The Tigers are looking to build depth this spring.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)
War Eagle, everybody! Spring has sprung in the southeast. The car air conditioner is back in use after a five month hiatus, yellow dust is collecting everywhere, and the pads are popping on the practice fields. We’re about midway through spring drills, and I think I can safely say that there’s a different feel to this year’s preparations. If nothing else, it’s pretty strange not to have an intense quarterback race in progress. Auburn hasn’t had an entrenched returning starter there since Brandon Cox 7 years ago.
Last spring, Auburn was installing new systems, particularly on defense, trying to assess players, and build a two-deep. There is always a lot of teaching going on in spring drills, but last season was also about expectations and getting the players to buy in. This year, the players already know the expectations, and the coaches are able to do a lot more reps and a lot less explaining.
It is evident that Auburn players took offseason workouts seriously. A number of players are bigger, stronger and should make more of an impact this season. Of particular note is the throwing and catching. There is a lot more chemistry between Nick Marshall and his receivers this spring than we saw last fall. During the winter, Marshall set up informal throw and catch drills several times a week, and it is paying off. The timing and accuracy are there, this spring.
Auburn should again have a deep and experienced defensive line this fall. While sophomores Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel are the odds-on favorites to win the starting defensive end jobs, Auburn had almost no depth returning there. The move a week or so ago to rep Montravius Adams and Gabe Wright at end should pay dividends. One must also look at Auburn’s early schedule. The Tigers open with Arkansas, and you know the Razorbacks will look to come into Auburn, line up with extra tight ends, and pound the rock. Having some bigger, 300 pound ends ready to go makes a whole lot of sense. After a nagging injury, Daniel is back at practice, going full speed.
The big news this week at linebacker is that Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost have flipped spots, with McKinzy now lining up at middle linebacker. That move puts Frost back on the outside, where he played his first two years at Auburn. To bolster depth, sophomore safety Khari Harding has been moved down to outside linebacker as well. Harding is listed at 224 pounds, and it can only help to add a guy with coverage skills into the mix at linebacker.
In the secondary, new players continue to impress. We’ve already raved about the play of JUCO transfer Derrick Moncrief. Two players that have changed positions this spring are also making some noise, Trovon Reed at cornerback, and Jonathan Ford at safety. Reed gives the Tigers a shifty corner with the speed to stay with any receiver in the league. Ford brings speed and physicality to the safety position, and he should be in the playing rotation this fall.
On the offensive line, the battle between junior Patrick Miller and sophomore Shon Coleman continues, and by all accounts it is a dead heat. If there’s a difference, it’s that Coleman is a bit more powerful of a drive-blocker, and Miller has a bit quicker step in pass protection. According to coach J. B. Grimes, this line is far ahead of where the line was last season. A second-team line is shaping up to be powerful, too. Look for names like Deon Mix, Robert Leff, Xavier Dampeer and Will Adams on A-Day.
The offense in general continues to line up very quickly, and operates crisply. Lots of different receivers are getting their name called, and there will be a lot of options for the offense in the passing game. Marcus Davis is one who is standing out, making big plays consistently. And wasn’t it great to hear that Tucker Tuberville threw a touchdown pass in last Saturday’s scrimmage? He’s at best 4th on the depth chart. When you’re getting production at that level, it’s a good thing!
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