I think there are several reasons for the increased anticipation. Two are the new coordinators, Brian VanGorder on defense and Scot Loeffler on offense. There are going to be significant changes in how the Tigers play the game because of their influence.
Another reason for anticipation is that fans saw a lot of young players suffer through growing pains last year. The expectation is that those players will be a year older, a year stronger and a year wiser, That should make a positive difference when they take the field this season. There should be a reward down the road for the Tigers for playing so many young players in 2011.
I think all of the Auburn people, including me, are looking forward to seeing how the competition at quarterback turns out. If the Tigers get good play at that position this team should do well because Coach Chizik and his staff have steadily improved the overall talent level and depth on the roster.
From everything I have seen and heard, combined with everything I know about football, there are reasons to be excited about what Coach Loeffler is going to do with the offense. He believes in putting a quarterback out on the field who can get the football thrown downfield and he believes in the importance of being physical when running the football. If the Tigers can have success in those areas, week after week, this is going to be an enjoyable season.
If the offense does what it wants to do it should be able to control the ball more effectively than last year's team and that is going to be a major boost to the defense. The best defense in the world is an offense that is putting together long, time-consuming drives that end with points put on the scoreboard.
Auburn's defense is coming off a disappointing season. I don't blame the struggles totally on the defense. The offense had too many instances when it couldn't get a first down and quickly put their defensive teammates back out on the field. Combine that with a lot of youth on defense and it wasn't a good situation for the 2011 Tigers.
When Coach VanGorder was at Georgia, and later with the Atlanta Falcons, he put hard-nosed, aggressive and swarming defenses on the field, the kind I enjoy watching play. That is what I expect out of this year's Auburn team.
I also expect to see a defense that will get better as the season goes along because there are still a lot of young players who are being counted on and they will improve as their game experience grows. Also, there should be better depth on the 2012 team than last year's squad had. I think the defense got worn down as the season went along, something that may not happen this year if the depth develops like expected and the offense does its job.
To me, looking at the big picture, it is an exciting time for Auburn football and I can't wait for the season to start so we can see what kind of product this coaching staff puts on the field.
(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.