's not the passer Caudle is.

The whole picture could quickly change this fall when true freshman Kodi Burns arrives. Unlike all the other Tiger quarterbacks, he can move rushing for 835 yards and 13 touchdowns to go along with 23 touchdown passes in his senior year of high school.


Watch Out For ... the fans to be clamoring for someone to replace Cox at some point this year. Burns is the quarterback for the future and won't be ready yet, but whoever wins the number two job will be everyone's favorite son the first time Cox struggles against a top team.
Strength
:
Smart, accurate passers. Cox, for the most part, is a good decision maker and can be deadly accurate when he gets into a groove. Field and Caudle each fit the system.  
Weakness
:
A runner. No one outside of Burns offers even a hint of a rushing threat. On this team, the running backs carry the ball.
Outlook: Cox looked great in spring ball making everyone better around him. While he won't always have to carry the offense with such a strong running game to rely on, he'll have to step up his game against the top teams on the slate and start to bomb away deeper. Expect him to come up with his best season yet.
Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: While it hurts to lose a back the caliber of Kenny Irons, Auburn is well stocked with talent led by junior Brad Lester. While not all that big, he makes things happen when he has the ball in his hands averaging 5.2 yards per carry while averaging 33 yards on 23 career kickoff returns. With a great burst through the line, nice hands, and a decent nose for the goal line, he can do it all. However, he has to prove he can be a workhorse with his high carry game a mere 18. Helping the ground game is senior Carl Stewart, a 6-2, 224-pound fullback who ran for 98 yards and three touchdowns while catching 13 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns averaging 18.4 yards per grab. He's more of a big tailback than a bruising fullback, but he's not a liability as a blocker.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-11, 215-pound sophomore Ben Tate could start at most places and might end up being the number one at Auburn before the end of the year. He finished third on the team in rushing last year and led the regulars in yards per carry with a 7.3-yard average. Unlike Lester, he proved he could carry the workload rushing 26 times for 156 yards and a touchdown in the win over Tulane, but wasn't used much the rest of the way outside of an 11-carry, 93-yard day against Arkansas State.

Redshirt freshman Mario Fannin is a former high school quarterback who's making the easy transition to tailback. He's built like the typical Auburn tailback; 5-11, 214 pounds, and extremely quick.

Junior Tristan Davis has been a killer kickoff returner averaging 27 yards per try, and he should get a little more work in the ground game after being moved over from safety.

6-2, 244-pound senior Danny Perry is a true blocking fullback when he sees limited time in the running game.

Watch Out For ... the ground game to be even better even without Irons. Irons was a mega-disappointment last season thanks to a variety of injury issues, but several young players got to see time and should be ready for this season. Expect more than 2,000 yards out of this crew (after gaining 1,927 yards last year).
Strength
:
Depth. Tate and Fannin can start and the ground game won't lose a thing. The same goes for Stewart if he's needed for a short period of time. 
Weakness
:
A proven workhorse. It won't be running back by committee, but it might have to be. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Can anyone carry it 25 times game in and game out?
Outlook: The running back factory will keep cranking them out. While Lester and Tate might not be Cadillac and Ronnie Brown, they'll be excellent. Stewart is the occasional banger to balance things out. This will be the overall running game Tiger fans were hoping for last year.
Rating: 8.5

Receivers

Projected Starters: It'll likely be up to junior Rodgeriqus Smith to go from solid number two man to the starring role in place of leading receiver Courtney Taylor. The former walk-on led the team with four touchdown catches and was second on the team in receiving making 26 grabs for 452 yards. While he's hardly a burner, he averaged 17.4 yards per catch while turning into a steady target.

While Smith is solid, the receiving corps needs someone else to step up and star.  Sophomore Montez Billings has to prove he can be more than a track star playing receiver.  One of the team's fastest players winning the Alabama state high school 200-meter dash in 2004 with a time of 21.74, he only caught three passes for 47 yards and now has to prove he can be a reliable deep threat.

Sophomore Robert Dunn mainly served as a punt returner last season averaging 5.8 yards per try while catching five passes for 52 yards. The former Georgia Mr. Football was a star recruit who has to show he can get open on a consistent basis.

  6-5, 261-pound senior Cole Bennett was expected to grow into a top target last year but was knocked out early with an ankle injury finishing with just two grabs for 25 yards in three games. A fantastic blocker, he should also turn into a terror for defensive backs when he gets the ball on the move.

Projected Top Reserves: The backups are more promising at tight end than at receiver. Sophomore Tommy Trott had a nice first year as a receiver making ten catches for 94 yards and two scores. With great hands and excellent size at 6-5 and 254 pounds, he poses major matchup problems. Now he has to be even more of a blocker.

Fellow sophomore Gabe McKenzie also came up with a solid season with 13 grabs for 137 yards and a score. Like Trott, McKenzie is more like a big receiver and will see plenty of time in two tight end sets.

At wideout, Prechae Rodriguez, a former JUCO transfer, has hardly lit it up with only 27 catches for 408 yards and two touchdowns in two years, but he has too much talent to not make more of an impact. He's 6-4, 204 pounds, and tough. Now he has to produce.

Redshirt freshman Tim Hawthorne should be a serviceable target behind Smith. At 6-3 and 207 pounds, he's big and talented with more skills than Smith. He has to show he can be as productive.

6-3, 180-pound top recruit Chris Slaughter could come in right away and be the team's best target. He has NFL speed and measurables, but it's asking too much for him to be the number one man right away.

Watch Out For ... more production than last season when it was Courtney Taylor and a bunch of other receivers. The tight ends will carry the day when needed, while there's too much overall speed not to put up good numbers.
Strength
:
Overall speed. Billings can fly, Rodriquez can move, and the tight ends all provide matchup problems. Stretching the field likely won't be an issue. 
Weakness
:
Number one receiver. Auburn doesn't have one. Smith is a textbook number two, although he looked great in spring ball, Rodriguez and Dunn haven't shown they can carry the passing game, and Slaughter isn't going to be quite ready yet. The corps isn't going to scare anyone in the SEC.
Outlook: Much will be made about the receiving corps being a major weakness; it's not that bad. While it might not be special by any stretch, there are more than enough options for Brandon Cox to work with. The tight ends alone are enough to get excited about.
Rating: 6

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: The Auburn offensive line starts with 6-9, 321-pound senior King Dunlap on the left side. The only returning starter up front, the massive veteran has played in 37 games alternating between dominant performances and mediocre ones. A superstar recruit of a few years ago, he flattens everything in his path in the running game, but is inconsistent in pass protection.

On the other side, it'll be up to 6-6, 262-pound former defensive lineman Andrew McCain to step in and shine right away in place of Jonathan Palmer. While he's not huge, he's athletic, being tried out at tight end and on the defensive side before moving to the line.  The coaching staff will give him a long look if he turns out to be solid in pass protection.

The biggest hole to fill will be at left guard, where 6-2, 307-pound junior Tyronne Green will replace Ben Grubbs. Fortunately, the former defensive tackle was one of the stars of the line this spring playing well in all phases, and while he won't be Grubbs, he appears to be one player the coaching staff doesn't have to worry about.

At right guard, taking over for Tim Duckworth, will be senior Leon Hart, a spot starter with 36 games of overall experience. He's a strong 297 pounds, but he hasn't lived up to his prep hype ad will be in a battle to hang on to the starting job.

6-2, 280-pound junior Jason Bosley will replace Joe Cope at center after getting plenty of experience last season with four starts and appearances in ten games. He's a mauler who will grow into a major factor for the running game.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 329-pound redshirt freshman Mike Berry is the wild-card in the mix. Big enough to potentially push Hart out of the right guard job, and versatile enough to play behind Bosley in the middle, Berry it the line's biggest player and also its most promising. If he puts it all together in the next few seasons and continues to show good athleticism, he has an NFL future.

At right tackle, 6-6, 287-pound junior Antwoin Daniels will be a key part of the rotation despite having major problems against speed rushers. Raw as a backup two years ago, he made great strides and should eventually be solid.

Still to be seen is star recruit Lee Ziemba, a 6-7, 295-pound star-in-waiting who was everyone's list of top lineman recruits. He won't step in and start right away this fall, but he'll definitely get a look as a key backup.

Watch Out For ... the overall production to not dip all that much. It's not like the Tiger line did much of anything last year allowing 34 sacks while not doing nearly enough for the running game.
Strength
:
Potential. There's enough good young talent to mix in with veterans like Dunlap, Hart and Green to piece together a good front wall. 
Weakness
:
Starting experience and sure-things. Dunlap has to play like an All-SEC star at left tackle, and everything else has to fall into place.  Playing good pass rushing teams like Kansas State and South Florida right away could be a problem.
Outlook: While it's easy to panic with the loss of four starters, outside of Grubbs, they're replaceable. It might be a young group, but it'll be really, really good ... next year. The key for assistant coach Hugh Nall is to find the right combination of talents, and to figure out how quickly he wants to go with the youth movement. There will be a point in the season when everyone will realize Ziemba and Berry need to be starting somewhere.
Rating:
6.5

   

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2007 Auburn Preview - Depth Chart
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