Offense Preview: Tigers begins season No. 13 in coaches’ poll

Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway (36) took the SEC by storm a year ago.This season, Pettway has a bigger goal: break the Auburn single-season rushing record.l Image Courtesy of Auburn Plainsman

As the days of summer roll of the calendar, there is a lot of hype and excitement surrounding the Auburn football team about how good the Tigers will be this season. As there is a number of new faces on the roster in 2017 on both sides of the ball. A  number of returning players who might make an impact on the field.

But keep in mind that the team has yet to play a game in 2017, and what looks like a championship team on paper may or may not translate to wins in the win column and lead to a college national champion at the end of the season. But all the media talk and reports say this is the year of the Auburn Tigers in the South Eastern Conference.

The last time the Tigers won a national title in football. Cam Newton lined up under center. On January 10, 2011, Auburn defeated Oregon in the BCS National championship game in Glendale, Arizona, 22–19, to win their first BCS National Championship, and claimed a national title. Their quarterback, Newton, became a Heisman Trophy winner.

Now that the battle is over for the starting quarterback it’s time for Jarrett to focuses

Image by Madison Ogletree | Photo Editor | The Auburn Plainsman
Jarrett Stidham (8) during an open practice on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017, in Auburn, Ala.

on preparing for the opener against Georgia Southern. The highly talked about signal caller has all the athletic ability and talent to open up the offense this fall with a rocket of an arm and the fearless ability to run up field when needed.  His arm allows Auburn to open the passing game more and throw the ball down field more this year than years passed. This, in turn, will prove a more balanced attack on offense when the running game that Gus Malzahn’s teams are well known for across the Southeastern Conference and the college football landscape

The Tigers will have one thing most of its SEC rivals do not: an elite quarterback. Stidham is clearly at ease and in a comfort zone in Malzahn’s system, which has its fair share of similarities with the scheme utilized by Baylor during Stidham’s short run as the starter in 2015. It’s exciting to consider how he’ll fare in this offense — though SEC defenses may have a different view regarding Stidham.

Raising junior Sean White Auburn’s No. 2 quarterback. with his knowledge of the playbook is like having a coach on the field., Malzahn said in an interview with reporters. White intends to share that knowledge with Stidham at appropriate times the media reports.

After starting 16 games the past two years via his Twitter account, he is all in and media reports say he is behind Stidham a 100 percent. As a freshman White was in a similar position as the season started. He has told the press that he feels he’s one play away from being Auburn’s starting signal caller once again. However, he says he will be ready to go when called upon in the same interview with reporters.

White who hails from Boca Raton, Florida has played in 18 games with 16 starts over his three-year career on the Plains. As the Tigers look to develop the passing game more in 2017 White is a great choice for a backup under center. He’s a talented signal-caller with a strong arm and great accuracy in the passing game.

Dynamic early enrollee Malik Willis is the third QB on the roster 2017. The prospect is from Atlanta Georgia and played at Roswell High School before heading to the Plains. He guided the Hornets to the state title game.  He passed for 2,562 yards and rushed for 1,033 as a senior, accounting for 37 touchdowns. He was Class 7A AJC offensive player of the year and first team all-state his last year as a prep star.

Not many teams at the college level can compare to the veteran experience Auburn brings back to play in the trenches this fall.

The Tigers have an  All-American candidate who could be a better fit at his new position on the edge. Senior experience is everywhere thanks to regular success in the graduate transfer market under Malzahn. And there are many former blue-chip linemen who haven’t had a chance to start yet the starting lineup this season.

Just like other spots on the offense, the offensive line must adjust to some of the newnesses that come with a first-year offensive coordinator and the addition of Stidham to the starting lineup.

Replacing an excellent multi-year starter and a surprisingly efficient one-year first-teamer won’t necessarily be simple, even with the numbers this team has up front.

Longtime college football expert Phil Steele, says only two teams in all of the major college football have more returning experience on the offensive line than Auburn. The Tigers return 106 career starts to their frontline, and that’s after losing two starters to the NFL this past off-season.

Looking at the current roster experience up front is all over the place for this SEC team Assistant Coach  Herb Hand. Braden Smith enters his junior year as a full-time starter, but he moved from right guard to right tackle in spring practice. Austin Golson has started every one of his games as Tiger, and he played a full season at Ole Miss at the beginning of his career. Darius James relocated to the Plains from Texas with experience and compiled eight starts in 2016.

Auburn also got two large boosts in offensive line experience with the graduate transfers of former Florida State guard Wilson Bell and Jacksonville State center Casey Dunn. Both of them were multiple-year starters at their previous campuses.

The football program already had a good amount of depth coming back with the likes of Mike Horton, Marquel Harrell, Prince Tega Wanogho and Prince Micheal Sammons. The Tigers also had three blue-chip offensive line signees lined up before adding the graduate transfers — including former 5-star Calvin Ashley.

The o-line experience is a classic predictor of future success in college football. While Malzahn’s team has a couple of major holes to fill — and he still wants to mix and match for the best combinations —  the fifth year can rely on a lot of faces who have played in the trenches at an extremely high level.

The power-running scheme like Tigers have and probably will continue to insert, guard play is huge. The Tigers love to pull their guards to pave the way for big plays on the ground. Alex Kozan became one of the SEC’s best linemen for his consistency at that spot, and Smith generated All-American hype for his work there, too.

However, with Smith moving to right tackle — a position that will have greater pass protection importance in Chip Lindsey’s offense — Malzahn had to replace both guards this fall. Horton looked to have the inside track on the right guard position in spring, while Harrell was still a question mark at left guard.

“When you have a guy, Alex Kozan, who’s really been the anchor there for so many years, it’s a natural deal,” Hand said this spring. “Marquel is doing fine. We just have to fine-tune his technique and fundamentals. He understands and he to get more consistent. But that’s my puzzle piece right now.”

Hand has some plans in place, and Bell will have a great shot to claim one of those starting jobs in preseason practices. James and Golson have the ability to move to different spots and create new combinations.

Auburn return so much firepower in the backfield, but they need a strong front line to reach their full rushing potential. Although the team has experienced bodies to plug into the depth chart, both guards will be new starters in an Auburn uniform. That could open things up for some growing pains, especially in the first half of the fall

If the offense and defense of Auburn can execute on the field of play Auburn very well could be celebrating a national championship at the conclusion of the 2017 gridiron season.One thing for sure is it will be very exciting for the fanbase and Auburn faithful to watch this team play as the season opens at home in Jordan-Here Stadium

 

 

 

 

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James Carter

James Carter has a real passion for online "stuff", is an avid WordPress fan and user, and gets great satisfaction out of helping others. -- so in his spare time, he's busy doing community service with his church, spending time with family and friends while creating post for this blog.

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