I watched Auburn's Spring game in Atlanta on April 20 and came away impressed by some things and less than impressed by most others.
Overall the glass is at least half full and I believe Auburn fans have plenty to look forward to in the upcoming season. Unfortunately spring football is over and we are left to play the 2010 season on message boards and call—in shows until early September.
Better known in some circles as the "annual Red Sox swoon."
Since Auburn football seems to be concerned mostly about moving as fast as humanly possible these days, I'm going to write this article in blitzkrieg fashion. I will not be revealing statistics or offering concrete explanations of why I'm saying what I'm saying.
In the alternative, I'm going to get a super—duper fresh hair cut, emphatically point and chew the hell out of my gum. Surely that will reflect that I know what I'm doing, right?
Things I liked
Auburn has four QB's who could lead them to a minimum of eight wins this year.
The wide receivers and the quarterbacks have been excellently coached together. That tells me that coaches Taylor and Malzahn are the real deal and they work well together.
Auburn's wide receivers are excellent at running routes and catching passes and making yards after the catch. They also hustle. Their blocking has improved.
Mario Fannin is really, really good.
The starting offensive line is boringly efficient. That is a big compliment.
Quindarious Carr is underrated, but not for long.
Antonio Coleman is ready to go. He would play in the dark in an abandoned parking lot. He loves it.
Not so much
I saw defensive backs who did not want to tackle. That is a million times worse than missing a tackle or taking a bad angle.
Elite division one programs do not have that type of player on the roster. I don't know or care if they were first, second or last team. I don't care how many injured defensive backs are supposed to come back and be all—stars. If they do come back healthy and have to leave the field for one play to tie their shoe, the Auburn defense is susceptible. The secondary I saw is, in no way, ready for Ryan Mallett.
The defense is has made no noticeable improvement since playing Northwestern.
Overall talent and athleticism. Depth. Specifically on the defense.
Philip Lutzenkirchen is essentially the same player as Tommy Trott. Same speed, different day.
Second team offensive line.
Cam Newton is no Vince Young. In regards to his talent he is somewhere between Young and that huge kid who plays quarterback for Texas A&M. He was not given more to do in the scrimmage because he doesn't have the ball fakes down just yet. In other words, he is still not clear on who to hand the ball to versus who to fake handing it off to. He absolutely must have his game together by September 9.
Anyway, that is my take on it. Auburn will score points in 2010. Enough points to be above .500. Being a skeptic and prone to conspiracy theory (I've got my eye on you), I don't like all this hush—hush from Chizik. It accomplishes nothing. The latest example I would point to is Chizik being asked if Zac Etheridge would be available to play this year and he gave no indication, yes or no.
The last time I saw this young man in uniform he was lying on a motorized cart with his head stabilized after taking a helmet to helmet hit. He lay motionless on the field for an eternity and had his facemask—not his helmet—removed while he lay there. He did not return to play for the remainder of the year.
Etheridge, Aairon Savage and Mike McNeill are the three defensive backs who, according to Auburn fans, are going to be the prodigal sons of their defensive backfield this year. Chizik did say today that they were all injury free. McNeill missed all of 2009 with an injury and Savage has missed the past two years with injuries. Hell, even I can figure out that they are injury free by now.
The most important thing happening in Auburn football for 2010 is the answer to the question, "Can these three come back and play?" If so, can they still run with speed? Can they get in and out of cuts to keep up with SEC receivers who are at least as good as Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachary? And lastly, will they be capable of repeatedly bringing the wood to running backs like Washaun Ealey, Caleb King, Mark Ingram, Brandon Bolden, Enrique Davis and whoever hasn't quit for Tennessee yet?
Auburn plays their 2010 schedule with four days preparation for their first SEC game at Mississippi State. They play 11 games in a row. They play Clemson as one of those 11.
In April, there is no need for me to make a prediction. My experience has been for the last several months that talking to an Auburn fan is a lot like listening to Lou Holtz talk about Notre Dame.
Next up, Arkansas