The SEC has a good shot to have another team competing for a national championship this year when the Auburn Tigers take the field.
Tommy Tuberville returns his top four running backs. Junior Ben Tate led the team last year with 900 yards and eight touchdowns. Fellow returning starter Brad Lester returned from his academic suspension to amass 530 yards. Sophomore Mario Fannin added 450 yards and five touchdowns.
However, with Auburn switching to the spread offense, the running game will change, with more one-back sets.
It looks like new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin might run a two-quarterback system. Sophomore Kodi Burns looks to be the hybrid quarterback in the spread option look, while junior Chris Todd looks to have the better arm and presence in the pocket. Burns led the Tigers to a victory in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
The Tigers return their top receiving threats with Rod Smith looking to lead the charge. Smith returns for his senior year after hauling in 52 passes for 700 yards.
The O-line remains intact from last year, with Tyronne Green leading the group from the left guard position. With the loss of King Dunlap last year, most players were baptized by fire.
The defense is led by the big guys in the middle. Sen’Derrick Marks moves to tackle from end and looks to terrorize offenses in between the tackles. Junior end Antonio Coleman looks to raise Cain as a starter after totaling 18 tackles behind the line in spot duty last year.
Linebacker Tray Blackmon looks ready to fulfill his potential at Auburn. He has to stay healthy and on the field if he wants to be recognized as a force in the SEC. Blackmon missed three games and still had 45 tackles. It looks like he will be flanked by senior Chris Evans and sophomore Craig Stevens.
The secondary is led by sophomore safety Zac Etheridge, who finished second on the team last year with 65 tackles. The other safety will be sophomore Mike McNeil. One corner spot belongs to Jerraud Powers. He covers very well and is a good open-field tackler, which will be a great addition to this aggressive defense.
The Tigers welcome their three biggest challengers—Tennessee, LSU, and Georgia—to Jordan-Hare Stadium. The road to Atlanta also leads the Tigers to West Virginia and has them traveling to face Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.