Gene Chizik of Auburn Still Facing Uphill Battle

Paul StewartContributor IJune 22, 2009

As we inch slowly through the heat of summer and closer to football season, the Auburn football team under new head coach Gene Chizik is beginning to take shape. While the quarterback situation is still up in the air (surprise, surprise), there are some things we do know about this team.

First of all, the defense should be solid. Football begins and ends with defense at Auburn, and with two respected coaching minds like Chizik and Ted Roof at the helm, this unit should be able to quickly make a name for itself.

With a total defense ranked No. 7 in the SEC last year, there is room to improve. That unit spent a huge amount of time on the field and often suffered from poor field position. However, one can’t argue with the three Thorpe Award winners Chizik has been responsible for.

Players like Antonio Coleman, Josh Bynes, and Walter McFadden will anchor the defense. However, also look for rising stars such as Neiko Thorpe and Spencer Pybus to step up if this team is to succeed.

It is easy to look past special teams, but this is another unit destined to improve under Jay Boulware. Clinton Durst is still a solid punter, and place kicker Wes Byrum should bounce back from a very disappointing and injury-filled 2008 campaign.

All that remains is the offense—the offense that in 2008 destroyed a highly rated and very confident Auburn team.

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One head coach later, Auburn has a lot of work still left to do.

Like most people, I believe that the success of this team will come down to the quarterback play. When the play at a position as important as this implodes, we see how quickly a season can go down the drain.

Personally, I love Kodi Burns and want him to succeed. With that being said, I believe that Neil Caudle will be the starter at the beginning of the year. People forget how highly rated Neil was coming out of high school, and if he stays healthy, I believe he gives Auburn the best chance to win.

Consistency at the quarterback position can help this team greatly, and it is obvious that there was zero consistency under Tony Franklin.

Luckily, there is help on the way. Running backs Ben Tate and Onterrio McCalebb should keep the running game going. New receivers DeAngelo Benton and Emory Blake will be expected to contribute immediately. Other youngsters, such as Darvin Adams and Philip Pierre-Louis, will also be counted on to improve the passing game.

This is a lot to ask of young offensive skill players, but in the SEC West, it’s going to be baptism by fire every year.

While I am very hopeful for the 2009 Auburn Tigers, I am taking a wait and see approach right now. However, I have no doubt this coaching staff will succeed at Auburn in the years to come. 

It is clear this staff is going to recruit the nation’s best to play at Auburn. Elevating their play to that level? We will see soon enough.