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2008 CFN Auburn Preview
Auburn DT Sen'Derrick Marks
Auburn DT Sen'Derrick Marks
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 11, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com Auburn Tiger Preview ...While the Auburn offense will undergo a bit of tinkering, there's nothing wrong with Sen'Derrick Marks and the defense.

Auburn Tigers

Preview 2008

By Pete Fiutak

- 2008 CFN Auburn Preview | 2008 Auburn Offense Preview
-
2008 Auburn Defense Preview | 2008 Auburn Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Auburn Preview | 2006 CFN Auburn Preview 

Preview Auburn's Opening Day Opponent
 
2008 UL Monroe Preview

Interested in blogging about Auburn or SEC football?  Let us know

By any measure, the 2007 season was a success, and it wasn't like the Tigers were slipping into a free-fall. Considering the league they play in, going 9-4 with a Chick-fil-A Bowl win over Clemson, finishing second in the division behind the team that would win the national title, and beating the arch-rival (again) would indicate that everything was on the right track.

Head coach: Tommy Tuberville
9th year: 80-33
13th year overall: 105-53
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 23, Def. 22, ST 5
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best Tiger Players
1. DT Sen'Derrick Marks, Jr.
2. DE Antonio Coleman, Jr.
3. LB Tray Blackmon, Jr.
4. CB Jerraud Powers, Jr.
5. OT Lee Ziemba, Soph.
6. OG Tyronne Green, Sr.
7. FS Mike McNeil, Soph.
8. SS Zac Etheridge, Soph.
9. RB Brad Lester, Sr.
10. WR Rodgeriqus Smith, Sr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
9-3
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 UL Monroe
Sept. 6 Southern Miss
Sept. 13 at Mississippi State
Sept. 20 LSU
Sept. 27 Tennessee
Oct. 4 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 11 Arkansas
Oct. 18 OPEN DATE 
Oct. 23 at West Virginia
Nov. 1 at Ole Miss
Nov. 8 UT Martin
Nov. 15 Georgia
Nov. 22 OPEN DATE 
Nov. 29 at Alabama

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
9-3
2007 Record: 9-4

Sept. 1 Kansas State W 23-13
Sept. 8 So Florida L 26-24 OT
Sept. 15 Mississippi St L 19-14
Sept. 22 New Mexico St W 55-20
Sept. 29 at Florida W 20-17
Oct. 6
Vanderbilt W 35-7
Oct. 13 at Arkansas W 9-7
Oct. 20 at LSU L 30-24
Oct. 27
Ole Miss W 17-3
Nov. 3 Tennessee Tech W 35-3
Nov. 10 at Georgia L 45-20
Nov. 24
Alabama W 17-10
Chick-fil-A Bowl
Dec. 31 Clemson W 23-20 OT

But behind the good season and the final record were signs that things needed to be changed up a bit. The defense was its usual nasty self and the running game was decent enough, but the offense wasn't explosive and needed some work. The Tigers finished 97th in the nation in total offense and time and again had to hang on by the skin of their teeth.

Seven of the games were decided by a touchdown or less, including three of the four losses, while the 23-13 season-opening win over Kansas State was much, much closer than the final score with a late fumble return for a touchdown that ended up padding the stats.

While it's a sign of a good team that it can win the close ones, especially considering they're almost all close ones in the SEC, and the Tigers did a great job of rebounding from a shaky start, they had to do something different or risk potentially being pushed into also-ran status. After all, juggernauts like LSU, Florida, and Georgia aren't going away, and programs in the division like Alabama, Arkansas, and even Ole Miss, are getting better and better. Something had to be done, and it had to be done with the offense.

The Tigers needed an offensive pick-me-up and they needed to be more consistent and more dangerous. Exiting is Al Borges, who made the Jason Campbell/Carnell Williams/Ronnie Brown 2004 offense such a monster, and in comes Tony Franklin, a spread offense specialist who made QB Omar Haugabook and Troy so dangerous over the last few seasons. While Franklin would like to wing it around, he'll have the pieces in place to run a more traditional, for lack of a better word, spread attack.

While normally the expectations would be tempered a bit with the new offense being put in, there's no reason the Tigers can't be in the thick of the SEC title chase in a year when almost everyone in the West is revamping or retooling in some way. The defense, even with star coordinator Will Muschamp off to Texas, has the potential to be every bit as strong as last season's group that led the league in points allowed and was second overall, and the offense, even if it takes a little bit to get going, isn't going to be worse.

The schedule works out well, the overall talent and athleticism is there, and head coach Tommy Tuberville remains one of the nation's best and most underappreciated head coaches.

No, this isn't a national title type of team, there will still be a few too many ifs in the offense, but there's no reason to not going into the year looking for a trip to the SEC title game.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback battle. Who's going to run the new attack? Kodi Burns, the hero of the bowl win over Clemson, finished spring ball on a high note and is an emerging passer, but the consistency won't be there for a full season; he needs a year before he reaches his potential. Texas Tech transfer Chris Todd would be the ideal option to start funnin' and gunnin', but he had a banged up shoulder this off-season and will have to fight for the job. There's a chance for a rotation unless one takes the job by the horns late this summer. 

What to watch for on defense: The secondary will be dominant ... again. It's a no-name bunch that was fantastic despite the lack of a steady and consistent pass rush, and now it could be even more productive with CB Jerraud Powers blossoming into a star and the rising sophomore safety tandem of Mike McNeil and Zac Etheridge among the best in the SEC.
 
The team will be far better if … it gets into the backfield on a regular basis. Considering the ends were Quentin Groves, Sen'Derrick Marks and Antonio Coleman, you'd think the Tiger pass rush would've been lethal, but Groves got hurt early and was never right and Coleman didn't get much help from anyone else. It's hard to argue with the overall results of last year's defense, allowing fewer than 300 yards and 17 points per game, but the back seven could be even more effective if the opposing quarterbacks felt more heat.

The Schedule: There will be plenty of big-time games, but almost all of them are at home. Going on the road to face West Virginia in a mid-season Thursday night game is the only away date problem until the season-ender at Alabama. LSU, Tennessee and Georgia are all good enough to win the SEC title, but they're all coming to Jordan-Hare. It'll be vital to not be tripped up at Ole Miss or at Mississippi State; the Tigers must take advantage of the relative scheduling break. Yeah, AU deserves credit for going to Morgantown to face the Mountaineers, but it makes up for it with games against UL Monroe and UT Martin.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore OT Lee Ziemba and senior OG Tyronne Green. The left side of the Tiger line will be dominant. Green has grown into a devastating run blocker who'll make a ton of money in the near future, while the 6-8, 288-pound Ziemba is one of the nation's rising star tackles. The rest of the Tiger line is solid, but these two should make it special.

Best Defensive Player: Junior DT Sen'Derrick Marks. It's salary drive time. Marks was a great end but is a more natural tackle. He has top ten overall draft pick skills and will be moved around on the line where needed and where he can be the most effective. In a perfect world he can star on the inside all season long and use his tremendous quickness to be an unstoppable interior pass rusher.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Kodi Burns and/or junior QB Chris Todd. Everything appears to be in place for the offense to be decent. The line should grow into something special, the backfield has its usual array of talents, and the receiving corps is among the most promising in years. Burns doesn't have to be Tim Tebow and Todd doesn't have to be Graham Harrell, but if one, or both, can be effective, Auburn has a shot to win the SEC championship.

The season will be a success if ... the Tigers win the West. That might seem like a bit of a tall task considering all the big offensive changes, and yeah, losing Muschamp really might sting a wee bit, but the schedule gets almost all the big SEC games at home and there's enough talent on both sides of the ball to be better than everyone else in the division. Ole Miss and Arkansas are rebuilding, Mississippi State isn't as good as Auburn, LSU might need a year to reload, and Alabama is a year away from being special. The Tigers have to take advantage.

Key game: Sept. 20 vs. LSU. The better Tigers will likely win the West. Considering Tennessee and Georgia will still be on the slate, and there's that little road trip to Alabama to close things out, Auburn can't afford to blow its early home date against the defending national champion if it hopes to play for the SEC title.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Scoring in quarters 1-through-3: Auburn 225 - Opponents 127
- Scoring in the forth quarter: Opponents 84 - Auburn 81
- Interception return average: Auburn 17 (on 14 picks) - Opponents 8.1 (on 15 picks)