Caldwell Column: Back To Work For Tigers

Jason Caldwell writes the upcoming national title game, the Heisman voting and other subjects in his Monday Morning Quarterback Column.

Back To Work

Following a week off for final exams the football Tigers will get back on the practice field this week as they prepare to face Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 6.

One thing that could work in Auburn's favor is having a head coach who has been through this before. Even though he wasn't the head coach in 2010, Gus Malzahn knows all about having a full month to prepare for the biggest game in the country.

In getting ready for Oregon it was the Auburn defense that benefited the most in getting used to the tempo used by the Ducks. That is something that can probably help Florida State, but that was an Auburn team during the 2010 season already used to a fast tempo because the defensive players faced it every day in practice. That is not the case for the Seminoles so I'm not sure how much several weeks of practices can help them get ready for what they will see from the Tigers in Pasadena.

Unsung Hero--Offense

While many guys on offense have gotten much love for what the Tigers have accomplished this season running the football, guard Chad Slade has just gone about his business of clearing running lanes for Tre Mason, Nick Marshall and company. Considered the weak link on the offensive line heading into the season by several so-called experts, Slade has consistently gotten better under the tutelage of J.B. Grimes and has been a key reason for Auburn's ability to pound opponents into submission on the ground.

Unsung Hero--Defense

He's not the most productive player for the Tigers in terms of tackles, but when Nosa Eguae made the move from defensive end to defensive tackle it changed the identity for the Tigers because of his work ethic and drive to succeed.

Undersized, he makes plays because of his technique and non-stop motor. Watching Eguae become a big part of Auburn's defensive effort in a year when the Tigers are once again playing for a championship is only fitting after he played such a big role in 2010. His emergence at defensive tackle has also spurred on the other players at the position including junior Gabe Wright, who has come on as a playmaker for the Tigers.

Since Eguae moved inside to tackle the Tigers have won nine consecutive games.

The Next Tre

This season I have had the opportunity to see many of Auburn's current commitments play and one of the best is linebacker Tre Williams. Playing a position the Tigers will be looking for immediate help at next season, the St. Paul's standout has all the tools to be an immediate impact player in 2014.

He showed that last week at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game in Montgomery when he jumped in with the best players in the state and became a leader. Calling the signals and running the defense, the physically impressive Williams showed the leadership needed at middle linebacker. That should make him a player to watch as soon as he steps on the Auburn campus next summer.

Number Two

Like most people I wasn't surprised to see Jameis Winston win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, but to say I was surprised that A.J. McCarron was named the runner-up would be an understatement. There is no question that McCarron has done a great job as a game manager for a very talented Alabama team the last three seasons, that doesn't make him one of college football's best players. He wasn't even the best player on his own team because that's easily linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Not only was he not the top quarterback in the country, he wasn't even the top quarterback in the SEC and that wasn't even close. Before I even get to Johnny Manziel, the play of Aaron Murray this season was pretty special considering all the injuries that Georgia had this season. As for Manziel's worth vs. McCarron, put Manziel on Alabama's team and McCarron at Texas A&M and see what happens. There is no way the Aggies come close to seven wins if that's the case.

As for Mason finishing sixth, the number of votes that were turned in before the final weekend of the year is a disservice to what is supposed to be the premier award in college football. How can you vote on an award without seeing the entirety of the season? With stamps and letters no longer needed to vote for the Heisman they need to make voters wait until following the league championship games to make their picks. Maybe that way they'll actually have a chance to avoid looking foolish.

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