With the beginning of spring training about one month away and kickoff of the regular season only a couple hundred days away, it is time to take a look at what challenges Auburn might face next season. It is a given that LSU, Alabama and Arkansas will field quality football teams. The addition of Texas A&M gives another quality program for the staff to prepare for.
The Auburn team is a year older, and that includes another full season of strength and conditioning. Auburn has one of the top conditioning programs in the nation, and the key component that is stressed is core strength. This was an element that likely cost the Tigers a couple of games in 2011.
Looking back at the games of 2011 and 2010, it was not the sophomore players or upperclassmen that could not hold their own on the defensive line. In fact, they gave as good as they got, especially toward the end of the season. The true freshmen were simply dominated physically by top-tier teams.
Auburn returns the entire defensive line for 2012, complete to three deep on the playing rotation. This will allow for last season's true freshmen to develop into sophomores that can hold their own. Sophomores that held their own should develop into juniors that show signs of dominance.
The 2012 Auburn defensive line should be an area of strength for the team and one of the best in the nation if they put in the hard work necessary during the offseason. They will face offensive lines in flux for every major opponent in the West.
Alabama will likely be starting Barrett Jones (their best offensive lineman) at center for 2012. This is his third offensive line position in as many seasons. It is expected that Cyrus Kouandjio and D.J. Fluker, who have played in 30 games total in their careers combined, will start at tackle. Chance Warmack and Anthony Steen, with 55 games experience between them, are expected to start at guard.
Arkansas will likely be starting John Peacock and Brey Cook at tackle, with 24 total games of experience between them. Luke Carpentier and Alvin Bailey, with 33 total games of experience, will likely start at guard. Travis Swanson, with 26 games of experience, is expected to start at center.
For LSU, one of the tackle positions and both guard positions are up for grabs in spring training. P.J. Lonergan, with 29 games experience, is expected to start at center. Alex Hurst, with 34 games of experience, is expected to start at tackle. This is a major rebuilding job for LSU, with most of the starters and experienced depth being replaced for 2012.
Texas A&M returns their entire offensive line for 2012. Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews are expected to start at tackle. They have 26 games total of experience between them. Jarvis Harrison and Brian Thomas are expected to start at guard. The two have 48 games total of experience between them. Patrick Lewis, who has 19 games total experience, is expected to start at center.
Alabama has a total of 124 games experience on the offensive line. Arkansas has a total of 83 games experience on the offensive line. LSU has only 63 games of solid experience on their line for 2012. Texas A&M has 93 games of experience on their offensive line for 2012. This is a very inexperienced area for Auburn’s main competition for 2012.
For those that are curious, Auburn will only have 64 games of solid experience on the offensive line for 2012. Both offensive tackles will be new for 2012.
Auburn will start 102 games of solid experience across the defensive front four for 2012, with another 84 games of experience among the rotation.
No offensive line Auburn will face in 2012 will have more playing experience than the Auburn defensive line. This should be a very important factor to look at going into the 2012 season.
Nosa Eguae and Corey Lemonier with 54 games of playing experience total between them, are expected to start at defensive end. Jeffrey Whitaker and Kenneth Carter, with 48 games of playing experience total, are expected to start at defensive tackle.
Gabe Wright and Angelo Blackson, with 26 games playing experience total between them, are expected to rotate at defensive tackle. Dee Ford, Devaunte Sigler and Craig Sanders, with 67 games of playing experience total between them,are expected to rotate at defensive end.