It's going to be year two without Cam Newton at Auburn, so the Tiger fans have probably come to grips with it now.
With the spring game in the rearview mirror it's time for Gene Chizik and his crew to go into offseason mode. That's why we reached out to one of go-to blogs for any Auburn fan — WarBlogle.com.
The insight into the new-look Tigers is invaluable.
1. While at most schools, spring story lines center around position battles, at Auburn it was all about getting to know new coordinators. Let's start on offense, where Scot (one T, by the way) Loeffler brings much more of a tradition pro-style approach (with some spread mixed in) to Auburn, than what Gus Malzahn left behind on his departure to Arkansas State. Given such a dramatic shift in styles, how did you think the players handled everything?
Based on the comments during Spring practice and after the Spring game, it seems like the transition is going well. Early on, Kiehl Frazier did say that the offense was more difficult than Malzahn's, which given the fact that he had been playing in a Malzahn-type offense since eighth grade, that kind of worried me. But by the time Spring practice was over, the coaches and players all seemed to be pretty comfortable with where they were. Of course, they have tons more to learn, but it seems like the initial brunt of change wasn't as bad as anyone would have expected.
That makes me believe that there may be more of last year's offensive scheme still hanging around than most coordinators would allow. Loeffler has said many times that he's going to run what will win, and that he doesn't have to stick to his conventional attack. He is going to play to the strengths of the players, and that definitely seems like the easiest way to eventually move to another system in the next few years.
2. On defense, Brian VanGorder (and his mustache) came to the Plains this spring as well. On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you to see Ted Roof gone? And on a scale of 1-10, how impressed were you with what VanGorder was able to do with the defensive guys over the last couple weeks?
I try to be a nice guy when it comes to Auburn guys, so I can't say that I was exactly happy to see Roof leave. He was a national championship coach, and loved Auburn, and the players loved him. That being said, it was time for him to go. He even knew that, which is why he took the UCF, then Penn State jobs, without making things too messy for Chizik.
For me, the jury is still kind of out on the VanGorder's defense. That doesn't mean I haven't seen any improvement. The defense looked completely different in the Spring game, and showed signs of the old Auburn defense. I have full confidence that VanGorder has the players completely on board with his system, and those 4 and 5-star recruits that fans Auburn have been waiting to see will flourish in an aggressive, hard-nosed defense.
3. Shifting back to the offensive side of the football, it seems like for all intents and purposes Kiehl Frazier is pulling away from the pack in the QB derby. For college football fans who've never seen him play, what should they know?
He is not Cam. It's very easy to try and make that comparison, for a few obvious reasons, but he is just not the same style of player. He will be able to make some plays with his feet, but he is a true dual-threat quarterback. regardless of the fact that he has been in Malzahn's offense the past six years. He has tons of talent, but was played very sparingly last year. When he did play, it was usually in some hairy and very sporadic situations, so he never got in a rhythm (two INTs against Arkansas come to mind). He is smart, and I think if he is given full rein of the offense we will start to see why he was the so highly rated coming out of high school.
4. With Onterio McCalebb (who somehow, incredibly still has eligibility) limited on Saturday because of an injury, Mike Blakely was the star of the show on offense, rushing for 65 yards in the spring game Saturday. Is he a name we should know? Or is did he just take advantage of some injuries this past Saturday?
As much as I hate this cliche, Auburn is going to be a running back by committee this year, but that's not out of necessity. It's because they can. Tre Mason, Corey Grant, and Mike Blakely are all pretty much the same style of runner. They aren't huge, but they have some bulk. The fact that they aren't huge allows them to keep their speed, and they are all very fast. Onterrio McCalebb is going to be what he's always been: that little squirrel chaser running around the end and catching short passes out of the backfield.
Incoming freshman Jovon Robinson could be the best of all of them, as he will probably be the bigger of the crew, but we'll just have to wait and see how he does in fall practice.
5. Looking over the depth chart, I was surprised how few actual difference-makers Auburn lost off last year's team (and of the one's they did, some were addition by subtraction...cough, Michael Dyer...cough). Given all that, and given an advantageous schedule where Georgia, LSU and Arkansas all come to the Plains (like in 2010), I feel like Auburn is going to be a team that will surprise a lot of people next fall. Am I crazy?
You are not crazy. You are a genius. But seriously, nobody is talking about Auburn and Auburn flourishes when nobody is talking about them. Every even year offers the easier road schedule/better home schedule, so Auburn has that going for them. And like you said, last year's senior class/defections didn't really hurt to lose. Auburn has had three straight top-10 signing classes, and this is their time to finally show what they can do. Of course that means nothing to the national media until they actually do something, so unfortunately Auburn will have to wait until they win 7 or 8 in a row to get back in the spotlight.
Bonus Question: So I know that Auburn honored its three Heisman Trophy winners on Saturday, which is great, it really is. But I've got to ask, isn't it a bit soon to give Cam Newton his own statue? Couldn't we wait a few years? Like, at least until he's old enough to rent his own car to drive to the ceremony? (And for the record, I was just as against Tim Tebow getting a statue last year, or even Nick Saban while he's still coaching. Seems weird to me.)
I see where you are coming from, but Auburn decided to put up statues for their Heisman winners, and that's it. They didn't put up a statue of Cam just because he was awesome in 2010. It was just the rule: you win a Heisman, you get a statue. The other two, Bo Jackson and Pat Sullivan, were already in production and there were plans to put them up last year, but then Cam went ahead and won himself one too, so they waited until this year after his was made to do the ceremony.
I do not agree with putting up statues of any one or any coach who is still currently at your school (Saban), because the story is not over. You have no idea what they are going to do. They may end up running the program into the ground or something like that and then you have egg on your face for putting up a statue of them so early.
Be sure to follow WarBlogle.com on Twitter @WarBlogle.
Be sure to follow Crystal Ball Run on Twitter @CrystalBallRun.