2010 NCAA Football Preview: Auburn Tigers

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Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 8-5, 3-5
Bowl Game: Outback Bowl (W 38-35 OT vs. Northwestern)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): NR, NR
Conference finish: 5th SEC West
Offensive rank: 16
Defensive rank: 68

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: Ben Tate, 1,362 yards, 10 TD
Passing: Chris Todd, 2,612 yards, 22 TD, 6 INT
Receiving: Darvin Adams, 997 yards, 10 TD
Tackles: Josh Bynes, 104 total tackles; Craig Stevens, 95 total tackles
Sacks: Antonio Coleman, 10 sacks (8 solo, 4 assisted)
Interceptions: Walter McFadden, 6 interceptions (2 touchdowns)

2010 Season Outlook

(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

September 9 @ Mississippi State: The Bulldogs won't win the SEC or anything, but they'll be hell-bent on escaping the basement of the SEC West and what better way than by starting conference play with a win? The opener against Arkansas State should be a win, but with Clemson and South Carolina coming up, winning this one is a must.

October 16-30 vs. Arkansas, vs. LSU, @ Ole Miss: With Alabama heavily favored to represent the West in the SEC Championship, the battle for second place will be in full-swing all season. Auburn, Arkansas and LSU all field solid teams and even Ole Miss could make a nice push in the division.

November 26 @ Alabama: As we stand now with this game months away, there aren't many people who would give Auburn much of a chance in this one. That said, the Iron Bowl is one of the biggest college football rivalries, and if you ask most people in the South, they'll tell you it's THE rivalry. From 2000 to 2007, Auburn owned this game with their only loss coming in 2001. With Alabama now a national power again, the Tide has taken the last two. This is one of those rivalries where one team can lose all of their other games (not that either will), but if they win this one, the season will be considered at least a moderate success, especially if it knocks the other out of the national title hunt.

AP: 22nd

Coaches': 23rd

Key Losses

Chris Todd, QB; Ben Tate, RB; Tommy Trott, TE; Antonio Coleman, DE; Walter McFadden, CB

Key Returning Players

Mario Fannin, RB; Onterio McCalebb, RB; Darvin Adams, WR; Lee Ziemba, OT; Ryan Pugh, C; Josh Bynes, LB; Daren Bates, LB/S; Neiko Thorpe, CB

Offensive Overview

The offense will look to get faster this season, meaning former Florida Gator and new starting quarterback Cam Newton will have to adjust quickly. Newton is a big 6'6, 242-pound dual threat quarterback who should fit in nicely with what offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn wants to do. He won the job coming off a nice performance in what was a tight battle.

He'll have some nice options in the passing game with Darvin Adams the leader of the bunch. Adams finished the year with just under 1,000 yards receiving and caught 10 touchdown passes. Seniors Terrell Zachery and Kodi Burns will also play big roles in the passing attack. Quindarius Carr looked good in the offseason and should also be used often. At tight end, Philip Lutzenkirchen will take over in his true sophomore season. He was Rivals' #3 tight end prospect in 2009 and could emerge as one of Newton's most trusted options.

The running backs should be outstanding even with 1,000 yard rusher Ben Tate now plying his trade in the professional ranks. Sophomore Onterio McCalebb probably won't bull too many defenders to the ground, but he's a speedy option who could lead the team in rushing. Senior Mario Fannin has played as a running back and as a receiver, and this year will likely see the bulk of his playing time in the backfield. Combined with true freshman Michael Dyer, Rivals' second ranked running back recruit for 2010, McCalebb, a top recruit himself last year, and Fannin will form the basis for what could again be one of the top rushing attacks in the country.

Making way for the running game will be an offensive line that features four returning starters. The star of the unit will be Lee Ziemba, who will be considered one of the top tackle prospects in next year's draft. Ryan Pugh returns at center where he has enjoyed success over the past three seasons and was an All-SEC second teamer. Guards Mike Berry and Byron Isom also return with Roszell Gaydon and Bart Eddins battling to take over the right tackle spot.

Defensive Overview

There are several safeties returning from injury this season, making the position a question mark entering the year. If the health of the safeties remains an issue, Daren Bates, who started every game last season at safety as a true freshman, will have to move back to the secondary instead of providing depth at linebacker. Neiko Thorpe will assume one of the cornerback spots after finishing third on the team with 84 tackles a season ago. There should be several players looking to make an impact in the secondary this season, but the unit will have to stay healthy if they hope to be consistent this season.

With Bates providing depth at the second line of defense, Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens return after finishing first and second on the team in tackles, respectively, with 104 and 95. Eltoro Freeman is expected to start on the outside, or at the very least prove a valuable part of a rotation with Bates.

Antonio Coleman is gone, leaving a void at pass rusher. Antoine Carter and Michael Goggans will take over with Nosa Eguae figuring to factor into the rotation as well. On the inside, Nick Fairley is a nice pass rusher who saw time as a starter and as a backup throughout the '09 season. He and Mike Blanc are expected to get the start with Zach Clayton providing depth after returning from an injury suffered last season. The front will need to find a way to stop the run after letting up 150+ yards a game last year. What's more, somebody is going to have to step into Coleman's place as a pass rusher who can get to the quarterback.

Special Teams Overview

Wes Bryum hit 15 of 16 field goals a season ago and all 54 of his extra point attempts. He had a long of 49 and didn't attempt a single field go over 50 yards last season, but he's a very consistent kicker who has quietly grown into one of the SEC's better placekickers. At punter, Ryan Shoemaker averaged 42.4 yards per punt in 2007, then only attempted seven punts in 2008 and not one in 2009. He'll step in trying to replicate his freshman season of 2007. The return game will feature Demond Washington, who's also expected to start at corner. Washington averaged 31.1 yards per kick return and took one back for a score a season ago, but averaged just 5.6 yards per punt return. Quindarius Carr could see time as a punt returner.

Head Coach: Gene Chizik

Gene Chizik enters his second year as head coach at Auburn after spending a couple of seasons at Iowa State. He finished with three and two wins, respectively, in his two seasons as the Cyclones' head man, but took Auburn to an 8-5 record and Outback Bowl win in his first season on the job. While he started out 5-0 as an SEC head coach, things took a turn in the second half of the year, finishing 3-5 with an identical conference record.

In his first full season of recruiting with the Tigers, he brought in Rivals' fourth ranked class in the nation, one ahead of bitter rival Alabama. In 2009, he managed to haul in the 19th ranked class after being named head coach in December of 2008. Chizik will have a bit of a grace period, but it's closing fast. If Auburn suffers through a seven-win season, or worse, there will be rumblings that Chizik was not the right man for the job. If he finishes with eight or nine wins and takes the Tigers to a January bowl, the season will be considered successful. If he beats Alabama, he won't have to pay for lunch for a year.

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Mario Fannin, RB; Terrell Zachery, WR; Lee Ziemba, OT; Mike Blanc, DT; Josh Bynes, LB; Craig Stevens, LB; Zac Etheridge, S

Season Prediction

4th SEC West

I know. Fourth in the division doesn't exactly scream success in the SEC, but it's such a strong conference that fourth (and fifth) in the division could mean a January bowl, as it did last year when both Arkansas (fourth) and Auburn (fifth) played on January 2 and January 1, respectively. They could finish as high as second with an SEC West divisional crown seeming unlikely with Alabama in the division. The talent is there with a good offense that should again rank somewhere in the top 25 in the nation assuming the quarterback situation proves steady early on, an underrated defense and a nice kicking game. It's enough to take them to five or so conference victories. Now they'll just have to do it. - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.


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