At this time last year many had serious questions about Auburn's offensive line heading into the first year of Gus Malzahn's tenure on the Plains. One of the players who many so-called experts were hoping would move inside to guard was sophomore Greg Robinson.
Struggling at times in his first season as a starter while stuck blocking for an offense that was constantly in third and long situations, Robinson had very little chance at success in those situations. In 2013 everyone saw exactly what he was capable of when put in a favorable situation.
A dominating player at the point of attack, Robinson improved by leaps and bounds under J.B. Grimes and now finds himself as a likely Top 10 selection in this year's NFL Draft. When teams see him work out and find out just how athletic he is, I expect Robinson to continue to move up draft boards for teams and end up as one of their top five selections.
Busy Time For Coaches
With the football season behind them, the Auburn coaching now heads into the three of their busiest weeks of the year with signing day coming up on Feb. 5. First up is a huge weekend with most of the Tigers' commitments scheduled to visit along with several other uncommitted prospects.
Last season Malzahn's staff put together a big finish to the 2013 class even with a short time to get it done. Already with much of this year's group in place, the Tigers have several players on the radar who will be top priorities moving forward.
One of those prospects is expected to visit this coming weekend, four-star defensive end Andrew Williams. With a need at the position and already with a trio of commitments in Raashed Kennion and Justin Thornton from high school and junior college standout Davonte Lambert, Auburn is looking for one more player to finish the group. Williams could be the guy.
Another expected visitor is massive offensive tackle Braden Smith from Olathe, Kan. Rated a five-star prospect and the number two tackle in the country by Scout.com, Smith has shown a lot of interest lately in the Tigers and has them in his top three along with TCU and Texas A&M. Originally scheduled to visit Notre Dame this weekend, Smith is expected to trip to the Plains this weekend.
He is also scheduled to get a visit from Grimes as well as soon as the dead period ends on Wednesday. With plenty of chances to make a good impression Auburn could find itself in good shape by the end of the week.
Despite a pair of losses to open the SEC schedule, Coach Tony Barbee's Tigers have given themselves a chance to win both at Ole Miss and at home against Missouri. Much of the reason for that has been the play of guards Chris Denson and K.T. Harrell. The duo has scored 77 of Auburn's 130 total points in the two games.
For Auburn to get over the hump they've got to find more scorers to to with Denson and Harrell. In two games the entire rest of the roster is averaging just 26.5 points per game. That's not good enough with a trip to Tennessee and a home matchup vs. the Florida Gators this week. If another scorer doesn't step up it's going to once again be too much to ask of two players to carry the load.
On the women's side the Tigers took 10th-ranked South Carolina to the wire before falling late to the Gamecocks on Sunday. Coach Flo's squad has a ton of young talent and should be a team to be reckoned with by the end of the season. It's never easy in the SEC, but with a record of 10-6 (1-2 SEC) and plenty of winnable games left on the schedule another postseason trip should be in the cards.
It's Always Sunny in Auburn
We are just one month away from the start of baseball season and the first year for new coach Sunny Golloway. Making the move from Oklahoma with a winning pedigree, Golloway has already seen what can happen at Auburn by getting and up close and personal view of the football team's run to the SEC Championship and BCS National Championship Game.
On the sidelines and into each and every game, Golloway has seen what is capable on the football field at Auburn but now it's his time to carry it over to the baseball diamond.
With plenty of talent and experience returning, Auburn will head to Port Charlotte, Fla. to open the year in a tournament against the likes of Ohio State, Connecticut and Indiana State on Feb. 14-16. Seniors Dan Glevenyak, Ryan Tella, Damek Tomscha, Blake Austin, Hunter Kelley and Patrick Savage are all back in the field while fellow seniors Terrance Dedrick, Jay Wade, Michael O'Neal, Dillon Ortman and Reid Carter return on the mound.
With so much leadership the Tigers should get plenty of help from a talented newcomer group as well. Several in particular should be immediate impact players with Keegan Thompson expected to pitch and play first base as well. A big-time prospect coming out of Cullman, Thompson showed in the fall that he's going to be a player to watch early in his career. Other newcomers to watch include infielders Damon Haecker and Daniel Robert and outfielder Anfernee Grier.