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Five Burning Questions for A-Day.

By on April 18th, 2013 in Football 10 Comments »
ADay Preview

Should be a fantastic day in Jordan Hare Stadium!

     War Eagle everybody! Can you believe it’s A-Day week already? Auburn spring practice proceeds apace, and the big day is nearly here. If you’re planning to be in Auburn for the game, a jacket is in order for a cool morning. It should be around 45 degrees at daybreak, rising to the upper sixties for the 1:05 PM kickoff. It should be a clear, sunny day. Get all your gameday info from the source, here. The game will be televised live on CSS cable TV, for those who have Comcast or Charter. Outside of the southeastern USA, try ESPN-3.

     Probably the most exciting news out of Wednesday’s practices is that coach Malzhan plans to make this scrimmage more like a real game than we’re used to. Raise your hand if you’ve been baffled by the byzantine offense vs. defense scoring system used the past few A-Days! I know I have. This game will feature a blue vs. white structure, and the standard football scoring system. However, I would not be surprised to see certain players, perhaps even a lot of players regularly play on both squads.

     It’s been a tough spring in Auburn, and a number of Tigers missed yesterday’s practice due to injury. These included Tre Mason, Keymiya Harrell, Jay Prosch, Ricky Parks, Avery Young, Nosa Eguae, Angelo Blackson, Chris Landrum, Javiere Mitchell, Jonathan Jones, Melvin Ray, and Tyler Nero. Jake Holland missed due to a class, Demetruce McNeal had personal business to tend to, and congratulations to Robenson Therezie, who apparently is celebrating the birth of a daughter. And now on to the questions for Saturday.

 

  1. Quarterback Play. I looked back at what I have written each year in this space before A-Day, and I think I’ve mentioned a quarterback race every time. Frankly, it’s pretty amazing that Auburn has not had an entrenched returning starter since Brandon Cox in 2007. Auburn has only had two guys, Chris Todd and Cameron Newton, start every game in a season. We’ll be watching contenders Khiel Frazier and Jonathan Wallace carefully. We saw last spring that Frazier can make accurate throws when it’s “no contact on the QB.” I’d expect both guys will make their throws this year. If we see a lot of wild stuff the receiver can’t get to, it will be time to worry. Also, crisp ball-movement and fakes are critical to the Gus Malzhan offense. If nothing else, I think watching who does this with enthusiasm, and who is tentative will go a long way towards pointing to who is ahead in the race.

 

  1. Tackling. We’ve seen a clinic the past two years on how NOT to tackle in the SEC. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson has emphasized proper tackling on more than one occasion in the press this spring. I know that we won’t see too much violent, “blow-em-up” hitting in this game, but I’ll be curious to see if the lowered head, blind dives at the feet tackling has been cut out. The most pervasive on the field problem through the entire previous staff was poor tackling. This resulted in three of the four worst defenses in Auburn history.

 

  1. Defensive Line Play. Auburn has been soft up front the past couple of years, no two ways about it. It’s not a good sign this year that two projected starters, Nosa Eguae and Angelo Blackson, have already missed significant time this spring. Whether either will play on A-Day is up in the air. With Auburn’s veteran offensive line, I don’t expect this unit to dominate and be constantly in the backfield. However, they must hold their own and plug up those running lanes. If we’re blown off the ball on A-Day here, expect more trouble next fall.

 

  1. Offensive Line Play. The Tigers get a lot of talented players back on the o-line, but last year’s line was never really completely dependable. There were drive killing mistakes made across the board, with four underclassmen starting. Particularly vulnerable was the right tackle position, where freshmen Avery Young and Patrick Miller got a pretty rude introduction to SEC defensive ends. I don’t think any college coach ever wants to start a true freshman on the line, but that’s where we’ve been lately. By all accounts this spring, Miller is a completely different player, much stronger and under control. Redshirt freshman Alex Kozan is replacing a departed big-body at left guard, and he’ll bear watching also. I want to see these guys avoid letting linemen blow through uncontested. I want to see no false starts, and no holding penalties. Gus Malzhan’s first two offenses at Auburn were powered by three guys, the tackles and the center, just posting their guy up and allowing NOTHING, while the guards were moved around like a shell game to get power in unconventional lanes. Greg Robinson, Reese Dismukes and Patrick Miller will be called on to do this, next fall. Can these guys duplicate the efforts of Lee Ziemba and Ryan Pugh?

 

  1. Receiver Play. Auburn’s numbers here aren’t great, but pretty much every scholarship guy at receiver tight end and H-back are big-time talents. It does bother me to hear about dropped balls every practice from the coaches. Is this a problem on this team, or are the coaches simply holding these guy accountable for catching EVERY ball? We’ll see on A-Day who is able to make catches against a deep secondary. I’ll also be watching the blocking of these guys. We know guys like Jay Prosch and Brandon Fulse can block well. How about the others? Those big play sweeps Auburn had in 2009 and 2010 were usually aided by lock-down blocks by Darvin Adams, Kodi Burns and Terrell Zachary. Word is that the leader here this spring is Jaylon Denson. I’ve felt that he was criminally under-used the past two years. It will be interesting to see what he can do with this new staff.

     There are questions in other areas, of course, but I’m not as sure those will be answered. Linebacker is a big one, as Auburn lost two starters from a lackluster unit last year, and the returning starter is missing practice due to a mandatory class. I’m not sure any meaningful conclusions can be drawn Saturday about this unit, unless they do better than expected. We’ll likely see a lot of walk-on running backs carry the ball, as incumbent 1000-yard rusher Tre Mason has been shelved with an ankle injury for most of spring. We’ll see some of Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne in the game, but I doubt that the coaches will run them a lot.

     I’ve debated back and forth whether I’m going to this game, all spring. I always enjoy my trips to Auburn, but I’ve been really battling the pollen this spring. And, I reasoned, I could always watch it on TV and do a game thread. Well, the pollen has let up, and I’m breathing a lot better this week. I’m planning on pulling on my leather jacket early Saturday morning, heading down US 280, and loading up a camera-full of pictures. Expect a Sunday wrap-up from me right here, on TrackEmTigers.com. War Eagle, and see you at the game!

10 Comments

  1. restless6 says:

    Great report! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Todd92 Todd92 says:

    Good analysis as always Acid. My biggest questions remain on the OL and DL with LB to a lesser degree. We saw in 09 that a subpar QB can be serviceable in Malzahn’s system as long as the OL does their job and the running game is effective…. So I truly expect the offense to come down to the OL.

    Pretty much the same can be said about the defense. While the LB’s have looked lost and constantly whiffing on tackles I attribute much of their problems on an extremely ineffective DL. Rarely did the DTs slow down or force the runners to break stride at the line of scrimmage. Runners typically had a good head of steam and multiple running lanes to choose from before reaching the LBs level.

    My biggest concern for the LBs is alignment and play calling/recognition. Too many times the MLB was caught still calling out shifts when the ball was snapped….and that has been for the last two years so I don’t put it all on BVG’s complicated schemes. I want to see AU’s defense set and watching the snap count.

    From the team as a whole I want to see physical strength and hard nosed play, that with a few exceptions (Darren Bates, Jay Prosch, Tre Mason, Robinson Therezie, Joshua Holsey) was completely lacking last season. And on that note I want to see our S&C program produce results on the field…. If it is being effective it should be as recognizable as anything after last season.

    I have a lot of optimism that we will see a much better prepared team this A-Day and this next season….but this optimism is tempered with memories of the last two seasons.

  3. Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

    WALLACE! WALLACE! WALLACE! WALLACE!

    Enjoy your trip! At least you guys have a lovely blooming spring…it’s still snowing like it’s January outside…..at least we have tulips who are trying their best to come up! Can’t be winter forever!!

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..Spring’s kind of a strange animal in Alabama. Little snow, mind you, outside of Winter Storm ’93 some 20 years ago. And yeah, we’re getting those Wyoming/Dakotas snow pix from James Spann’s Facebook page! Looks cool, and I LOVE icy weather, as long as the power stays on!

      …..But the past three years have seen the last freeze here in the Tragic City somewhere around March 3-5. In 2011, the last 32 degree day was Feb 15! This year, we had about SEVEN freezing mornings in March, and a couple in the first week of April! And yet…

      …..The plants seemed to be THRIVING in the unseasonable cold. Or making hay on the few warm days, or something. Much of last week, it was like a layer of Moon-dust on everything, and a serious haze in the air from a ridiculous amount of pollen. This week’s been hot, with highs in the 80s, but a big 1.5 inch or more shower every couple of days, that’s washed the dust away.

      …..We get storms again Friday, and plunging temps that afternoon/evening, which should cool Auburn down nicely for A-day. Frankly, I need a jacket to smuggle in my camera, radio, notes, and energy shot for the drive home. I looked pretty suspicious at A-day last year with a jacket on in 85-degree heat!

      • Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

        Well, our tulips are still trying to seek daylight despite being buried by ice and snow twice in the last 2 weeks…..I’m feeling done with Winter. Give the smell of lilacs in the air!!

        Glad that the weather is going to cooperate with your smuggling practices. Can’t wait to read your report!!

  4. BeachTiger BeachTiger says:

    Acid, I love reading your posts. Will not be able to go to the game this weekend, so I’ll look forward to your post-game synopsis.

    On another note, work has been keeping me tied up but I was able to finally sit down during lunch today to catch up on TET. I was shocked reading yesterday’s post regarding slogans and billboards… comments got really harsh at times… come on guys, we’re all on the same team. We all need to remain positive and show our trust and support towards Gus, his coaching staff, and the players.

    WAR EAGLE, and I hope everyone attending the A-Day game this weekend will have a beautiful day and a great time.

  5. AU_Moses11 says:

    I’ll be there, more informed (thanks to TET) than the previous years. Let the critiquing begin! Can’t wait to make it back to the plains. WDE

  6. sparkey sparkey says:

    The injuries aren’t as bad like they were in the past. I’m thrilled about the fact we don’t have any season ending injuries. I’ve been talking with other Auburn fans and it’s pretty much universal in our happiness that Auburn doesn’t have any really devastating injuries. The line also looks much leaner. I don’t think you’ll see this line being pushed around so much like the lines last year were. Then again, it’s still entirely possible. All I know, I want Auburn football to be fun again. Watching the games last year was a miserable experience and new kind of torture every next game. I hope that we never see those days ever again.

  7. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    Your absolutely the best at what you do Acid. Thanks for this one. I’ll be looking forward to Sunday’s review.