2012 Season Preview: Changing Schemes + Talent = X
It’s time to give you ABOOAB’s official season preview for 2012. Where I expect the team to start and where I expect them to finish. Let’s get started:
Offensively, Auburn starts the season with a whole host of new starters. The offensive line sees redshirt freshman Greg Robinson take his spot at left tackle, three-year veteran John Sullen at left guard, Fariyike will start the season at centre because of Dismukes’ suspension, Chad Slade at right guard and true freshman Avery Young takes the right tackle spot.
Three of those (Robinson, Fariyike and Young) haven’t started a game before, but all have enough talent to improve as the season goes on and become the anchor for the next few years. This was an important camp for Grimes. He had a few decent choices to choose from – some more experienced than others – but he knew he had to choose a line that could gel quickly and improve as a unit. I like the talent on this offensive line, and I think there are likely to be some struggles at first. There is a lot of size on this line, which is a great thing as well. It won’t be a perfect unit, but there should be some improvement as the season dwells on.
There is a very high chance that Auburn starts out the season slow offensively. There are a lot of questionable parts, but it’s not like these guys have never played football before. There is great potential at every position, including Quarterback with Kiehl Frazier. We all know he is a talented runner, but how improved will he be throwing the ball? Loeffler is a smart OC, and will put Frazier in the appropriate situations early on. Starting him off with some easy throws will help him gradually build confidence, which will only help the offensive output. Getting the run game going is crucial, we know what we have in McCalebb, but I’m excited to see who steps up as the power back, which is likely to be Blakely or Mason. Mason is a strong runner, who put on decent size in the summer. I expect him to carry the load early on and become a very good back as the season goes on. Don’t forget Bane (Jay) Prosch manning the fullback spot as well. He’ll be a big part of the running game this season. I feel sorry for any SEC linebacker that goes toe to toe with this guy.
A run game will help Frazier, a true sophomore quarterback with no experience in this offence. From what I’ve read, he’s stepped up as a leader during the summer, but how will he cope with mistakes? If he can bounce back and learn from them, then we have the right guy leading our offence. That was the big problem last year at Quarterback – Trotter and Mosely both found it hard to bounce back from mistakes and it resulted in poor results. Then again, neither had a decent offensive line either. With the change in schemes, I don’t expect there to be that much pressure put on Frazier to win games this year – I hope.
I hope to see Auburn finish the season with a top 50 offence, but a lot is needed to make that happen. Conservative offences tend not to rank too high statistically, but getting the ground yardage and limiting turnovers will help us make that happen. It’s not impossible, but it will be a tough task.
When Auburn announced that Brian VanGorder would be replacing Ted Roof in January, I was excited like you’ll never believe. Roof and Chizik did not mesh, you could tell from the very start. Both had different defences, and the team suffered because of it. Now granted, there were some bright spots, but there was a severe lack of consistency in this defence that had most of us pulling our hair out. Missed tackles, lack of defensive back technique, all of the basic fundamentals were absent. Brian VanGorder’s resume is impressive. He helped improve a poor Georgia defence around immediately, and continued with three more years of very very good defensive play before he moved on.
The defence is talented, but has been plagued by poor coaching and play-calling and it was a big handicap the last three years. VanGorder’s presence has, and is helping turn things around. VanGorder doesn’t deserve all the credit, as having a DC that is on the same page with Chizik is obviously the key to turning the unit around. VanGorder brings a more NFL-oriented scheme to the programme, a move that I have always been on board with.
The move to bring in Willie Martinez was another stroke of genius by Chizik. He had a great tenure at Georgia with BVG, and considering the poor play of the secondary in the last three years, this move made absolute sense. Martinez is very detail oriented, and that can only help a defence that is making the move to NFL play-calling.
Lemonier is the obvious star of this defence, but keep a close eye on Dee Ford. Ford started last season arguably better than Lemonier, before a back injury ended his season. Physically and mentally, he’s ready to have a huge year. Chris Davis – my new favourite player – is another guy to keep tabs on. Davis played at a solid level last year, but injuries slowed him down. Ryan White recently said that Davis is the only guy that gets through practice without mistakes – which can only mean good things for the secondary.
I think we will see some decent improvements this year defensively. The presence of a coordinator that can take advantage of mismatches and create havoc on offences is going to help this team a tonne. He’s an intense guy, and will light a fire under the players if mistakes are made. The great thing about right now, is that the defensive expectations have skyrocketed. All summer we’ve been hearing quotes from the players about how much more motivated they are now to succeed and improve, and how it’s become much harder to gain playing time. There is a newfound respect, something that we’ve been lacking.
I hope to see this defence end the season giving up between 18-22 points per game, preferably the lower the better. VanGorder’s first year at Georgia saw the defence give up just over 18 points per game. This unit is talented enough to match that, and maybe even exceed it.
Breakout Offensive player: Trovon Reed
The one player people want to see in this category is Frazier, but even though I think he will play quite well, I’d watch out for Trovon Reed this season. He’s not the tallest, but he’s a quick, physical receiver that is dangerous in open space. This may just be his year.
Most surprising Offensive player: Greg Robinson
Some are worried about this years offensive line, and whilst the concerns are valid, one player that I think will play at a solid level this year is Left Tackle Greg Robinson. He’s a big boy, that redshirted last year so he could catch up with the college game. I can see him being a four-year starter at one of the most important positions on offence. His potential is through the roof.
Breakout Defensive player: Jermaine Whitehead
One of the few players that impressed VanGorder in the spring was Whitehead. Not the most physically gifted, but a smart player with a nose for the ball. The converted cornerback will start this season at Safety, and may just finish as one of, if not the best player on defence. Keep a close eye on him this season.
Most surprising Defensive player: Jake Holland
Holland as been the punching bag the last few years. People love to point out his poor play, and the pressure is on him this year to deliver more than ever. The middle linebacker position is an important piece in VanGorder’s defense. They are responsible for the alignment and calls. Jake is a smart guy, and I think he comes out and plays at a solid level this season.
Regardless of the question marks, I’m excited for this season as I am any other season. One obvious reason is that I get to go to the opener Saturday against Clemson.
Best case scenario: 10-2
Worst case scenario: 7-5
Official record prediction: 8-4/9-3
Tough to call on the record prediction. So many variables go into this season, but for now, I’ll sit on the fence and stick with 8-4/9-3. I think we improve to beating 2 of Georgia, Alabama, Clemson, Arkansas or LSU.
I’ll have my Clemson preview out sometime later this week, so watch out for that.