Auburn Football 2010: Things That Can Be Learned from Arkansas State
Saturday’s Arkansas State game will be fun for Auburn fans. After several months of not seeing the Tigers on the field, fans will watch as the information they have collected during the offseason comes to life once again.
There will be a few solid facts to be learned Saturday. This is not going to be a game where Auburn will pull out all the stops and tip their hand. There will be a very basic version of the coming season on display.
There are a few things for fans to look at closely. Arkansas State runs a very similar offense to Auburn. There are some different wrinkles, but the base is very similar. This will challenge the Tiger’s depth chart.
Arkansas State will be prepared defensively. They practice against the Auburn offense every day. While they do not have the talent level of many SEC teams, they will utilize what they have to its fullest advantage.
Has the Auburn Defensive Backfield Improved?
The defensive backfield will be pushed and tested all evening long. Just a few short months ago, this unit was pushed to its limits by a courageous Northwestern team. Saturday’s game could tell fans if this will be a problem once again.
The team is much stronger and deeper at corner this season. Demond Washington and Neiko Thorpe are starters. T'Sharvan Bell fills that top slot that was up for grabs in the nickel package. He is also the first option to relieve Washington and Thorpe.
Word is that these players have been working towards being interchangeable. It is possible for fans to see all three at both sides during the season. They might just switch sides to confuse defenses as well.
Zac Etheridge and Aairon Savage have become proficient at both safety positions and are interchangeable. They will provide a formidable challenge for opposing offenses. Mike McNeil is playing free safety and Ikeem Means is playing strong safety. They have not reached the level of experience to be interchangeable at this point.
There is plenty of depth behind these players, but it is largely inexperienced depth. Fans should watch as the staff digs deeper into the depth chart and see how the young players perform. This could be important in a few weeks against South Carolina.
Look for a lot of interceptions from this group. If that is not happening, it could be a bad omen. This was designed as a ball hawking defensive backfield. They are supposed to take the ball away from the opponent.
Can the Defensive Tackles Shut Down the Middle?
Arkansas State has a very powerful offensive line. They are deep and will maintain a strong rotation. The battle between them and the Auburn defensive tackles will be an area to watch closely.
If the Auburn defensive tackles can control the line of scrimmage in this game, it will be a very positive sign. This was a position that proved to be weak at the beginning of the 2009 season.
Can the Defensive Ends Turn Up the Heat?
During the 2009 season, the defensive ends were not able to bring as much pressure in the later parts of the games. The Tiger defensive ends will face a competent offensive line on Saturday. If they can bring consistent pressure the entire game, it will be a very positive indicator.
Has Special Teams Coverage Improved?
While the kicking and punting portion of the 2010 Auburn Tigers is expected to be very solid, coverage has been a sore point. The special teams coverage unit left the defense defending a short field on too many occasions.
Special team’s coverage has to improve in 2010 if the Tigers are to meet their goals.
The Auburn defense must create more turnovers in 2010. This is a goal that has been worked on during the offseason. Fans could get a glimpse of success if progress has been made in this area.
Interceptions and fumbles bear the fruit of victory. While a three-and-out is great, a turnover usually leads to improved field position.
Very little can be assumed from the outcome of the game on Saturday. The Tigers should have a great day. It will be an excellent opponent to start the season and work out any kinks for the team.
The Red Wolves will provide stiff, but not overwhelming, opposition. Even though the Arkansas State defense works against a similar offense every day, the Auburn offense should roll at will. The Auburn receiving corps should run wild and provide plenty of action for fans.
This will be a great game for Cameron Newton to work out any butterflies that still linger. It will give him a chance to make and correct any mistakes that might be waiting to happen.
The Auburn defense should smother the Red Wolf offense. They have been practicing against the real thing longer than the Red Wolf offense has been running it. Sacks and interceptions should pile up until the Tigers are called off.
September 4, 2010 will be a day where Auburn fans will learn more about the young players than the starters. Once the smoke clears, the Tigers can begin to prepare for a trip to "Cow Bell Central" in Starkville, Mississippi on Thursday.