Position By Position Look At Football Tigers

Columnist Phillip Marshall looks at how the 2003 football Tigers should line up at each position on offense and defense.

Spring practice is over and the most anticipated Auburn football season in many years awaits. Soaring expectations were obvious at Saturday's A-Day game. Lines at the ticket booth were so long that a number of fans didn't get in until near the end of the first quarter.

The crowd of more than 38,000 was treated to a good show, as far as A-Day games go. There is little doubt the Tigers have championship level talent. But other teams also have championship level talent and several of those teams are on Auburn's schedule. Questions also remain as the long wait for another season begins. How they are answered will go a long way in determining just how far this team can go.

Here is a position-by-position look:

QUARTERBACK: For the first time since Ben Leard's senior season, there is no race for the starting job. Jason Campbell is the man and will be the man. He showed down the stretch last season he can win big games.

Concerns: There's not another quarterback in camp who has ever taken a snap in a college game. Backup Josh Sullivan, a redshirt freshman, has plenty of talent but is far from ready to take over the offense should something happen to Campbell.

Carnell Williams

TAILBACK: What can you say? Carnell Williams might have been the best back in the nation the first half of last season. Ronnie Brown might have been the best back in the nation the second half of last season. Tre Smith is a future star and could be a present star a lot of places. Brandon Jacobs is, surely, the biggest and strongest tailback in the country.

Concerns: Not many. Williams still isn't back to full-speed from the broken leg he suffered against Florida last season. Other than that, the biggest question is how coaches are going to divide up the carries.

FULLBACK: Senior Brandon Johnson is the toughest guy on the Auburn football team. He's fierce blocker and can even run when called on. Sophomore Jake Slaughter has bounced around, but now appears to be permanently at fullback.

Concerns: Johnson actually plays so hard that he makes himself susceptible to injuries. Slaughter still has to show he can consistently execute when called upon.

WIDE RECEIVER: Sophomores Ben Obomanu and Devin Aromashodu, coaches say, made great strides in the spring. Redshirt freshman Courtney Taylor was one of the stars of spring practice, which came as no surprise. Silas Daniels and Jeris McIntyre are steady veterans.

Concerns: Daniels and McIntyre both had some drops in the A-Day game. An injury or two could leave some depth problems.

Cooper Wallace

TIGHT END: Cooper Wallace is one of those guys who makes a mockery of recruiting rankings. He's a big-timer, one of the better tight ends in the SEC as a blocker and receiver. Anthony Mix, with the speed of a wide receiver, can create big matchup problems. Converted tackle Steven Ross provides physical presence.

Concerns: Mix still needs to gain some weight to be big enough to fulfill blocking duties. Ross isn't much of a threat as a receiver.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE: Sophomore Marcus McNeill has a chance to be one of the top offensive linemen ever at Auburn. Mark Pera is a smart, hard-nosed senior. Don't forget Taylor Bourgeois, injured most of last season.

Concerns: Junior Ryan Broome missed time in the spring with a bad back. Whether it is Broome or someone else, there is a need for at least one more dependable option.

Monreko Crittenden

OFFENSIVE GUARD: Huge senior Monreko Crittenden silenced his critics last season. If he keeps his weight under control and continues to improve, he'll make a lot of money after this season. Sophomore Troy Reddick will probably be the starter at right guard, though redshirt freshman Jonathan Palmer was named the most improved offensive lineman in spring practice. Palmer played both guard and tackle in the spring. Bourgeois could also end up back at guard.

Concerns: Of those currently listed at guard, only Crittenden has been truly battle-tested, though Reddick played a good bit last season. No one knows just what to expect from junior Thomas Anderson, Bo Jackson's nephew.

CENTER: Junior Danny Lindsey, a starter at guard last season, will be the starter. Junior Jeremy Ingle, who suffered a broken ankle late in spring practice, will probably be the backup. Redshirt freshman Will Ward could make a push for that spot. Lindsey is hard-nosed and quick. He could be as good or even better than departed starter Ben Nowland.

Concerns: Lindsey missed all of spring practice. Ingle will be out for a couple of months.

Bret Eddins

DEFENSIVE END: Junior Bret Eddins came on strong down the stretch last season and was named the most improved defensive lineman in the spring. Reggie Torbor is an all-star. Jay Ratliff has the ability to play for many years. Kyle Derozan has added substantial weight and strength since last season and has loads of talent.

Concerns: Junior college transfer Tony McClain suffered a broken ankle in the last scrimmage of spring. Though he is expected to be full-speed by August, he'll miss some time working out with his teammates.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Seniors DeMarco McNeil and Spencer Johnson are as good as any pair in the SEC. Sophomores Wayne Dickens and T.J. Jackson are far better than your average backups. Senior Dexter Murphy isn't spectacular, but he's reliable and he plays all-out on every play.

Concerns: McNeil and Johnson have been plagued by injuries the past two seasons. For Auburn's defense to be as dominating as it can be, they need to stay healthy.

Karlos Dansby

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER: Karlos Dansby should be an All-American, but he wasn't the story of the spring. Sophomore Travis Williams wowed coaches and players alike with his progress. He was a big-play man from start to finish. Derrick Graves is talented and reliable. Freshman Kevin Sears will be hard to keep out of the rotation. Junior Mayo Sowell will fit in somewhere when he returns from a knee injury. Sophomore Antarrious Williams will be a factor, too, if he recovers from a broken leg suffered against Penn State in the Capital One Bowl. Redshirt freshman Kevis Burnham is a star of the future.

Concerns: Dansby, Travis Williams and Graves will definitely be in the playing rotation. There is some uncertainty about who the fourth member of that rotation will be, though there are plenty of options.

Lemarcus Rowell

MIDDLE LINEBACKER: Senior Dontarrious Thomas made the move from outside to the middle and will be a star if he stays healthy. Sophomore Lemarcus Rowell is a future star and made great progress in the spring.

Concerns: Thomas must adjust after playing outside the past three seasons.

CORNERBACK: Junior Carlos Rogers is an All-SEC candidate. Junior Rosegreen moved from safety late in the spring and could play on the other side. If he doesn't, it will probably be junior Lamel Ages, sophomore Dee Durham, redshirt freshman Montae Pitts or incoming junior college transfer David Irons.

Concerns: Left cornerback, the one opposite Rogers, is perhaps the most uncertain position on the team. Rosegreen can do it, but coaches would prefer to leave him at safety. Ages plays with all his heart and soul, but he's 5-9 if that and limited athletically. Durham has been inconsistent and Pitts is just learning the position.

Junior Rosegreen

SAFETY: Rosegreen is an All-SEC candidate if he doesn't move to cornerback. If he does, hard-hitting senior Roshard Gilyard is the heir apparent. Sophomore Donnay Young has had plenty of playing time and will be hard to beat out on the other side. Redshirt freshmen Karibi Dede and Will Herring made some noise in the spring and will push hard for playing time.

Concerns: Gilyard is one of the more physical players on the team but needs to improve on pass coverage. If Rosegreen plays cornerback, there'll be precious little experience overall.

PUNTER: Redshirt freshman Michael Gibson handled all the punting in the spring and did a solid job. He could get a challenge from incoming freshman Cody Bliss.

Concerns: Whether it's Gibson, Bliss or someone we haven't heard of yet, Auburn's punter will be in his first college game when Southern California comes to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Gibson needs to be more consistent.

PLACE-KICKER: Junior Philip Yost was one of the highlights of spring practice. He was consistent and he had range. He could get a challenge from incoming freshman John Vaughn.

Concerns: Yost has always been good in practice. It's in the games that he has struggled. He missed two from makeable distance in the A-Day game.

Until next time…

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