How are we looking? If you walk the streets of the Southeast, it’s a question you hear with regularity this time of year. Football season is a little more than a month away and there are plenty of questions surrounding Auburn this year.
Below is my list of questions along with my best guess at an answer…
If Kiehl Frazier is going to be the Auburn quarterback, how different will he look from a year ago?
It’s hard to erase that memory of Frazier at Arkansas last season. That “deer in the headlights” look brought back memories of Kodi Burns, another highly touted Arkansas quarterback who never lived up to the hype (at quarterback).
It’s probably unfair to recall that one evening. While Gus Malzahn was known for schemes, new offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler is best known for his teaching abilities – especially at quarterback.
Can he help Frazier deliver on the high expectations? Over time he almost certainly will. Whether or not he can do it in a four-week September run that includes Clemson, Miss State and LSU is a tall challenge.
Will Auburn’s past recruiting successes start to pay dividends in 2012?
Gene Chizik has put together three solid recruiting classes. Last year was widely considered to be the bottoming out of Auburn’s talent pool. This season should begin the upswing. Fans will know in a hurry how far these young guys have progressed.
All eyes will be on the offensive and defensive lines. Auburn’s success will rest squarely on these units. Jeff Grimes is considered one of the top position coaches in America.
He may finally have the combination of talent and experience to compete with Alabama and LSU. It all starts with guard John Sullen and center Reese Dismukes. Sullen will be expected to provide the senior leadership.
Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder inherits one of the most talented young lines in the country. They were pushed around pretty bad at times last season; but this year the tables should start to turn. Jeffrey Whitaker will be a key on the inside.
Can Onterrio McCalebb pick up the slack for the departed Michael Dyer?
Say what you will about Dyer off the field, but on the field he was a difference maker last season. With an O line that struggled mightily at times, Dyer was able to muscle his way into holes and make yards for himself.
McCalebb and Tre Mason have the speed and quickness, but do they have the bulk to make things happen on the inside?
Can Auburn’s wide receivers take that next big step?
Emory Blake is poised to be a breakout star this year. The big question is who’s next? After getting off to a fast start last season, Travante Stallworth got lost in the shuffle. Trovon Reed has yet to live up to the hype. Many believe incoming freshman Sammie Coates is going to be that guy.
Whoever it is needs to emerge quickly for Auburn to have a chance in its opener against Clemson and the following week in Starkville.
How big of an impact will Corey Lemonier, Nosa Eguae and Dee Ford have on Auburn’s defense?
When Ford went down with a season ending injury early in the year, more than one player said they had lost their leader on defense. With Ford healthy again and being joined by a much improved Nosa Eguae, Auburn looks to be a terror at defensive end.
Cory Lemonier may arguably be the best end in the country – at least the NFL scouts think so. It’s not a reach to say that the hopes of this team rest a lot on how much pressure these three can apply on every snap.