While Auburn did not look great last season, returning 16 starters can really energize a fanbase. Tiger fans aren't expecting a national championship in the 2012 season, but being significantly better and giving the rest of the SEC teams a run for their money sure is not out of the question.
It all starts with fall camp as head coach Gene Chizik and company begin to work on the upcoming year that begins in just three weeks.
With the college football regular season set to begin in no time, here are the latest updates, injuries and news on your Auburn Tigers.
The Auburn Tigers are now preparing for week one of the regular season against the Clemson Tigers. There is still no decision on who the starting quarterback is going to be and JaQuay Williams and Darrion Hutcherson still have no idea what their status for the 2012 season is going to be.
"It's getting real close on some of these guys," Chizik said. "It's coming down to the wire. We're trying to evaluate what their status is." (Via Charles Goldberg of al.com)
As for the running back position, projected starter, Onterio McCalebb is the only back who has not suffered some type of injury during camp. However, Chizik says that his team should be fine as they inch closer to kickoff.
"We're getting healthier. I think some of the guys who are banged up are getting healthy enough to practice some. I feel the overall health of our team will continue to improve." Chizik said.
With each passing day, we are getting closer to the regular season opener when Auburn takes on the Clemson Tigers. And as we inch closer, the quarterback position still has no answer whatsoever for the Tigers.
“I’m not sure exactly what he wants,” Frazier said, “but I’m pleased with us. So, he’s the one that makes the decisions, so we’ve got to come out here and do better.”
Meanwhile, freshman Jonathan Wallace continues to impress in fall camp. (Via David Mitchell of the Montgomery Advertiser)
“He’s another guy that I’m really proud of,” Chizik said. “He works really, really hard, day and night, trying to retain information. He’s just done some nice things. I’m really proud of him.”
But while the competition seems to still be up in the air, especially when you throw Clint Moseley into the mix, Chizik said you can expect a decision to be made before the season begins.
We're going to have to really do a great, thorough evaluation of this past week, and some probably over the next week as well. Chizik said. We're definitely going to name a starter before game day. That's going to happen.
Linebacker Jonathan Evans really got off to a slow start because of an injury he suffered in the spring. We knew that Daren Bates and Jake Holland were going to remain in the starting role, but Evans really had to step up and prove himself to the coaching staff.
Turns out, he is getting extremely comfortable in his new role and now it is just getting the little things down to a science. (Via Jason Caldwell of Scout.com)
“I’m still learning and catching up, but everything is starting to fall into place,” Evans said. “I’m starting to get my assignments and the details of the defense. I’m learning the little things.
Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder says he is really impressed with what he has seen from Evans so far, as he has come a very long way. Evans says that you should see an improved defense in 2012 because of the communication that is on that side of the ball.
“I feel like the defense is at one of our strongest points we’ve been as far as communication and the defense bonding together,” Evans said. “We’re just flying around, getting to the ball, doing our job.”
John Sullen healthy
Probably the biggest injury concern for this Auburn team heading into the fall was offensive lineman John Sullen. Good news is that he is now participating fully in practice and looks to lock down his starting left guard position. (Via Ryan Wood of oanow.com)
“There’s plenty of it,” Sullen said when asked about competition along the offensive line. “You take a step back, you might be with the second group. You have to keep getting better every day.
Sullen has played in 38 games throughout his career, seeing majority of action at right guard last season.
Jonathan Evans and Justin Garrett are the two players that continue to battle it out for the starting strong side linebacker position. Evans finished ninth on the team last season with 40 tackles, but missed majority of the spring with a shoulder injury. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder now says that it is one of the more intense battles in camp with both players healthy. (Via Ryan Wood of oanow.com)
“It is right now,” VanGorder said. “I see that situation as being competitive — maybe throughout the season. The more productive and dependable you are, the better chance you'll have for playing time.”
Auburn running back Jovon Robinson continues to be held out of practice while the NCAA investigates allegations that his high school transcript was falsified. Running back Mike Blakely also missed practice with a bruised knee, which may keep him out a couple more practices, although coach Chizik hopes he is back on the field soon.
The Tigers held a scrimmage during the weekend and there is still no front-runner for the starting quarterback position. (Via Ryan Wood of dothaneagle.com)
“Quarterback right now, I just don’t feel like still there’s much separation,” Chizik said. “And there’s got to be some here soon. We know that.”
Clint Moseley was able to throw the football some, after being limited with a sore shoulder for most of fall camp. Kiehl Frazier also said he felt better during the scrimmage, which lasted about 70 to 80 plays on Saturday.
As for Moseley's shoulder, he says he is feeling much better, which gives us a true quarterback controversy in Auburn.
“It felt really good,” Moseley said. “It’s the first time I’ve even thrown the deep ball in a while, much less completed one. I just put it in the air for Lutz, no doubt he’d make the play, and he made it.”
While Auburn remains in the middle of a quarterback battle, Clint Moseley continues to suffer from shoulder pain. He recently underwent an MRI, but the results did not show anything serious that would give Tiger fans anything to worry about.
Still, having a sidelined candidate can't be a good thing when he is trying to compete for the starting position.
It’s probably as frustrating as you can imagine. Moseley said. It’s just right there. I’m learning the offense, I’m trying to be a better leader — all these things — and the one thing I know how to do is the only thing I can’t do right now. (Via Ryan Wood of oanow.com)
Moseley started a few games last season, completing 61 percent of his passes for five touchdowns. He is in a battle with sophomore Kiehl Frazier for the starting position.
Defense is no easy fix
It has been a while since the Auburn Tigers have had a top defense in the SEC, which is why Brian VanGorder is the new defensive coordinator for this team. While there should be an improvement from last season’s horrible performances, he says that it will take patience from Tiger fans (via Charles Goldberg of AL.com):
We've got to gain a consistency just with our knowledge overall of the system from the linebacker position. Of all the positions, the linebackers and the safeties in our system are most difficult. And linebackers being up in the front seven, there's a lot more to what they've got to do in terms of proper alignment and coverage leverage and things right now that we're struggling with.
Auburn plays a high-scoring team in the Clemson Tigers in the season opener, and this defensive unit will need to improve significantly if the team expects to win. VanGorder says that the defense will be improved, but it needs much more time before it can reach elite status.
"I would expect that we would improve through the season," VanGorder said.
Jonathan Wallace receives praise
While the quarterback battle continues between Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley, there is a younger quarterback who is impressing the coaching staff. His name is Jonathan Wallace, a 3-star recruit from the 2012 class.
After Saturday's practice, head coach Gene Chizik said (via Charles Goldberg of AL.com):
He made another couple of really nice throws again today. He's making his share of freshman mistakes, but he's in to it, he's a football guy, and he's trying to soak it up every day.
Spring injuries are still hurting
Auburn had several players that missed spring practices, such as Jonathan Evans to an injury, as well as Ken Carter, Gabe Wright and Nosa Eguae.
Those players are struggling to keep up in the fall camp early on.
“Jonathan, mentally, is behind, and I think he knows it,” Chizik said, via Ryan Wood of OAnow.com. “He's got a long way to go to learn. This spring would have been a huge help for him.”
While they look a little sluggish to begin camp, defensive coordinator Brain VanGorder expects things to be okay.
“Those guys, they’re behind,” VanGorder said. “But they’re good workers and should establish a role on our defense.”
This article will be updated throughout fall camp to provide you with the latest news, injuries and everything else that involves your Auburn Tigers.