We're back with our "One good reason" series, and we're talking about the Auburn Tigers.
Let's see what Auburn could do in 2012:
Auburn will play the role of spoiler this fall: That young talent is more mature and experienced.
Gene Chizik seemed pretty excited about the team he had coming back this spring. Yes, star running back Michael Dyer is gone and two new coordinators are in town, but Chizik was very happy with the maturity he saw from his younger players. This is a team that Chizik still considers pretty young all around, but the maturation this group showed this spring wowed the coaches. And a lot of that young talent got some good field experience last year. Defensive end Corey Lemonier is a budding star and was one of the top pass-rushers in the league last fall. Running back Onterio McCalebb is the old reliable one in the backfield, but he'll be assisted by three youngsters in Tre Mason, Mike Blakely and Corey Grant who should make the Tigers' running game pretty solid this fall.
Auburn's defensive line is stacked with talent and the secondary returns three experienced starters. Chizik has stocked up well in the past could of years, meaning Auburn has the talent to compete with the favorites in this league. Winning the West will be quite the uphill battle for Auburn, but if the talent proves its worth, the Tigers could ruin a true contender's season. A major run might be tough, but with the talent Chizik has on his squad, you can't count Auburn out for a chance to pull a big upset this fall.
Why it won't: Lots of questions remain on offense and defense.
Growth and maturation are great, but it has to translate to the field, and until the games are played, we don't know if that will happen. On offense, the Tigers are without their centerpiece from last year in Dyer, who followed former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to Arkansas State. Without him last year, what was Auburn's offense? McCalebb is one of the league's best home-run threats, but his work isn't done up the middle. That's where those younger backs will come in handy, but can one put the bulk of the carries on his back? Wide receiver Emory Blake is very talented and is certainly a downfield threat, but he needs help. While there's depth at receiver, it's pretty unproven, starting with Trovon Reed, who was expected to have a much better year than he did in 2011. Seniors Travante Stallworth and DeAngelo Benton have years but hardly any valuable experience.
And the quarterback situation is still up in the air. Kiehl Frazier had a good spring and left with the edge, but we still haven't seen him throw comfortably in real games. Clint Moseley was also very inconsistent as a starter last year and missed part of the spring with a sore shoulder. And who knows where Zeke Pike's head will be this fall.
The defense seems to be a little more stable and new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has experience in the SEC, but this unit allowed more than 400 yards of offense each game and ranked 11th or worse in the SEC in scoring, rushing, passing and total defense. The defense has to be considerably better for this team to make a real upset possible.