Spring Football FAQ

Phillip Marshall takes a look at some of the major questions concerning the development of the 2002 Auburn football team.

With one day left in Auburn's spring practice, some questions have been answered and some haven't. After Saturday's A-Day game, in reality just another scrimmage, it will be over until two-a-days start in August.

To use Internet jargon, here is the FAQ of Auburn's spring practice.

Q:. Who will be the starting quarterback?

A: My guess is it will be Jason Campbell, though every time I get ready to write Daniel Cobb off he makes a comeback and muddies the waters again. The coaches say now they won't decide until two-a-days. It could go either way, but I look for Campbell's athleticism to put him over the top. Don't be surprised if both play.

Q: How much has the offensive line progressed.

A: It's hard to say. They've certainly had problems up front against blitzes and the like, but it must be remembered they are learning an entirely new offense with new terminology. It's probably tougher on offensive linemen than anybody. There's certainly enough talent there to get the job done, more talent than last season. Whether they will come together in time to be a solid force against Southern Cal on Sept. 2 is a question that still must be answered.

Q: What's going to happen at defensive end?

A: Jay Ratliff made quite an impression in Thursday's scrimmage. He had four tackles for losses and three sacks. A lot of people might not realize just what a prime athlete Ratliff is. He has everything it takes to be an all-star defensive end. He only needs experience. Reggie Torbor has had a spectacular spring. He seems ready to have a breakout year. Don't discount Bret Eddins. He's a big, strong, tough guy who will keep coming all day. Defensive end is in better shape than most imagine.

Q: Will freshmen have to carry most of the load at wide receiver?

A: No. Because of signees like Ben Obomanu, Montae Pitts and Courtney Taylor and because the wide receivers have not caught a lot of passes this spring, many expect the freshmen to take over. Some of them will play and may play a lot, but Silas Daniels, Jeris McIntyre, Marcel Willis and friends will still be ahead of them. What the freshmen will provide is game-breaking speed.

Q:. How has the experiment of moving Junior Rosegreen from cornerback to strong safety worked?

A: It has worked so well it is no longer an experiment. Rosegreen has the speed and athleticism of a cornerback and packs the wallop of a linebacker. He and free safety Travaris Robinson are physical, tough, smart football players. They'll be something special.

Q: Who will be in the rotation at linebacker.

A: The starters are set. Mark Brown will be in the middle and Dontarrious Thomas and Karlos Dansby on the outside. Lemarcus Rowell will be in the second group. Travis Williams, Antarrious Williams, Mayo Sowell, Jake Slaughter and Derrick Graves will compete for the other backup spots. Slaughter is also playing some defensive end.

Linebacker Lemarcus Rowell chases running back Chris Butler during a spring practice.

Q: How good a chance does Brandon Cox have of becoming the starting quarterback?

A: Barring injuries to both Campbell and Cobb, no chance at all.

Q: Who have been the biggest surprises of the spring?

A: Nose guard Wayne Dickens and tight end Cooper Wallace, both redshirt freshmen. They'll both be key players next season. Victor Horn has made a big move at fullback and should get some playing time behind Brandon Johnson next season. Dexter Murphy has had a fine spring at defensive tackle.

Q: Who's been the biggest disappointment?

A: It didn't start this spring, but it would have to be Stanford Simmons. Simmons is talented enough to play in the NFL, but it looks like it's not going to happen. He's the No. 3 free safety and seldom even gets into scrimmages. He'll probably spend next season on special teams.

Q: How good is Carnell Williams?

A: Good enough to, if he stays healthy, to at least challenge Bo Jackson's status as the greatest running back ever to play at Auburn.

Q. How have the freshmen who graduated from high school early done in spring practice?

A: They've learned a lot and been yelled at a lot.

Q: Who have been the spring practice stars?

A: On offense, tight ends Lorenzo Diamond, Robert Johnson and Wallace; center Ben Nowland; and running backs Carnell Williams and Chris Butler. On defense, tackle Spencer Johnson, Dickens, all three starting linebackers, Rosegreen and Robinson.

Q: What are Auburn's realistic expectations for next season.

A: Somewhere between seven and nine regular-season wins in a 12-game schedule. If the stars are aligned right, it could be better than that. If the wrong people get hurt, it could be worse. I still think the Tigers are a year away from being a national contender.

Until next time...


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