Auburn Football: Major Questions at the Skill Positions Heading into 2012

Matthew BrennanCorrespondent IINovember 17, 2011

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 12:  Philip Lutzenkirchen #43 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates his touchdown against the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on November 12, 2011 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Auburn Tigers are winding down their 2011 season where they’ve had their ups and downs. Now looking towards 2012, one area that will have major questions heading into the offseason is the set of offensive skill positions.

The first question starts on the sidelines, as it seems like offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn will not be back. Malzahn is one of the hottest coaching properties in the country and should be ready to assume the helm of his first college head coaching job.  Malzahn is rumored to be the top candidate for the North Carolina job, but he will also be considered by Ole Miss and any other school with an opening after the season.

Another major question is the quarterback position. Clint Moseley has fared well since taking over as the starter, but it’s still unclear if he is the answer if Auburn wants to contend for an SEC title or BCS bowl next season. Barrett Trotter will be back next year to try to reclaim his starting job, while Kiehl Frazier and his huge potential will also be a factor. 

The Tigers are also bringing in another highly-touted recruit in Zeke Pike, adding another wrinkle to what will be an exciting quarterback battle. The news broke a few days ago that Pike would be leaving high school and enrolling at Auburn in the spring.

The passing game loses Emory Blake, Auburn’s top receiver this season. The offense struggled when Blake missed some time due to injury, so some of the other wideouts will need to show improvement over the offseason and spring or this will be a major issue in 2012. This should be a spot where Auburn looks to do some damage in the recruiting game, as the current group of wide receivers may simply not be talented enough for the rigors of SEC play.

Valuable tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen should be back unless he opts to test the NFL Draft waters. NFL Draft Scout currently has Lutzekirchen ranked fourth among tight ends that will be seniors next season.

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 12:  Alec Ogletree #9 of the Georgia Bulldogs breaks a up a pass intended for Onterio McCalebb #23 of the Auburn Tigers at Sanford Stadium on November 12, 2011 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The only skill position that won’t be a major question mark heading into 2012 is running back. Michael Dyer will be back for his junior year after running for over 1,000 yards in his first two seasons. Dyer could be a Heisman candidate depending on Auburn’s record next season, and looks like he could be a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft if he comes out early.

Onterio McCalebb should also be back for his senior year as a speedy compliment to Dyer as well as a receiving threat. He could be a candidate to be drafted by the NFL if he leaves early after this season, but there has been no indication that that would be the case.

Auburn will be looking for improvement in 2012 as they seek a return to the national title picture, but there are a lot of questions to be settled before next season kicks off.