Preview 2007 - Offense
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Strength: Potential. There's enough good young talent to mix in
with veterans like Dunlap, Hart and Green to piece together a good front
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.