Back at Work!
Spring practice resumes, and the future becomes less murky
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody! It’s been quite the week at Auburn. While the football team took a break, the Tigers proceeded to take care of top opponents in both baseball and softball. I marvel at it all. It seems that for much of the past decade, we had two stick-ball teams that could hardly make the postseason. Both teams now are a big source of Auburn pride!
This week, the football team gets back to work. It’s hard to believe that A-Day is only a couple of weeks away. I expect that there’s a lot for the coaches and players to get done before showing off on that spring Saturday.
I have to say that I’m glad to see Auburn’s quarterback picture get a little less murky this spring. When Auburn has struggled the past couple of seasons, it has largely been because the team had quarterback issues. During the break, a couple of things crystallized. Tyler Queen is transferring out, and John Franklin III is moving to wide receiver. I think those are good moves for both players. We got a bit of a look at Queen in the second half of the 2015 A-Day game. He’s got a live arm and good running ability and needs to be playing somewhere, not sitting on the bench. Franklin has NFL-worthy speed, and he needs to see the field as well this year.
The coaches are not going to name a starting quarterback this spring, as we know. However, from all accounts, Jarrett Stidham is the guy to beat. Still, I think the coaches have to give junior Sean White a look this fall when he is healed from the broken arm suffered in the Sugar Bowl. When White was healthy last fall, the offense absolutely blew SEC defenses up. I don’t think it is a bad thing at all to have more than one good quarterback ready to go. One of the big issues the past couple of seasons was when the coaches had to change quarterbacks due to injury, they’d put the next guy in there with the proverbial handcuffs on. Opposing defensive coordinators feasted on that.
If a quarterback is going to shine, guys have to step up around him. The line has to protect the quarterback, and his receivers have to get open and catch the ball. We won’t get to see much of a wide-open offense on A-Day. However, one does get a good chance in the spring game to evaluate whether the line can keep the quarterback upright under a 4-man rush, and whether guys can perform at the receiver spots. Also, quarterback accuracy is on display. Several times in the past decade, I watched Auburn spring quarterbacks bounce-pass easy throws or sail them over the receivers’ heads. Invariably the following fall, the team struggled mightily on offense.
I was thinking going into this spring that Auburn had to find a set offensive line quickly and get the new guys settled in. However, I keep hearing great things about a number of players. We know what Austin Golson, Braden Smith and Darius James can do, as all started last season. We are hearing good reviews on Mike Horton, Prince Tega Wanogho, Prince Michael Sammons, and others. It seems that it’s going to be hard to narrow down the candidates to just 5 starters. That’s not really a bad problem to have!
Defensively, I think Auburn has a chance to be really good again. There is depth at all three levels, and a lot of experienced players return. Last season, the team did a great job of forcing plays to the sideline and making tackles for little or no gain. I expect a similarly powerful result, this fall.
Auburn’s special teams have been a strength for several years, and I figure that will continue this year. Punter Kevin Phillips has to be replaced as does sure-handed punt returner Marcus Davis. However, Auburn has the players to do that. The Tigers have a chance to be really explosive in the return game, but whomever ends up returning balls will have to prove that the ball is secure, no matter what. Of course, the Tiger place-kicking game is in great shape with Daniel Carlson returning for his senior campaign.