Auburn Football: 7 Things Holding the Tigers Back from a BCS Bid
The Auburn Tigers enter the 2012 season with high hopes appearing to be just a few steps away from a BCS bid. When Gene Chizik took over the Tigers' program in 2009, 2012 was expected to be a good year. The Tigers would be in their fourth year under Chizik with a host of quality talent on the roster.
As the Tigers prepare to enter the 2012 spring training session, there are numerous questions that will need to be addressed or the hopes for success could be shattered quickly. Auburn has a lot of returning talent, but questions at key offensive positions leave the Tigers looking for answers as soon as possible.
The Tigers also have two new coordinators and a lack of proven leadership. Add to that the gauntlet that is the SEC and it is no easy task making it to the one guaranteed BCS bid that the conference carries. Auburn has a lot to figure out before they are BCS worthy and without answers to these seven problems, the Tigers will be struggling to rest at the top.
Solid Answer at Quarterback
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The saying “beat a dead horse” comes to mind when discussing the Auburn quarterback situation. For two years now the Tigers are having serious questions and issues concerning the quarterback position.
As the New Year begins, the Tigers will have four quarterbacks on their roster, three of whom will go through spring training. Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier both played a year ago with neither leaving the season as the starter. A lot of playing time was split between the two when one quarterback should have gotten the bulk of the snaps.
Auburn will not likely look to split reps or play two quarterbacks this fall. Finding a lone starter and finding him early will be Auburn’s best shot at success this fall. This is the biggest, most pressing issue surrounding the Tigers hunt for a BCS bowl bid.
Established Offensive Line
(Vasha Hunt | Opelika-Auburn News)
Auburn is looking to replace three seniors along a very underperforming offensive line squad from a year ago. The Tigers struggled along the offensive line last season, finding it difficult to gel and play consistently as a unit.
Auburn returns a host of talented offensive linemen so there is a great group to pull from, but there will be a severe lack of upper class leadership. Of course, three seniors a year ago didn’t help the Tigers overachieve so maybe having a youth movement upfront is a good thing for the Tigers.
Auburn’s offensive line coach Jeff Grimes will have the task of using the spring and summer workout period to build an offensive line from the ground up. There is time for the Tigers to find a solid core group and grow the chemistry so that when fall rolls around, the Tigers will have a solid foundation upfront offensively.
(Vasha Hunt | Opelika-Auburn News)
Since Chizik’s arrival on the Plains, the Tigers have struggled mightily on the defensive side of the football. 2010 was the best performance for Auburn defensively in the past few years, but was anything but a record-breaking season.
The Tigers have been extremely inconsistent against the pass but have had some success against the run. They have enough talent this season to bring together a very formidable defense and are looking to new DC Brian VanGorder to make the turnaround happen.
This is the first year that Auburn will have a full allotment of players on the defense to pull from. The defense is very talented with a lot of experience in the secondary. Putting together a shutdown defense takes a lot of talent and a bit of luck. Auburn has the talent, now they have to hope that some luck bounces fall their way this coming fall.
Todd Van Emst
Gene Chizik made two of the toughest decisions of his tenure with the Auburn Tigers this winter session as he hired two new coordinators. The Tigers needed a change on both sides of the ball but changing both coordinators in the same season is never a perfect scenario.
Both OC Scot Loeffler and DC Brian VanGorder have big expectations on the Plains this fall. They bring in passion and expertise that has made them two very highly regarded coordinators.
Loeffler has been a part of some extremely successful offenses and programs while VanGorder was a surprise hire from the Atlanta Falcons. Both coaches have standards of success that will serve Auburn well, but producing quality results in year one is never easy.
Auburn will face some obvious growing pains this fall, but the hope is the talent will override the mistakes both on the field and on the sidelines. Auburn could be on the horizon of a very good 2012 campaign, but the coordinators must settle in early for Auburn to find more success than a year ago.
Youth Still an Issue
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Auburn had a youth movement last year as the Tigers played a host of sophomores and freshmen. This season the youth has more experience than before but the Tigers are still very young across the board at virtually every position.
They'll start one senior on the offensive line, two seniors in the receiving corps and two seniors are expected to start at linebacker. That's five seniors in the starting 22.
Auburn has experience, but there are still a lot of questions that will surround such a young team and whether the Tigers can be consistent. Auburn was the youngest team in major college football a year ago and look to face the same issue this season.
Lack of Proven Leadership
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Auburn needed leadership last year. With so many seniors that departed from the 2010 season, there was not a lot of natural leadership left in the program. The Tigers had players that garnered respect, but nothing that resembled hard leadership.
Emory Blake even stepped out to say that some guys “shut it down” against Georgia last season, further implying that it was a lack of leadership on the field that hurt the Tigers' attempt at a comeback. Some people took his words as too much and off base when in reality Blake was being a leader.
Look for Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen to be leaders for the Tigers this fall. Defensively there are a few seniors to look to, but both Blake and Lutzenkirchen are already leaders and will both have large roles in the Tigers' success this fall. It takes more than two guys to lead a team however, and for Auburn to push forward with double-digit wins and a BCS bowl bid, leaders must develop.
Winning the SEC Is the Only Guarantee
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There are not many guarantees that come with college football, but winning the SEC title leaves the winner with a guarantee, an automatic bowl bid to the BCS All-State Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
Auburn finds itself in the most talented division inside the most talented conference in college football. Winning the SEC West and becoming eventual SEC Champion is the only sure shot the Tigers have at a BCS bowl berth this season.
The Tigers are only two years removed from their last conference title and national title-winning season. There are still players that were a part of that success on the roster, and the Tigers know what it means to win big and how to act once they get there. Auburn looks to be very successful this season, but may be another year or two from a conference title and BCS berth.