Spring training is an exciting time of year for players who haven't played, or haven't played a lot, because the coaches aren't working on a game plan for the next opponent and have the time to give a thorough look at everybody on the roster.
There are so many young kids that we have heard about and read about who haven't had a chance to perform or perform a lot in game situations on the 2011 Auburn team. Those players will be trying to position themselves for starting spots or more playing time based on what they do in the coming weeks.
You can go down the list position by position and there are players who Auburn fans are looking forward to seeing this season. The Tigers lost a lot of productive veterans at most spots, but there are guys hoping to step up and show what they can do.
A good example is the receiver group. We know that Emory Blake can play and there are three or four guys the coaches are hoping can step up and fill the shoes of Terrell Zachery, Darvin Adams and Kodi Burns. Trovon Reed and DeAngelo Benton are receivers with a lot of potential and the Tigers return Quindarius Carr, a player who has about as much potential as anybody on the team purely because of speed. If Carr gets to where he is consistent catching the football, he will be exciting to watch and will be a threat the Tigers didn't have last year.
Quindarius Carr is expected to be deep threat for the receiver group.
I know there is only one returning starter on the offensive line and that is an area of concern, but I am excited about seeing what Brandon Mosley does as a senior after he played so well last year in his first season as an offensive lineman. I like his personality and what he can bring to the table as far as leadership and toughness is concerned. If the offensive line ends up playing with Mosley's personality those guys will be something to contend with this season.
Talent-wise I don't believe the Tigers will be short on the offensive line, the question is maturity and how quickly the inexperienced players are going to grow up and take the responsibility you have to take when you are a starter.
The Tigers brought in several new players early after they graduated from high school in December and there will be a large group of them arriving this summer. Those newcomers will add to the team's talent and depth and there is a good chance that a lot of them will contribute early and play roles in the 2011 team's development. One of the most interesting aspects of college football is that there are lot of new faces on the field every year and the personality of teams can change a good bit from year to year. Sometimes that is a good things, sometimes it isn't.
Chemistry has a lot to do with how a football team performs. Last year at this time a lot of people were saying that Alabama was going back to the national championship game, but it certainly wasn't the same team in 2010 it was the previous year because some of the people had changed.
For Auburn, just as is the case on offense, the Tigers have to replace the majority of their starters on defense. The Tigers lost a lot of good players, but there are talented ones coming back. If the defense can get help from the newcomers, particularly at tackle, I see the potential for this group to be possibly be better than last year despite losing a lot of players who had major roles in the team's success. A key to that happening is for the Tigers to stay healthy on that side of the ball.
It is going to be important for the Tigers to be a strong defensive team because that is so essential in being able to win on the road and this year there are tough road games at Clemson, South Carolina, LSU, Arkansas and Georgia. Those are challenging no matter how good you are.
In my opinion how well a college team plays on the road in the SEC depends on how well it plays defense and how the quarterback performs. Barrett Trotter has been around it for several seasons and Clint Moseley saw it last year, too, so that is a plus for the Tigers. Regardless how good your team is or how young or old you are on offense, how your quarterback handles a hostile crowd is a key.
If the 2011 Tigers are going to be successful on the road, you can bet your life they are going to have to be better on defense than they were last season and the quarterback has to play with poise and confidence to give the offense a chance to be successful.
Right now the defense and the quarterback play are unknowns, but it makes sense to predict that this young Auburn team will improve throughout the season as long as it stays healthy.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn who was also head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns a week--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.