Auburn News and Notes: 8/22/2017 Edition
Could Jeff Holland take over the Buck position? (photo:/auburntigers.com)
It’s hard not to talk about football when kickoff is less than two weeks away. While I love to bring our readers news from the other sports, there simply isn’t much going on that isn’t oblong-spheroid related. Following is some interesting news and notes that you may not find elsewhere.
AP Poll Released
Alabama was number one, no surprise. However, Alabama has never started at that spot and finished there. In fact, only Florida State in 1999 and USC in 2004 have gone wire to wire. Clemson is one of two National Champs not to receive any first place votes the next year. The other team? Auburn’s 2011 squad. Auburn checks in at 12th, which is a fine place to start, but it’s still surprising to see some of the teams ahead of them. The Big 10 is the largest offender in my mind with teams like Michigan (11th) and Wisconsin (9th). The worse is Penn State at 6th. Though it did win the Big 10 championship last season, it did so in such a bizarre way that it cannot be counted upon to do it again, especially against teams they snuck up on.
Let’s talk about college fantasy football and where Auburn players stand.
I have now participated in more than five different drafts and have a pretty good pulse on college fantasy football. If you are interested in CFF, the best way to get my take is on Twitter @Best5Zach.
Anyone thought that coach Gus Malzahn’s holding off on naming Jarrett Stidham the starting QB would cause fantasy owners to scramble to pick him up off the waiver wire would be dead wrong. Though the coaching staff allowed the competition at quarterback to run into fall camp, virtually everyone knew that Stidham was the starter, even those who have no interest in the Auburn Tigers. Despite a 71st ranking (on scoring prediction) by Fantrax, Stidham was 100% drafted in virtually every league across the board. He is still owned in 59% of leagues with an Average Draft Position (ADP) of 110. It is interesting that people have drafted him on average in the 9th round but have only kept him half the time.
Fellow Auburn players are also being drafted. Kam Pettway also sports a 100% draft rate and has an ADP of 53. Whether it is to handcuff Pettway or players believe in him, Kerryon Johnson has snuck into a lot of leagues as well. Daniel Carlson, the No. 1 kicker, is drafted in 100% of leagues and has an ADP of 81.
Perhaps the biggest surprise?
Someone out there thinks that Nate Craig-Myers is the biggest sleeper on the team. Though he has been drafted in only 6% of leagues, in line with other Auburn receivers, he is owned in 14%. In other words, some people have faith in him but weren’t willing to risk a draft pick. While they have nothing invested in him, they believe he could be a star.
What can Auburn fans take away from this?
They believe Stidham could be great but aren’t willing to sell out for a player who hasn’t played a snap in the SEC (though speculative picks aren’t uncommon). Fans can thank Jeremy Johnson’s lackluster career. They also believe Auburn will score but will score via the run. It is fairly uncommon to see two running backs drafted at the rate of Pettway and Johnson. In other words, Gus Malzahn and Chip Lindsey may try and sell Auburn’s improved passing attack, but players believe Auburn will continue to be a run-first team.
Let’s move on to some real football.
Auburn is having the best competition on the offensive line that I can ever remember. Just weeks ago, it appeared (and it could still happen) that Auburn would have an all-senior line. Yet, the competition is so good that battles rage on for a starting nod on the front. For awhile, it appeared that it would be the all senior team of (from left to right) Darius James , Austin Golson, Casey Dunn, Wilson Bell, and Braden Smith, moving both Golson and Smith to their more natural positions because of the inclusion of Jacksonville State graduate transfer, Casey Dunn.
Fans can thank Prince Tega Wanogho, who has completely blown this perception. Not long ago, Wanogho was talked about as supremely talented with physical gifts, but injury and his lack of experience in playing football made him a raw player and a long-term project. It appears that offensive line coach Herb Hand has gotten Wanogho ahead of the curve.
It also appears that the starting five will be (from left to right) Wanogho, sophomore Mike Horton, Golson, Smith and James. This tells me that Malzahn and Lindsey are gearing up for a more pass-oriented offense because Wanogho’s height of 6-7 and his incredible reach are more suited for pass protection. Furthermore, Dunn was more of a road grader at center than a gifted pass protector andwhile the opposite could be said for Golson, who could be out-leveraged sometimes at center due to his height. In all, Auburn has talent but, more importantly, a lot of quality depth on the offensive line.
Moving on to defense.
For the first time in a long time, Auburn appears to be completely healthy on defense. That defense, as most fans know, was incredibly good under first year coordinator, Kevin Steele. That was quite the surprise after the units languishing over the past few years. Auburn may have lost some great players from last year, but all reports are that this unit will be good. That’s saying quite a lot, considering how good the 2016 unit was despite early and late offensive woes.
With an improved offense to spell the defense, Auburn’s D is set to be a top-ten unit. Where can Auburn get better? Pass rush. The competition at Buck is shaping up to where Auburn has some great depth, meaning fresh pass rushers on obvious passing downs, something Auburn hasn’t had since 2013. Jeff Holland and Paul James, III are competing for the spot. Holland played well last season in limited time, and James showed much potential on A-Day. Regardless of who lines up on the edge, Auburn’s depth and talent up front isn’t just good, it’s great. Across the state, Alabama may get all the hype for defensive line play, but this unit played well last season despite its youth. Expect big things in 2017.
Auburn softball’s Tannon Snow is in class and will play. Obviously, this is great news for Auburn softball as it returns a potential starter with real experience as she played at Washington before transferring to Auburn. This will free up Kendall Veach, who has been playing some catcher and could also see time at 3rd.
Tannon’s sister, and future Auburn Tiger shortstop Taylon Snow, and future teammate Alyssa Rivera won gold for America in the USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team.
The softball fall schedule has been released and can be found here. There are no games of note.