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Daily Archive for January 24th, 2008

Auburn Football: Tigers Reloading for 2008 Run

Source: bleacher report 

Late into the Georgia night on New Year’s Eve, Kodi Burns dashed into the end zone and gave No. 22 ranked Auburn an overtime victory in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl over 15th ranked Clemson 23-20.

That night was a showcase for the future of Auburn football, as all of Auburn’s scoring was accomplished by freshmen and sophomores. Furthermore, Auburn was unveiling a brand new spread-offense under offensive coordinator Tony Franklin that it installed in only nine practices. This gave Auburn a jump on the spring with a new game-tested system, but the icing on the cake was gaining a win as well to propel it into the next season with plenty momentum.


On offense, Auburn returns 9 of 11 starters. Quarterback Brandon Cox and fullback Carl Stewart graduated. Cox finished out his career in the bowl game with a career-high in completions and his game management and poise will be missed.

But the future was on display with Kodi Burns taking advantage of his playing time by accounting for two touchdowns that night. Kodi will be in line to take over as Auburn’s starting quarterback in the spring.

Kodi’s running ability is well known, but his passing has to make great strides for him to take this team to the next level. If Burns hasn’t improved enough as a passer, look for junior college transfer Chris Todd to make a push and a two quarterback system may emerge again next year.


At running back, Auburn is loaded. It returns every player except fullback Carl Stewart from a crowded backfield that is loaded with talent. Senior Brad Lester returns as the starter and is a perfect back for the spread system.

Backing Lester up will be junior bruiser Ben Tate, sophomore beast Mario Fannin and senior speedster Tristan Davis. Look for Fannin to also line up as a slot receiver in the new offense with the coaches looking for ways to get him the ball.

At receiver, Auburn brings back all personnel from 2007. Senior Rod Smith leads the way, followed by senior slot receiver Robert Dunn, junior Montez Billings and sophomores Tim Hawthorne, Chris Slaughter and Terrell Zachary. Look for Auburn’s receivers to make huge strides in this new offense. Slaughter might be the breakout receiver for 2008 for the Auburn Tigers.

As for the offensive line, once again Auburn brings back everyone from a line that started three true freshmen in 2007. Returning are sophomores Lee Ziemba, Chaz Ramsey and Ryan Pugh, along with seniors Jason Bosley and Tyronne Green. Auburn’s offensive line in 2008 should be very good and will be opening up big holes for the running backs.

Defensively, Auburn takes more of a hit as they return just six of 11 starters. They are losing preseason All-American defensive end Quentin Groves, starting nose tackle Josh Thompson, starting safety Eric Brock and corner backs Patrick Lee and Jonathan Wilhite to graduation.

They also lose junior Pat Sims to the NFL draft. On the defensive line, defensive end Antonio Coleman stepped in when Groves went down and played at an All-SEC level; he is a solid starter coming back. Backing Coleman up will be sophomore Antoine Carter. Auburn will have to replace both tackles, but look for junior defensive end Sen’Derrick Marks to possibly move back inside if they don’t find two adequate replacements at tackle. Look for junior Jemarcus Ricks and sophomore Mike Blanc to be the likely starters at defensive tackle, with Marks and Coleman in the equation as ends.

At linebacker, Auburn returns an athletic group. Junior Tray Blackmon leads the way at middle linebacker with sophomore Josh Bynes backing him up. Sophomore strongside linebacker Craig Stevens returns as the starter with sophomore Bo Harris as his backup. Senior weakside linebacker Chris Evans (Auburn’s leading tackler in 2007) returns as the starter with fellow senior Merrill Johnson rounding out the two-deep.

In the secondary Auburn loses senior Eric Brock at strong safety, along with both starting corners in Patrick Lee and Jonathan Wilhite. Returning leaders will be sophomore safety Zac Etheridge, who started last year as a freshman, and junior corner Jerraud Powers who was a co-starter with Wilhite. Look for sophomore Michael McNeil to take over at strong safety and junior Walter McFadden to take over as starting corner opposite Powers. Corner will be the position to watch in the spring as I would expect to see a lot of competition there for the two starting spots.

On the coaching front, Auburn not only is replacing offensive coordinator Al Borges with Franklin, and has also replaced defensive coordinator Will Muschamp (who left for Texas), with former University of Pittsburgh defensive coordinator from Paul Rhoads.

However, with Tommy Tuberville running things, don’t expect a tough transition.

Auburn is in great position to make a run at the SEC title next year. The big key will be quarterback play. How much does Kodi Burns progress as a passer and how well do the quarterbacks pick up the offense?


Skill positions are set. Auburn has to find some corners, but they have the players in place to do it. With a favorable schedule including LSU, Tennessee and Georgia at home, the Tigers are one of the favorites to make it to Atlanta next year.

Look for my recruiting breakdown of Auburn’s 2008 class after letters of intent are sent out on signing day.

I think he just wants some attention

Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military RB Enrique Davis met with two Auburn coaches Wednesday as the Tigers try to get back into the mix for the former signee.

Davis signed with the Tigers in February out of Mosley High School in Lynn Haven, Fla., but failed to qualify academically. The 5-foot-11, 215-pounder went to Hargrave, and is again a recruitable athlete.

Davis still plans to take other visits.

Davis remained firm with his Auburn pledge until last Friday when he decommitted from Auburn stating the new offense under coordinator Tony Franklin was his biggest concern.

“I just don’t know if I really like that offense,” Davis said when he decommitted. “That offense is more for quarterbacks and receivers in my eyes.”

But Davis had yet to meet with Franklin. He’d spoken to him on the phone, but never in person. He had yet to see what the new coordinator planned to do with him, how he would be utilized in the new system at Auburn.

Wednesday however, Davis said he got the full rundown. Franklin and AU running backs coach Eddie Gran made the trip to Virginia.

“We met for while. They showed me a lot of film on what they are going to be doing,” said Davis. “They showed me stuff (Franklin) did in the bowl game, stuff he did at Kentucky, and stuff he did at Troy.”

Davis said he was impressed with what he saw, particularly how Franklin finds different ways to involve the running backs.

“I liked that little toss play, that little side-out toss. I like that play a lot. It looks kind of like a little bubble route, but with a toss instead of a pass,” he said. “I like that. It’s a nice play. You can get it and go. I also like a lot of the screens they run.”

Davis said Franklin’s resume with running backs is also more impressive than he thought. At Kentucky, Franklin had two backs, Anthony White and Derek Homer, that combined for more yards (rushing and receiving totals) than any other two-back combination in the country. White had three straight 1,000-combined-yard seasons and became the third player in NCAA history to have 1,500 yards rushing and 1,500 yards receiving in his career.
Franklin was hired as Auburn’s new OC Dec. 12, 2007.

“He told me about having those two guys and what they did under him,” said Davis. “That is very impressive.”

Gran also spoke with Davis at length during the meeting.

“Coach Gran just talked to me like coach Gran. He’s been recruiting me for two-and-a-half years so we just talked,” said Davis. “He told me how they wanted to use me, use my abilities like my hands out of the backfield, my ability to run the ball, pass block, basically be that all-around back. He said I could still get to the (NFL) as long as I stayed focused.”

Davis said the Franklin and Gran did enough to get the Tigers back in it.

“I was a little surprised from some of the stuff I saw. They do run the ball more than I thought they did,” he said. “I liked what they showed me.

“I’m still not committed, but I’m definitely looking harder at Auburn. They still have a shot.”

Davis visited Auburn in November and trekked to Ole Miss last weekend. Visits to Oregon, Maryland and Tennessee are possibilities, he said.

“I’m going to take a couple of more visits and just go from there,” Davis said. “I’m not in a hurry. I’m going to see how everything goes.”