This is the time of year when a lack of factual information about college football leads to a smorgasbord of speculation about the teams. Fans and pundits can attempt to foretell the future and this might lead to some interesting points of view, but we must keep in mind that none of this is factual.
We do know some facts about Auburn football for the upcoming season. These facts help with speculation, but it is still just speculation. There are literally thousands of vectors of influence that cannot be considered until we see how the season actually plays out.
In the interest of adding to this mass speculation, the following is submitted to all fans in an attempt to fuel some more intelligent speculation on the coming season.
Auburn is no longer a largely inexperienced team. They return more players that received playing time in 2011 than any other SEC team. Only Tennessee returns more starters.
Coach Brian VanGorder is new to Auburn, but very experienced and seasoned in the SEC and NFL. He has fielded a successful defense every year he has been a defensive coordinator. He has been a defensive coordinator at the college or professional level for 11 seasons. He has produced excellent results for each of those years.
Coach Willie Martinez was the successful secondary coach for Coach Brian VanGorder in more than half of those successful seasons at three different stops. He has more SEC experience than VanGorder. He was also a decent defensive coordinator at Georgia where his defenses ranked No. 12 in 2005; No. 8 in 2006; No. 14 in 2007; No. 22 in 2008 and No. 38 in 2009.
Coach Martinez was considered a failure as a defensive coordinator by many Georgia fans. He also had very little success after being fired at Georgia to save Coach Mark Richt’s job. His next job was coaching the secondary at Oklahoma in Coach Brent Venables passive, 4-3 defensive scheme.
The one thing almost everyone agrees on is that Coach Martinez had an excellent secondary when combined with an aggressive front seven scheme for over a decade.
His pass defenses at Georgia were ranked in the top 10 in multiple seasons.
One of the things that really stands out about his tenure at Oklahoma is the 15 interceptions his secondary produced with the 23rd-ranked pass efficiency defense in the nation.
Auburn defended 926 plays in 2011, less than 40 teams defended over 900 plays. Of those only three finished the year with defenses ranked in the top 25 nationally. Only one of those teams ran a hurry-up offense (Arkansas State 24).
Not a single SEC offense produced more than 900 plays in 2011.
Scot Loeffler is inexperienced as an offensive coordinator. He was not running an offense of his design at Temple last season. He has a ton of potential and one of the most talented offensive rosters in the nation to work with. He has both experienced play callers and former offensive coordinators on his offensive staff at Auburn.
Even with the change of coordinators and position coaches, Auburn still has more staff stability than Alabama or Arkansas for the upcoming season. While LSU has more staff stability than Auburn, they might have benefited from more change on the offensive staff for this season.
Auburn will likely not have problems on the defensive side of the field this season. The track record of the new staff is about as conclusive as one can get in the preseason. Auburn will likely have a very solid and very aggressive defense in 2012 that will produce more turnovers than has been the case for the last few years. Coach VanGorder does not face the talent or roster problems he has overcome at previous NCAA stops in his career. It is likely his first-year results will exceed those of previous stops.
Auburn will have an NFL style practice to help players progress at their positions under VanGorder. This will maximize the efficiency of time when coaches are allowed to lead practice at the collegiate level.
Auburn fans can expect a huge shift in the performance of the Tiger defense this season. Fans can also assume this will not be enough to carry the team to Atlanta come season’s end.
For Auburn to make it to Atlanta, it will take equal improvement from the offense. How the offense performed in 2011 really has little to do with how it should perform in 2012. There will be new blocking schemes for the offensive line and a new offensive style for the entire team.
It is likely the final results of the Auburn Tigers will rest more with the organizational skills of Scot Loeffler than any other member of the Auburn staff. If Loeffler is able to assemble a consistent offense for the 2012 season the chant of War Eagle could resound in the Georgia Dome to start and end the regular season.