With the returning talent and depth on the offensive side of the football, the potential was there for a very good offense. A combination of key injuries and clock rule changes has been detrimental to the success of the Auburn Tiger offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, Coach Will Muschamp has been challenged to field a reliably performing unit. There have been times the defense has been able to flex its muscles, but there have also been times they have looked out of place. Through nine games, Auburn is still searching for its identity as a team, though the offense appears to be much closer than the defense.
There is no doubt Coach Tommy Tuberville's staff has done a great job recruiting and Auburn has built a talent base strong enough to compete with any team in the country. With this in mind, I searched through the school's individual record book to see what standing records are within reach of players currently on the 2006 team roster.
Courtney Taylor enters the Arkansas State game with 142 career receptions and is only nine more receptions from passing Karsten Bailey (150) as the all time leading receiver in school history. Considering the injuries Taylor battled through and the other receivers he had to share the wealth with Taylor's numbers are even more impressive.
Taylor (43) is also on pace to break the record of 58 receptions in one season currently held by Willie Gosha and Frank Sanders. Both records are not ones that will be unattainable, but it would probably require a receiver who starts at least three seasons as a major impact performer to break the career record.
Quarterback Brandon Cox passed Jeff Burger and Ben Leard in career passing yardage this season and is on pace to overtake Reggie Slack and Patrick Nix to move into fifth place. At best, Cox could move past Jason Campbell (7,299 yards) before his career is completed, but reaching the 8,000-yard barrier established by Stan White is not likely.
Pat Sullivan continues to hold the career touchdown passing record (53), but Cox could challenge the mark with a strong finish in 2006 and a great showing in 2007. If Cox can remain healthy, he should be able to reach second place set by Campbell's 45 career touchdown passes.
Running back Kenny Irons is currently 14th with 1,980 career rushing yards and should easily move into the Top 10 before the season is complete. Irons needs only 104 yards to move past James Bostic (2,084), who is currently in tenth place. With 16 career rushing touchdowns, Irons could also move into the Top 10 with two more TDs. There are a few potential star running backs awaiting their turn at being the starter, but the bar has been set high by Bo Jackson and Carnell Williams in terms of yardage gained (4,303) and touchdowns scored (45).
Linebacker Freddie Smith might hold a career tackling record that will never be broken with 528 career tackles. From 1976 through 1979 Smith averaged 132 tackles per season or a pace of 12 tackles per game over a four-year period. Smith also holds the season record of 193 total stops in one season. An average of 17.5 tackles per game just might be another record nearly impossible to obtain.
Quentin Groves has moved into fourth place in career sacks with 20. One more quarterback sack and Groves will be tied with Tracy Rocker and Craig Ogletree for second place and he's seven away from passing Gerald Robinson as Auburn's all-time sack leader. At this point, Groves says he intends to return for his senior year, which would virtually guarantee his opportunity to establish the new school record.
Defensive back Buddy McClinton intercepted 18 passes in just three seasons from 1967-1969. Safety Brian Robinson was the last defensive back to challenge Clinton's career mark with 13. Robinson elected to skip his senior year, keeping Clinton's record safe for now. Once again, this just might be another school record, which remains safe for quite sometime.
Kody Bliss currently holds a career punt average of 43.7 yards, which places him in second place behind Terry Daniels' 44.5 career average. Bliss entered the 2006 season with a 43.3 average per punt and at his current pace will probably fall short of catching Daniels career mark.
Place-kicker John Vaughn became Auburn's all time scoring leader with 294 points coming into game No. 10 of the 2006 season. He also shattered the school record for the most extra points during his career, which is currently set at 153. Vaughn has connected on 17 of 20 field goal attempts this season, passing Damon Duval (45) with the most career field goals at 47. If you take away his last two games against LSU, Vaughn would be the most accurate place-kicker in school history.
Tristan Davis is having a strong season returning kickoffs.
David Langner set the season record for kickoff return average at 28.3 yards per return in 1972. Tristan Davis is currently averaging 27.6 yards per return with a legitimate shot at setting the new school record. Davis has already come very close to taking one back all the way this season, which could be just enough to help him establish a new school record.
The 1970 Auburn Tigers were one of the best teams in the country and remain the most explosive in school history with 488 yards per game, including 285 yards passing per contest. The 2004 offense set the total yardage record with 5,469 yards in 13 games. The 1995 offense is the only other Auburn team to accumulate more than 5,000 yards in total offense. The 1995 Tigers holds the team scoring average record with 38.5 points per game.
The 1957 team allowed only 133 yards per game, which will probably never be matched in the modern era of college football. Even the 1988 average of 218.1 yards per game allowed will be very tough to reach. The current offensive game is too wide open to imagine a defense capable of matching the numbers established during the 1950s.
Auburn's current run of victories from 2004-2006 is the second best since 1951. The Tigers are 30-4 (.882) directly behind the record of 26-3-1 (.883) set by the 1957-1959 teams. A victory over Arkansas State would propel the 2004-06 teams into first place. We are seeing some of the best football played in school history with some of the best athletes to grace Jordan-Hare Stadium.