Auburn Football: Projecting the 2012 Depth Chart After National Signing Day
As Auburn comes off the fourth national signing day of the Gene Chizik era, its coaches have the task of determining a depth chart for the 2012 season. The Tigers have finally reached what appears to be a full stock of scholarship players entering this year, giving the Tigers the best depth on roster in four years.
Auburn will return a host of talented young players this season with a touch of senior leadership dashed in the mix. Auburn had the youngest team in major college football a year ago and the Tigers look to continue with a youth movement in 2012.
The Tigers have questions surrounding some high-profile positions like quarterback and receiver, but they do return some experience at virtually every spot on the field, so expectations will be raised over last season's eight-win finish.
Moving into the winter workout period, here are the pre-spring depth chart predictions for the 2012 Auburn Tigers.
On The Roster
Jr. Clint Moseley 6’4” 213
So. Kiehl Frazier 6’2” 220
TFr. Zeke Pike 6’5” 220
TFr. Jonathan Wallace 6’2” 203
The quarterback race will be the most-watched battle this spring and summer for the Tigers. Auburn is now moving into the second season in a row without an established quarterback at the helm. Clint Moseley earned the starting nod to finish the season before an injury in the Chick-fil-A Bowl sidelined him.
Moseley played well in some contests, but he looked terrible in others. Moseley appears to have a live arm and the ability to make the throws that his coaches ask of him, but he seems timid in the pocket, scared to release the football. Other times, he will appear rushed and unsure of his decisions. If Moseley expects to earn the start, he must become more sure of his decisions and not be afraid to attack the defense.
Kiehl Frazier is a favorite by many to eventually earn the starting nod by the time the Tigers kick off this fall, but there are a number of improvements Frazier must make in his game.
Frazier has received some criticism for his ineffectiveness in the passing game this past fall, but he was never really placed in a good position for success. Every attempt Frazier was given was a difficult read at best and not passes that would help build his confidence level. The jury is still out on his passing ability.
Frazier will also need to improve his confidence in the passing game to be effective and get rid of the timid look he carried for much of the season. Frazier is the more athletic of the two experienced options, giving him an edge in serviceability in the offense of new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.
Both Zeke Pike and Jonathan Wallace are not likely to see playing time this fall barring some unforeseen injury or roster shakeup. Both need a year to develop but should be strong contenders in the future for a starting nod.
Starter Prediction: Kiehl Frazier
On The Roster
Sr. Onterio McCalebb 5’11” 174
Sr. Anthony Morgan 5’11” 195
So. Tre Mason 5’10” 190
So. Corey Grant 5’11” 197
RFr. Mike Blakely 5’9” 206
TrFr. Jovon Robinson 5’11” 220
A big piece of news that was somewhat lost in the fray of the coordinator search was the departure of Mike Dyer from the Tigers roster this winter. Dyer departed for Arkansas State, leaving the Tigers with six scholarship running backs this fall.
Auburn has one of the most talented backfields in the country, but only three of the current backs have any real game experience. Onterio McCalebb is entering his fourth year in the program and is far and away the leader of the pack. McCalebb has been dangerous in the return game and as a change-of-pace back for the Tigers. He was also the Tigers' second-leading receiver a year ago.
Tre Mason earned carries last year in a reserve role as the third-string back and returned kicks opposite McCalebb for the majority of the season. Mason is a strong and speedy back that showed his resiliency and homerun speed for the Tigers last year. Mason looks to be a shoo-in for major playing time after last year's performance.
The wild cards this season are the backups from scout team in 2011. Corey Grant transferred from Alabama while Mike Blakely was a Florida transfer, forcing both to the bench for 2011. They will be expected to make contributions this fall with both receiving high praise from practices this past season.
Grant and Blakely are strong runners with powerful lower bodies. They will drive a pile but also have the speed to take it home on every carry. Look for the Tigers to find ways to implement both into the offensive system this fall.
Jovon Robinson is another fresh face this fall. He will be an incoming freshman for the Tigers looking to crack the starting lineup. Robinson has a unique blend of size and speed that he will bring to the Tigers backfield, making him an early favorite for playing time.
The Tigers do not currently have a back on roster that carries the same blend of skills that Robinson possesses. If he can get down the pass protection schemes of Scot Loeffler’s offense, he should be a player fans recognize from day one.
Starter Prediction: Onterio McCalebb/Tre Mason
On The Roster
Jr. Jay Prosch 6’0” 250
So. Ladarious Phillips 6’0” 291
Auburn is moving into a new offensive scheme this fall with an expected resurgence of the fullback position. In the past two seasons the Tigers have used an H-back position to lead-block that was a hybrid-type role for the tight end and fullback. This season the H-back still may be in certain sets, as well as the true fullback position.
The Tigers had a huge swing of momentum this offseason when 2011 All-American fullback Jay Prosch made his intentions public to transfer to Auburn. He played under Ron Zook at Illinois, where he earned a reputation as a bruising lead blocker and special teams head hunter. Prosch is expected to make an immediate impact for the Tigers in both capacities this coming season.
Ladarious Phillips has been less than impressive in his short two years with the Tigers program. Phillips has seen some time on the field in the H-back role last season, but he looked terrible in the few performances that he saw playing time. It will be a good to have Prosch come in and help grow Phillips into the fullback he can be.
The Tigers will rely heavily on the rushing attack again this season, leaving expectations high for the fullback position. Auburn now has an elite lead blocker to plow rushing lanes in 2012.
Starter Prediction: Jay Prosch
On The Roster
Sr. Emory Blake 6’2” 197
Sr. Travante Stallworth 5’9” 190
Sr. DeAngelo Benton 6’2” 203
So. Trovon Reed 6’0” 183
So. Quan Bray 5’10” 185
So. Jaylon Denson 6’3” 197
RsFr. Sammie Coates 6’3” 178
TrFr. JaQuay Williams 6’3” 204
TrFr. Ricardo Louis 6’2” 190
Sr. Philip Lutzenkirchen 6’5” 250
So. Brandon Fulse 6’4” 238
So. C.J. Uzomah 6’4” 236
TrFr. Ricky Parks 6’3” 230
TrFr. Darrion Hutcherson 6’7” 247
Auburn returns one of the deepest groups on roster at receiver this season. The Tigers will look to Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen for leadership in the passing game, but the additional talent on roster must make strides forward this season for Auburn to be a powerful offensive team.
Auburn has players like Travante Stallworth and DeAngelo Benton that have battled through injuries in their time on the Plains. Both stand to make impacts in their final seasons as they are both two very talented players on the outside.
The Tigers will also need to see development from names like Trovon Reed and Quan Bray. Reed has also battled a host of injuries and has underachieved expectations since his arrival. Bray played a role last season, but this year it will need to expand exponentially for the Tigers offense to be successful.
Sammie Coates may garner some playing time this season as well. Coates was sidelined by a foot injury last year, but looks to be on the fast track to earning time this fall. Coates is a burner on the outside that has the talent to go up and over defenders.
From the tight end position the Tigers have a proven playmaker in Lutzenkirchen, who has been a touchdown machine in his three years with 14 touchdowns while only hauling in 31 catches. Lutzenkirchen may be able to finally break out in the passing game this season under Loeffler.
Both Brandon Fulse and C.J. Uzomah earned time last season in reserve H-back roles but will likely serve the Tigers well this season as backups to Luztenkirchen at tight end. Loeffler likes to use two tight ends in some of his formations, so expect the Tigers to utilize more of these guys in the future.
The Tigers did recruit extremely well at the tight end position this season. Ricky Parks and Darrion Hutcherson were both huge additions to the Tigers roster. Parks is a playmaker with a wealth of athleticism while Hutcherson is a huge, immovable body. Hutcherson will be dangerous for the Tigers once he hits the second level of the defense.
Starter Predictions Receiver: Emory Blake, Trovon Reed, DeAngelo Benton
Starter Predictions Tight End: Philip Lutzenkirchen
On The Roster
Sr. John Sullen 6’5” 333
Jr.. Blake Burgess 6’3” 285
So. Aubrey Phillips 6’5” 336
So. Chad Slade 6’5” 305
So. Erik Mack 6’4” 330
So. Reese Dismukes 6’3” 285
So. Tunde Fariyike 6’2” 290
RFr. Christian Westerman 6’3” 277
RFr. Greg Robinson 6’5” 305
TrFr. Will Adams 6’5” 280
TrFr. Shane Callahan 6’6” 277
TrFr. Jordan Diamond 6’6” 289
TrFr. Robert Leff 6’6” 255
TrFr. Patrick Miller 6’7” 260
TrFr. Avery Young 6’6” 273
The Tigers coaching staff has done a great job at recruiting for the offensive line in the past three years. The Tigers have found their offensive line classes to be in the top five nationally every season with Chizik and his staff of excellent recruiters.
The Tigers return some experience this season, but Auburn does lose three seniors from the offensive line when spring camp opens. There is experience to form the starting line from, despite there only being one senior on the roster at line. The Tigers will look for Reese Dismukes to be the leader for the line as he enters his second year on the Plains, with John Sullen and Chad Slade as likely additions to the line around Dismukes.
After Dismukes, Slade and Sullen, the experience value diminishes quickly. Eric Mack saw time a year ago as did Blake Burgess, but the Tigers will rely heavily on sophomores and freshmen to carry the load this year up front.
Linemen like Christian Westerman and Greg Robinson are two names to keep an eye on as well. After their redshirt seasons they are chomping at the bit to make an impact up front for the Tigers. Don’t be surprised if both make it into the starting lineup by fall.
Starter Predictions: Greg Robinson, Christian Westerman, Reese Dismukes, Erik Mack, John Sullen
On The Roster
Sr. Joel Bonomolo 6’2” 240
Sr. Dee Ford 6’2” 240
Jr. Corey Lemonier 6’4” 229
Jr. Craig Sanders 6’4” 265
Jr. Nosa Eguae 6’3” 258
So. Justin Delaine 6’5” 238
So. Keymiya Harrell 6’4” 225
So. Ladarius Owens 6’2” 238
TrFr. Gimel President 6’3” 240
Sr. Jamar Travis 6’0” 294
Jr. Kenneth Carter 6’4” 290
Jr. Jeffrey Whitaker 6’4” 312
So. Devaunte Sigler 6’3” 263
So. Gabe Wright 6’3” 316
So. Jabrian Niles 6’2” 297
So. Angelo Blackson 6’4” 325
TrFr. Tyler Nero 6’2” 290
Auburn enters the 2012 season with only three senior scholarship defensive linemen. The Tigers have a load of talent with experience up front defensively, however.
The Tigers suffered tremendously in 2011 from a lack of experience up front. Auburn trotted out true freshmen and sophomores last year, giving the Tigers a lot of growing pains, especially on the interior of the defensive line.
This season, Auburn has guys like Gabe Wright, Jeffrey Whitaker, Kenneth Carter and Angelo Blackson in the middle of the line. All four guys earned their stripes in the past and should be ready for game day this fall. Jamar Travis is the lone senior on the interior. Travis has served in a reserve capacity in his three seasons on the Plains and is likely to continue to be a part of the rotation this fall.
On the outside the Tigers have a great mix of speed and strength. Corey Lemonier was a big impact player for the Tigers last season, finishing second in the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss. Mix in Craig Sanders, Nosa Eguae and a healthy Dee Ford, and the Tigers look to be very dangerous off the edge.
Auburn has rotated linemen under Chizik in an attempt to keep fresh legs on the field, and with the returning talent this could resemble the tenacity that the Tigers had up front defensively in 2010.
Starter Predictions: Nosa Eguae, Jeffrey Whitaker, Angelo Blackson, Corey Lemonier
Sr. Daren Bates 5’11” 205
Sr. Jonathan Evans 5’11” 225
Jr. Jake Holland 6’1” 235
So. Jawara White 6’2” 230
So. Justin Garrett 6’1” 200
RsFr. Anthony Swain 6’2” 205
RsFr. Kris Frost 6’2” 215
TrFr. Javiere Mitchell 6’2” 205
TrFr. Cassanova McKinzy 6’2” 224
Auburn faced numerous problems last season defensively but one of the most obvious issues the Tigers had was at the linebacker position. The Auburn linebackers could not shed a block or make a solid tackle to save their life.
This season the Tigers have to be more aggressive at the point of attack and drive through the ball carrier. Coach Brian VanGorder should bring a lot of passion to the field, helping lift the level of play from the linebackers in 2012.
The starting rotation looks to be set with the return of Jake Holland, Daren Bates and Jonathan Evans. Those three filled starting spots at one time or another last season but the Tigers may look to the bench to find new blood by seasons beginning. Jawara White is a big bodied linebacker that came on strong last season that could be one of the first to make a push.
One name to keep an eye on as well is Kris Frost. Frost would have played last season if not for shoulder surgery ending his season prematurely. Frost is a physical specimen that fuels off of contact. He could be a major player for an outside position by the end of summer.
Justin Garrett is another player that showed a lot of skill last year. Garrett was an instant playmaker for the Tigers on special teams and worked his way into some regular field time by seasons end. Garrett is a little undersized, but by this fall he should have added bulk and additional punch to his explosive on-field play.
Starters Prediction: Daren Bates, Jake Holland, Jonathan Evans
Sr. T’Sharvan Bell 6’0” 182
Jr. Chris Davis 5’11 188
Jr. Ryan White 5'11" 192
So. Jermaine Whitehead 5’11” 183
So. Jonathon Mincy 5’10” 180
So. Jonathan Rose 6’2” 178
So. Robenson Therezie 5’9” 192
TrFr. T.J. Davis 6’1” 170
TrFr. Joshua Holsey 5’9” 171
TrFr. Jonathan Jones 5’10” 165
Auburn has struggled consistently on defense the past few seasons, with the pass defense consistently underperforming. The Tigers have been recruiting well for the secondary in years past, but they have not been able to put together a lock-down group just yet.
Chizik has had a lot of success in the past with his pass defense, but his Auburn ones have struggled. This year the right mix of talent and experience appears to have finally made it to the Plains. Auburn returns T’Sharvan Bell and Chris Davis as starters on the outside, with reserves Jonathon Mincy, Jermaine Whitehead and Robenson Therezie all seeing consistent time a year ago.
Whitehead was the surprise of the 2011 recruiting class, earning the start as the nickel back in the Tigers defense as a true freshman last year.
With the talent and experience the Tigers return, T.J. Davis, Joshua Holsey and Jonathan Jones may be destined for redshirt seasons. It may be the best fit, however, giving them a year to study under a veteran group. If the pass defense is an issue this season because of play from the cornerbacks, it will be a surprise. This squad is one of the most talented in the SEC.
Starters Prediction: T’Sharvan Bell, Chris Davis
On The Roster
Sr. Ikeem Means 6’0” 205
Jr. Demetruce McNeal 6’2” 193
Jr. Ryan Smith 6’2” 208
So. Erique Florence 6’1” 179
So. Trent Fisher 6’1” 186
The Tigers head into the 2012 season with a lot of focus on the defense. The safety position has been one that has underperformed for the Tigers for quite some time, with this season looking to possibly bring a change in the Tigers fortune.
Auburn returns five players at safety for 2012 with all five seeing playing time in the past few seasons. Demetruce McNeal and Ryan Smith have split starts at safety while Ikeem Means and Erique Florence have come in as reserves. Trent Fisher has earned most of his work on special teams.
Auburn does not have a big playmaker that has already made himself evident from this group, but most expect Florence to come into his own in his second year with the Tigers. McNeal and Smith could be much improved and dangerous as well.
Look for Means and Fisher to provide quality reps off of the bench, but neither player is likely to earn a starting nod at a safety position. Couple this safety group with the current corners on roster and Auburn should have a strong secondary in 2012.
Starters Prediction: Demetruce McNeal, Erique Florence
On The Roster
Jr. Cody Parkey 6’0” 190
Jr. Steven Clark 6’5” 226
Auburn has had the benefit of very talented specialists in the past. This season is no different as the Tigers return two of the best specialists in college football.
Steven Clark was one of three finalists in 2011 for the Ray Guy Award, the award given to the best punter in college football. Clark has a cannon for a leg, placing the football deep downfield and consistently helping his coverage unit suppress opposing return teams.
Parkey has been one of the best kickers in the country for two years running now. The Tigers have benefited from Parkey and his ability to accurately nail big kicks and make virtually every kickoff punch through the end zone. The Tigers are set at place kicker and punter for the next two years.
Starters Prediction: Cody Parkey, Steven Clark