2010 Auburn Preview – Offense
Auburn WR Darvin Adams
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Auburn Tiger Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: If last year was an inconsistent step under offensive guru Gus Malzahn, then this year should be when the rewards come after the growing pains. It all starts with a line that might have a few depth issues, but returns four very good starters led by OT Lee Ziemba and C Ryan Pugh. Darvin Adams is the best receiver you've probably never heard of, and he'll be deadly with a slew of good targets to take some of the heat off. The ground game that finished 13th in the nation could be even better even without 1,362-yard rusher, Ben Tate. Onterio McCalebb was 2009's super-recruit, Michael Dyer was this year's star, and Mario Fannin could be more explosive than both of them. It all comes down to the quarterback situation that desperately needs Florida transfer Cameron Newton to be every bit as good as he appeared to be this offseason. If he's great, then Malzahn can speed up the play-calling and expand the offense like he wants to.
Star of the offense: Junior WR Darvin Adams
Passing: Neil Caudle
15-20, 170 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Onterio McCalebb
105 carries, 565 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Darvin Adams
60 catches, 997 yds, 10 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior QB Cameron Newton
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR DeAngelo Benton
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Lee Ziemba
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Ziemba, 2) C Ryan Pugh, 3) Adams
Strength of the offense: Running Back, Line
Weakness of the offense: Proven Quarterback, Consistency
Projected Starter: After a major derby this offseason for the starting job, Cam Newton became everything everyone was hoping for. The 6-6, 242-pound bomber started out his career at Florida, had an incident over an alleged theft of a laptop, and ended up transferring. After spending a year leading Blinn College to the NJCAA National Championship with 2,833 yards and 22 touchdowns, with 655 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, he was a hot prospect once again and he's the near-perfect fit for the Tiger attack. He's big, fast, and he knows how to handle the up-tempo style the offense is going to demand. If everything works out according to plan, he'll become a statistical superstar.
Projected Top Reserves: Very smart and very patient, senior Neil Caudle has waited for his turn for the starting job, but he'll have to show something truly special to be the main man. The 6-3, 198-pounder was a great recruit for the program with a good arm and the ability to run just enough to not be a stick in the mud, but he doesn't have the skills of Cam Newton. He saw a little time over the last few years and was a key backup in 2009 completing 15-of-20 passes for 170 yards and a score, while running for 53 yards and a score, and when it all shakes out, he'll likely be the No. 2 man in the pecking order.
Sophomore Barrett Trotter was expected to be a sleeper in the race for the starting job last year, but he suffered a torn ACL and missed the year. On the plus side, it happened early enough to give him time to heal, but now he's way behind in the fight for playing time. The 6-2, 210-pounder has the combination of skills to run the offense well with a solid, accurate arm and good running ability, but he'll likely have to wait his turn and will likely have to hold off until next year to be the No. 2.
Alabama's Mr. Football of 2008, redshirt freshman Clint Moseley , is being given every shot to be a part of the quarterback derby, but he's likely the No. 4 man in the mix. The 6-3, 215-pounder has a fantastic arm with great accuracy and touch, and he's also a runner who can take off from time to time when needed. The leadership ability and the upside are there, but it's going to be a fight for practice time with so many other great prospects.
Watch Out For … Newton. He's the total package with size, arm strength, and mobility. After all the issues at Florida, he appears to have his head screwed on straight and seems to be ready to become the face of the program. He could take the offense from good to great.
Strength: Options. There was a logjam of talent last year, and now there's really an issue for the No. 2 job. Caudle, Trotter, and Moseley have all done enough to impress the coaches in the fight to catch up to Newton.
Weakness: Actual proven production. While there are several terrific prospects, it's not like anyone has done anything yet. Caudle has mostly been a practice star while Newton and the rest are still relatively green. There will be several mistakes along the way.
Outlook: Newton is hardly a finished product, but he's good enough as is with the upside to be special. The temptation will be to rush his development to open up the playbook, but in a perfect world he's allowed to work his way through the early problems until things slow down. He's the man to beat, but Caudle, Trotter, and Moseley are hardly poor options.
Unit Rating: 7
Projected Starters: The superstar recruit of last year, 5-10, 165-pound sophomore Onterio McCalebb made a big splash early on finishing second on the team with 565 yards and four touchdowns, but he was kept under wraps as the season went on with the emergence of Ben Tate as a star. He ran for 148 yards and a score in the opener against Louisiana Tech and 114 yards and a touchdown against Mississippi State in the first two games, but he suffered an ankle injury and wasn't quite right the rest of the way. Even though he's trying to bulk up to around 180 or so, he's not all that big and he's not going to power over anyone, but the star that many considered to be the nation's No. 1 running back recruit last year should put up huge numbers as part of the rotation.
Projected Top Reserves: Part running back, part receiver, senior Mario Fannin finished third on the team running for 285 yards while caching 42 passes for 413 yards and three scores. Also used as a tight end, an H-Back, and a kickoff returner, the 5-11, 227-pound jack-of-all-trades will spend most of his time in the backfield while once again being used in a variety of ways to get his phenomenal speed and quickness on the field. Always banged up early on, he stayed healthy throughout last year and showed what he can do. Now he'll play where needed with a chance to carry the workload from time to time.
Auburn got one of the nation's top running back recruits last year in Onterio McCalebb, and it came through again taking away Michael Dyer from Alabama, Florida, and just about everyone else in the SEC. The 5-8, 201-pounder is a thick, downhill, power runner who was the 2009 Arkansas Player of the Year running for 2,502 yards and 12 touchdowns. A phenomenal finisher, he's not afraid to hit someone and has the speed and quickness to bounce plays to the outside and take it the distance. Even though he has workhorse potential, he'll be used mostly for ten touches a game and he should be deadly whenever he gets his opportunities.
Junior Eric Smith might be built like a fullback at 5-10 and 240 pounds, and he'll get plenty of carries after getting the ball 41 times for 182 yards with a touchdown over the last two years, but he's an H-Back. He got seven starts last season making 18 catches for 226 yards and a score, and now he'll be used like a tight end as much as a running back.
Watch Out For … Fannin. When it comes to purely running the ball, the 1-2 punch of McCalebb and Dyer should handle most of the load, but Fannin could end up being the starter, at least technically, and he'll be on the field as much as possible and will get the ball in his hands in a variety of creative ways.
Strength: Talent. Outside of places like Alabama, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin, good luck finding too many teams with as much superior talent. McCalebb and Dyer might not be Cadillac and Ronnie Brown quite yet, but they're very, very promising. Now they have to …
Weakness: Prove it. Yeah, McCalebb was terrific when he had his chances, and Dyer has all the tools and skills to be special, but the main man last year was Ben Tate, who carried is 263 of the team's 550 attempts and was the reliable star for the ground game. It's time for everyone to play up to the prep hype.
Outlook: The potential is there for the Auburn ground game to go ballistic. Four starters are returning to the offensive front, and they should open the holes needed for McCalebb, Fannin and Dyer to crank out five-plus yards per carry. There will be an excellent rotation with plenty of carries and touches to go around for everyone.
Unit Rating: 8.5
Projected Starters: Junior Darvin Adams was supposed to be the team's breakout receiving star last year, and he didn't disappoint with a team-leading 60 catches for 997 and ten touchdowns. The 6-3, 192-pound home run hitter averaged 16.6 yards per catch with four 100-yard games. However, three of his scores came against West Virginia and three more came against Furman. He didn't disappear over the rest of the season, but he didn't always put up the big numbers until late. And then came the fun with four catches for 138 yards and a score against Alabama and 12 catches for 142 yards against Northwestern to close out with 28 catches for 485 yards and four touchdowns over the final four games.
With Mario Fannin likely to play a bigger role in the backfield, the offense could use more from a No. 2 receiver on the other side of Darvin Adams. 6-1, 211-pound senior Terrell Zachary set the Alabama high school receiving record with 4,672 yards and was a huge recruit for the program, but he missed all of 2007 with academic issues, was a non-factor in 2008, and came up with a decent, steady 2009 catching 26 passes for 477 yards and five touchdowns. Extremely quick with excellent hands, he should flourish now that he knows what he's doing.
It's been an interesting career for senior Kodi Burns , who started his career as a dangerous spread quarterback option, but while he was able to run, he couldn't throw. With a logjam at quarterback, and with the need for a more consistent, accurate passer, he spent last year at receiver making five catches for 46 yards and a touchdown while running 56 times for 175 yards and five scores. He'll be used in a variety of ways yet again, including at quarterback despite completing just 5-of-15 passes for 75 yards with two scores and two interceptions. At 6-2 and 207 pounds, he's a tough, dangerous matchup in three wide sets as well as in the Wildcat formation.
Is Philip Lutzenkirchen ready to be a superstar? One of the top tight ends in the 2009 recruiting class, he broke hearts at Georgia and Florida by bringing his tremendous talent to Auburn. At 6-4 and 246 pounds with wide receiver skills, he has prototype NFL H-Back skills with 4.7 speed, toughness, and next-level hands. While he made just five catches for 22 yards and two touchdowns on the year, now he's expected to be a major part of the passing game and a matchup nightmare down the middle of the field. He could quickly become the team's most dangerous No. 2 option helping out Darvin Adams, and he'll also see time in the backfield as a fullback.
Projected Top Reserves: As a true freshman, DeAngelo Benton saw time in every game but only came up with catches against Furman, making six for 88 yards. At 6-2 and 205 pounds he has good size and the talent to become a key part of the attack now that he knows what he's doing. A great recruit who got away from LSU, after leading his high school team to the Louisiana state title with 40 catches for 947 yards and 15 scores, he's expected to become a No. 1 target sooner than later.
6-1, 186-pound junior Quindarius Carr is an extremely promising option who came up with a great spring and appears to be ready to shine in the rotation. The star of the spring game catching four passes for 152 yards, he has created a bit of an off-season buzz, but he still has to prove he can produce on a regular basis when the lights are on making just two grabs for 78 yards with a 46-yard score against Northwestern.
While Emory Blake might get lost a bit in the shuffle with so many good targets available, his time is coming soon. The 6-1, 192-pound sophomore was a decent recruit, but he wasn't considered an elite one. However, he got a start and made nine catches for 66 yards and showed great potential to do more. He'll start out working behind Kodi Burns, but he'll get plenty of chances in three and four wide sets.
Watch Out For … Carr. While he's not going to push Zachery out of a job, his spring game was explosive enough to open up some eyes, and his offseason was good enough to warrant more playing time. At the very least he'll provide a boost for the depth.
Strength: Experience. Including RB/WR Mario Fannin, four of the top five targets from last year are back. Adams is about to get the recognition he deserves as an elite star, while Zachery is an emerging playmaker. Throw in tight end/H-Back Lutzenkirchen, and the makings are there for something special.
Weakness: Proven depth. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Carr has looked great at times, but it's easy to find spring game superstars across the college football landscape who did nothing come gametime. Benton has promise and Blake should be good, but it would be nice if more options could emerge in a big hurry.
Outlook: The receiving corps went from mediocre and lost to explosive and promising in just one year. If Adams can step up his play a bit more and continue to be a dangerous deep threat, and if Zachery can hover around 18 yards per catch again, look out. This isn't going to be the SEC's best bunch of targets, but it'll be extremely effective.
Unit Rating: 8
Projected Starters: Senior Lee Ziemba has been the rock of the line for the last four years starting 38 straight games and earning all-star honors last year at left tackle. At 6-8 and 319 pounds, he's very tall, very big, and very steady with nice feet and a long frame that's tough to get around. While he's built to be a key pass protector, he's tough enough to flatten defenders in the ground game. A big-time recruit three years ago, he's the anchor up front and the leader, and while he's not a brick wall against the better pass rushers, he's a great technician and wins more than his share of battles.
After working last year at right guard, senior Byron Isom will get a shot at left guard depending on the health of incumbent Mike Berry. Isom is a decent veteran with good toughness and great athleticism for his 6-3 and 302 pound size. A great fit for the Auburn style, he's excellent on the move and buries defenders when he gets his hands on them. He can play either guard spot and will work where needed.
If senior Mike Berry is 100% healthy, he's the left guard. The 6-3, 316-pounder is one of the team's biggest blockers, one of the smartest, and one of the most talented, but he has knee problems and missed time this offseason. While he didn't earn any all-star recognition, that was an oversight after dominating at times for the ground game. Versatile, he can play anywhere in the interior including at center if absolutely needed. While he's more of a power run blocker than a spread type of lineman, he adjusted and emerged after struggling early in his career.
6-4, 297-pound senior Ryan Pugh has been a regular starter for the last three years earning Second Team All-SEC honors on the field, and he was great in the classroom earning academic all-star recognition, too. While he has seen time at right tackle, he's far better suited for the interior where he's a perfect quarterback for the Tiger attack. Very tough, he fights through everything and always produces.
The one open spot is at right tackle where Andrew McCain is gone. JUCO transfer Roszell Gaydon will have a fight on his hands for the job, but he's ready to step in and be a rock. The 6-6, 315-pound junior from Minnesota went to the College of the Sequoias before finding his way to Auburn, and now he's expected to be a major factor. One of the nation's top JUCO prospects, he can handle himself from Day One.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Bart Eddins has been a nice career backup and a spot starter, getting the call at right guard against Tennessee, but he's trying to get back after suffering a knee injury to boost the depth. Able to play guard or center, the 6-4, 304-pounder will be a versatile reserve if he can come back.
6-6, 299-pound junior Brandon Mosley will be in the mix for the open right tackle job battling with Roszell Gaydon. The former tight end is extremely athletic and he was terrific this spring showing excellent feet and polished technique considering he spent most of his time at Coffeyville JC as a defensive end. In time he should be a very physical, very good option.
Junior Jared Cooper is one of the team's most experienced backup linemen, and he's one of the most versatile. The 6-4, 300-pounder will be the main backup at left guard and at center, at least early on, but he can play either guard spot. Very smart, he knows what he's doing whenever he steps in.
Watch Out For … Berry's knee. If he's 100%, he's the left guard and he forms a killer run blocking tandem with Ziemba. While Pugh earned the all-star honors, Berry was the team's best run blocker at times and he should get more recognition once he's okay.
Strength: Experience and run blocking. The Tigers finished 13th in the nation in running averaging 212 yards per game as the line adapted to the Gus Malzahn offense quicker than expected. With four starters returning and two good JUCO transfers fighting for the open spot, there should be more of the same.
Weakness: Depth. If Eddins isn't right, the depth might not be quite as strong as the coaching staff might like, at least early on. There's promise and potential, but there will be plenty of prayers for several young, untested players to be ready if injuries strike.
Outlook: The line turned into a positive last year and it should be one of the team's bigger strengths. Ziemba and Pugh are All-SEC talents, Berry isn't far off, and Isom is a strong veteran. As long as the starting combination can stay intact, and if there's a bit more production in pass protection, this will be one of the SEC's stronger lines.
Unit Rating: 8
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