Photo by Jason Caldwell

Auburn Football Q&A: Opening Of Preseason Camp Edition

Check out our lengthy question and answer session from Tuesday on our Tiger Ticket message board at AUTigers.com to get a taste of what you can be a part of as a premium member.

Masoncj: What would be winning statistics "defensively" in a victory over Clemson? (i.e. points, yardage, TOs)

I think if you can keep Clemson to under 30 points that's probably a win defensively considering what they were able to do last season and what they have back. As far as yardage, that's a tough one because it probably depends on what your own offense does. I think turnovers is probably more of a key and creating at least two is probably a winning day.

 

Hoochtiger: What team do you think is a darkhorse for the College Football Playoffs?

That's a great question. I think Houston is one of those teams. Based on what they did last year and playing Oklahoma early and Louisville late, they've got a chance for a couple of pretty good wins. Another one that could surprise is Miami. They avoid Clemson and get FSU at home. With Brad Kaaya running Mark Richt's system they could be a threat.

 

Gileser: A name I haven't heard much is Cameron Toney.  I would have thought he would have broken in to the line-up by now.  How is he doing?

Cameron Toney is doing good, but he's probably more of a pass rush guy than true linebacker and with Carl Lawson and Jeff Holland at that stand-up spot it's tough for him to break into the lineup. I look for him to be behind Darrell Williams at the strongside backer when the Tigers are in a true 4-3 look this season.

 

Missd: Outside of Tom Herman, who are the other up and coming coaches that might be movers this offseason? We had such a massive amount of moves last year that the slate might be cleaner than most years.

I personally like Brent Venables, and Brohm from WKU, but wanted to hear of others on your radar.

I really like Brohm. I think he's very, very good and from talking with former Auburn DL Coach and current WKU assistant Don Dunn he believes Brohm is a superstar in the making. I also think Jeff Scott at Clemson is a guy that is going to be an up and coming guy in the profession.

 

gr82bAnAUTiger: What position group do you expect to be the most improved from last season?

Despite the turnover in coaching and being very inexperienced, I really believe the wide receivers are going to take a big step forward. That might not show up early in the year, but I think by the time the dust settles the group is going to be a good one. I'll throw linebackers in there as well. I like the makeup of the group and Travis Williams coaching them up.

 

AUpoker: How do you see the future of the satellite camps?

I think they're going to be less and less of a story moving forward after they got a lot of attention this summer. My guess is that some schools will still push them, but for the most part I expect much of the SEC to continue to ignore them for the most part. I could see Arkansas trying to push that envelope with Bielema, but no many others.

 

Drainage: Which member of the Auburn coaching staff is going to be the next hot name in the head coaching ranks?

I know it's a little unconventional, but I could really see Herb Hand being a guy that schools want to lead up their program. He's got so much personality and could definitely sell a program. I think he would be a good choice for some school.

 

Southgeorgiatiger: I have spoken with two guys who should be in a position to know this...they say Kirby Smart was offered the job before we went with Gus.  Kirby wanted complete control and our powers that be were not going to buy into what he was selling...a Saban like takeover.  Now that the dust has settled and we have our man and Kirby is back at his alma mater, do you know if this is true?  Secondly, from what you know or hear, is Kirby going to bring championships to Athens?  I've told my UGA buddies that I was happy UGA made a coaching change.  I can't see a coach over there beating us 10 out of 15 times like Richt did!  

There is no question that Auburn took a long look at Smart, but I don't think it ever came down to an official offer. I'm sure there were plenty of discussions about plans however. As for Smart and Georgia, I just don't know what to expect. He's going to get great talent there, but Georgia has never lacked in that department. Just not sure how well he's going to fare being the guy.

 

Cletisthecat: Not interested in getting into individual personalities, but, overall, do you think the 2016 Coaching staff will be a more cohesive unit than the 2015 staff, and why / why not?

I don't think there is any question this staff is going to be more cohesive than a year ago. Much of the reason for that is because the personalities just fit better with the guys currently on staff. Kevin Steele is a guy that has been great to work with and much different than the guy I expected. I believe he'll fit in well at Auburn.

 

JWC4AU: It is usually pretty hard to make an impact in the offseason outside of recruiting, but a few programs managed to have some pretty significant missteps.   Which programs in  your mind took the biggest step backwards during the offseason?  Baylor has to be at the top of the list, but A&M, Missouri, Miss St, etc. had some pretty questionable decision making.  Even AU (per most of my Clemson buddies) for 'choosing" not to suspend players where precedent (Marshall) existed.... Curious on  your more educated take to which team lost the offseason.

I don't think Auburn is even a story because the cases are different in regards to timing. Marshall was very late in the summer and the others were during the spring. Much more time to punish those guys. As for the program that has hurt itself the most there is Baylor and then everyone else. I do believe and have been saying for years that Texas A&M was teetering on the brink and that dates back to Johnny Manziel. Letting a guy like that do whatever he wants just seeps into a program and becomes a problem that lingers.

 

Plainsman94: Who ends up playing the majority of snaps at Right Tackle for the Auburn offense over the course of the year? Is that the biggest perceived weakness on the entire Team at this point? Do we try to compensate by becoming a Left Handed Running Team...and does that negatively impact us?

Robert Leff is the right tackle and I think he's a solid replacement at the position. He's not the flashiest guy, but he's actually pretty athletic for a big guy. I think he'll be just fine there. In my mind there are a whole lot of positions that are more of a question mark than tackle.

 

Plainsman94: Who ends up returning Kick offs for Auburn this year? Does Marcus Davis hold on to the Punt Return duties? Does Ian Shannon beat out Kevin Phillips for the Punter position this season? What do you see as the main differences between the two?

I think Rudy Ford and possibly Kameron Martin could be returning kickoffs with a guy like Stanton Truitt also in the mix. Marcus Davis finished strong as the punt returner and I just can't see anyone taking that away. I wouldn't be shocked to see Ian Shannon win the job, but it may be down the road. Would be tough to throw him out there right out of the gate against Clemson. Shannon probably has a stronger leg than Phillips, but this will come down to consistency.

 

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Freshman running back Kameron Martin

AugTiger: Not that it matters much, but will Scout do a final 2016 recruiting ranking based on who actually wound up on campuses? Curious to see where we are with the late additions.

I think the rankings continue to update. My guess is Auburn would wind up somewhere between 7-10 in the final standings, pretty strong considering last season's struggles.

 

Plainsman94: What Tigers end up winning post season awards? Carlson to win the Groza is probably the highest chance. I believe Reese Dismukes winning the Rimington in 2014 is Auburn's only individual award post Cam Newton. Say what you will about this being a Team sport, but when you have players winning individual awards, your Team is having a great season...2010, 2004, 1988, 1985 (well most of the time), 1971 etc. Any odds on favorites across the SEC this season?

I agree on Daniel Carlson. I think he's the obvious choice at Auburn to win a postseason award. If Carl Lawson has the kind of season he's capable of then he could be in the running for postseason awards as well. Around the SEC you've got Leonard Fournette at LSU, Calvin Ridley at Alabama, Myles Garrett at Texas A&M and probably Jalen Tabor at Florida as some of the candidates for postseason honors.

 

JaxBchTiger: 1) I know this is a broad question with many variables (coaching, recruiting, health, etc) but how do we establish consistently each year in all 3 phases of game - i.e. - reload instead of re-build? We're better than the Birmingham Bowl...

2) We seemed to move the ball well last year except when we reached the opponents 20 yard line. How do we cure our red zone issues this year as compared to last year?

1) That's a good question and it starts in my mind at the quarterback position. Trying to tweak the offense each year to fit a different style of quarterback just makes it tough to know what you've got IMO. I was always the one that thought the offense works as well with a pocket guy, but now I've seen the light. I think the offense needs to go with dual-threat guys and stick with them. Not saying a guy like Sean White can't win, because I absolutely think he can, but I just think it makes the offense have to be almost perfect at times. Defensively I think as much as anything it's keeping the same system and letting guys become more comfortable doing what they do.

2) I think it goes back to my first point, when the quarterback isn't a threat to run the football I think it allows the defense to clamp down on the wide receivers and dare the quarterback to make a play. When you've got a guy that can make something happen the defense can't just clog the middle and shut everything down. That's what we saw last year and why Auburn tried so many different plays. They were trying to scheme TD's because defenses took away the inside run.

 

ATLtiger07: Who do you see declaring for the NFL draft after this season if things to as planned?

The obvious guy is Carl Lawson. He's definitely the top guy on the list. If Braden Smith played tackle or even center I could see him declaring early with a strong season. Tough to find many other possibilities unless Jason Smith goes off in a big way.

 

Rosebud: How far will the "protect the players" movement go? Will the game cease to be what we old folks knew as football?

It's something that has changed the game dramatically already. I'm not sure how much more you can take away from the game in terms of contact. The game is already much different than it was even 10 years ago. In another 10 years I don't know what it will be like.

 

AugTiger: Which of the new guys have you been hearing the most buzz about from the other players during the voluntary summer workouts?

Nate Craig is one of the guys that people have been talking about. He certainly looks the part and I'm expecting him to make a strong run at playing time. Kam Martin has excited people with his quickness, just have to see how much of an impact he can make.

 

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Freshman WR Nate Craig

Autigerman: who would be your starting 11 on the kick off team? Who is going to be the gunner head hunter?

That's one I don't think I have thought about a whole lot, but I'll give it a shot. Counting Daniel Carlson as an obvious one, I'll go with walk-on Josh Shockley, Richard McBryde, Montavious Atkinson, Michael Sherwood, T.J. Davis, Markell Boston, Javaris Davis, Stephen Roberts, John Broussard and possibly a freshman like Daniel Thomas.

 

Zig1983: I may be wrong but I don't remember one catch from a tight end last year. We mainly used them to block. Do you think Rice/Harris with another year under their belt that we might start throwing to the tight end more this year? With our red zone issues last year it sure would help to have someone like Uzomah/Lutzie in those situations again.

You are correct. The TE position did not have a single catch a year ago with Robert Leff actually handling the position at times. I believe with Harris and Rice things should be much better in the receiving department. I don't know that they'll catch a ton of passes just yet, but I could see them targeted in the red zone and short yardage situations and at least giving the offense another option.

 

AUtigeritaville: Do you think the gameday atmosphere in and around the stadium is better, worse, or same as it was 10 years ago? We've seen so many changes with rules and services with parking, tailgating, as well as a more Pro stadium environment inside. Give us a State of Gameday address :)

I don't believe the atmosphere is anything close to what we saw 10 years ago and earlier. That's especially true around the stadium where tailgating has become almost history for much of the crowd. That was always the thing that set the tone for a game and now it's rarely done any longer. Perhaps the biggest thing for me is the video board. I know they can be a great addition to the atmosphere at times, but last season it became the show instead of adding to the actual game. I see people staring at the video board five seconds before a play instead of cheering. Just a different world that I guess I have to get used to.



Coreyc: I always liked JB Grimes, but I'm also a big fan of Herb Hand too. I'd like to know your opinion of how these 2 guys compare to each other. More specifically, where do you see our OL improving under coach Hand as opposed to the last 3 years in these areas:

1) Run blocking (tough to improve because JB was great)

2) Pass protection

3) Recruiting

4) Cohesiveness with the offensive staff & Gus

5) Motivating his guys

From a functionality standpoint I thought the line under J.B. Grimes performed really well. I expect Herb Hand's guys to also perform well. I believe the biggest thing is going to be in recruiting. That's the one thing that I think could have been better the last few years, particularly at tackle. Auburn could have easily had Jonah Williams in this class and he would have had a chance to start at tackle this year. Now he's doing it at Alabama. There were just some head scratchers in recruiting that have the Tigers thin at offensive tackle right now.

 

John30csx: Jason I have watched a lot of games from last season and the one thing that I think that lost us a lot of games that even carried over from 2014 was our red zone offense has to improve. Why has this not been talked about more? Some of these close games wouldn't have been close if we score touchdowns and not field goals.

No question the red zone offense the last two seasons has been more of a challenge. Still not sure what happened in 2014 other than not having Jay Prosch was a big deal in close quarters. Last season the lack of a true threat at quarterback running the football and no tight end really allowed the defense to clamp things down in the red zone. Having a tight end threat alone should help tremendously because you still have a run look, but make teams take a LB or safety out of the box to cover him. Last season it was either all run or all pass for Auburn because of personnel.

 

WaverlyTiger: Jason, it seems the majority do not believe that White can run the ball. What is your opinion, and do you feel we will be surprised this year in this regard?

I think he can run it well enough to get the job done. I don't think he's a guy that teams will fear running it, but he's good enough to pick up a first down here or there. If he can run it just enough to keep defenses honest then that would be a great addition to his passing skills.

 

AUBioMed: Taking Carl Lawson out of the equation would you expect our pass rush to be the same, better, or worse this year? In thinking worst case scenario (losing Carl yet again) I need to know how to prepare myself for this season. The lack of a pass rush killed us last year so I'm hoping we're in a much better situation this year.

I think even without Lawson the pass rush would be improved this season. I like Devaroe Lawrence in the middle to provide some push up front and Jeff Holland should be a guy that delivers off the edge. I'm anxious to see what Marlon Davidson, Paul James and Byron Cowart do on the other end. I think they'll be an improvement from last season as well.

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