Spring Drills Start Next Tuesday!
I’m looking forward to a good spring on the practice field
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody! It’s hard to believe that spring drills are nearly here. The calendar still says February, but it definitely feels like spring outdoors. The Tigers are getting to work early this season, and other Auburn coaches have used similar philosophies in the past. The idea is to get practice out of the way, so that if any player is injured, they’ll have more time to heal before fall camp begins. Inclement weather is less of a concern these days, thanks to indoor practice facilities.
There should be some interesting battles this spring with a few vacancies due to graduation. However, this is as veteran and deep a team as Auburn has had in years. With the proper attitude and preparation, this team can be a championship contender. I’ll elaborate below on my questions about this team going into spring.
How quickly can new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey install his offense? We likely won’t be shown too many wrinkles on A-Day, but we can look for whether the unit looks confused or doesn’t do little things right. With new route systems in play, this could be a great chance for receivers to move up the depth chart.
Who will be the starting quarterback? I don’t believe this will be settled in spring practice. Last we heard officially, last year’s starter Sean White will not be able to practice due to a broken arm suffered in the Sugar Bowl. I certainly don’t think one can count him out going into fall. White really had the Auburn offense humming till injuries derailed him in November.
Many folks expect Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham just to be handed the keys to the offense, but Auburn has some talented guys at quarterback who are unlikely to go away quietly. I don’t think last year’s staff gave John Franklin III enough of a chance late last season. The offense picked up first downs and moved the chains when he was in there late in games. Franklin is easily the most dangerous runner at quarterback. Also in the mix will be Woody Barrett, Tyler Queen, Devin Adams and Malik Willis.
How does the Auburn defensive line shape up? The depth is pretty good, but the key will be replacing Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson. Offenses really had to account for both players when blocking, and even when the pair weren’t generating statistics, they made it nearly impossible for offenses to get anything done in the middle. A large part of Auburn’s defensive success last season came from forcing runners wide and cleaning them up out on the boundary.
Auburn has some good ones returning on the line, including Marlon Davidson, Derrick Brown, Andrew Williams, Nick Coe, Dontavius Russell, Paul James III, Byron Cowart, and Jeffrey Holland. There will be some really good true freshmen added in this season, as well.
Will Auburn finally develop some depth at the lead-blocker positions? Last season it was Chandler Cox and Jalen Harris, and that was pretty much it unless the team sent an extra lineman in. Some folks expect transfer Sal Cannella to step right in and start at tight end. I’ll wait and see. Cannella is listed at 230 pounds, and that seems a bit light for an SEC tight end.
Who emerges at the top in a crowded wide receiver field? In no particular order, Auburn returns Nate Craig-Myers, Jason Smith, Kyle Davis, Eli Stove, Will Hastings, Darius Slayton, and Ryan Davis, all of whom played extensively last season.
How will Auburn’s offensive line shake out? I figured earlier that returning starters Darius James, Austin Golson and Braden Smith would remain in their current positions, and new starters would be found at guard and right tackle. I have seen speculation that James may move inside to a guard spot, and Golson would move out to left tackle. Or, that Prince Tega Wanogho is good enough this year to just take the left tackle spot. Mike Horton is one to watch. He’s a big, strong dude. I’ve even heard talk of Braden Smith moving to right tackle. We’ll have to see how it all works out. Presumably, the team will figure it out by A-Day, and a new unit can begin gelling.