Reading the usual abundance of preseason guesses coming out about the SEC in general and about the Auburn Tigers specifically is a chore at times.
The popular phrase this year seems to be "defense wins championships." This is ridiculous; never was there a statement more misguided.
We've figured out some accomplishments required to become a champion. If defense won championships North Carolina would be the reigning ACC Champion. There has never been an unbalanced champion in the modern era of college football.
The Auburn staff knows this and they have been patiently building what they hope will be a collective juggernaut. It is a simple concept of teamwork and cooperation. It is based on the concept that each unit must be effective and balanced while supporting the overall concept.
This is uncharted territory for this staff. 2010 looks to be the first year when Auburn fans can witness the effect of the total concept. Now let’s take a look at that overall concept and how it should work.
During the 2009 season, special teams did not support the total concept. Punt and kickoff coverage was less than stellar, punts and kicks were fumbled, mistakes were made, and it put the Auburn defense in untenable situations regularly.
For 2010 Auburn has a new iron-footed kicker who can achieve touchbacks on a regular basis. This will be a net gain of more than 10 yards for every touchback when compared to kickoff coverage in 2009. This will certainly help the Auburn defense.
In 2009 punts were muffed, resulting in turnovers and no return yardage. This put both the Auburn defense and offense in several precarious situations through the 2009 season.
The team has worked hard at finding some sure-handed returners and this will certainly help in 2010. There are also some potentially very good return specialists coming in the freshman class.
Auburn fans will be happy to see proof of a proficient return unit in 2010. This will not only be welcomed by fans but will also help the defense and offense regularly. We all hope the days of fumbled kicks and punts resulting in turnovers and poor field position are over.
The Auburn offense was much better in 2009. There was one area in which it struggled. There were many times when the offense failed to drive the ball. Having reviewed hundreds of plays, it is easy to see that this was the result of poor execution.
The Auburn offense was great at scoring, but failed to improve field position for the defense on possessions that did not result in a score. There were brilliant plays called in most of these circumstances. In year two, the offense should improve on execution and become more consistent on the drive.
This will result in a more rested defense starting in a better position. There were very few drives stopped by superior defensive plays by the opponent in 2009. Usually the defense was exactly where the offense wanted them.
The Auburn defense is in year two of a strategy change. They will focus on taking the ball from the opponent and forcing three-and-outs. This is a strategy designed around the Auburn offense.
The goal of the defense is to get the ball back into the Auburn offense's hands as quickly as possible. Preventing opponents from sustaining long drives is paramount to this strategy. This will be the first year in which all of the elements of this defense are in place.
If it works as designed, the ball should spend more time in the hands of the Auburn offense. This will allow the Auburn offense to wear out opposing defenses and improve time of possession. This is a key element in the Auburn strategy for winning games in 2010.
All of the Auburn units must come together in 2010 for success. The offensive unit will be the strength of the team. They must execute proficiently and drive the ball to support the defense and special teams.
The defensive unit must not allow sustained drives and must keep the ball in the hands of the offensive unit as much as possible. They must be aggressive, force play, and take away the ball.
Special teams must help gain field position for the offense and defense with proficient play. They must eliminate mistakes and do their job. They do not have to be great; they simply have to be consistent
If these things occur, Auburn fans will see a very good team in 2010.