Marshall: Promise or Concern for 2007 Tigers?

With less than two weeks until the opening kick against Kansas State, there is reason for both optimism and concern surrounding the 2007 Auburn Tigers.

With the 2007 season less than two weeks away, there are reasons to believe it could be a very good one for Auburn. And there are reasons to believe it won't be.

In any area you want to choose, there are optimistic and pessimistic ways to look at Tommy Tuberville's ninth Auburn team.

Let's have a look.

Optimistic: Auburn is 33-5 over the past three seasons.
Pessimistic: In the four even-numbered years in his Auburn career, Tuberville has averaged more than 10 wins. In the odd-numbered years, he has averaged just more than seven.

Optimistic: Auburn has four road games against top 20 teams, but it is 11-1 the past three years in SEC road games.
Pessimistic: It's doubtful any team, including USC, would be good enough to win at Florida, at LSU, at Arkansas and at Georgia in the same season.

Optimistic: Defensive end Quentin Groves is one of the nation's top pass-rushers and is on the verge of breaking Auburn's all-time sack record.
Pessimistic: Groves has not been a consistently physical force against the run.

Optimistic: Middle linebacker Tray Blackmon has the ability to be one of Auburn's all-time greats at his position.
Pessimistic: Behind the starters, there is precious little experience at any linebacker position.

Optimistic: Fifth-year senior Brandon Cox is going into his third season as a starter, and having a returning senior starter at quarterback has historically meant Auburn has a good season.
Pessimistic: If Cox is injured, there is no proven backup ready to take his place.

Optimistic: With starters Pat Sims and Josh Thompson anchoring the inside, Auburn's defensive line should be the strength of the defense.
Pessimistic: Behind Sims and Thompson, Jake Ricks has the most experience, and he's only played in six games. In fact, he's the only backup who has ever played in a college game.

Optimistic: The offensive line should be as talented or more talented than last season, except for at the left guard position vacated by first-round draft choice Ben Grubbs.
Pessimistic: There are four new starters, and neither redshirt freshman right guard Mike Berry nor true freshman right tackle Lee Ziemba has ever played in a college game.

Will the 2007 Auburn offense resemble successful 2004 and 2005 campaigns or the conservative 2006 style?

Optimistic: At least three cornerbacks and four safeties either have played or appear ready to play winning SEC football.
Pessimistic: Though Jerraud Powers has been terrific in preseason camp, no cornerback has proved in a game that he can cover like David Irons.

Optimistic: There is plenty of speed and talent at wide receiver.
Pessimistic: Only Rod Smith, a former walk-on, has had significant success in catching passes in actual games.

Optimistic: Brad Lester, Mario Fannin, Ben Tate and Carl Stewart have the talent to continue Auburn's glittering tradition at running back.
Pessimistic: Stewart is still nursing a sore hamstring. Fannin has had trouble blocking, particularly picking up blitzes.

Optimistic: Few if any teams in college football have three tight ends to match Cole Bennett, Tommy Trott and Gabe McKenzie.
Pessimistic: Will offensive coordinator Al Borges call enough plays that get them the ball?

Optimistic: Kicker Wes Byrum and punter Ryan Shoemaker have shown in preseason camp that they can excel.
Pessimistic: No way that, as freshmen, they'll be as good as John Vaughn, Kody Bliss and Matt Clark were as seniors.

So there you have it. You can take your pick. Take an optimistic view or a pessimistic view. The truth is, it's all guesswork and speculation. Starting on Sept. 1 against Kansas State, this football team will find its own place in Auburn history.

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More copies of Phillip's book, "The Auburn Experience," have become available for purchase at a reduced price. An oversized coffee table book published in December 2004, the book features more than 300 slick pages of stories and photographs of many of Auburn's greatest traditions, teams, players and coaches in every sport. Originally selling for $69, it is available now for just $20, plus $5 shipping and handling. For orders of multiple books, there will be just one $5 charge for shipping and handling. Send check or money order made payable to Phillip Marshall to The Auburn Experience, P.O. Box 968, Auburn, AL 36831.

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