A lot of the talk this offseason concerning Auburn football has been centered around the new offensive system installed by slick talking, playbook peddling Tony Franklin and the ongoing quarterback race between Kodi Burns and Chris Todd. There has been little to no talk concerning the other Auburn Tigers (save Sen'Derrick Marks). Well that stops here.
In my totally biased opinion, Auburn has talent all over the field on both sides of the ball. Here is a quick rundown on who I think will have the biggest impact and or breakout this season.
Mario Fannin, RB/ WR/ KR
Last season saw Fannin rush for 448 yards (5.3 ypc) combined with 146 yards receiving (4th best on team). Fannin had some early season fumble issues but he came on strong at the end of the year and looked impressive running the new offense against Clemson. He will more than likely spend most of this season in the slot. Look for him to get 10-15 touches a game.
Robert Dunn WR/ PR
One word describes Robert Dunn: shifty. He may lack breakaway speed and sometimes his hands commit acts of betrayal, but sweet Lord is he shifty- like a small dog or a lizard. Dunn will most likely line up in the slot opposite Fannin. He is also a weapon in the return game where he averaged 9.4 yards per return with a long of 57 yards last season.
Tommy Trott TE/ Large WR
Tommy Trott struggled in the Al Borges grind it out, play-action offense the last two seasons. He has shown himself to not be a great blocker and his hands seemingly disappeared last season but he is due for a renaissance. Saint Tony has arrived and he has brought Tommy the gift of the hybrid TE/ WR position. Trott will no longer have to block large, angry defensive ends or drift into the flat on that one play action pass Borges really, really liked. He can now focus on one thing: catching the football.
Both Tuberville and Franklin spoke highly of Trott's improvement this spring. Watch for him to have an All-SEC type year.
Tray Blackmon LB/ Mercenary/ Headhunter
Tray Blackmon likes to hurt. His nickname is the "Little Ball of Hate" but the only thing little about him is his stature (take that as you will). Just ask Glenn Coffee and Felix Jones. If Blackmon can stay away from trouble and injuries, he will be a force for Auburn in the middle this season. It is also rumored that he will fight the mascot of the opposing team on the Friday before games. Look for him to easily dispatch with each. He may have to try against Mike the Tiger.
Antonio Coleman DE
Last season, Coleman outperformed the more hyped and recent 2nd round pick Quentin Groves. He led the team with 8.5 sacks and emerged as a consistent, every down defensive end. With Marks drawing doubles inside, Coleman should once again be free to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Namely John Parker Wilson.
Jerraud Powers DB
Powers experienced every conceivable emotion a football player can have. From getting beat on the last play of the game against LSU to making a crucial interception against Alabama. He should lock down one side of the field next season. Forcing either Aairon Savage or Walter McFadden to step up on the other. Powers should only get better with defensive back guru Paul Rhoads dispensing his sage like advice.
And there you have it, six impact/ breakout players for the Auburn Tigers in 2008. Oh yeah, watch out for that Kodi Burns guy too this fall.