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!