Auburn enters the 2008 season with a brand new offense that is sure to showcase more players than ever before. The defense should be solid as always.
Here's a look at the playmakers on both sides of the ball to keep an eye out for as well as the top 10 Auburn players.
WHO TO WATCH ON OFFENSE?
#18 Kodi Burns, QB, Sophomore
Strengths: Burns has a very strong arm, but his biggest attribute is his legs. Burns brings a real dual threat to the offense that could be dangerous to opposing defenses. He's also a tough runner for a QB.
Weaknesses: Kodi still has to work on the fundamentals. His footwork and accuracy is still a work in progress, but he made huge strides in the spring as Auburn's most improved player.
#27 Mario Fannin, RB/WR, Sophomore
Strengths: Fannin in a word is a beast. At 215 pounds, he's a very tough runner, great hands as a receiver, great speed. Fannin has the ability to be a really dynamic player in the new offense. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry last year with 7 TD.
Weaknesses: Fannin had some issues with fumbling the ball early last season, but looked to have corrected that by the end of the season.
#44 Ben Tate, RB, Junior
Strengths: Tate has good size at almost 220 pounds, tough runner inside, but also possesses the speed to get down the field. Tate also has good hands out the backfield. Tate was Auburn's leading rusher in a crowded backfield last year with 960 yards and 8 TD.
Weaknesses: Tate really does all the little things well, that's why he was in the lineup as a freshman. If there's one thing he can work on it would be becoming a better blocker, in both the run game when given the chance and picking up blitzes. But he's not bad at that either.
WHO TO WATCH ON DEFENSE?
#8 Jerraud Powers, CB, Junior
Strengths: Powers has quick hips and is a physical corner. He always finds a way to get his hands on the ball with 4 interceptions last year, and is good in run support with 60 tackles last year.
Weaknesses: At 5'10, Powers lacks big time height against taller receivers, but that hasn't been much of an issue so far.
#52 Antonio Coleman, DE, Junior
Strengths: Coleman biggest strength is his toughness. At 255 pounds, he plays the run very well and is a very physical player. He didn't start until his 6th game last year because of a Quentin Groves injury, he still had 19 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. Coleman is also on the 2008 Bronko Nagurski watch list as the best defensive player in the nation.
Weaknesses: Coleman is a fairly complete player, but one thing he could improve on his first step off the line. He doesn't have Groves kind of speed off the edge, he relies more on technique and the bull rush. If Coleman gets quicker off the line, watch out.
#10 Tray Blackmon, MLB, Junior
Strengths: Blackmon is a good run stuffer and plays very physical. He also has great instincts to get to the football and has become a vocal leader on defense.
Weaknesses: Blackmon has been bothered by some injuries and off the field problems two years ago. If he can stay healthy he's an impact player.
Watch Blackmon in action: http://youtube.com/watch?v=qKnCbvsxDGc
WHO'S READY TO BREAKOUT?
#5 Tommy Trott, TE, Junior
Trott was one of the best TE's in the nation coming out of high school but hasn't been in an offense that utilizes his skills like the one he's in now. He will be playing the Y position in the spread and has a good chance to catch a lot of passes and be a weapon for this Auburn offense.
BEST PLAYER ON OFFENSE:
#1 Brad Lester, RB, Senior
Strengths: Lester strength is his quickness. He has the ability to make something out of nothing, runs very hard, and is a fierce competitor. Also has very good vision for cutback lanes and where the holes are to run through.
Weaknesses: He still needs to improve his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield as a receiver. He will be utilized more in that way in the new offense so that's a priority.
Watch Lester in action: http://youtube.com/watch?v=cmNpQn1vUXw
BEST PLAYER ON DEFENSE:
#94 SenDerrick Marks, DT, Junior
Strengths: Marks is very versatile. He earned All-freshman honors as a DT, then played DE last year, and now is back inside. He is extremely athletic for his size is one of the best in the SEC. Marks had 45 tackles last year, 10 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, he also had a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception and blocked two field goals. He was recently voted to the Playboy Preseason All-American team and is on the 2008 Bronko Nagurski watch list for the best defensive player in the nation as well.
Weaknesses: There really isn't any glaring weaknesses in his game, but if he has something he can work on it would be at the point of attack. At 290 pounds, he isn't the normal 300 pound tackle, so he has to be that much better at technique inside to shed big offensive linemen.
Top 10 Tigers Overall:
1. SenDerrick Marks, DT, Junior
2. Antonio Coleman, DE, Junior
3. Jerraud Powers, CB, Junior
4. Lee Ziemba, OL, Sophomore
5. Tyronne Green, OL, Senior
6. Tray Blackmon, LB, Junior
7. Brad Lester, RB, Senior
8. Zac Etheridge, FS, Sophomore
9. Ben Tate, RB, Junior
10. Michael McNeil, SS, Sophomore
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