Auburn Football: Five Questions That Must Be Asked

Tiger HistalmosAnalyst IAugust 6, 2009

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 20:  The special teams unit of the Auburn Tigers prepare for a kick-off after the offense scored against the LSU Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 20, 2008 in Auburn, Alabama. LSU defeated Auburn 26-21.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

For many college football fans across the country, the season has unofficially started.  For the fans on the "loveliest village on the plains", the roller coaster that is Auburn Football is about to reach a peak as September 5 approaches.  Many unknowns will be answered, but these five questions are the most prevalent as the team starts practice this evening:

1. Offensive Line

The Offensive Line has been scrutinized over the past few of seasons with problems on blocking schemes, unnecessary penalties, and changes in philosophy.  With all the bad, the good is the projected starters (including Lee Ziemba, Mike Berry, and Bart Eddins) have plenty of experience on the field.  With the OL gaining weight during the off-season and a promise to return to "old school" football, this might be the change the OL and fans were wanting.

However, after the first five, there isn't much in the way of experience or players.  Young guys will have to learn on the job quickly and growing pains will occur early.  The addition of Aubrey Phillips from FSU can help with this situation, if given eligibility from the NCAA.  The gridiron has said to be won in the trenches, and with six quarterbacks vying for number one, a good offensive line will help transition any that is taking snaps.

2. Quarterback

The quarterback position will be one of the main attractions as practice starts.  As many as six players will be shooting for the top job.  Three of them (Kodi Burns, Chris Todd, and Neil Caudle) are the favorites to win the starting position.  All three have their own style, and can fit well into offensive coordinator Gus Malzhan scheme.

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The main issue that concerns most fans is how quickly will a starter be named.  Last season, a carousel of Todd and Burns proved unsuccessful as the season progressed.  With a new offense, Burns improving, Todd's throwing shoulder healed, and Caudle making a statement in the spring, it will be an interesting first few days of practice.

3. Defense

The defense carried last year's Auburn squad early in the season, helping win games such as the 3-2 vs. Mississippi State.  Injuries and the normal season bruises caused the defense to have problems against opponents later in the season.  This year, several areas have depth issues. 

The defensive line will be anchored by defensive end Antonio Coleman, with Mike Blanc, Jake Ricks, and Michael Goggans projected to finish out the front four.  Not much experience is behind these players, and tough times can be expected early as also seen in the offensive line.  The linebacker corps suffer the same ailment as the defensive line.

The secondary took a major hit after Aairon Savage suffered an Achillies' injury only months after having returned from ACL rehab.  Some players may seem more playing time in the safety position than at cornerback.  This change may let opponents attack deep early, but only time will tell.

4. A New System

New coaching staff usually means some time for the current players to adjust to the new playbook and style of play.  The team seems to be coming together as practice begins, which is better to say than last year's team.  Team morale this season is key if this team wants to make a move in the Western Division.  Early success with the new coaching staff will make this season a little more enjoyable.

5. Special Teams

Special Teams will be important this season in ball control.  Place kicker Wes Byrum had troubles last season as the dreaded sophomore slump hit.  Replacing kickoff returner Tristan Davis will be an issue as well, but an answer could be just around the corner.  Overall, can this unit return to form as it was just two years ago?

Many questions still remain, but these are my views on keys to the season.  I welcome comments and please share your thoughts on this upcoming season.  Many other questions still need to be asked.

But let's not think about it too much my fellow Tigers, the season starts in exactly a month.



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