Auburn Football: 5 Things That Will Keep Gene Chizik Up at Night
As the Auburn Tigers find themselves in the heart of the dead season for college football, Gene Chizik has five things that will keep him up at night while he is away from his team.
College football has very strict rules against player and coach interaction during the offseason, leaving the majority of the summer workout sessions to be guided by leaders on the football team. No whistles or consequences are present; summer workouts are a choice.
Auburn has a few questions that are scattered throughout the lineup, with the most obvious concern being the quarterback battle. Don’t forget the youth on the offensive line, or the battle that comes with transitioning to new systems on offense and defense in the offseason.
With a number of pressing issues remaining on the docket, Gene Chizik will look to find solutions this offseason to these five concerns that could cause sleepless nights in Auburn, Ala.
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The Auburn quarterback race has become one of the most talked about position battles this spring and summer across the SEC landscape.
Auburn has junior Clint Moseley and sophomore Kiehl Frazier battling for the starting position. This spring it appeared that Frazier took a bit of a lead with Moseley falling to a shoulder injury early during spring practice.
Moseley battled back from the injury and finished the spring by completing 4-of-5 passes in the spring A-Day game. Frazier was 7-of-9 in the game.
At this point, most have penciled in Frazier as the starter, but the coaches have yet to make a formal announcement. Until the announcement is made, this will be a major point of concern for Chizik.
Having a clear-cut leader to guide the team during offseason workouts is huge for team continuity and growth. With no definitive leader just yet, sleep will be lacking for Chizik.
Offensive Line Development
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Gene Chizik is not concerned with the talent along the offensive front as they head into the 2012 season. He is concerned with the experience.
Auburn will build a starting line from one senior and 14 sophomores and freshmen. The Tigers have a wealth of talent and some sophomores that have earned spot play, but the majority of the line will lack experience.
Looking at the possible combination of starters for the Tigers upfront, Auburn may start three freshmen. Those freshmen look to be Greg Robinson, Christian Westerman and Patrick Miller. Reese Dismukes will be a rising sophomore, and John Sullen is the lone senior upfront.
The Tigers have recruited better than any other team in the country at the offensive line position in the past three recruiting cycles, but how well these guys will play together has yet to be discovered.
Auburn will start the season with a tough matchup against Clemson, not leaving a lot of time for growing pains. This may be a larger concern for Chizik than the quarterback position.
Transition of Coordinators' Systems
Offensive Coordinator Scot Loeffler checks calls with QB Clint Moseley during 2012 A-Day/ Photo by Todd Van Emst
One of the biggest concerns for the Tigers this offseason is the ability for the team to catch on quickly to the new offensive and defensive schemes. Gene Chizik hired two new coordinators after the 2011 season, changing the identity of the Tigers on offense and defense.
Auburn had 15 practices to install as much of the new systems as possible, with growth occurring on both sides of the ball. Auburn has a long way to go before they are "game ready," however, making summer workouts extremely important this summer.
The Tigers will try to gain as much knowledge about the systems as possible without a lot of guidance from the coaches, making this a tough transition for the team and coaching staff.
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Auburn’s linebacker depth is a concern yet again as the Tigers head into the 2012 season.
Auburn will enter the fall practice session with very few options with experience at the linebacker position, which is the shortest depth chart of any position on the team.
The Tigers have leadership at the position with senior Daren Bates and junior Jake Holland listed as the starters at outside linebacker and middle linebacker. The other outside linebacker position is a toss-up between senior Jonathan Evans and redshirt freshman Kris Frost.
Evans had to sit the spring practice period out with injury, but will be back in the fold this fall. Most signs are pointing toward Frost earning the start, which will put a severe experience gap in the linebacker corps this fall.
Auburn will return some experienced backups with Justin Garrett and Ashton Richardson, but after those two the Tigers have very little if any game-day experience.
Gene Chizik is undoubtedly worried about this position group as it is the heart of the defense. Any injury that occurs to the starting three could be disastrous this season.
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The Tigers have a lot of questions in the receiver department heading into the 2012 season.
This will be a position that will get a lot of focus this summer and coming fall. It will also be the cause of sleepless nights for Coach Chizik.
Auburn has recruited well at the position and has a ton of talented guys, but few have shown any signs of excellence.
Outside of Emory Blake, the Tigers are hurting for production from the outside. I would expect the Tigers to utilize a number of different guys early on, trying to find the right mix.
Until that mix is found, I would expect this to be a major concern for Auburn.