Embrace the Hype & TET Episode #3
Auburn football awaits just north of 24 hours from now, and I will admit that there’s a certain comfort to the tone of expectations surrounding this year’s team. I know that for many Auburn fans any sort of preseason hype seems downright toxic, but I am getting a far different vibe for 2017. It helps that we’re returning a plethora of talent on both sides of the ball and proven offensive commodities coupled with unreal potential at wide receiver and quarterback.
For all intents and purposes, Jarrett Stidham is THE man to focus on tomorrow night as Auburn opens its season with Georgia Southern. I do not think he will disappoint. The quarterback’s well-documented journey from Baylor to Auburn has dominated offseason headlines for the Tigers and has many fans believing that this may be the year Auburn proves the preseason praise to be true. I don’t know if we’ll do quite that well. I tend to avoid absolute, season-wide predictions but will readily admit that I have had at least one foot aboard the hype train since mid-April. Tomorrow night I decide if I vacate the platform and become a full-fledged passenger. I think that decision might be an easy one.
This will be Gus Malzahn’s 5th season as Auburn’s head coach and it is an extremely pivotal one. One rough stretch and Auburn could go from being a top-10 team to last in the SEC West in less than a month. Indeed, the road will be difficult, but not one for which Auburn will be ill-prepared. Where Auburn lacks experience, there is talent to develop—and where there is experience, there is talent to supplement it. Whether or not it is the perfect blend is anyone’s guess at this point, but this is without a doubt the strongest position Malzahn has been in since returning to the Plains in 2013.
I want to see just how well Chip Lindsey has implemented this offense. It certainly helps that Stidham has been with the team since early in the year, so he has had a little extra time to learn Lindsey’s system. At the very least, I would describe this year’s team as ‘dangerous.’ At its best? Championship caliber. No point in avoiding mentioning that. Never before in the modern era of college football has Auburn possessed this much athletic talent with creative coaches present to tap into the talent in unique, creative ways.
One more thing regarding Lindsey: I think his influence could push the playbook to a higher level a bit earlier in the season. I also think he wants to get certain young guys involved sooner rather later—something Gus was always hesitant to do. Regardless, I think the offense looks strong this season and will produce some new household names.
The defense returns talent and experience, just not concentrated in a single player. There is a lot of exciting potential sprinkled throughout Auburn’s secondary and defensive line. Who steps up is still something of a mystery, but the promise is there. All it will take is two or three guys having a light come on and Auburn will quickly rise from a ‘pretty good’ defense to an elite one. I see no reason to believe this will not happen. Either way, it’s going to be a fun squad to watch grow up together.
Just as in previous seasons, Auburn must find a way to successfully confront the astronomical aspirations placed on them by others. Although they most certainly have challenged themselves with the highest expectations, it is often the external pressure that brings a team crashing down when hope is high. In Auburn’s case this year, I see the team dealing with these pressures much more effectively. I can’t quantify that. I have no stats to back it up. They just seem ready. I know I am.
And also, don’t forget to check out TET Podcast – Episode 3 – Auburn vs. Georgia Southern Preview w/ Zach Taylor!