This is my first article on b/r. While I am in no danger of being hired by Sports Illustrated, I will try to make sure my articles are well thought and researched. Any and all comments are appreciated.
As they often do to in sports, the media has led most to believe the Auburn Tigers are doomed to a lifetime of mediocrity after one bad season and a coaching change. These things happen from time to time to all teams.
Contrary to what most outlets would have you believe, they aren't the end of the world. So, I present three reasons why Auburn is in better shape than you think.
Most recent references to Auburn's talent would lead one to believe they haven't had a highly regarded recruit since Bo Jackson. The biggest reason for this is, IMO, the Alabama's recent recruiting success. Alabama and Auburn are compared in everything, every day of the year.
If you are familiar with the rivalry, you know what I mean, if you are not, it is impossible to describe.
While 'Bama has had monster recruiting classes the last two years, Auburn did not fall of the map completely. Auburn's last four recruiting classes were ranked ninth, 6th, 18th, and 16th by Scout and 10th, seventh, 20th, and 19th by Rivals.
That, taken into account with the subjective nature of recruiting, puts Auburn right up there in the talent department.
To put it into perspective, Texas Tech, Oregon State, and Utah had very successful seasons and posted some of the biggest upsets of 2008. Their 2008 recruiting classes were ranked 45th, 52nd, and 60th, respectively.
2. The offense will be greatly improved
Let's start with the obvious: It certainly wont be any worse. That said, let's look back at the Tony Franklin fiasco.
Franklin likes to set up the run with the pass. Sounds backwards, huh? Especially for a team long known for a power running game. It's an offense in which he wants his lineman to be slender and quick instead of big and strong.
This may work in the Sunbelt Conference and High School, the places where "The System" found success, but NOT in the SEC.
Coaches across the nation have long said that huge, athletic defensive linemen are one of the main things that separate the SEC from the rest. SEC teams need big O-linemen, not slender ones.
What we found out pretty quick is the slimmed down front couldn't pass protect long enough for the slow developing option routes to work and couldn't run block on the few running plays in the offense.
That goes a long way towards explaining why the best output Franklin's system had at Auburn was the 2007 Chick fil a Bowl. The linemen were still physical.
Mix that philosophy with the assistants that were at Auburn for 10 years relying on power running and defense, you have a recipe for disaster. And a disaster it was. One so bad that every coach involved ended up unemployed.
Gus Malzahn's and Tony Franklin's playbooks are as different as the wishbone and the Fun n' Gun. They are night and day. To use the term "spread" to refer to both offenses is ridiculous.
"Spread is a term that has become too general (I'm going to write an article soon to elaborate this point so I won't get into that) but suffice it to say the 2008 and 2009 versions of Auburn's offense will be totally different.
Malzahn took Arkansas to the SEC title game in 2006 with his offense and he has talent on par with that at Auburn. He also has a staff with some of the best position coaches in the game. AND they are all on the same page.
3. The defense will be fine.
Auburn will have a great defense. "What?", you say. Well, they had one last year, ranking 29th in total defense and 14th in scoring defense. Had they not been stranded on the field by the sputtering offense, these numbers would have been drastically better.
With Chizik, whose units at Texas and Auburn were ranked as some of the nations best wining 28 straight games combined, and Roof who is a great defensive mind in his own right, the Auburn defense should remain one of the nations elite.
While there are plenty of unanswered questions, as well as plenty of doubters, there are also some reasons to believe Auburn will bounce back.