Five Questions for A-Day.

By Posted on: April 17th, 2014 in Football 13 Comments »
Crowd Watching A Day

Will the fans pack the stadium again?
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! Spring drills draw to a close this week, punctuated by the annual A-Day game at 2:00 PM Central Daylight Time. This year, the A-Day game will be televised live on ESPN. The ticket office at Auburn Arena opens at 8:00 AM, and stadium gates open at noon. The weather should be good for this game, with a high in the mid 70s, partly cloudy skies, and only a tiny chance of rain.

     Every year, I like to single out five areas to watch on A-Day. Most folks will tell you that nothing is learned from spring games, but I believe there are indicators of what’s to come. Dropped balls and missed throws are of concern, regardless of the time of year. It was telling in 2012 that the offense ran most of its plays to the left side, with green blockers on the right. That presaged an offense that only averaged 10 points per game against SEC competition the next fall. What will we learn this spring?

     My first burning question is a tribute to the state of the program. I wonder if the stadium will be filled up again this year. I sat there in amazement last year, as fans just kept streaming in! Here’s hoping for a similar result, this year. Last year, I don’t think officials were ready for a crowd that size. This year, I think they’ll have a better handle on it. If you attended last year and were disappointed by things like concessions running out early, I believe things will be better this year. With the game on ESPN, folks may stay away. My biggest advice would be to get there early. It’s general admission, and good seats go fast. It is no fun trying to climb to the rafters of the place while the game is already in progress.

     Question number 2 is who wins the war of the trenches? The offensive line must replace All-American left tackle Greg Robinson. By recent accounts, Shon Coleman is ahead at that position, while the coaches have been moving the other contenders around. Will this unit pick up where they left off last season, plowing defensive lines into hamburger? The defensive line has been somewhat of a mash unit this spring, although there is still plenty of depth, particularly at the tackle spot. I’m looking forward to seeing the “Rhino Package,” with Gabe Wright and Montravius Adams playing at defensive end. Can Auburn’s o-line move a front that averages 300 pounds per man?

     Question 3 is will the passing game be improved over last season? I’m not looking for the New England Patriot offense, here. I’ll be watching for accurate throws, good route running, and no dropped balls. One indicator that’s mostly held true for years is that if the quarterback can’t accurately throw the quick screens on A-day, the offense is going to really struggle the next fall. We saw bad throws in 2009, but were saved the next fall by Chris Todd, who’d missed spring with an injury. In 2010, Neil Caudle and Barrett Trotter were on fire, and Auburn won it all that fall. Last spring, I was again concerned, but Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson came in for fall camp and took over.

     Question 4 is who will replace Jay Prosch at H-Back? We’ll be watching to see if Auburn’s new crew there will be able to clear the way like Prosch did. This should be easy enough to watch, with most action happening on the perimeter of the line. By most accounts, we’ll see C. J. Uzomah at tight end, and Brandon Fulse at H-back when the real games start next fall.

     Question 5 is will Auburn show improvement at linebacker this spring? Last season, Auburn’s linebackers started very slow, but were flowing better to the ball on running plays by Iron Bowl time. Other than Star Robensen Therezie, the others were a liability in pass coverage. This year, all of the presumed starters are upperclassmen, for the first time in years. Hopefully, they’ll look like it this spring.

Quick-hitters, after the jump!

     Talk of movement on the offensive line earlier this spring has quieted down. Evidently, Chad Slade is back at his normal right guard spot at least some of the time this week, Avery Young is playing both right tackle and right guard, and Patrick Miller comes in at tackle when Young moves inside.

     Your starting secondary for A-Day is shaping up, from boundary to field, with Jonathan Mincy at corner, Derrick Moncrief and Jermaine Whitehead at safeties, and Jonathan Jones at the field corner. Trovon Reed would probably be the first man in, when the Tigers go to a nickel look. Finding a fourth corner will be important. Candidates include Kamryn Melton, T. J. Davis. Newcomers Nick Ruffin and Kalvarez Bessent will arrive this summer.

     There’s reportedly intense competition for the top spots at the receiver positions. Most folks agree that it will be hard to get Sammie Coates, and impressive JUCO transfer D’haquille Williams out of the lineup. Battling for slot receiver spots are Marcus Davis and Melvin Ray. Ricardo Louis has been hampered by injuries this spring. It’s a deep and talented corps, and playing time will be at a premium.

      In the running back competition, as expected, Cameron Artis-Payne is probably leading the pack. But Corey Grant will certainly have his touches. Peyton Barber might be the best pure runner of them all, but he doesn’t know the offense nearly as well as the other two. Playing on the scout team last fall didn’t help, as the scout team is trying to emulate each week’s opponent.

     I plan to attend this year’s A-Day game, and will be trying to get to a good seat when the gates open at noon. I’ll put up an open thread for those watching at home before I hit the road Saturday morning. I’ll note any last minute developments at that time. War Eagle, folks! A-Day is here, and we’ll hear those pads popping once again!

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  1. DBAU81 says:

    From a pure football standpoint (last year the focus was on the final rolling of the trees) this is the most anticipated A-Day ever. I’m eager to get a look at some of the newcomers, especially Barber, Williams, and Moncrief. Another area that hasn’t received much attention, but is vitally important, is replacing the two kickers. It should be a fun afternoon.

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..I didn’t put kickers down, because I don’t think we’ll see them live. Last year, they started on the 30, on offense, and either scored, or turned it over on downs. Then the other team got the ball on the 30. You’ll see extra points, and maybe a field goal try or two. No punts or kickoffs.

      …..The best time to check out the kickers is during pre-game warmups. See who booms it, if anyone shanks or misses, that sort of thing. But it’s not live, and doesn’t really simulate the pressure of a real game.

  2. AuburnMisfit AuburnMisfit says:

    I’ll be there this Saturday. I’m kinda thinking (hopeful) that A days will feature larger crowds as a start of a new tradition. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the city and university making a spring festival type of event around the game. Get people out and spend money on the local community, AU baseball games, attract alums to donate, dedications (like a remodeled Toomer’s corner reopening), and all that. Just create an atmosphere celebrating Auburn without the primary focus of a football rivalry game like we have in the fall.

  3. AUfor50 says:

    Great article! Enjoyed !!

  4. domaucan1 domaucan1 says:

    A.R.,

    Thanks for another exciting writeup. The LA/MS group is preparing for the long haul to the Lovliest Village. We have Friday tickets to the baseball game and will get an early start to J.H. on Saturday. It is an exciting time for all Auburn Tigers.

    And, everyone knows:

    IT’S GREAT TO BE AN AUBURN TIGER !!!

    WAR EAGLE !!!

    GO BIG BLUE !!!

    BEAT THE CHICKENS !!!

  5. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    Attendance prediction: Not SRO but at least 75000 which would be at the top of most spring games. anywhere

    • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

      Off topic, but do you have any idea what’s going on with Dufner this year?

    • MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

      Not sure but I suspect it is a post major championship hangover. When he won the PGA Championship his life changed. More appearances, more sponsors, more commercial tapings, more of everything that take your mind off of golf. There is a great comparison just last week. Bubba Watson fell off the planet of being competitive after he won the Masters two years ago. He was an also ran for the rest of 2012 most of 2013. After a two years of drinking the kool aid of fame and fortune he got back to golf and won his second green jacket. I suspect Jason will be back sooner than that, he just has too much talent.

      • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

        I was worried that maybe he had an injury, or that he was trying to change his swing. I’m looking forward to him regaining his focus. Thanks for the input.

  6. audude audude says:

    Thanks Acid,

    As always s salient point. I look forward to your A-Day wrap up! I’ll be at my parent’s 62nd Wedding
    Anniversary.

    Go Tigers!

  7. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Thanks for the kind words, everybody! One thing to remember is that you’re not going to see new schemes, or wild play-calling at these things. But you can watch fundamentals, and get a sense of where the team is.

    …..I think the defense is mostly going to play vanilla, and with an experienced offense, there should be some points scored. Malzhan’s offense is difficult to slow down from base defense, unless you REALLY win some battles up front on the D-line. My concern will be open-field tackling. We’ve got to get better at this, going forward. I’ll be worrying if I see guys in the back seven looking lost, while double-digit yards are being chewed up by a back or receiver.

  8. AuburnMisfit AuburnMisfit says:

    Does anyone know where the roster can be found for A-Day?

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..Yes! On the official site, right here. That roster has some cool features, too. By clicking on the link at the top of the columns, you can sort the roster by position, or height, etc. In addition, clicking on a player’s name pulls up a bio.