A too-soon look at next fall, sans the inevitable injuries, suspensions and other pratfalls of the long offseason.
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|2007 Record • Past Five Years|
|• 2007: 9-4 (5-3 SEC; 2nd/West)
• 2003-07: 50-14 (32-9 SEC)
|Five-Year Recruiting Rankings*|
|2004-08: 21 • 13 • 10 • 7 • 20|
|Returning Starters, Roughly|
|15 (8 Offense, 7 Defense)|
|The scouts are more enamored with tweener end/tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, but just hit a Google Image search on the kid and you’ll see the heir to the Auburn edge rushing mantle is Antonio Coleman. It was Coleman, not Quentin Groves or likely first rounder Pat Sims, who recorded an unseemly 13 tackles for loss in one five-game stretch against SEC teams (including LSU and Georgia) as a sophomore, in addition to leading the team in sacks and quarterback hurries. He probably can’t do this, but like Groves, Stanley McClover and Reggie Torbor before him, Coleman is a hopped-up outside linebacker (6-2, 243) at end that most tackles can’t touch on long-yardage downs.|
|You Know You’re a Tiger/War Eagle If...|
You are in possession of a functioning penis and yet have also spent several consecutive hours enthusiastically, unironically snapping a pom pom (probably while using the business end to stir a drink, or – at least once, during your frat days – wearing a tie). Auburn certainly is not alone here (indeed, the entire state of Alabama is culpable), but it is the most egregious waver of poms, or shakers, or whatever the kids are calling plastic streamers attached to a stick these days, and as such invites dumptruck-fulls of shame. As a handheld fan device, cowbells rout pom poms by a mile; even the wretched inflatable thundersticks beat till limp by second rate crowds are preferable for actually creating a din above "shucka shucka." Face your fate like any good, red-blooded, camouflage-drenched Republican state must: pom poms are for sissies.
Also, if you really, really want to correct me about the improper use of "War Eagle."
You would not be entirely wrong to say, "Well, yeah, but Brandon Cox..." Remember, though, that Cox was the starter for all of 2005, and only went down as his career progressed, with interceptions increasing and touchdowns decreasing along with yards and rating each year, to the point that coaches turned at times last year to an erratic true freshman in a desperate search for the old "spark." Even most SEC fans can't name Auburn's starting receivers the last two years (of the ten Tigers who caught double digit passes last year, six were running backs and tight ends). Borges' offense gradually devolved from something fairly explosive in Years One and Two to a waggle-heavy, possession-oriented dump fest designed to avoid mistakes and bleed the clock. It was actually pretty good within that mission - the low-scoring wins over Florida, Arkansas and Alabama and the near-upset at LSU are largely explained by the offense's ability to dominate time of possession despite being outgained on a per-snap basis in each of those games.
But without a Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown or Kenny Irons in the backfield to fuel the favored power running plan that Borges used at his best to set up a lethal play-action attack, and with LSU and Florida shining the path to the future, the creaky two-back set has heaved its last breath and died. Hello, Tony Franklin:
"We want to throw the ball a lot, especially a lot of quick gains to receivers," Franklin said. "We want the defensive linemen to turn and be running sideways. The longer the game goes on, those linemen get more tired and more tired, and then it gets easier to run the football. We're throwing the ball all over the place, and then we pound it at them."
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Please, Tony, don't hurt 'em.
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Boy, You'll Be Sophomore Soon. It's hard to say how much of the offense's nosedive began with the line, a hard luck outfit that started with uncertainty at four positions, shuffled all every spot at least twice and spent most of the year with three true freshmen at the front. And yet...when the freshmen are as highly regarded as Lee Ziemba, Chaz Ramsey and Ryan Pugh, frustration turns very quickly in to optimism as growing pains are presumed passed; it's reasonable to think, with the entire starting five back and a new scheme based on keeping defensive lineman from charging decisively upfield, Auburn's line could mature into one of the best in the SEC. At the very least, failing to hit four yards per carry for the second straight year (the average was a paltry 3.28 in SEC games) would be a mark of shame, spread or no spread.
Overly Optimistic Spring Chatter. Amid the buzz, intrigue and handwringing wrought by Franklin's scheme and the attendant quarterback puzzle, the best headline was born of an old-fashioned slugfest - "big on big," as they say - wherein Ziemba knocked Antonio Coleman unconscious for 10 or 15 minutes in the course of a post-play scuffle. Coleman was briefly hospitalized with a cervical sprain (ha ha), which must not be as serious as it sounds because he was back at practice days later, albeit equipped with a neck brace.
So AC is okay, Ziemba is okay with AC, and Tommy Tuberville sees no evil:
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One wonders: in the process of punching Coleman right and left, what was Ziemba's intent?
Auburn on You Tube. I don't know that there's anything particularly amazing about this, and really, that's the point: a man in a huge, fluffy, cartoon tiger costume with another man strapped to his back can jump out of a moving airplane, on pretty much any day of the week. What a country!
I thought the tension really built there towards the end.
See Also: Throwin it Deep With the Sister of Neil Caudle ... Count the black guys as Auburn takes on Georgia in 1971. ... And a one-sided version of one of the great games I've ever seen: Auburn 36, Florida 33 from 1994.
Best-Case. Atlantastic. If Franklin's offense falls into place out of the gate, as the spread is wont to do, a very year-away-looking team could be on top of the league and right in the conference race in a matter of weeks. Two games in September stand out as make-or-break toward winning the West, both at home: LSU on Sept. 20 and Tennessee on Sept. 27. Combine those with a nice (but ultimately meaningless, in terms of the SEC) trip to West Virginia in October and the annual throwdown with Georgia, and no team searching for an identity on both sides of the ball can be expected even in the most optimistic sense to survive into the Iron Bowl intact. Just split of those four would set the Tigers up nicely for their third ten-win effort in four years - there is no Florida, Arkansas is rebuilding on offense and Alabama is under Tuberville's thumb until it proves otherwise. If one of those wins is over LSU, AU becomes the early division favorite, beats the teams it's supposed to and wanders into the Georgia game with a chance to lock the West down. A perennial top ten contender at this point.
Worst-Case. Last bus to Shreveport: There are many snakes in the grass for such a young team: Southern Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Alabama. Offenses have been known to reject transplants, especially in Year One, and especially when run by potentially one-dimensional sophomores. A wave of mistakes by Burns puts the Tigers in jeopardy of losing maybe two of those "danger" games on top of three or four heavyweight smackdowns from LSU, Tennessee, West Virginia and/or Georgia. Bowl eligibility is probably not in any danger, but it could be just that: the Independence or Liberty Bowl and a lot of "Get `em next year."
Non-Binding Forecast. January or Bust: Plenty of AU partisans are certain to think, "Look what happened the last time we had a new offensive coordinator" in 2004, but this edition does not have the tools, personnel-wise, to reach those heights. West Virginia is a nice, rare interregion game in October, but the difference between a possible BCS bid at 11-2 and the Music City Bowl at 8-4 is precisely the wild card games the Tigers won last year - Arkansas, Alabama, the rotating East rival (Florida last year, Tennessee this year) - and eliminating bizarre losses like Mississippi State. Not much really stands out about this team, but Tuberville has built a good talent base that can count on nine wins on a reliable basis. The only games the Tigers will definitely be favored to lose entering the year are LSU and Georgia, with WVU and UT looming large. Another 9-3, Cotton Bowl-type effort feels right.