The Tommy Tuberville era ended with a foul taste, as the Tigers had a losing season. Last year Tuberville tried to run a spread offense but scrapped that plan midway through the season and went back to a more traditional offense.
New head coach Gene Chizik will attempt to bring the spread to the Plains once again.
The offense will run through the hands of quarterback Kodi Burns. Meanwhile, Chris Todd and Neil Caudle pressed Burns for playing time during spring practice. Burns is the best-suited guy to play in the spread system.
The available receivers for the fall are limited with Montez Billings the only returning starter. Terrell Zachery, Tim Hawthorne, and Darvin Adams are battling to show the new coaching staff that they deserve to play on Saturday.
The biggest playmaker for the Tigers will be H-back Mario Fannin. Fannin is a threat no matter how he gets the ball. He can run, pass, and catch.
Behind Fannin is Tommy Trott, a converted tight end who is a talented ball player.
The O-line looks to be a group of big boys, looking to push opposing teams around. Ryan Pugh will be the center with Mike Berry and Byron Isom lining up at guards. The guys protecting the outside at tackles will be Andrew McClain and Lee Ziemba.
The defensive backfield looks to be the strongest part of Auburn this year. After losing Jerraud Powers to the NFL Draft, the Tigers still return three starters.
The leader of the defense is free safety Zac Etheridge. Strong safety Mike McNeil and cornerback Walter McFadden also return. McFadden is a lockdown corner who will slow down any opposing passing game.
Neiko Thorpe and Aairon Savage are looking to claim the other corner spot, and either one of those players will be a great compliment to the rest of the defense.
The Tigers have one of the best ends in the country. Antonio Coleman led the team in sacks a year ago with six. Across the line, Michael Goggans will return at the other end spot.
The Tigers have new defensive tackles as Jake Ricks and Mike Blanc look to replace Sen'Derrick Marks and Tez Doolittle. The linebacking corps is moving over without Tray Blackmon. Juniors Craig Stevens and Josh Bynes will flank the outside, and sophomore Eltoro Freeman will claim the middle.
The Tigers will play Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, West Virginia, Ball State, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Furman, and Alabama on the plains. However, Coach Chizik will lead his team into Neyland Stadium to face Tennessee, and they will also travel to Arkansas, LSU, and Georgia.
The Tigers have a lot of talent. However, I have some major issues with the offensive philosophies and the ability of quarterback play.
I think they have two of the best offensive threats in Ben Tate and Mario Fannin. On defense the defensive backs will lead a defensive that should be very aggressive to make up for the lackluster effort of the offense.
The Tigers will finish the 2009 season 6-6.
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