Auburn Football: Scariest Players on Gene Chizik's Squad

Derek Piper@@FeelDaPaignCorrespondent IAugust 17, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Onterio McCalebb #23 of the Auburn Tigers stiff arms Rodney McLeod #4 of the Virginia Cavaliers during the 2011 Chick Fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 2011 Auburn Tigers were not scary by any means in the minds of the SEC's top teams last season.

After hoisting the crystal trophy at the end of the 2010-11 season, loss of significant contributors like quarterback Cam Newton and defensive tackle Nick Fairley took away much of the Tigers' bite the following year.

Gene Chizik's squad struggled on the road against the conference's elite, losing games at Arkansas, LSU and Georgia by a combined score of 128-31.

The Tigers offense was caged for most of the season due to poor quarterback play, and their defense was frail, ranking 11th in the SEC in total defense (408 yards per game).

However, there is optimism that the Tigers will turn it around this season. While no player on the roster will give opposing coaches Newton-sized nightmares, the Tigers have a few key players that will have big seasons in 2012.

Here are Auburn's three scariest players this season.


Corey Lemonier (DE)

Despite the struggles of their defensive unit, the Tigers were blessed with one of the best defensive ends in the country last season.

Corey Lemonier, a 2011 first-team All-SEC selection by the coaches, led the Tigers with 13.5 tackles for loss, including 9.5 sacks (fourth in the conference).

The 6'4", 246-pound junior will have the attention of opposing offensive coordinators this season, as he is a candidate for the Ted Hendricks Award (top DE in the country) and the Bronko Nagurski Award (nation's top defensive player).

Lemonier's quarterback pressure will be instrumental in improving what was a shaky defense in 2011.


Philip Lutzenkirchen (TE)

Whoever starts at quarterback for the Tigers this season will have the benefit of throwing to one of the most dangerous tight ends in the nation.

His name may take a while to say, but it did not take long for Lutzenkirchen to become an Auburn fan favorite.

Teammates call him Mr. Touchdown; fans scream the loudest when his name is called; and Alabama fans still cringe watching Lutzenkirchen catch the go-ahead touchdown in Auburn's 28-27 victory two years ago.

The senior tight end led the Tigers with seven touchdown grabs in 2011, and will be featured more as a receiving threat this season, according to an article by the Ledger-Enquirer.

If they don't know him by now, fans around the country will be quick to learn the name Lutzenkirchen in 2012.


Onterio McCalebb (RB)

Running back Onterio McCalebb knows how to gain yardage. Whether he is taking handoffs, catching passes or returning kicks, the senior playmaker is one of the most versatile weapons in all of college football.

McCalebb ran for more than 640 yards with five touchdowns on 112 carries last season and will play a more prominent role this season with the absence of the SEC's 2011 second-leading rusher, Michael Dyer.

McCalebb is also a threat out of the backfield, hauling in 32 receptions last season (second on the team).

With his sub-4.4 speed, McCalebb is one of the fastest players in the country. That alone should keep opposing coaches awake at night.