Auburn Football: 5 Underrated Tigers Through the First Eight Games

Matthew Donaldson@MattDonaldsonAUCorrespondent IOctober 29, 2010

Auburn Football: 5 Underrated Tigers Through The First Eight Games

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    Auburn Running Back Onterio McCalebbMike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    All of the talk about Cam Newton being a "one-man team" got me thinking about all the guys who don't get as much credit on the 2010 Auburn team. Football is a team sport, and Cam has gotten plenty of help from many areas. 

    So here's a list of the top 5 (in my opinion) underrated players on Auburn's team. Feel free to join the debate by commenting and suggesting others that I might have missed. 

Number 5: Craig Sanders

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    Auburn Defensive End Craig SandersMike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    His energy and enthusiasm on kickoff returns have surely been noticed by Auburn fans. He's been in on a number of special teams tackles, and has begun to earn playing time as a backup defensive end. 

    He's the kind of player who makes those around him want to work harder. Ever since he arrived in January, he's earned praise from the coaching staff. 

    Sanders has a bright future and has made a big impact as a freshman. 

Number 4: Nosa Eguae

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    Auburn Defensive End Nosa EguaeKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Quietly, Nosa Eguae surpassed senior Michael Goggans for one of the starting spots on Auburn's defensive line. He's made the most of that starting spot, recording 12 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and a sack. 

    He redshirted last year, but coaches expected big things when from Nosa when he stepped on campus. Obviously, the defensive coaches have enough faith in him to start him in the last five consecutive games. 

Number 3: Eric Smith

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    Auburn H-Back Eric SmithKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Eric Smith has done a lot of different things for this football team. He began the season as the starting H-back, but then was slowly replaced by Philip Lutzenkirchen. 

    Smith still gets some snaps at H-back, has recorded three special teams tackles, and has caught a pass in three games. 

    His blocking has been his most valuable asset, however. On a Cam Newton fourth quarter run against LSU, Smith sealed the defensive end inside, then scurried outside and laid a pancake block on the Morris Claiborne. 

    It's those contributions, though often unseen, that help win football games. 

Number 2: Auburn Guards Byron Isom and Mike Berry

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    Byron Isom and Darvin AdamsKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The entire offensive line has set the tone for the physical nature of the 2010 Auburn offense. The four starting seniors have gotten plenty of press. 

    But future draft pick Lee Ziemba and center Ryan Pugh often get the accolades. Mike Berry and Byron Isom have developed into extremely talented guards.

    Both are extremely athletic. Because of that, Coach Malzahn has used them to pull and lead block often this season. They've led the way for Newton, Dyer, and the entire running game. Their contributions should be appreciated by the end of the season. 

Number 1: Onterio McCalebb

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    Auburn Running Back Onterio McCalebbMike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    Maybe he isn't as underrated among Auburn fans as I think he is, but with Cam Newton's Heisman hype and Michael Dyer's success, sometimes McCalebb gets lost. 

    His value as a secondary kick returner to Demond Washington was established against Arkansas with his 99 yard return. He also has two catches for 40 yards. 

    Then comes the rushing yards. He's averaging 8.3 yards per carry (yes, 8.3!) and leads the running backs in touchdowns with four. 

    He's found his role in this offense and performs it extremely well. Even though everyone knows about him, he deserves a little more respect and acknowledgment. He's been a crucial part of this 8-0 start. 

    What do you think? Comment below.