Yesterday, I took a look at some of the questions that have been answered from Fall Camp thus far (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/441801-auburn-football-2010-questions-that-fall-camp-has-answered). Today, we look at some of the questions that remain unanswered, with the first game less than two weeks away.
Who Will Back Up Cam Newton?
Senior Neil Caudle was the favorite to be the backup, but Barrett Trotter and Clint Mosley came on strong. Gus Malzahn has said he’s confident that all four quarterbacks can run the offense successfully.
Trotter has a ton of potential, but was slowed by an ACL injury last season. He has returned in 2010 and by all accounts, appears to have regained his prior form. I think he will emerge as the backup to Newton, but nothing has been decided publicly yet.
Who Will Start at Right Tackle?
This has probably been the most intriguing position battle this fall. Junior college newcomers Roszell Gayden and Brandon Mosley were supposed to be fighting for the starting right tackle spot, but lately, AJ Greene and Auburn High School product John Sullen have been splitting the first team reps.
No matter who wins the job, depth will be much better on the offensive line this season. All four that have competed for the job will get a chance next season after Ziemba, Pugh, Berry, and Isom graduate. I’ll go with AJ Greene to start in week one, but don’t count out Sullen or Mosley.
What will the special teams look like?
With a deeper team, expect Chizik to fill the special teams with talented and athletic newcomers. However, we won’t know who is playing where until the Arkansas State game. The only guarantees are that Wes Byrum will be the placekicker and Demond Washington will return kickoffs.
Tons of players have taken turns at punt returner, but no one has taken the job yet. Freshman Steven Clark has challenged former starter Ryan Shoemaker for the punting job. No starter has been named.
Will the Special Teams be Any Better?
It’s hard to expect any more out of Wes Byrum or Demond Washington. Byrum had an excellent year last season, going 15-16 on field goals and perfect on extra points, while Washington was one of the better kick returners in the SEC as a newcomer.
Shoemaker or Clark will need to match what walk-on Clint Durst did the last two seasons. Whoever returns punts will need to be able to field them, first and foremost. Quindarius Carr, Darvin Adams, Jonathan Mincy, and Trovon Reed have all gotten extensive work at punt returner. Improvements in the punt return game and in all kick coverage units are crucial this season.
Which Safeties Returning from Injury Will Start?
Aairon Savage, Mike McNeil, and Zac Etheridge are all coming off very serious injuries. Savage tore his Achilles the year after tearing his ACL, McNeil broke his leg, and Etheridge was carted off Jordan-Hare with a neck injury last season.
All three are back and ready to contribute. It’s unknown how they will react to the speed of a live game. It sounds like Savage and Etheridge, the two seniors, will get the starting nod on September 4th. McNeil should get a good deal of playing time, though.
If things go badly for a couple of those guys, Demond Washington and Daren Bates have experience and could be moved back to safety.
Only 11 days until kickoff!
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