With the start of the season less than 80 days away, it is time for Auburn fans to start getting familiar with some players that will be making an impact. The following players will likely see the field regularly in 2010. How well they perform could help determine what kind of season 2010 will be.
Most of these players are not starters. Their performance will allow for the starters to maintain fresh legs throughout the season. This is especially important for the big guys on the defensive line.
Players that will make an impact:
Joel Bonomolo is a 6’3”, 250 lbs defensive end that is cat quick and a nightmare for quarterbacks. He will contend for playing time immediately and is the type of player that can be a game changer. He will contribute to a very impressive defensive line.
Nosa Eguae had earned playing time in 2009 as a defensive end. He then had an unfortunate injury that caused him to miss the rest of the 2009 season and redshirt. It did not hurt him any, as by every measure he is even better this year.
Craig Sanders was at spring practice and progressed very well at defensive end. Some Auburn fans already got a glimpse of him in the A-Day game.
Jeffrey Whitaker is a 6’3” 315 lbs defensive tackle that has been working very hard in the off season to come in and immediately challenge for playing time. Rumor has it that he sports 22 inch biceps from his intense training.
Kenneth Carter is 6’5” 270 lbs of mean defensive lineman. He is extremely athletic and could play both defensive end and defensive tackle in certain circumstances.
Michael Dyer is 5’8” 220 lbs of muscle that is ready to learn to carry the football in the SEC. He will be allowed to learn at his own pace behind Mario Fannin and Onterio McCalebb.
Trovon Reed and Antonio Goodwin are two kick returners, punt returners, receivers, cornerbacks; athletes that have sub-4.5 forty playing speed. They will be utilized by Gus Malzhan in some capacity. Both of these young men have a serious vertical ability as well.
Players that could make an impact:
While this might not seem like a big impact—it is. Having these players to come in and sub in games will allow the starters to maintain fresh legs throughout the eleven game gauntlet that starts September 4th . Some of them might even be starters at some point if they work hard enough.
Harris Gaston missed most of 2009 with injuries. He will return in 2010 to help provide depth at the linebacker position.
Demetruce McNeil will provide some depth at safety. He will be asked to produce early if more experienced players have injury problems.
Some familiar names that will be back in 2010:
Zach Clayton was injured in 2009 and this hampered his contribution. He will be ready to make a mark on the SEC in 2010. He can play both defensive tackle and defensive end. At 6’3” 293 lbs., he is quick enough to help shore up a powerful defensive line.
Mike McNeil was injured and missed the 2009 season at Auburn. He is back for 2010 and ready to make an impact at safety. He was able to participate in spring practice. He has had a full season of strength and conditioning to get him back to playing speed.
Aairon Savage was injured and missed the 2009 season. He petitioned the NCAA and was granted a sixth year of eligibility. He can play both corner and safety and will get his chance in 2010.
Players that could have a break out year:
Nick Fairley is expected to have a great year at defensive tackle. He has worked hard and improved his technique. He could easily be a game changing player this year.
T'Sahrvan Bell spent most of 2009 learning his role at defensive back. He finished the year with a two interception performance against Northwestern. If he continues to improve, he could add some much needed firepower to the defensive secondary.
Mario Fannin has been a very versatile player during his Auburn career. This year he has moved back to the more natural running back position. He is finally healthy, and ready to make an impact. He is set to shock the SEC in 2010.
Quindarius Carr the light seems to have finally shifted toward him this year. He has the speed and elusiveness to make an impact. All indications point to him having a breakout year. He is a definite deep threat at receiver and can turn a bubble screen into an impact play quickly.
Unit most likely to have a breakout year:
This was a difficult choice to make. While some would point to the incredible potential of the Auburn offense, others would point to the need for improvement on the special teams unit.
The Auburn offense will be better, more consistent, and more dangerous in 2010. They have upgraded the performance at every position. Players like senior offensive tackle Lee Ziemba have dedicated themselves to becoming more technically proficient in execution.
This has led to improvements in execution that every Auburn fan will immediately see on the field this fall. The improved execution will lead to more sustained drives and more scoring.
The special teams unit has the potential to be the most improved. In truth, other than field goal kicking, it had a long ways to go. Improved coverage speed, longer kicking ability, longer punting ability are all factors that could impact this unit.
None of this has been put together at this point. It is a sure bet that this unit as a whole will improve, but how much depends on several variables.
My prediction for the unit that will have the biggest break out in 2010 goes to the Auburn defense.
Thanks to the diligent work of Coach Tracy Rocker, the improvement along the defensive line is remarkable. In this unit from game one in 2009 to the seasons end was impressive and was even more so by the end of spring practice.
Added talent and depth to this unit looks to create a nightmare for quarterbacks and rushing offenses alike. If this defensive line continues to improve and work hard, it has the potential to steal the show in 2010.