The time is quickly approaching for fall football practice, and Auburn fans have much to look forward to this year. So far the team seems to be shaping up much better than predicted by the major pundits.
All of the new players have arrived and enrolled with the exception of Joel Bonomolo who has not arrived yet. It seems there is a delay with clearance from the NCAA clearinghouse, but this is not expected to be a long-term problem.
Jeremy Richardson had some academic hurdles to overcome and enrolled in a school to handle these problems last winter. If all goes well, he is expected to re-sign with Auburn in February.
Shon Coleman is staying close to Memphis to allow for treatment of his unexpected illness. He is in stage two of treatment and is doing well as of the last reports from his mother. He was able to attend his graduation.
Coleman is expected to complete treatment and then re-sign with Auburn in February if everything goes as planned. The entire Auburn Family has been pulling for a full and swift recovery for Shon.
2010 Recruiting Class
Here is a list of the 2010 recruiting class. Fans can go here to see exactly what new players Auburn will have on the team this year. All of them are on board with the exception of the three above, and most expect Joel Bonomolo to be cleared and arrive soon.
There has been a zeal for physical conditioning that has not been apparent in recent years. Both upper and under class-men have been working at a ferocious pace at getting themselves in the best possible shape for the season. Some of the big men have lost a pound or two in the process.
There should be an updated roster with new heights and weights available shortly after fall practice begins. The remarkable and easily recognized change is where the weight is now located on some of these young men.
For some the change is so drastic that it resembles before and after pictures of young men that chose to attend boot camp at Paris Island.
The summer offseason has been used well for the most part. It would seem most of the players have improved their skillset. There are a few that will be challenged for their starting spots by younger players.
My overall impression of the team is more positive than it was at the close of spring practice. As most know, I have predicted Auburn to have difficulties with Arkansas and Georgia this season. It is possible this could need looking at again if improvement continues to develop at the current rate or better.
New Defensive Scheme
In earlier articles the new Auburn defensive strategy was discussed. Auburn moved from a general gang tackling, hive mentality under Will Muschamp to a more individual responsibility based, and open field tackling assignment defense under Paul Rhodes.
Ted Roof is teaching something in between. He teaches players to attack and tackle the ball and cause turnovers, and he makes sure that players support the players in their area and help ensure the tackle takes place. It is more of a localized gang tackling scheme where the object of the first man is to separate the opposition player from the ball.
It seems as if the players are catching on much better in year two, and we can expect for them to get the opposition on the ground much better. Missed tackles will be rarer in 2010 than in 2009.
What a difference a year can make in college football. In 2009 the season started with the play of the Auburn defensive line being the weak point of the team. They failed to attack and keep the opposition's offensive tackles off of the linebackers.
This led to some huge plays being given up on the ground. This was not a new trend; it had been building for a while. In 2004 the Auburn defense gave up a stingy 104.15 yards per game of rushing, and by 2009 that had steadily increased to 156.08 yards per game.
This is not something that will be tolerated at Auburn under the watch of Gene Chizik. This situation improved by the end of the 2009 season and has continued to improve. The play by the defensive line could be the most noticeable improvement for Auburn fans in 2010.
Pressure on opposition quarterbacks causes turnovers. This is a tried and true principle in college football. Auburn did not blitz so much in 2009. This was largely due to a lack of depth on the defensive side of the ball.
In 2010 there will be more pressure put on the quarterback from the front four as well as several blitz packages. This should result in a higher interception rate by a ball hawking defensive secondary.
This is the goal of this defense. They do not simply want to stop the opposition offense; they want to force them into ultra conservative play calling to avoid turnovers. This will, in turn, lead to a higher rate of three and out possessions.
The Auburn offense is going to be fun to watch in year two. The offense's skilled players have been augmented to give offensive coordinator Gus Malzhan more offensive firepower than he has ever had at his disposal.
Both speed and power have been added to the talent on Auburn’s offensive team. Auburn fans are in for pleasant surprises when they see the results of this on the field come September.
Improved Special Teams
Special teams will be solid in the areas of field goal kicking and kickoff returns. There are solid players returning in those spots. Special teams kick and punt coverage will improve with the disallowing of wedge blocking this year.
Auburn has a lot of electrifying new talent that will be participating on special teams. It will be one area for Auburn fans to keep their eyes on. This is the area where dramatic improvement could make the biggest difference. If there is dramatic improvement in special teams, this could catapult Auburn ahead of others in the SEC west.
The 2010 season is starting off looking very solid for Auburn in every area. While there is no area that couldn't improve, there is also no area without the capability to do exactly that.