I don't see any reason why they shouldn't have the same great kicking game they took advantage of last season. A lot of the kids who played on special teams were young last year so I think the possibility is there that they will be even better on special teams in 2012.
I think this is going be a better team and I am not basing that on just one thing. I expect there is going to be an energy boost with the two new coordinators, Brian VanGorder and Scot Loeffler, on board leading the defense and offense.
Another plus is that the team used a lot young players last year who had not seen much, if any, playing time at the college level. The experience they gained last fall is valuable and will make those guys better football players this time around.
Those young players had watched the 2010 team win the national championship and wanted to do it again last fall, but did not understand what kind of price you have to pay to get to a championship level. I believe they have a better understanding of that now.
The group returning for Coach Gene Chizik's team did a lot of learning last year and is still learning. From what I have seen I think from a mental standpoint the Tigers will be tougher than they were last fall. I think that will carry over to the team's physical toughness, too.
Even if this year's team is stronger, as I believe it will be, that doesn't mean this squad won't be seriously challenged. As I look at the schedule the Tigers face it may not be as challenging as the 2011 one was, but it is still very difficult.
The five teams that Auburn lost to are all back on the schedule and each one is expected to be strong again in 2012. Most of them have their quarterbacks returning and that is a big factor for success in college football.
I think it is a plus for the Tigers that the rematch with Clemson will be at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta instead of on the road. The other three teams the Tigers lost to on the road last year--LSU, Arkansas and Georgia--have to visit Jordan-Hare Stadium this time, which is a plus for Auburn. There should be a lot of good games on the schedule this fall and I am excited to see what happens.
From the Mailbag:
That was an entertaining and informative article (Auburn's quarterbacks) and recalled great memories as well. Many of us who love Auburn football would also appreciate articles on some of the other position players who made a mark; even those unheralded, who in your opinion were great contributors to the Auburn game.
David Stoddard, '63
Your idea is a good one. I glad you enjoyed the column about the quarterbacks and you can look for me to write about other positions, too, down the road.
(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 is 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 player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a 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 for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.