Auburn's Cam Newton has become a household name this season. From day one you could tell that this guy was going to be special. Despite a battle into the summer at the quarterback position, everyone assumed Newton would win the job.
He has been quite the game breaker. He has shown the nation what a potent dual threat quarterback can do. Leading the Heisman race, it is hard not to mention Newton when discussing Auburn.
Even though he has been lights-out and has been a large portion of the effectiveness of the Auburn offense, there are other guys that make the offense click. There are also some defenders who have become staples on the defensive side of the ball and have helped to squelch some fourth quarter comebacks throughout the year.
Let's take a look at this season's impact players beyond the quarterback position. Newton undoubtedly makes this team better, but by no means is it a one man team, as some have come to speculate. Two defenders and three offensive players in particular have made a difference consistently this season for the Tigers. The hope is that some more jerseys besides the No. 2 will sell out soon.
Top Impact Players: Offense
1. Michael Dyer
It's no surprise to see Dyer make this cut. The freshman running back seems to get stronger every week. Looking back to a famous career in Auburn history, I see Carnell Williams. I am not saying that Dyer is Cadillac, but there is a strange resemblance to what Williams brought to the table.
As an elite player out of Arkansas, many thought he would have an instant impact. The coaches had other thoughts and have brought him along more slowly and allowed his skills to develop. One benefit of Dyer's late start is that he remains fresh.
Marcus Lattimore made an instant impact on the college football world and overshadowed anything that Dyer was doing from the running back position, but unleashing the freshman phenom late has allowed Dyer to keep fresh legs and work his way into the lineup.
So far this season, despite having five games with under ten carries, Dyer has run for 799 yards on 124 carries. That gives the freshman a 6.4 yards per carry average, and he has also accumulated five touchdowns.
Those are pretty lofty stats for a freshman, especially taking into account his limited showing in half of the games that have been played so far. That limit, however has allowed him to push harder and outrun dead legs on defenses late in the season. Look for Dyer to continue his late season dominance.
2. Onterio McCalebb
Another consistent player for this offense has been McCalebb. He has taken two sweeps to the house in consecutive weeks against LSU and again against Ole Miss. This big play ability and speed are what have gotten McCalebb noticed the most this season.
Being a highlight reel waiting to happen definitely helps fan appeal. Everyone seems to know his name but is surprised when he makes big plays. Look for him to make some more in the coming weeks with big games lurking around the corner.
McCalebb has been a great threat from the backfield on the sweeps and on zone read runs where he can hit the hole fast. Being able to put up 612 yards so far on only 66 touches has definitely helped him as well. Averaging 9.3 yards per carry and accounting for six rushing touchdowns, there is no denying that he is a big play waiting to happen with every touch.
What gives McCalebb his threat appeal is that defenses find it hard to cover him. Because he is consistently running out of the motion, the default coverage falls to a linebacker. So far, that has been a terrible matchup for teams facing Auburn. Stacking the box doesn't help much either, as it allows Onterio the outside green that he loves to see, and touchdowns typically follow.
3. Darvin Adams
Darvin Adams always seems to make the plays that you need him to make. If it is a long third down that needs to be converted, chances are you will see No. 89 on the receiving end of that pass. Auburn has a ton of guys at the receiver position that have made huge plays this season, but Adams seems to be the leader of the pack.
Statistically, Adams will make an impact every season. The tough throws come his way as do the fade routes. Just when the focus of the defense falls primarily to Newton, he sits in the pocket and finds open receivers. Adams tends to be there.
This season he has accounted for 36 catches and 633 yards. That makes him good for 17.6 yards per catch while adding five touchdowns to his totals. One part of Darvin's game that gets ignored is his ability to make guys miss. He is a longer receiver, allowing him to make plays on the ball in air, but he is also quick enough and physical enough to cause missed tackles.
This shiftiness and willingness to take hits may take Adams and his skills to the punt return position in the next couple of games. With a lack of production from the position, changes must eventually be made. Look for that role to be filled by Darvin.
Top Impact Players: Defense
4. Nick Fairley
Nick Fairley came to Auburn with limited fanfare as a junior college transfer. Fairley signed with Auburn out of Williamson High School in Mobile but failed to qualify. After a stint at Copiah-Lincoln, he came back to Auburn last year and saw some limited playing time on the defensive front.
A year later Fairley is a contender for awards and is making All-American waves through the offensive lines that he has destroyed this season. He has battled some consistency issues but has played lights out for the most part in 2010.
To see Fairley play this year has truly been a treat. He has taken a liking to destroying opposing quarterbacks, which has led to 7.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. With 43 total tackles and even an interception to his name, Fairley deserves every bit of the recognition that he has received thus far.
There is widespread speculation that another season in an Auburn jersey is looking more and more unlikely for Tigers fans. With Fairley's draft stock rising, if he continues to play at this level a jump to the NFL is expected. While he remains in Auburn, though, he will continue to impress. The pressure provided up the middle this season has truly helped keep an already spotty pass defense from being shredded.
5. Josh Bynes
Bynes has been the leader of the defense these past two seasons. Always a playmaker with a nose for the football, he is a fun middle linebacker to watch. Leading the Tigers with 55 tackles, he definitely shows up to play week in and week out.
One thing that Bynes has done this season is come up with some big plays when the team needed them. His three interceptions have come at crucial times. Bynes has lead the defense from the middle linebacker position this year but has received some much-needed rest with some young reserves getting playing time as well.
With the luxury of being able to lean a little more on their depth this season, Bynes has been able to stay fresh thus far, and that has truly helped. Adding one sack and six quarterback hurries to his resume, he has made plays in the backfield that have helped keep the pressure off of the defense. Look for more plays down the stretch to come from No. 17.
The first guy that has to be mentioned is Terrell Zachery. With 32 catches and 462 yards, TZach has been a huge problem for defenses this season. The hitch and go was a huge play last year, and the screen pass has been his play so far this season, but this senior continues to impress and should have some big plays in the next couple of weeks.
The number two mention is Emory Blake. As a sophomore with a great football pedigree, he has become the team's third leading receiver with 18 catches and 334 yards. He also has accounted for five touchdowns. Look for him to develop over the next two years into something truly special.
The third player to mention is a guy that has played lights out on the kickoff teams and some reserve time on the defense. Craig Sanders flies around and throws his body with reckless abandon at people. What a fun player to watch. Look for Sanders to make an impact in the coming years from the defensive end spot. This guy has tons of heart and tons of potential.
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