Auburn football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Tigers, best players and season prediction.
What You Need To Know About The Auburn Offense
Didn’t you used to be the Auburn offense?
One of the most fearsome attacks in college football three years ago slipped in 2014 and fell off the map last year, finishing 94th in the nation and rarely showed off any positive consistency. It’s not going to be 2013 all over again, but there’s going to be an uptick in the production.
First and foremost, the Tigers have to settle on a quarterback. Three options are fighting it out for time, and the gig might not be fully settled even after Clemson comes to town to kick things off. All three quarterbacks bring something different – Gus Malzahn has to come up with one he can rely on weekly.
Leading rusher Peyton Barber took off early, and Roc Thomas decided to transfer. It was supposed to be Jovon Robinson or bust – but he bolted, too.
The line is full of upperclassmen and needs to be far more effective. It was okay at times last season, but it wasn’t a force.
The receiving corps loses two of its top targets in Ricardo Louis and Melvin Ray, but not having them around isn’t a killer. The receivers should be okay as long as the quarterbacks are solid.
Biggest Key To The Auburn Offense
The line has to be a force. The quarterback situation will turn out fine, and the backs are going to rise up as long as there’s room to move. But for the Auburn offense to be the Auburn offense again, the line has to start controlling games in crunch time again – it has to be relied on more in key situations. Around star guard Alex Kozan, the starting five should be great as the season goes on, but it’s going to be a while to develop the depth. As long as there isn’t a rash of early injuries, the line should be fine.
What You Need To Know About The Auburn Defense
Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is putting together a potential killer.
Last year’s D was better than the overall stats, and now this group should carry the team starting with a potentially killer defensive front that welcomes back a healthy Carl Lawson on the outside. With a strong tackle situation, and a positive pass rush, this might be the team’s biggest strength.
The secondary did a decent job last season and should be terrific at times working around Carlton Davis at one corner spot and Johnathan Ford at safety. If Lawson is Lawson applying the pressure, the defensive backfield will come up with even more big plays after picking off 14 passes.
The linebacking corps isn’t exactly a weakness, but it’s the defense’s biggest question mark having to replace Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy. There’s athleticism, but not a whole bunch of experience or proven depth.
Biggest Key To The Auburn Defense
Generate a pass rush and always get into the backfield. Mr. Lawson, your table is ready. The defense got destroyed by the better running games last season, but it also got ripped up when it couldn’t get to the quarterback. On the year Auburn came up with just 19 sacks with 16 coming in the seven wins and just three in the six losses. Considering Deshawn Watson is first up on the slate, the pass rush has to show up right away.
Auburn Will Be Far Better If …
It owns third downs. The offense owned third downs over the first three seasons under Malzahn – finishing second in the nation in conversions in 2014 – and doing a great job on defense, too. Last year the offense sputtered too often in key moments, the defense allowed teams to convert 43% of their third down chances, and the Tigers couldn’t seem to maintain control of games like they do when they’re humming. Basically, the defense needs to get off the field and the offense has to do what it does.
Best Auburn Offensive Player
OG Alex Kozan, Sr. – RB Jovon Robinson has the potential to rise up and be a superstar, and the hope is for one of the quarterback options to be special, but Kozan should be the best player as long as he’s back to being the blocker he was before getting hurt a few years ago. The anchor at either guard spot, he’ll likely get the call on the left side with the right skills and the right quickness and the right toughness to be exactly what the line needs.
Best Auburn Defensive Player
DE Carl Lawson, Jr. – After having no luck with injuries over the last few seasons, he appears to be back to form with the explosion and the quickness to be the difference-maker who can take games over by himself. After dominating in spring ball, he announced he’s ready to be an All-SEC superstar. First, though, he’s got to stay healthy.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB John Franklin III, Jr. – It’s going to be a fight for the starting quarterback job with Sean White and Jeremy Johnson, but Franklin is the better fit for what the Tigers want to do. He’s not all that big, but he’s special-fast with the ability to make something happen when everything else breaks down. If he’s not the one, then someone has to rise up and shine under center. The Tigers need a star.
The Auburn Season Will Be A Success If …
It’s a nine-win season. Here’s the problem. Auburn is going to be better than it was last year – the defense will be more effective and the offense won’t be nearly as bad as it looked throughout spring ball – but where will the wins come from? They open the season against Clemson, the soon have to dive into the SEC world with Texas A&M and LSU a few weeks later, and overall, there just aren’t a slew of easy, sure-thing wins. However, beat Arkansas State, Vanderbilt, ULM and Alabama A&M, and there’s the base. But the road slate is too tough to think about winning the West.
Sept. 3 vs. Clemson – It might be all about attitude with Auburn. No one’s going to think it can beat the likely preseason No. 1 team, but if it does, and if it can make a statement right out of the gate, then all the expectations change. Then comes Arkansas State, and then come the home games against Texas A&M and LSU. To be blunt, it’s a make-or-break September for the Gus Malzahn era, and it needs to start out with a bang.
2015 Auburn Fun Stats
– Auburn outscored its opponents 85-58 in the first quarter. It was outscored in the second, fourth, and overtime, and tied in the third.
– Red-Zone Scores: Auburn 46-of-51 (90%) – Opponents 40-of-53 (75%)
– Time of Possession: Opponents 31:38 – Auburn 28:22