But here’s who we’ll likely have coming back. I’m designating what class they’ll be, next season.
Gone: Tez Doolittle
Might Leave Early: SenDerrick Marks (senior)
Returning: Mike Blanc (junior), Jake Ricks (senior), Zach Clayton (junior)
From the scout team: Andre Wadley (freshman), Derrick Lykes (freshman)
Possible incoming help: Nick Fairley (juco transfer)
Gone: No one graduates, but Gabe McKenzie is likely to stay on offense
Might Leave Early: Antonio Coleman (senior)
Returning: Michael Goggins (junior), Antoine Carter (junior), Zach Clayton (junior)
From the scout team: Cameron Henderson (freshman), Jomarcus Savage (freshman), Raven Gray (junior, juco)
Depending upon who enters the NFL draft, the Auburn defensive line could be outstanding. The loss of Marks would definitely hurt, because none of the other returnees has shown any great ability to disrupt in the middle. While Coleman will likely be a preseason All SEC if he returns, Auburn should have more speedy pass rushers available in 2009, than in the previous year, even if Coleman leaves.
Gone: Merrill Johnson, Chris Evans
Wildcard: Tray Blackmon (senior)
Returning: Josh Bynes (junior), Craig Stevens (junior), Adam Herring (sophomore), Spencer Pybus (sophomore)
From the scout team: Da’Shaun Barnes (freshman)
Possible incoming help: Eltoro Freeman (juco)
A thin Auburn linebacking corps took a blow, in 2008, with the loss to injury of Tray Blackmon. If Blackmon returns, and stays in the lineup, the unit’s prospects look respectable, with likely playing rotation help from Eltoro Freeman, who should contribute immediately. Auburn needs to infuse this unit with a serious dose of aggression, in the off season.
Returning: Aaron Savage (senior), Jerraud Powers (senior), Walt McFadden (senior), Neiko Thorpe (sophomore), D’;Antoine Hood (sophomore), Harry Adams (sophomore)
Possible incoming help: depends on recruiting
Auburn has six veterans returning to fill two slots plus a nickel back position. This should be an area of strength, after the unit was tested under fire this season.
Returning: Michael McNeil (junior), Zac Etheridge (junior), Mike Slade (sophomore)
From the scout team: Marcus Jemison (freshman), Christian Thompson (sophomore), Drew Cole (sophomore)
Possible incoming help: depends on recruiting.
While McNeil and Etheridge led the team in tackles, it’s the ones they missed that we remember. They were often out of position, or a step late. It would be really helpful for those two to go through another off-season of teaching from Paul Rhodes, who we should really hope will stay.
Returning: Clinton Durst (sophomore), Ryan Shoemaker (junior), Patrick Tatum (junior)
Auburn is in the unusual position of having three returning punters with experience. I’d be shocked if at least one of them isn’t considering transferring. All three have the ability to play at the major college level. Durst won the job in 2008, and settled into being a pretty good player.
Gone: Robert Dunn
Returning: Chris Slaughter (junior)
Chris Slaughter does have experience making good fair catches, but has hardly had any actual returning experience. Auburn was looking at Pierre-Louis last fall at this position, before the knee injury. Assuming that the knee heals properly, Pierre-Louis gives Auburn a possible play maker in the return game.
Gone: Tristan Davis, Brad Lester
Returning: Mario Fannin (junior), Ben Tate (senior)
Possible incoming help: Phillip Pierre-Louis (freshman)
Pierre-Louis took the first kickoff of the year in 2008, tried to hurdle a tackler, and was lost for the season. He’ll get the shot again, if his injury heals. Mario Fannin has experience, providing several electric return in 2008.
Returning: Wes Byrum (junior), Morgan Hull (junior)
These two kickers will likely split the duties, with Byrum place kicking, and Hull handling the kickoffs. Another off-season should help both players.
Gone: Jason Bosley, Tyrone Green
Returning: Lee Ziemba (junior), Ryan Pugh (junior), Mike Berry (junior), Byron Issom (junior), Andrew McCain (senior), Bart Eddins (junior), Jared Cooper (sophomore), A. J. Green (sophomore)
From the scout team: Kyle Coulahan (sophomore)
Incoming help: depends on recruiting
Rather than list this by position, I’ve lumped ‘em all in together. There’ll likely be lots of movement, as there has been for the past few years. Auburn has a number of capable veterans returning, but they need to get back to the toughness, strength, and attitude of years prior to 2008.
Returning: Tommy Trott (senior), Gabe McKenzie (senior), Vance Smith (sophomore)
Incoming help: depends on recruiting.
Trott (depending on surgery recovery) and McKenzie form a talented, veteran tandem of tight ends. If Auburn is going to have much of a running game in the future, though, some depth needs to be developed.
Gone: Rod Smith, Robert Dunn, James Swinton
Returning: Montez Billings (senior), Tim Hawthorne (junior), Chris Slaughter (junior), Quindarious Carr (sophomore), Terrell Zachary (junior), Derrick Winter (sophomore), Darvin Adams (sophomore)
From the scout team: Phillip Pierre-Louis
Billings is the only consistent performer returning. There are a lot of bodies returning, but they need coaching. Tuberville was evidently counting on Pierre-Louis as his break-away threat, which ended with an injury on the first play of 2008. Whoever coaches this bunch, will have their hands full.
Gone: Tristan Davis, Ryan Hastie
Returning: John Douglas (sophomore)
While spread teams often have only one back, or no backs in the backfield, a good fullback is necessary for knocking out those tough short-yardage situations. With another 20-25 pounds of muscle, Douglas could be the prototypical SEC fullback. We also need to develop a backup.
Gone: Brad Lester, Tristan Davis
Returning: Ben Tate (senior), Mario Fannin (junior), Eric Smith (sophomore)
Possible incoming help: Onterrio McCalebb (grayshirt)
While Tate, Fannin, and Smith form a pretty good rotation, McCalebb is said to be a STUD. Auburn should be, once again very solid at running back. As usual, it’s a question of who is going to block for them, and open up those running lanes.
Returning: Kodi Burns (junior), Chris Todd (senior), Neil Caudle (junior), Barrett Trotter (freshman)
It’s difficult to say which direction this 4-player competition will take. With a new coordinator coming in, it’s really up in the air. Burns has the most actual playing experience, but it will probably depend upon who learns the new man’s system the fastest.