Auburn Football 2012: Preseason Fitness and Conditioning
With spring practices in full flow, the anticipation levels are going up with each day for the 2012 football season. The fact that everybody is a winner before the season, along with rumors of what is possibly going on behind the scenes in practice, fills the fans with excitement.
Speaking of excitement, Auburn fans have a lot to be excited about. What sort of offense is the new OC Scott Loeffler going to end up running. We know it is going to be multiple, how much pro-style and how much spread?
How often is Auburn going to run in the I-formation? Is Loeffler going to use two tight-end sets as often as he did at Temple? How will Phillip Lutzenkirchen's performance look like this season when he does not have to play H-back as often?
Which receiver will step up this year to complement Emory Blake? How ready are Mike Blakely and Corey Grant for SEC defenses? Best of all, how much improvement is seen from Kiehl Frazier and Clint Mosely?
Now, the defense does not have nearly as many questions. Even though new DC Brian VanGorder runs the 4-3 defense that Auburn already had in place, what schematic changes will he bring? How big are the linebackers going to be with VanGorder calling the schemes and the shots.
Can he fill them with the hard-nosed attitude needed to get the defense back to the level Auburn was used to? How is the secondary going to play any different with Willie Martinez on the sidelines? The biggest question, in my opinion, is how ready is the second-team defense when the first-team players need rest?
While Auburn will have experience at first-team defense, the depth behind them is still comprised mainly of freshmen and sophomores. As LSU and Alabama proved last year, depth is critical in the SEC if you want to go through the schedule and come out looking good in the end.
While the answers to most of those questions will come after the season starts, the spring roster report releasing the updated height and weight of players will answer a few of the above questions to at least some degree.
Redshirt Freshman WR Sammie Coates
Coates gained 22 lbs and now stands at 6'3", 200lbs. Coates was expected to make an impact last year before an injury sidelined him for a year. One has to wonder how gaining this much weight affected his speed and explosiveness, and chances are, not much. His 40 was still clocked in the 4.4. This added muscle will also help him be a better blocker.
Redshirt Freshman LB Anthony Swain
Recruited as a 205 lb. safety, he has gained a whopping 40 lbs. and now stands at 6'2", 245 lbs. and will play linebacker. More evidence of the size that VanGorder wants. Having a linebacker of that size with instincts of a safety can only help. Due to inexperience, he likely won't start this year, but will provide valuable depth.
Redshirt Freshmen LB Chris Landrum
Thought as a backup to MLB Jake Holland, he has gained 22 lbs. to now stand at 238 lbs.
Redshirt Freshman DE Keymiya Harrell
Has gained 25 lbs. and now stands at 265 lbs., with a chance to play backup at strongside DE behind Nosa Eguae and Craig Sanders. He impressed coaches last season with his play on scout team.
Redshirt Freshman OG Christian Westerman
He has gained 18 lbs. to now stand comfortably at 298 lbs. A 5-star recruit out of high school, he is projected to be a starter at left guard this season. He has boatload of talent, and the added strength and conditioning will only help.
Sophomore DE LaDarius Owens
Another one with a bright future, he was juggled around at DE and OLB. However, he has gained 15 lbs. to now stand at 250 lbs., and his future now lies at weakside defensive end. Corey Lemonier, Dee Ford and Owens from that position could make for a formidable group.
Sophomore DE Justin Delaine
Has gained 18 lbs. and is now at 255 lbs. He earned playing time at weakside DE behind Corey Lemonier and Dee Ford, and his playing time increased after Ford went down with an injury. He was already fast and agile, but with the added strength, he could be a force along the line.
Senior TE Blake Burgess
He mostly played at offensive center as a backup to Reese Dismukes last season. He has lost 30 lbs. and now is down to 255 lbs. It is just more evidence of how important role tight ends play in Loeffler's offense. He could end up being a dominant blocker at the line of scrimmage.
Sophomore QB Kiehl Frazier
He as gained 18 lbs. and is now at 6'2", 228 lbs. This obviously will help him absorb more punishment as a runner and will make him a mismatch against DBs. However, the focus has been more on his passing ability. He does not figure to run as much in the new offense.
Sophomore DT/DE Devaunte Sigler
This is one guy DL coach Mike Pelton is very excited about. He played at DE last year, has an amazing motor and is relentless. He has gained 33 lbs. and now stands at 295 lbs. He will play at DT, but with this agility, likely will also play at strongside DE.
Junior DT Jeffrey Whitaker
Among the leading candidates for breaking out of the DL in 2012, he has lost 10 lbs. and is now at 300 lbs. He played better than he is given credit for last year.
Sophomore OG Eric Mack
He has gained 15 lbs. and now stands at 6'4", 330 lbs. He reported at 360 lbs. last year and was obviously asked to lose weight. It seems like this time around, the weight gain seems mostly muscle. We will see how that translates on the field though, where he will backup likely John Sullen.
RB Mike Blakely
He reported to Auburn last year at 198 lbs., and has gained eight pounds to now stand at 5'9", 206 lbs. While that is not much to shout about, that could have just helped him when he will take his place as the primary inside runner for the Tigers this season. With his 4.4 speed, he will also be an outside threat and also has ability to be a pass-catcher out of the backfield.
RB Corey Grant
He reported to Auburn at 192 lbs., and has gained 12 lbs. to currently stand at 5'11", 204 lbs. His speed and explosiveness were never in question, and even now, with the added weight, he still has a sub-4.3 speed. He will be threat as a inside runner and on the perimeter.
Corey Lemonier has gained five pounds to stand at 240 lbs. Reese Dismukes has gained 15 lbs. to now stand at 305 lbs. Sophomore RT Chad Slade has gained 10 lbs. to now stand at 315 lbs. Jake Holland has gained five pounds to now stand at 238 lbs. Daren Bates has gained seven pounds to now stand at 212 lbs.
The weights of the linebacker core will be one watched most closely this preseason.
LaDarious Phillips was asked to lose weight and get in the 270 lb. range if he wanted to play H-back and RB in short-yardage situations. However, he has lost all of two pounds and stands at 293 lbs. (Honestly, for someone that big, a two-pound fluctuation could be a weekly thing.)
There are a couple of ways to look at this. One is that he will now have to earn playing time at DT. But with Jeffrey Whitaker, Kenneth Carter, Gabe Wright, Angelo Blackson and Devaunte Sigler waiting in the wings, that is just not going to happen, this year or the next.
Not only that, but the word is that he will play fullback in this new offense. Fullbacks at 290 lbs. are rare, but not unheard of. He is still athletic enough to do so, and that will be a treat to watch.
So that is all there is. Let your opinions and analytical mind go into full flow on what all this means.
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