By Jay Coulter
In case you missed it earlier in the week, Phillip Marshall of the Huntsville Times wrote a fine blog entry about his thoughts on the Tigers as they prepare for the season opener with Kansas State. I’ve said it here before; Marshall is a great writer and a great asset for Auburn fans to have in the media.
When he says something I tend to listen. I can still remember being at Pat Dye’s weekly press conferences while I was in college writing for The Plainsman and listening to Dye challenge Marshall’s questions.
Dye didn’t seem to care much for a lot of those questions because they were probing and straightforward. They were also very good.
Marshall is at every Auburn practice and I think it’s interesting to look at some of his observations (in blue)…
The defense has a chance to be something special, maybe even the best at Auburn since the 1988 unit led the nation in almost every meaningful statistic.
Those are pretty big words. When you think about losing Will Herring, Karibi Dede, Kevin Sears, Patrick Trahan and Steve Gandy just at the linebacker position, this statement really makes you stop and think. The linebacking corp will be lead by sophomore Tray Blackmon who’s played in just six games.
For Marshall’s declaration to come true, a lot will be expected of Blackmon. There was also that Iron’s kid in the secondary that was pretty good and will be missed. Of course, the straw that stirs the drink is defensive-end Quentin Groves.
When you pair Groves with Blackmon you begin to see why Marshall is so high on this unit. Couple them with a young, but veteran defensive secondary and this defense looks pretty darn formidable.
The offense, to this point, is suspect. Is there a big-play guy at wide receiver? Will the offensive line come together? Those are the questions that must be answered before anyone will really know what Auburn’s offense can do.
The offense is getting a lot of attention and scrutiny this fall. Tommy Tuberville and receivers coach Greg Knox have been outspoken about the play of the wideouts. As we said Wednesday, this group has to step up. If they fail as a unit, we become one dimensional and then it’s basically game over.
There’s also reason for concern on the offensive line. Position coach Hugh Nall has changed the depth chart on a daily basis. One injury could be devastating. We saw the ripple effect center Jason Bosley’s injury caused this week. Had the injury been serious, things would have become real interesting in a hurry.
Leon Hart is somebody that has to step up this year and finally play up to his potential. He could be considered a bust so far. Remember, he was one of the top offensive lineman in the country coming out of high school.
There are obvious positives on the offensive side. Even with Kenny Irons gone, everyone believes the backfield will be improved over last year. Having a senior quarter in Brandon Cox is worth at least 10 points a game. And we can’t under estimate, the importance of having Cole Bennett back at tight-end.
The youngsters competing to be Auburn’s kicker, kickoff man and punter are strong and talented, but there is no way they’ll be able to fill the shoes of last season’s trio. The question is if they can be consistent.
That statement goes without saying. Auburn had arguably the best kicking combo in the SEC last season. You don’t replace Kody Bliss, John Vaughn and Matt Clark in one season. Add to it the rule change this year that requires the ball to be kicked from the 30 yard line and Clark’s absence looms larger.
Talk to anyone at practice and most will tell you they expect Wes Byrum to kick and Patrick Tatum to punt. You can bet the kicking game will be the difference in at least one contest this year. This should concern all of us.
Even when it seemed he had been written off, junior quarterback Blake Field kept his mouth shut and kept on working. Now it looks like he’ll be Brandon Cox’s backup.
It does appear Field has won the battle for number two. He deserves it. It’s real easy to get caught up in the Kodi Burns hype. I’m perhaps the most guilty. Field proves that most of the time experience trumps talent.
Will Field be the starting quarterback next year? That’s an entirely different question. But there’s little question that Field is the right person to go in the game should Brandon Cox go down.
Freshman quarterback Kodi Burns reminds me of a bigger, stronger Dameyune Craig at the same age. If he still reminds me of Craig when he’s a senior, that will mean he’s a great quarterback.
Marshall hits the mark with that comment. Dameyune Craig is the best quarterback Auburn has seen since Pat Sullivan. I know I’ll get some arguments on that one. Think about this for a minute. How good of an offense will Auburn have if Burns reaches Craig’s playing level with the talent the Tigers have now? That’s a scary, scary thought.