Five Burning A-Day Questions
We will see a lot of young players running around, I’m figuring!
(Photo by Acid Reign)
Each year I do this sort of post before A-Day, and each year the questions tend to be pretty similar. I’ll be in Jordan-Hare Stadium again Saturday, with a camera in one hand and a roster in the other. The game kicks off at 1:00 PM and will be televised on the SEC Network. The pundits say that nothing can be learned from A-Day. I feel differently. In particular, issues on the line tend to linger into the fall.
Last year I was most worried about the quarterbacks. True to form, no quarterback distinguished himself last A-Day, and troubles under center made for a very shaky September at the position.
Second issue was with the lines. I felt like the starting offensive line did well overall but had issues with speed-rushers. Sure enough, teams like Clemson and Texas A&M were flattening Auburn quarterbacks in September until Auburn plugged the leaks with Darius James. I wanted to know if Auburn had found any pass rushers other than Carl Lawson last year. A-Day resulted in my observation that Montravius Adams was going to be disruptive in the middle, and Marlon Davidson, the true freshman, looked like the real deal.
Linebackers were a huge question mark in 2016, and they turned out to be pretty good. We could not tell on A-Day. The offense was running overloaded sweeps, and the defense was staying in base configuration. Given that, the linebackers struggled on A-Day. Fortunately, come fall the defense was much more adaptive.
I was worried about the tight ends/H-backs, who were rarely seen in 2015. I liked the play on A-Day of one of the big cogs I was expecting to see during the season, Landon Rice, who left the team. Auburn’s play in this department was better in 2016, but still not consistent enough.
Lastly, I worried about offensive coaches being too conservative, and not running the whole offense. The story going around the SEC was that the Malzahn offense had been figured out, and that trying to keep plays under wraps was pointless. The staff did keep things pretty conservative. There were a lot of sweeps against defenses not allowed to blitz until 3rd down. We didn’t see much short passing, but did see a lot of deep balls thrown up for grabs. Who knew that they would start the season in the single wing with 5 different guys taking snaps?
After the jump, we’ll look at this year’s burning questions!
My biggest concern going into 2017 is with the offensive line. I’ve read about a lot of shuffling going on up front. This was done in the spring of 2016, and the results weren’t pretty in September. I think it’s important to have a solid starting 5 by A-Day, so that those guys can work together during the summer and gel. Will Auburn have success on A-Day up front, or will a deep and dangerous D-line embarrass them?
Whose offense will we see on A-Day? There’s been much talk about how much more passing Auburn has done in scrimmages this spring, and how much more creative the pass routes have been. Will we see this on A-Day, or will it be as predictable as the past couple of seasons?
To a certain extent, the whole team can’t win on A-Day. If a unit or a player looks good, it’s usually at the expense of someone on the other side. Can the defensive line play well without Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams? The past three seasons the the answer has been “no.” Those two are headed for the NFL draft. Does Auburn neutralize the offense up front this spring?
Can the Auburn receivers get open? Last spring, the answer was emphatically, “no.” Quarterbacks had to put the ball into coverage and try to “throw them open.” During the fall, the passing game struggled mightily at times.
Finally, how deep is Auburn’s offensive backfield? There has been horrific attrition back there, the past couple of years. By mid November last fall, Auburn did not really have any healthy SEC-caliber backs left. I expect that a healthy Malik Miller and a bulked-up Kam Martin will help with that problem. By all accounts, C. J. Tolbert is in the mix, too. I was impressed with Tolbert, at last year’s A-Day. They ground him into the line against the starting defense last year, and he made the tough yards. He also showed soft hands out of the backfield. I expect starting tight end/H-backs Chandler Cox and Jalen Harris to be pretty good as juniors this season. Do we have anybody behind them, or will the coaches repeat the past with nothing but spread-out receivers if one or both of those guys aren’t in there?