Friday from the Eagle’s Nest: Fall Practice Edition

By Posted on: August 2nd, 2013 in Featured Article, Football 16 Comments »
From the Eagle's Nest

Have you heard the news? The rumors of Auburn’s demise have been greatly exaggerated! The Tigers open fall practice this afternoon and do so knowing that they are being counted on by many to be counted out early. Something tells me this group of young men have different plans. With the program headed in a radically new direction under the leadership of Gus Malzahn, the team may very well be one of the most tight-knit groups to enter fall practice on The Plains in sometime. It’s going to take 100% dedication from everyone involved, and thus far that does not seem to be a problem. All In has never seemed more appropriate. 

Many of the main story lines heading into the Fall are familiar to the Auburn family. Of course there’s a quarterback competition on the slate. There are questions about Ellis Johnson’s defense, and how it will hold up running in conjunction to Malzahn’s fast-paced attack. That’s right, Gus Malzahn’s offense is so potent that it inflicts catastrophic damage to multiple defenses at once – the competition’s as well as his own. The coaching staff will have to work quickly to get everyone in their place so that they can set their sights on preparing for the home opener against Washington St. Although many players return from last year, a lot of them don’t quite know where they fit into the new systems on either side of the ball respectively. Hitting the ground running will be key.

nickmarshall_display_imageAt the top of Malzahn’s agenda, will be naming a starting quarterback. Jonathan Wallace, Nick Marshall, Kiehl Frazier, and Jeremy Johnson will all begin fall workouts competing for the starting spot. It has been widely speculated that Nick Marshall is the man to beat, but I wouldn’t count out Jonathan Wallace just yet. I expect Jeremy Johnson will most likely redshirt and Kiehl Frazier has been somewhat of a mystery for me this off-season. My eyes, won’t allow me to trust what Frazier can do on the field after what took place last season. Maybe it was simply the offense not clicking, but judging from body language and composure, Jonathan Wallace was by far the most comfortable of the two on the field last season. In the end, the coaches will have the final say. 

Whomever the quarterback is, they ought to have plenty of talent around them on offense. I think that one interesting aspect of this team is there are hidden gems that have been on the roster since last season. Jay Prosch, Quan Bray, and C.J. Uzomah (along with others) are all players that took a step backwards or were curiously M.I.A. under the Scot Loeffler led 2012 offense. I believe Coach Malzahn and Coach Lashlee are going to have a field day developing blocking schemes for Jay Prosch. I look for him to have a big season and play a huge role in the offense. Another aspect of this offense I like is there is a lot of competition between today’s first practice and kickoff on August 31st. There spots still up for grabs and a lot of talented players working against one another to get them. 

AUBURN FOOTBALLFor example, the wide receiver position is almost anybody’s for the taking. Filling these spots will be a big challenge for the coaching staff initially, but the path to that may be extremely beneficial to the receivers themselves in the end. Competition breeds excellence. I firmly believe this will be all positive for the team in the long run. Situations like this one in particular are where leaders emerge, and that could make the difference between a ten win season or a seven win season. Also, the better the receiving core performs as a whole will directly coincide with how well the offense is able to score against opposing defenses. If several guys step up here, Malzahn will have a balanced attack capable of making any team in the country nervous about defending it for 4 quarters. 

While the offense is essentially attempting to time travel into the endzone, Ellis Johnson will be guiding the defensive unit to hopefully making quick stops and getting off of the field on 3rd downs. Something that Auburn has been abysmal at the past few years. He won’t have quite the talent that the offense does, but his group of players are certainly capable of putting together a much better campaign than previous years. Strong defensive line play will be a must, but overall the defense must perform more fundamentally sound. Tackling was a MAJOR issue during Chizik’s time at Auburn, but hopefully Johnson will have that corrected going forward.

Only time will tell the tale of these Tigers in 2013, but I have to say I like their chances to make some noise this season. Auburn is at its most dangerous when it is overlooked. Coupled with the Malzahn offense and the new attitude of this team, that could be a dangerous combination for anyone counting on Auburn to be a pushover.

The annual USA Today College Coaches Poll was released yesterday to really get the masses in a frenzy on the eve of college football’s return and here is how it looked along with some early observations:  

1. Alabama
2. Ohio St. 
3. Oregon
4. Stanford
5. Georgia 
6. Texas A&M
7. South Carolina
8. Clemson
9. Louisville
10. Florida
11. Notre Dame
12. Florida St. 
13. LSU
14. Oklahoma St.
15. Texas
16. Oklahoma
17. Michigan
18. Nebraska
19. Boise St. 
20. TCU
21. UCLA
22. Northwestern 
23. Wisconsin
24. USC(east)
25. Oregon St. 

Ohio State #2: “This time it counts.” Well, that is a nice little slogan you guys have put together. While certainly possible, I don’t see the Buckeyes remaining undefeated throughout the entire season for a second consecutive season. At some point, Meyer’s got some karma headed his way for still possessing the mentality he utilized as a hall monitor in elementary school. 

Oregon #3: Nope. Not happening. You don’t just exit your most successful era of football under your most successful head coach ever and just continue to be the top 5 nationally juggernaut you were. I’m not saying Oregon is going to completely stink it up, but with new leadership in place and the possibility of off the field distractions coming into play this season, I don’t see the Ducks flying quite as high as they have been. No matter how many cool helmets Nike designs for them. I know the sanctions from the NCAA have been handed down, but the media doesn’t always allow those things to die in a timely manner. 

SEC East (Georgia #5, South Carolina #7, Florida #10): I’ll say this, these teams will not end the season ranked in the same order they are now. I like South Carolina’s chances against both Florida and Georgia here in early August. TRIVIA: Michigan was actually ranked just one spot behind South Carolina at #8, but were still rattled from Jadaveon Clowney nearly sending one of their own players into an alternate dimension so they convinced Clemson to swap with them by telling Dabo Swinney he could copy some of their football traditions too.  

Clemson #8: Time to see if Dabo Swinney can take the next step. He’s got everything to prove after declaring his 2012 squad was a national championship caliber team during the post game celebration from Clemson’s bowl win last season (not even a BCS bowl, mind you). 

Louisville #9: Charlie Strong, Teddy Bridgewater with all due respect; it is going to be hard to put together an encore performance that rivals the 2012 Cardinals campaign. Although former Auburn Tiger, Michael Dyer’s presence in the offense could be enough of an x-factor to the team to the next level. 

Notre Dame #11: I see Notre Dame riding the struggle bus all season long. There’s turmoil at the quarterback spot, and they lost their biggest threat at that position this past offseason. Expect the Irish to be a much less impressive team in 2013. 

LSU #13: I have no idea what to think of this team and apparently neither do the coaches as the Bajou Bengals sit squarely in the middle of the pack in the Top 25. My gut however, tells me LSU will struggle much more so than most expect. 

USC(west) #24: Whatever they’re selling, I’m not buying. Questions at the quarterback position. Questions in other places. I think this may be a make or break year for Lane Kiffen. The media doesn’t even seem to love being in-love with the Trojans as much as they used to be. 

Vanderbilt (Not Ranked): Last season Vanderbilt received enough votes to garner the #20 ranking in this poll. How did they respond? Well, they won nine games and had one of the best seasons in recent memory. How were they repaid for living up to the hype so to speak? Dropped from the poll; like a bad habit. Anchor down, indeed. 

Arkansas AND Tennessee both received one vote respectively. From this we can draw two conclusions: Bret Beliema voted for himself as Homecoming King and somebody owes Butch Jones some money. What’s worse is Mississippi St. got three votes. THREE! Ironically, that is higher than the number of big-time wins Dan Mullen has while residing in Starkville.

 

 

 

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  1. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..I think Urbs and Oregon have the pieces to do really well this year, if they don’t screw it up. Braxton Miller is the protypical single-wing quarterback, and that’s essentially what Urban Meyer runs, out of the shotgun. Oregon has an even better QB, and a lot of weapons.

    ……We don’t play Vandy this year, and I haven’t really scouted them. When we played ‘em in Nashville last year, they tried every way possible to give that game to us, and we could not even pick up a fork to eat that free pie. It was pretty astounding for them to go 9-4. I concur with the “regression to mean” conclusion.

    …..Honestly, I think Lane Kiffen knows his stuff, strategy and technique-wise. He’d make a heck of an offensive position coach at several spots. As a head coach, he’s a time bomb, and it’s gonna implode and leave a smoking crater in Los Angeles this year.

    • Derrick Roberts Derrick Roberts says:

      Agreed on pretty much all counts except for maybe Oregon. Yes, they have a lot of talent but replacing a coaching staff is no joke. I’m not even ruling out double-digit wins, but I don’t have them in the national title picture either.

  2. Todd92 Todd92 says:

    Good read Derrick. I agree with you on the offensive talent…. I think everyone will have a different perspective of AU after the MSU game (there will be some long awaited payback in that one). As far as the rankings they are preseason and meaningless other than the head start it gives some teams to be considered for the BCS. I do believe that LSU is headed for struggles because of losing so many players from last year and changing OC (I think Cameron is a great OC but it’ll take his second year for the purple tigers to be happy with him). Texas A&M will finish at 20th or lower and everybody will remember that not every team can reload the way Bama does or USC used to do. AU will finish higher than A&M and probably LSU and if Malzahn gets someone who is more than a Chris Todd we could finish high enough for a New Year’s Day bowl or better. Florida is my pick for the east with the gamecocks a very close second… UGA will have issues replacing the anchors they lost on defense and Murray is only as good as his receivers and OL will let him be…

  3. Todd92 Todd92 says:

    On yeah I know this wasn’t mentioned but Ole Miss and MSU will remind everyone that they are still the Mississippi schools and will fight for last place in the west.

    • Derrick Roberts Derrick Roberts says:

      Agreed, but I consider Ole Miss ahead of where Miss St. is at the moment. Dan Mullen HAS created more excitement around the program and they did beat Auburn and Arkansas last year in the same season for the first time since who knows when. BUT (because there always is one) those wins came over the worst Auburn team in decades and a John L. Smith led Razorback team that had all but phoned the season in. Mullen hasn’t accomplished anything at Miss St. besides hashtags in the endzones and some pretty big television screens. #givemeabreakwiththeMullenBS

      P.S. Thanks for the kind words! Much appreciated.

      • Todd92 Todd92 says:

        I see it the same way although I’m not as impressed with Ole Miss last season the way a lot of people are and pretty much for the same reason you aren’t with last years MSU team… Their best and only win that can be argued to be a quality win came in their bowl game. Also I should have included Arkansas in the group fighting for last in the west and going into November needing at least one win to be bowl eligible. Basically I’m saying AU finishes no worse than 4th in the SEC west and could be considerably better if we get better than average QB play.

        • Derrick Roberts Derrick Roberts says:

          Yes sir. If we can get pretty good quarterback play and some receivers step up, this offense will be dangerous against anyone. Those are admittedly big ‘ifs’ but they also aren’t ridiculous conclusions to draw.

          We’ve got 4 great athletes competing for the starting quarterback spot. I like our chances there. Not saying we’ll have another Cam Newton, but who else will?

          Receivers are a bigger question mark. Will just one go-to threat emerge as it has the last two times we’ve had that option? (Darvin Adams and Emory Blake) Not taking anything away from any other receivers we’ve had but imagine how potent the offense could have been if we had two receivers close to the ability of Adams and/or Blake when they were on top of their games. I know they were both here together but they just established themselves at different times.

          Am I making any sense or am I rambling? With practice starting today and it being a Friday, I am pumped about talking some football and getting some rest and relaxation. As a result, I may be a little belligerent. Hah!

  4. dabble says:

    really expect the bukeyes to do worse than the fawning media is saying.
    as for ole miss and msu: back to 8-4, 4-4 sec, or worse.
    lsu will be better. les is good coach.
    the fighting updikes i expect to have a two loss season. the bouces have all been theirs, and bounces even out.
    is usc(e) can get past the gaters they will get to secg.
    clempson will be same. a great start fouled by their own smell before the season ends.
    i suspect arky will have rough year. brett will be gone in three.
    to me real wildcard is t a&m; if johnny puts his anger into football they will do well. the media has been bored this summer and just ragging on him.

    AU will do better than most. and it will depend on mo….we could ride to 10-2 or slip to 7-5. but, i think at least we’ll be in the games this year. where as last year, was the first time ever i did not watch an AU game all the way to or near the end.

  5. sullivan013 sullivan013 says:

    Fell out of my chair over – “From this we can draw two conclusions: Bret Beliema voted for himself as Homecoming King and somebody owes Butch Jones some money.”

    Well played, sir.

  6. tigertracker says:

    All I really want to know is how much our O line has gelled this offseason and if Dismukes has matured and taken on a leadership role. For all the “burning questions” articles and most things I’ve read the O line seems to be an afterthought. I’d argue that’s going to have more impact on our year than any other position group. Doesn’t matter much who the QB is, whether receivers can catch, or how long the D is on the field if the QB to be named doesn’t have time to throw. That’s compounded even more if we can’t run block. We’ve got a proven back in mason and 3-4 others with presumably high ceilings, but again how much can they do if prosh is the only one holding blocks. Someone hand me some koolaid and orange sunglasses and tell me it’s all going to be ok! Yeah, that and a breakdown of presumed o line starters ;)
    So here’s to a quick start thumping of the cougars, some fine tuning against arky state, and a gritty, cold helping of revenge against state. Far from the meat of our schedule, but if we can’t win those three we just thought 2012 was a long season. WDE!

    • Derrick Roberts Derrick Roberts says:

      You raise some very good points, but the offense overall looked so inept in 2012 that I think a lot (certainly not all) can be wrote off as being on the coaches for not having the team prepared. That also certainly took guys quitting and giving up as well, but the bottom line is that a year ago Auburn was not at all prepared to compete in any football games come August/September and they never really got there (minus the LSU game).

    • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

      It all starts in the trenches.

  7. KoolBell KoolBell says:

    Great read this morning. I truly enjoyed this.

    Ohio State has the easiest schedule of any of the top 10 teams. Their schedule is basically a cake walk, no lie.
    I see them going undefeated barring major injuries.

    USC and the Kiffykins shell game is all but over. Stanford, Oregon and this year UCLA will all be better than the Trojans. Don’t be surprised to see Kiffykins still at the helm next season at USC, but the seat will be as hot, as the San Antonio sun!

    War Eagle!

  8. domaucan1 domaucan1 says:

    Being a long time chess player, one of the hardest things to do is to win a”won” game. I would like to see our Tigers win the games they are supposed to win and to, at least, have a chance to win some of the big ones. This has been missing for the past two seasons. I am tired of our games, at home and away, being all but decided in the first quarter or by half time. It is unrealistic to think that we can run the table in the SEC, unless we discover a way to clone Cam and the 2010 offensive line and backs. If spirit has anything to do with wins, and it seems to in college football, we should be very competitive. That is all I really expect this season. It wouldn’t hurt to have a rerun with different outcome of that game with the purple tigers here in Big B.R. That would be lagniappe.

    As I have said many times, WIN OR LOSE, IT’S GREAT TO BE AN AUBURN TIGER !!!

    WAR EAGLE !!!

    GO BIG BLUE !!!

  9. restless6 says:

    Great read!

    I’m an optimist. UAT will lose twice, hopefully once to Auburn.

    Ohio State might run the table, but will be destroyed by the SEC champ.

    OK will flop again.

    South Carolina is my dark horse, other than Auburn. Clowney may win the HT.