Auburn Football: 10 New Tiger Starters to Watch in Week 1
Well, game week has arrived; with each college football season comes some uncertainty. Who will replace the experience and talent that has graduated and/or moved on to the NFL?
In 2010, Auburn has many returning starters. But here are some new faces to keep your eyes on during Saturday night's contest.
Punter: Ryan Shoemaker or Steven Clark
Walk-on sensation Clinton Durst is gone. Now, the veteran Ryan Shoemaker and the freshman Steven Clark are battling to be the punter for the season opener.
Shoemaker was the starter as a freshman and earned All-SEC honors. Then Durst came and took his spot. Now is his chance to close his career out on a positive note. But...
Freshman Steven Clark has been very competitive. Obviously, with the season being so close and no starter named, this race is too close to call. Either way, be watching for who gets the nod and how he performs on Saturday.
Right Tackle: A.J. Greene
AJ Greene is probably the best story of this season so far. He came out of nowhere to take over the starting right tackle job vacated by Andrew McCain.
He came to Auburn as a defensive lineman, but has been on offense for a while now. His fall camp and off-season work was clearly good enough to earn a starting spot over Brandon Mosley, Roszell Gayden and John Sullen.
He now has to mesh with four seniors on the offensive line. Be watching to see how he handles his first real playing time in Jordan Hare Stadium.
Defensive Tackle: Zach Clayton or Nick Fairley
Zach Clayton has had a standout off-season. After a career filled with injuries and tough luck, Clayton appears to be a senior leader on the defensive line.
Nick Fairley has a ton of potential. He will be the lone returning player next season, and will get a ton of chances this fall to contribute. He might even start over Clayton or Blanc.
The defensive line as a whole needs to generate a pass rush, but more importantly, effectively limit the run. The play of Clayton and Fairley will go a long way to determining the success of the defensive interior.
Tight End: Philip Lutzenkirchen
"Lutz" worked his way into the lineup last season as a true freshman. He's a versatile player who can block and be a great possession receiver.
This year, he gets his chance to be the full time starter with the departure of Tommy Trott. He should be a great target for Cam Newton to look for over the middle this season.
Defensive End: Michael Goggans
Senior Michael Goggans has had plenty of playing time on the Plains. But this season will be his first as a full time starter.
He and fellow senior Antoine Carter must try to make up for the loss of Antonio Coleman. As always, a healthy pass rush is a defense's best friend. Goggans will need to step his game up to take Auburn's front four to the next level.
Safety: Mike McNeil, Aairon Savage and/or Zac Etheridge
This should be the most intriguing part of Saturday night's game. Who will start? What will the rotation at safety look like? How will the three candidates respond to live action coming back from injury?
All the injuries are well documented. Savage (torn achilles last season, torn ACL the previous season), McNeil (broken leg), and Etheridge (neck injury) all look to return to the field. They will all get a chance on Saturday.
As long as two of them feel totally comfortable, this season's secondary should be pretty solid. Until that is proven, though, this is a position of uncertainty. There's a ton of valuable experience back there, which should pay off if the health is there.
Outside Linebacker: Daren Bates
Daren Bates had a great freshman season at safety in 2009. His attacking, hard-hitting style made coaches consider moving him to linebacker. He made the transition this spring and should start at outside linebacker.
This gives Auburn some great linebacker depth, allowing Eltoro Freeman, Jonathan Evans, and some talented newcomers to serve as capable backups.
Bates is also extremely versatile. When an opposing offense comes out with three wide receivers, expect Bates to move to a corner's mentality and give Ted Roof the chance to play nickel without substituting. Saturday should give the opportunity to see exactly what Bates' role will be.
Wide Receiver/Wildcat: Trovon Reed
True Freshman Trovon Reed has been working with the first team in practice. Even though Kodi Burns is the starting slot receiver, expect to see Reed at that position.
And in the backfield.
And possibly on special teams.
He might even get a crack at some Wildcat plays, since he was a quarterback in high school.
He has speed to burn and some incredible acceleration. Gus Malzahn will find quite a few ways to get the ball in his hands this weekend.
Running Back: Mario Fannin/Michael Dyer
Mario Fannin will be the "new" starter at running back this season. Fannin has always been a running back, but has been moved around the field for the past two seasons to use his great versatility.
Losing Ben Tate to the NFL made it an easy decision to bring Fannin back to his original position. He's a powerful yet elusive runner who should have success this season. Running backs coach Curtis Luper predicted at least 1,000 yards if he stays healthy.
Even though Michael Dyer won't be an official starter, he has to be mentioned as someone to watch on Saturday. He will get plenty of carries and should excite the fans with his ability.
Quarterback: Cameron Newton
Of course. Cam Newton is the most anticipated new starter on this year's team. All eyes will be on him as he makes his first SEC start.
He's got a ton of talent, but it's tough for new quarterbacks to succeed in this league. He begins the journey on Saturday. I'll be looking for how comfortable he looks, his handle of the offense, and how his running ability will impact Gus Malzahn's offense.
The season is almost here!