Approaching Mid-Fall Camp.
Will the real starting offensive line please stand up?
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody! It is hard to believe that we are nearly halfway through fall camp already. We are a little over 3 weeks away from the opening kickoff against Georgia Southern. Today, I had planned on previewing this year’s Iron Bowl, but certain projects around the house ate up my time. I need to watch more video before making a judgement on what Alabama is going to put on the field this fall. There are a lot of unknowns still left to be digested.
As to Auburn’s fall camp, I’d say my biggest worries thus far are on the lines of scrimmage. I’ve heard that the work in shells, full pads and the first scrimmage were grueling. As a result on the defensive line, starting defensive end Marlon Davidson has been held out as has backup tackle Andrew Williams, likely one of the top 4 guys inside that are going to be in the playing rotation.
Davidson’s injury is the most worrisome. Just a true sophomore, Davidson was expected to be the leader of the ends this year. He was nicked up near the end of spring drills, had an injured arm going into fall camp, and now is missing time. If there is a silver lining to this situation, it’s that both Jeffery Holland and Paul James III have had monster camps thus far. If necessary, I think James can do well in Davidson’s place if need be.
Once upon a time, teams lined up, and there was a definite strong side and weak side of the offensive formation, which mainly depended upon which side the tight end lined up on. A strong-side end had to stand up the tackle on that side, often fighting through a double team block, while the guys around him flowed to the ball. It was dirty, thankless work. These days, though, the strong side is either fluid or nonexistent with no tight ends or fullbacks in the game. Offenses use shifts and motion. On both sides, the ends have to be ready to speed rush or contend with power blocking.
We’ve had good news the past couple of weeks in the secondary. I was worried about injuries possibly decimating this unit, but they’ve held up thus far. I don’t know about you, but I cringe every time I read about safety Tray Matthews having another big hit on someone. The past two years, Matthews has done that on the field to the point he gets so beat up that he can’t go. Here’s hoping that Matthews saves some of that for our SEC West foes!
The competition for the starting punter job keeps expanding. Now, I’m hearing that the coaches have added holder Tyler Stovall to the mix. I have to wonder, are things really going that badly? We’ve seen video of a few punts via the press, and it looked like to me that Ian Shannon was getting 40 yards pretty consistently. The issue might be the height of the punts. Auburn has put a premium on height over distance the past few seasons and has allowed very few return yards. That might be the issue. We’ll have to keep our ear to the ground on this one.
The issue I’m most alarmed about is that, apparently, line coach Herb Hand is still tinkering with the starting lineup on the offensive line. I’m told that this is more due to having great options in multiple spots and not a case of finding 5 guys that can go. Still, this unit needs to be decided upon and be given a chance to gel. “Hey, that was your guy!” “No, I had that other guy.” Meanwhile, the quarterback has been ear-holed. We can’t have that going on in Death Valley in week 2! We saw last season that Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables will send the house on the blitz most downs. The line has to be ready!
Part of the offensive line issue is that apparently transfers Wilson Bell and Casey Dunn have showed up and worked hard enough to be starters. Now, it appears that Prince Tega Wanogho, Jr. has worked his way up to where he might be one of the top couple of tackles on the team. Physically, he probably has the most upside of any of them. If Wanogho starts, then Braden Smith will likely move back inside where he was an all-American guard last season. On the other hand, do we want a left tackle with no Power-5 starts at that crucial spot against Clemson?
Likewise, I am concerned a bit about the lack of reps for top running backs Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway. I understand trying to save them for the regular season. Both guys had injuries last year that limited them for parts of the year, and Johnson had a sprain on A-Day. If the backups get the lion’s share of the work, how are those zone-read run meshes going to look, in the first few games? We certainly don’t want the ball on the ground, because the coaches were trying to take it easy on them!