The Auburn Tigers enter the 2011 season with plenty of questions for a team that went 14-0 in 2010. The Tigers return only six starters,and have plenty of stars to replace, especially on offense.
One star from the offensive side who returns for 2011 is sophomore running back Michael Dyer. Dyer was one of the best true freshmen in the country last season, running for 1,093 yards and five touchdowns and helping the Tigers win the national championship.
With the Tigers breaking in a new starting quarterback and also losing their top two receivers from last season, the pressure will be on Dyer to shoulder even more of a load in 2011.
Dyer will be expected to top his rushing and touchdown totals from last season if the Tigers are going to come even close to equaling last year’s success. He should get every chance to do so while Auburn eases in Barrett Trotter and the receivers, especially before the team gets deep into SEC play.
The two factors that could hamper Dyer’s production in 2011 are the offensive line and the schedule.
The Tigers return only one starter on the line, and combined with Trotter’s inexperience, teams could be focusing on Dyer very much this season, especially without another running threat like Cam Newton in the lineup.
Dyer’s numbers last season were impressive, but he was running behind an experienced line and had one of the best running quarterbacks in college football history in the backfield. One of Auburn’s many questions heading into the season is how Dyer responds to being more of a focus.
The Tigers also play a very tough schedule, so Dyer will be tested often against some of the best defenses in the nation. Seven teams currently ranked ahead of Auburn in the AP Poll are on the schedule in 2011.
Dyer gave Auburn fans some apprehension earlier in training camp when he missed some time due to undisclosed injuries, but the sophomore has returned to action and finished camp strong. He will be ready to take plenty of carries starting next Saturday against Utah State.
“He’s healthy,” head coach Gene Chizik said about Dyer on Tuesday. “Again, it was at a point in camp when everybody is kind of beat up. But he’s doing well.”
Auburn fans will be looking for Dyer to do more than well in 2011. The success of his season will likely be a good barometer of how 2011 goes for the Tigers.