With the Auburn Tigers just past the halfway point in spring practice, there have been relatively few reports of any major injuries with the exception of tailback Anthony Morgan, who has been reported to be seen on crutches.
The Tiger coaches have been stressing being physical on both sides of the ball and have conducted one full scrimmage and a half-scrimmage with another full-scale scrimmage scheduled for Saturday at Jordan Hare Stadium before the A-Day game on April 16th.
With as many as 35 players leaving the team from last year either due to graduation, injury, suspension, being kicked-off or just plain deciding to leave, the Tigers are precariously thin at many positions this spring.
Who are the 10 players that the Tigers could least afford to go down with an injury this spring?
OK, the odds of a kicker suffering an injury are slim but the Tigers cannot afford to have sophomore place kicker Cody Parkey go down with an injury.
Parkey got his feet—or foot—wet last year on kickoffs and a few kicks but will be counted on heavily in 2011, as field goals will be key when the Tigers are less explosive next year without Cam Newton. Without Parkey, Auburn would have to most likely go to a walk-on such as Chandler Brooks.
Maybe it was Sandra Bullock's opening monologue in the movie "The Blind Side," but the left tackle is mighty important. Auburn fans have been spoiled, as Lee Ziemba has held down that spot for the past four years.
When A.J. Greene went down with an injury in the Clemson game last year, Brandon Mosely stepped right in at left tackle and shined the rest of the season. This year, Mosely is moving to the all-important left tackle spot and will be protecting the quarterback's blind side next year.
Whether he is playing tight end, H-back or slot receiver, Philip Lutzenkirchen will be one of the most valuable Tigers next year. Whether he is blocking or catching, Lutzenkirchen will play a vital role for Gus Malzahn next year.
He was a big-play receiver in the red zone last year, making several big touchdown catches against South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama and made a great catch against Oregon in the BCS National Championship Game.
I have a feeling that Lutzenkirchen will have a record-setting season next year and will be a key player in Gus Malzahn's attack.
Most Tiger fans will remember when Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy got his bell rung when T'Sharvan came on a corner blitz, picked up and threw down McElroy and knocked him out of the Iron Bowl.
Bell came on strong late in the year as the nickelback and had a big interception and return for a touchdown that iced the SEC title game against South Carolina. At the end of the year, he was Auburn's best cover man and will be key to the Tigers' defensive fortunes next year as they try to improve their pass defense.
Most are expecting Clint Moseley to be the backup quarterback next year. But the former Mr. Alabama Football and three-time state champion is giving Barrett Trotter a run for the starting job and coaches have not named a frontrunner at this point.
Moseley is 6'3" and 223 pounds and has a great arm. Even if he does not win the starting job, Moseley will only be one play away from being the Tigers' starting quarterback and if he is injured, the Tigers will be down to a walk-on or highly touted freshman Kiehl Frazier as next in line should Barrett Trotter go down.
Yes, Neiko Thorpe is being moved from cornerback to safety this spring. Reports out of camp are that he is handling the move very well.
Thorpe will be counted on to lead the young-but-talented Auburn defense next year and will have to make sure everyone is lined up correctly and ready to go. I always thought that safety was a natural position for Thorpe and look for him to shine next year, as the Tigers will be counting on Neiko to quarterback the defense.
Emory Blake had a breakout season last year. You could see coaches gain confidence in Blake as he went from running primarily bubble screens to being a key receiver who caught many big touchdown passes in the BCS National Championship season.
With the losses of Darvin Adams, Kodi Burns and Terrel Zachery, Blake will be counted on as a leader not only in the receiving corps but in the young Auburn offense next year. Blake will be counted on as a deep threat and to make the big third-down conversion catches for the Tigers.
One of the most overlooked strong points of the Auburn BCS National Championship season was the strong play of the defensive line against the run. Few, if any, teams ran the ball against the Tigers last year.
It was no more evident than in the BCS title game when the Oregon Ducks could not run against Auburn as they had done all year. With Lombardi Award winner Nick Fairley, Mike Blanc and Zach Clayton gone, rising sophomore Jeffrey Whitaker will be counted on to plug the middle.
At 6'3" and 310 pounds, Whitaker has the size and athletic ability to pick up where Fairley left off. Auburn is thin at defensive line and cannot afford to lose Whitaker to an injury.
With Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton taking his talents from Auburn into the NFL next year, all eyes will be on the new Auburn quarterback. Most are expecting that to be Barrett Trotter.
The rising junior has spent two full seasons in the Gus Malzahn offense as a backup and has done well in spotty playing time displaying the ability to both run and throw the ball. Trotter put up big numbers at Briarwood Christian in high school and is a good fit for the Malzahn offense.
Because he is the only quarterback with any real playing experience, if Trotter goes down, the Tigers will be down to a talented-but-untested Clint Moseley or true freshman Kiehl Frazier running the offense next year.
Michael Dyer was ESPN's top running back coming out of high school last year and went on to break Bo Jackson's freshman rushing records at Auburn last year. Many feel that Dyer was the key to winning the BCS National Championship Game against Oregon last year as he ran for tough inside yards.
When defenses wanted to key on Newton and take away the edges, Dyer stepped up and ran the ball inside time after time last year. With the threat of Onterrio McCalleb and Trovon Reed on the edges and Barrett Trotter keeping the ball on the read option, defenses will once again be spread out and trying to stop the Tigers from attacking the edges. Having the threat and effective inside running game of Michael Dyer will be a big key for the Auburn offense again next year.
If Dyer goes down, Auburn will have to rely on McCalleb, Anthony Morgan or true freshman Tre Mason to run for the tough yards next year. Although Mason ran inside in high school, doing it against the big and athletic SEC defenses is a different story.