Fall Camp Begins!
Tiger Coaches will try to mold another SEC Champion!
(Photo by Acid Reign.)
War Eagle, everybody! After a long, arduous off-season, Auburn begins fall practice tomorrow afternoon. The Tigers have about 4 weeks to get ready for the opening tilt at home against Arkansas on August 30th. I can’t wait for practice reports to return to my daily reading list!
The Tigers will run one afternoon practice per day through Tuesday August 5th, which is the first day in pads. The Auburn football team will not get an off day till Friday, August 8th. There will be two-a-day practices on Wednesday, August 6th, and Saturday August 9th. Fan Day is Sunday, August 10th, before another afternoon workout. It’s pretty clear that these coaches are trying to build toughness, taking this team out each afternoon during the hottest part of the day in the August heat.
Auburn begins this camp with 15 returning starters, including 9 from one of the nation’s top offenses. The only starters not returning on that offense are left tackle Greg Robinson and running back Tre Mason. News of what happens at those two spots during camp will be eagerly anticipated.
While the defense returns only 6 starters, it does have 5 of the top 7 tacklers from last season coming back. This defense may have more talent than last year’s unit, with an infusion of newcomers expected to contribute. At the end of spring drills, a starting safety job was all but locked down by Derrick Moncrief, and several talented new defensive ends should have a chance to break into the playing rotation as pass rush specialists.
More Auburn ramblings after the jump!
I think the burning question on most fans minds as camp begins is what the fate of Nick Marshall and Jonathan Mincy will be. The two were arrested in separate incidents during the off-season on drug possession charges, and head coach Gus Malzhan has indicated that there will be consequences. It’s possible that Malzhan will keep that resolution a secret till the opening minutes of the Arkansas game. That would force Arkansas to prepare plans for either Auburn quarterback. I’d rather see this issue addressed sooner. Otherwise, this will be a dark cloud that creeps into one practice report after another. With most of each practice closed to the media, journalists will always be looking for something to write about.
There has been some hand-wringing this week over the news that Auburn has scheduled a series a couple of years from now with the Clemson Tigers. Some folks would have rather seen a higher profile opponent, and some claim to just be bored with Clemson. I think the series makes sense. Clemson is usually competing for their conference crown, and will make for a good addition when folks look at Auburn’s strength of schedule. Furthermore, this is a fairly easy trip for traveling Auburn fans to make.
Clemson is an old rival, one that Auburn has played 49 times in the past. Auburn has played Clemson 4 times the past 10 years, and 3 very exciting games came out of that. Who can forget Auburn’s first game with the hurry-up, no huddle philosophy, when Kodi Burns dashed up the middle against a tired Clemson defense? Kodi Burns’ touchdown gave Auburn a 23-20 win in overtime. Then there was the Wes Byrum kick in overtime that downed Clemson in Jordan Hare Stadium. On Auburn’s visit to Clemson a year later, the visitors stormed out to a 21-7 lead, before wilting down the stretch in a 38-24 loss. In Atlanta 2 years ago, the Tiger teams had a hard fought battle before Clemson won it late, 26-19.
Next week, I will get back to previewing Auburn’s remaining 2014 opponents. On November 15th, Auburn heads to Athens to play Georgia. This game worries me more than any on Auburn’s schedule. It will be Auburn’s 6th SEC game in a row, and Athens has not been a hospitable place for the Tigers in the past decade. It used to be that Auburn beat Georgia more often in Athens than in Auburn, but those days are long gone. Except for the thrilling 31-30 Auburn win in 2005, the Tigers have lost the last 5 trips to east Georgia. There was the 26-7 loss that sent Auburn officials off on a plane to Louisville. There was a 45-20 beatdown administered in 2007. Auburn put up a fight in 2009, but couldn’t catch the ball in the end zone late, falling 31-24. I was there supporting the Tigers in their last trip to Athens, and the visitors weren’t even competitive in a 45-7 rout.
I think the onus is on defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson against Georgia. Last season, Auburn slowed the dawgs for 3 quarters, then collapsed in the 4th quarter. Georgia roared down the field on 3 touchdown drives, and were knocking on the door again at the end of the game. In the past ten years facing the Bulldogs, Auburn has held Georgia below 30 points only twice. The 2004 SEC Champions held UGA to 6 points, and somehow in Tuberville’s last appearance at Jordan Hare the Tigers held Georgia to 17 points in a 17-13 loss.
Otherwise, head coach Mark Richt’s offenses have had their way with the Tigers. Even playing against new starting quarterbacks hasn’t helped the Auburn defense. Georgia put up 37 with Matthew Stafford, 31 with Joe Cox at the helm, and 31 in Aaron Murray’s first season. This will be Hutson Mason’s first full year as the Bulldog starter, but if history is any indication, he’ll be playing like a pro by November. Mason has probably the best running back in the nation behind him in Todd Gurley. He has great receivers, including
Sith Lord Khari Vion Chris Conley and Malcomb Mitchell to throw to. Here’s hoping Ellis Johnson has a plan this season that will defend Georgia for all 4 quarters.
We’ll look at the matchups next week.