Inside the Auburn Tigers takes a look at the position by position breakdown of Auburn's class on the offensive side of the ball and what it means for the Tigers this season.
Quarterback: Auburn added talented signal callers Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley to a position that should be wide open in spring practice under the supervision of new coordinator Gus Malzahn. With part-time starters Kodi Burns and Chris Todd returning as well as Neil Caudle and Barrett Trotter, Auburn could have six players vying for the position in fall practice beginning in August.
Running Back: Ben Tate, Mario Fannin and Eric Smith return off last year's team and will be joined by a large group of talented players. Signee Onterio McCalebb is already on the Auburn campus coming from prep school and could challenge for playing time right away because of his speed and athleticism.
Another player who could do the same is junior college transfer Demond Washington. Big backs Dontae Aycock and Brandon Jacobs make the class a very good one already, but with four-star speedster Oku still looking hard at Auburn, Syracuse and Tennessee, the running backs could be the strength of AU's class if he signs with the Tigers. Oku says he plans to wait until late February before making a pick.
Wide Receiver and Tight End:Another position with plenty of options already just got deeper with a promising haul by the Auburn coaching staff. Signing day surprise DeAngelo Benton is physically gifted at 6-2, 205 and mature because he's been out of high school for two years. If he can shake off the rust he should have a chance to compete early on the outside. The same is true of big Emory Blake. The son of former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake, the 6-1, 194-pounder has good speed and elusiveness and could be a threat at a number of spots for the Tigers.
In addition to the bigger receivers, Auburn also added a pair of speedsters in LaVoyd James and Travante Stallworth. Both in the 5-10, 180 range, they'll likely have the chance to be a very versatile part of the offense much like Damaris Johnson's role for Tulsa last season.
The big group will join a wide receiver group that has plenty of bodies, but to this point hasn't played up to its potential. Returners Montez Billings, Tim Hawthorne, Terrell Zachery, Quindarius Carr, Darvin Adams and Derek Winter combined for just 47 catches and zero touchdowns last season for the Tigers.
At tight end Auburn added one of the nation's best in Philip Lutzenkirchen from Lassiter High in Marietta, Ga. A big-play threat at the position, Lutzenkirchen will battle for playing time against returning starters Tommy Trott and Gabe McKenzie. Trott is coming off knee surgery at the end of last season while McKenzie played both offense and defense last season. Sophomore Vance Smith also played a great deal for the Tigers, but was more of a blocker in his first year. Reserve Bailey Woods could also compete for playing time.
Athlete: Several players fit the bill in this category, but three will be listed in that role until they find a home in fall practice. Speedy junior college signee Demond Washington will get his first look at running back, a position he excelled at both in high school and as a freshman at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. With only two years to play, if that doesn't work out he could also play cornerback, a position he earned Juco All-American honors at as a sophomore.
Brantley's Anthony Gulley was a dangerous part of the Bulldogs' team as both a wide receiver, running back, defensive back, and kick return specialists. He'll likely get a look at wide receiver to begin his Auburn career, but his ability in the defensive secondary could make him an option there as well.
Playing quarterback at Daphne, Robert Cooper signed as a gray shirt for the class and is expected to play defense for the Tigers as either a linebacker or safety, but will get a shot at quarterback.
They join an interesting group of athletes currently on Auburn's roster. Leading the charge is speedy Philip Pierre-Louis. Injured on the opening kickoff last season and forced to undergo knee surgery, Pierre-Louis is perhaps Auburn's fastest player and it should be interesting to see where he fits in Malzahn's offense. Another athlete worth watching out for is walk-on Justin Albert. Also recovering from knee surgery last season, Albert redshirted and should get a look somewhere on offense in the spring.
Offensive Line: Auburn signed just two offensive lineman for the 2009 class, making 2010 a very important year at that position with 4-6 signees expected for that part of the offense in Gene Chizik's second year. What the Tigers lacked in numbers they picked up in size as big Andre Harris and John Sullen will come in as two of Auburn's largest linemen on campus when they report. At 6-4, 300, Harris played offensive tackle in high school and should get a look there to begin his college career, but could also play either of the guard positions. The same is true of the 6-5 1/2, 340 Sullen from nearby Auburn High.
With juniors Lee Ziemba, Ryan Pugh, Mike Berry and Byron Isom returning with starting experience, Auburn has a solid foundation to build on up front. With Pugh's likely move inside to the center position from right tackle, the biggest question mark remains at tackle. Senior Andrew McCain and sophomores A.J. Greene and Jared Cooper could be the early favorites to battle for the job with Berry also a possible candidate. Junior Bart Eddins showed much improvement last season and could play center, guard, or get a look at tackle. Others battling for playing time are Kyle Coulahan, Rudy Odom and Darrell Roseman, provided he's healthy enough to resume his playing career after battling leg problems.
Coming Friday: Defensive Breakdown