As spring football practice approaches in the SEC, it is time to take a deeper look at depth charts. For Auburn fans, the depth chart is of little concern. The Tigers have one of the most talented rosters in college football and another loaded recruiting class filled any holes that might have existed.
So it would seem more prudent to take a look at the depth charts of the teams the Tigers will face in 2012. To begin, it's worth noting that Auburn plays every team it lost to in 2011.
Auburn’s oldest rival is Georgia, and thanks to one of the worst defensive performances in Auburn history, the 2011 game was a humiliating defeat. Many Auburn fans will be looking forward to this game.
According to Phil Steele, Georgia returns six offensive starters and nine defensive starters. However, many of those starters were only part time-starters in 2011.
While returning 15 starters looks impressive, it does not quite tell the tale for Georgia this offseason. A little closer look reveals a team that lost both starting offensive tackles, its starting center, two of its three tight ends and two of its six wide receivers. Another of Georgia's starting wide receivers is expected to be asked to play both ways as depth at defensive back has reached the critical point.
To put these losses into focus, Georgia will likely start a center, David Andrews, who is 30 pounds lighter than last year's starter and only has played in parts of 10 games. One of the expected starters at guard or tackle is Austin Long, who has played in two games in three years. Watts Danzler is the other projected starter at tackle. He has has played in three games in his short career.
The two experienced starters, Kenarious Gates (19 games) and Chris Burnette (12 games), are not exactly what most would consider to be experienced offensive linemen. In fact, they were the obvious weakness in the 2011 line that sent three more experienced players to the NFL.
Georgia will likely start an offensive line that has collectively played in 46 games. These are not total starts, but all games where these players crossed the sidelines to enter play for even the briefest moments.
Georgia recruited poorly for offensive linemen in the 2012 class. They brought in three, and none appear to be physically mature enough to have a big impact in SEC play next season.
Two of the three projected starters come from the 2011 class that had six offensive linemen. Of those still remaining on the team, the majority do not appear to be physically ready to step in and produce quality depth next season.
In fact, of the 14 offensive linemen (including walk-ons) that appear on the roster, Georgia will have a hard time fielding two quality offensive lines for spring scrimmages.
Adding to this problem is the fact that Georgia lost both its starting fullback and tight end. Georgia has both the talent and the likelihood of being able to cover losses in the receiving corps, but high-caliber blockers to pick up blitzes do not usually come from high school.
In addition to these offensive woes, Georgia lost both starting cornerbacks. The Bulldogs appear to have three on the roster capable of playing these two positions going into spring practice. There is currently no viable backup for either of the two starting safeties. The top backup at safety was a starting cornerback in 2011. That shows the confidence the staff had in the depth on the roster.
In a move of apparent desperation, Mark Richt has announced that receivers, including one from the playing rotation, will get a look at defensive back in spring practice. Georgia did not recruit a single defensive back in the 2012 class who could add quality depth for next season.
Georgia also must totally rebuild its special teams. The Bulldogs lost both of their kickers and punter along with their best returner to graduation. The replacements are expected to come from the 2012 recruiting class.
Auburn will not only have a deeper offensive line than Georgia for 2012, it will be more experienced. Auburn will field one of the most experienced offensive lines in the SEC again, This does not appear to point to success for Georgia in 2012.
The projected starters for Auburn on the offensive line going into spring practice would appear to be as follows.
Greg Robinson will replace A.J. Greene at left tackle. Greene himself said Robinson would have started over him by the end of last season had he not been red-shirting. It would appear Robinson’s redshirt season was burned when he played against Virginia in the Chic-Fil-A Bowl win.
Chad Slade or John Sullen should begin spring training in competition for the right tackle spot. Both have been starters on the line in the past.
Chad Slade, John Sullen, Eric Mack or Christian Westerman should fill the guard positions. Westerman has no game experience, and Mack has only played against lesser competition.
Reese Dismukes will enter spring training as the leader at center after an All-American freshman season at the position. Auburn has quality depth at this position as well.
Auburn will likely field an offensive line with 73 games of experience.
Georgia will have more experience at the quarterback, defensive line and linebacker. Auburn will have the edge in experience at defensive back, offensive line, running back, receiver, tight end, kicker and punter.