Kyle Davis (above) is a sophomore receiver for the Auburn football team.
I am not sure how many college football teams across the country start spring practice as early as Auburn does, but most of them will be back on the practice field in the next few weeks. All of those teams have areas they will need to focus on to get ready for the 2017 season and Auburn is no exception.
With so many players back who have experience the Tigers have a chance to be a better team this year, but there are also plenty of improvements that need to be made on both sides of the ball. Also, there will be changes in the speciality teams with Coach Tim Horton taking over that assignment as the new coordinator.
Defensively, a critical thing this spring is to come out of practice with a likely playing rotation for the fall. The Tigers could put 11 players out there and almost all of them have started a ball game, but there is a lot of work to be done in building depth and making sure the right ones are in the right places.
Also very important for the defense this year is to get better at producing takeaways. The Tigers have to do a much better job of forcing fumbles and getting on the loose balls when the opportunity is there to create a short field for the offense.
Offensively, I think all of the parts are there to be improved, especially if quarterback Jarrett Stidham turns out to be what the coaches are hoping he will be.
I will also say it is too early to count Sean White and John Franklin out of the picture even though White is still recovering from his bowl game injury and probably won’t be able to do much in spring practice. Franklin has a set of tools that nobody else has got and you don’t know how much he can grow as a QB in his second year in the program. Also, there are others who will get a look at quarterback this spring with a new coordinator installing the offense.
The Tigers know they can run the football based on last year’s results and who is returning. In my opinion this team needs to come out of spring practice knowing where their big plays are coming from. Playing the toughest teams on the schedule you can’t count on taking the football and driving it all the way down the field by just running it. Big plays have got to come off of the passing guy.
In the spring this team needs to figure out who the receivers are they can count on properly executing the plays, catching the football and then making good things happen with the ball in their hands. I know there are some possibilities there with guys like Eli Stove, Darius Slayton, Kyle Davis, Nate Craig and Ryan Davis returning and redshirt freshman Marquis McClain may have the potential to come out of the pack and be as good as any of them.
Spring is a great time of year around Auburn and there is so much going on with AU sports. There were a lot of people in town last weekend to watch the basketball, baseball, softball and gymnastics teams in action.
I haven’t been out to Plainsman Park to see a game this season, but I?have listened to all of them on the radio and I just love Butch Thompson. I told him last spring he was the most popular coach I have seen at Auburn who hadn’t won any games. If he gets to winning in a big way he is going to be really popular. Butch is a good guy and I am happy for him that his pitchers are doing so well early in the season and that is the same case with the softball team.
The Tigers ran into a buzzsaw on the softball field on Sunday when a pitcher had a great performance against them in a 1-0 victory. You hate to lose, but I won’t be surprised if something good comes out of the loss. I suspect the coaches and players will find a way to work a little harder to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
To follow up on last week’s column in which I mentioned that we were concerned about a beaver moving into the lake at our farm in Macon County, I am quite happy that the visit was a short one. We harassed that beaver so much he decided our place wasn’t the right spot to make a home and raise a family. It was a good thing the beaver left because there was going to be a bad ending for him if he stayed.