2009 Auburn Tigers Football Preview
2008 Record: (5-7, 2-6)
2008 Bowl: none
Coach: Gene Chizik (First year at Auburn, 5-19 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Gus Malzahn
Defensive Coordinator: Ted Roof
Other Key Returnees: DE Michael Goggans, Walter McFadden CB, S Mike McNeil, OT Ryan Pugh, LB Craig Stevens, TE Tommy Trott, OT Lee Ziemba
Key Losses: C Jason Bosley, DT Tez Doolittle, WR Robert Dunn, LB Chris Evans, G Tyronne Green, DT Sen’Derrick Marks, CB Jerraud Powers, WR Rodgeriqus Smith
Gene Chizik’s hiring was met with quite a bit of controversy. It remains to be seen if he can actually coach, but he sure hit a homerun with his assistant coaches. Gus Malzahn is a great offensive mind who can turn the ho-hum Tigers offense into something decent sooner or later and Ted Roof, the new defensive coordinator, has head coaching experience at Duke.
The defense might have lost tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, linebacker Chris Evans and cornerback Jerraud Powers, but they are still a quality and experienced unit. The team’s top two tacklers from a year ago, safeties Zac Etheridge and Mike McNeil, are now upperclassmen and will anchor a strong secondary. The linebackers should have little trouble replacing Chris Evans. Josh Bynes, Craig Stevens and Tray Blackmon are all experienced players and there is some depth behind them if necessary. The major losses are on the front line where Marks and Tez Doolittle have to be replaced and the line has to find a way to get more pressure on the quarterback.
The defense will be fine. This is Auburn after all. But the offense is an entirely different story. Kodi Burns is back at the quarterback spot, but his starting job is in jeopardy. Burns proved to be an effective rusher, but he only threw for two touchdowns, while getting picked off seven times. Neil Caudle was a highly touted recruit that never got much of a chance early in his career, but he had a good spring and is a much more effective passer than Burns. Either way, the offense will have to rely on running back Ben Tate while Malzahn’s hurry-up offense is implemented. Mario Fannin could be the difference maker. He can line up just about anywhere and his versatility will make the Auburn offense difficult to prepare for.
The Bottom Line for the Tigers:
If Auburn wants to reach a bowl game this year they have to pick up the offense quickly. And if they do, this could be a very dangerous team by the end of the year. But if the offense is going to be productive they have to find some wide receivers. The fact that Burns only passed for 1,050 yards last year is not entirely his fault as the receiving corps was pretty bad. Somebody has to step up and emerge as a consistent pass catcher or it could be another long year for Auburn and a bad start to the Coach Chizik era.
By Joel Welser
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