Five Auburn Players Poised to Have a Breakout Year on Offense in 2018
Could this be the season that Prince Tega Wanogho finally has a breakout year? (photo: AuburnTigers.com)
It’s just five days till kick off for the Auburn football team. After a near miss at the College Football Playoffs, the Tigers enter 2018 with a lot of new faces along with a lot of questions.
Perhaps the biggest of which is can the Tiger offense maintain or even improve on last year’s performance that averaged 451 yards and 34 points per game on the way to winning the SEC West division championship?
With the absence of star wide receivers Will HastingsEli Stove, a rebuilt offensive line, and a new lead running back, there will be plenty of opportunities for players to have a breakout year.
As the Tigers inch closer to their opening date with Washington, the hype has been building around a defense that many believe is loaded with future NFL talent. So today, we will look at five players from the offense who I believe are poised to help Auburn reach the next level.
Here are five offensive players that are set to have a breakout season heading into 2018:
Probably no other position has as much a chance of injury than running back. So it’s a good thing the Tigers have a crowded backfield this year. Although Kam Martin is the returning player in the driver’s seat, JaTarvious Whitlow showed on A-Day what he is capable of bringing to the offense. An ankle injury last year kept him under the radar, but at 6 feet, 216 lb., he’s nearly 25 pounds heavier than Martin and has wowed both coaches and teammates during fall camp.
He’s a former high school quarterback who passed for 2,292 yards, 29 touchdowns while rushing for 2,147 yards and 30 touchdowns as a senior. He has the ability to create something out of nothing as he demonstrated on a 1-yard touchdown in the spring game. Trapped at the line he was pursued by defenders till he finally made it across the goal line.
Running back coach Tim Horton
No matter who is carrying the ball, he will only be as good as the big uglies in front of him. And the biggest factor for the Tigers having another 1,000 yard rusher will be the offensive line. Auburn lost four starters off last year’s unit. So can this bunch measure up? I believe they can.
Wanogho appears to be J.B. Grimes’ choice at the important left tackle position. He came to Auburn as a raw defensive lineman who had never played on the O-line. Last season, it was evident against Clemson that he had not grown enough to be first team.
But he begins his fourth year on the Plains as an experienced lineman after playing in 20 games and starting four. The big difference this year is he has now been taught by J.B. Grimes, the same coach who placed several linemen in the pros, including first rounder Greg Robinson. It’s time for Prince to have his breakout year.
* Anthony Schwartz, WR
Because he’s just a freshman you won’t see Anthony Schwartz start at the beginning of the season. But before this season is over he will be a household name among Auburn fans. Just as Will Hastings wowed fans the last couple of years with his speed, Schwartz will be leaving opposing defenses dumbfounded.
A world-class sprinter he may well be the fastest football player in the country. The 6 foot, 180 pounder turned down a full track scholarship offer from nine-time Olympic champion Carl Lewis at Houston as well as an offer to play football for his home state Florida Gators.
The Olympic hopeful is simply too fast to keep off the field. Schwartz was named the national Gatorade Track Athlete of the Year. He won the 100 meters at the FHSAA state championships in 10.07 seconds in high school and gold and silver medals at the IAAF U20 World Championships in Finland in July. Auburn could use him as a deep threat or as a flanker (like Eli Stove) on sweeps.
Some may wonder why I would include a kicker as an offensive breakout player. Simply put, he has an opportunity to have a big impact on the offense. Auburn has had some pretty impressive kickers in the past, names like Wes Byrum, Damon Duval, and Wyn Lyle, to name a few. Then of course there’s the current Minnesota Viking kicker, Daniel Carlson, who is the all-time leading scorer in SEC football history. Anders is his brother, and some say he’s just as good.
He was a three-sport star in football, basketball, and soccer in high school and was the nation’s highest-rated prep kicker. He had a long field goal of 51 yards and was a perfect 49–49 on extra point attempts. Being compared to Daniel is a lot of pressure for a young redshirt freshman to carry, but it’s my guess he will continue the family heritage on the Plains.
* Kaleb Kim, Center
Center is one of the most important positions in Auburn’s offense. He not only touches the ball on every play, but he captains the entire O-line. Chemistry is important, and sources say Kim has that with guards Marquel Harrell and Mike Horton, who came to Auburn in the same class.
Gus Malzahn has always liked to establish the inside run and run the read option with pace. Kim has the talent to have a big impact on pace by snapping the ball quickly and occupying linebackers to give the running backs more room.
He came into Auburn as one of the most sought after interior lineman in the southeast. But after redshirting his freshman year, he has just 10 appearances, with seven of those coming as Austin Golson’s backup last season. However, this could be his year. If it is … then it could also be Auburn’s year!