Photography: Wade Rackley

Jason Caldwell's Friday Auburn Mailbag Column Features Football, Softball, Baseball and Basketball Questions

Jason Caldwell of Inside the Auburn Tigers/AUTigers answers Auburn sports questions on football, basketball, baseball and softball in this edition of his Friday Mailbag column.

Kevin Steele (above) made a move from LSU to Auburn to coordinate the defense for Coach Gus Malzahn's football team.

Aubtime: Do you think that Ford will get any touches on offense if everyone stays healthy? Wow, can believe I really miss softball. If you care to take a shot at it what would be your way to early starting line up for the girls next year?

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rudy Ford get a few touches here or there on offense because of his big play ability. It wouldn't be too hard to mix him in a play or two a game and it is something the coaches and the senior have discussed.

As for softball there are a whole lot of Auburn fans already missing watching this year’s team play. There is no question they captured the hearts of the fan base with the way they played. Trying to guess a lineup would be tough, but I think you’ll have Carlee Wallace behind the plate, Kasey Cooper at third, Whitney Jordan/Haley Fagan at short and second, and possibly Courtney Shea at first with freshman Justus Perry in the mix. In the outfield I think Victoria Draper in center and Madi Gipson in right are probably a given with maybe Morgan Podany in left field.

Photography: Johnny Lawrence

Kasey Cooper, a three-time All-American, will be back at Auburn for the 2017 season after playing this summer for Team USA

M5guy: In your opinion will the softball team be stronger next year even with the loss of some very key players? Also what is your thought on the chemistry and mind-set of the 2016 football team vs the 2010 & 2013 teams? I'm not saying this team will be expected to match the performance of those two but as we all know attitude and "oneness" goes a long way.

I don’t think the softball team will be stronger at the plate, but it could have the chance to make another run because of the pitching. That should be a team strength next season and it may be as good as we’ve seen in quite a while at Auburn. As for the team chemistry and mindset of the football team, I like what I see so far. There is a long way to go for them to get to those two teams you mentioned, but I do think it will be better than last season.


Aunatchamps: Where do you think Stephen Davis, Jr ends up? Why do you think coaches advised him to keep it secret at this time of year?

I still think there’s a chance he could end up at Auburn. I know he’s had a good relationship with the coaches, particularly Rodney Garner, so that couldn’t hurt. As for keeping it quiet, I think it’s simply to keep schools from hounding him and recruiting him until he arrives on campus somewhere later this month or early July.


Au3020: With the MLB draft done how much of a hit will Auburn take to pro ball?  Who do you see leaving Auburn and who from the signing class do you think will  go pro?

The obvious hits are on offense with Anfernee Grier, Josh Palacios and Niko Buentello all gone from last season,. Those are Auburn’s three best hitters. On the mound the Tigers lost Alex Speas from the signing class and Ben Braymer off last year’s team, but overall things went pretty well in that regard with Keegan Thompson and signee Davis Daniel both expected to be at Auburn next season.

How this scenario finished depends on what happens with signee Joshua Anthony. The juco slugger was drafted by the Braves and that will be the one to keep an eye on. Getting him on campus would be huge.


Tigerpi: What new faces can we expect to contribute on this year's team for Coach Pearl, and what will be their strengths.

The most important of the new faces is Danjel Purifoy, who sat out last season after failing to qualify. He’s probably the most talented player on the team and had NBA-type size and skills for a wing player. Point guard transfer Ronnie Johnson from Houston should provide some experience at the position and be a passer first. Also new is transfer LaRon Smith from Bethune-Cookman. He’s a physical inside player known for blocking shots.

The freshmen are Jared Harper, Mustapha Heron and Anfernee McClemore. Harper is a talented but smaller guard who reminds me a whole lot of Tyler Ulis from Kentucky because he can make plays against much bigger guys and can really score the basketball. Heron is a five-star prospect who is a scorer from the left-handed side. I expect he will challenge for a starting job early in the season. McLemore is an athletic 6-8 forward who could help this season, but when he matures should be even more fun to watch.


Jello1: What differences between the Muschamp scheme versus the Kevin Steele scheme will we notice? I know they come from the same school so will we notice anything at all different? I thought our defensive backs played much more aggressive in the Bowl Game, might that continue under Coach Steele? Or was that a one game thing?

I don’t think there will be a big change in scheme with what Auburn does this season as compared to last year. The key is getting pressure on the quarterback with the front four, something that happened in the bowl game. That allowed the DB’s to play tighter coverage and contributed as much as anything to the performance.


Nhill76: How many at each position do you think will be taken for the 2017 football class?

I think it will be 1 quarterback, 2-3 running back/athlete types, 3 wide receivers, 1 tight end, 4 offensive linemen, 3 defensive linemen, 3-4 linebackers, 3-4 secondary


Missd: I'll give you two

1. Who is winning it all in Omaha? I love the Gators but I think for some reason TCU might be the team

2. Let's take away the two obvious spots of QB and Pass rush. What area or team attribute do you think would be the most important to be improved this year, or what area would be most impactful if improved?

I’m with you on your picks for Omaha as well. Florida should be the team to beat, but TCU is tough as nails. Both have the most pitching of the group and that should fare well in that big ballpark.

Taking away QB play and pass rush, I think there are two areas in my mind. One is making more plays as a wide receiver group. When given the opportunity they have to hit a home run every once in a while to keep the defense honest. The second is in the secondary. They have to create more turnovers. The defensive backs did a decent job of that last year, but had some critical dropped interceptions (Alabama game) that could have been game changers.


Augolf1: Jason - Please comment on the likelihood (or not) of CGM unveiling a couple of new offensive packages to mix in with the regular scheme -- the kind we haven't seen from him previously, like a true triple option backfield set or a run/pass option game off sprint outs, straight rollouts or bootlegs -- in order to utilize JF3's running ability and set up one-on-one coverage for deep balls off the former or TE passing game off the latter? While I don't expect an overhaul (like going to the wishbone or something) I'm getting the sense that something different is cooking offensively.

I think the addition of Herb Hand will allow the Tigers to think outside the box a little more. He is someone Gus Malzahn respects, leans on and believes in, something I think he needed this season. I expect the Tigers will add some wrinkles on offense to try to utilize the weapons a little more than we have seen the last couple of years.


aTIGERinLR: Who do you think is going to redshirt on the defensive line?

That’s a tough question because there is actually depth up front for the first time in several years. I believe Nick Coe will redshirt even though he’s got the physical ability to play this season. I would really like to see Raashed Kennion redshirt to allow him another year to get bigger and stronger. As for the two inside guys, I don’t see both Derrick Brown and Antwuan Jackson both playing this year and while Jackson has a head start I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brown getting the reps this fall.

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