While the 1994 Tigers were loaded with seniors and experience at key positions, they didn't have the depth necessary to sustain their dominance over the SEC for the majority of a two-year period beginning with the 1993 season. That shouldn't be the case a decade later with the 2003 Tigers.
Offensive coordinator Hugh Nall says each position coach has been going over game videos in recent weeks and studying them to see what areas need special attention in spring workouts. The Tigers will be in the second year running their offensive system that was installed last spring by Bobby Petrino, who left after the bowl victory over Penn State to become head coach at Louisville.
"The main thing is to find out what we were good at last year and try to make it better," Nall tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "We want to get into a routine with the same system and just get better execution across the board. Jason (quarterback Jason Campbell) feels good with our system and it is important that we run a package compatible to our personnel that we have got.
Campbell runs for a long gain against LSU last season in Auburn's big victory over the Bengal Tigers.
"We also want to make sure we have got the right people in the right spots," Nall adds. "When we do that we want to make sure we get the football to the right people who will give us the best chance to execute our offense."
The following is a look at the depth chart for Spring 2003 along with an analysis of the offense going into the first practice on March 4.
45 Brandon Johnson (6-1, 234, Sr.)
2 Ben Obomanu (6-1, 192, So.)
85 Silas Daniels (6-0, 187, Jr.)
With 22 lettermen returning on offense and the addition of talented newcomers, Coach Tommy Tuberville has the numbers necessary to compete for the SEC Championship in 2003. Like any run for a title in the game of football, it begins at quarterback and Auburn has one of the finest in the league in junior Jason Campbell. Ranked in the Top 10 in seven career categories (first in completion percentage at 62.9 percent) in Auburn history, he is coming off a successful sophomore campaign when he led Auburn to a 5-1 record in his six starts. He finished the season with 1,215 yards passing and 11 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions. For his career he has 2,332 yards through the air and 15 touchdowns.
Behind Campbell is a dogfight for the backup spot with redshirt freshman Josh Sullivan the favorite to win the job heading into spring practice. Freshmen Wesley Hill and Brandon Cox will also have a shot to be number two by spring's end. Hill has one spring under his belt as an early high school graduate in December 2001. Sullivan practiced with the Tigers as a specially invited walk-on last fall. Cox practiced only briefly with the team in preseason last year before dropping out of school for the semester due to illness so he is the least experienced of the backups.
Tailback Carnell Williams scores a touchdown in last year's win over Syracuse.
At running back the battle will be for playing time as Carnell Williams retains his spot at the top of the depth chart with Ronnie Brown a strong number two. The big battle in the spring may be for number three with sophomore Tre Smith butting heads with big Brandon Jacobs to see who gets the action after Williams and Brown. All four will also see some time at fullback this spring and next season in an effort to get the best players on the field in certain situations. In the running game that will still mean having senior Brandon Johnson on the field leading the way from the fullback spot. He doesn't have a true backup this spring while he awaits the arrival of signees Tez Doolittle and Rudy Taylor in August.
At wide receiver the main thing the coaches are looking for is improvement with only Marcel Willis gone from last season's group. Sophomores Ben Obomanu and Devin Aromashodu are listed as the starters heading into spring practice on the outside with senior Jeris McIntyre the first-team slot receiver. A player to watch out for this spring is redshirt freshman Courtney Taylor. Perhaps the most physically gifted of the group, he has shown the ability to make big plays in practice and the coaches are looking for big things from the high school quarterback beginning this spring.
Tight end is perhaps the biggest question mark this spring with both Lorenzo Diamond and Robert Johnson gone from last year's team. That left only sophomore Cooper Wallace to fill the void at the position, but that has changed with the move of Anthony Mix from wide receiver to tight end this spring. The athletic big man is listed as second-team going into the spring and has the ability to be a dangerous weapon from the tight end spot. He has the size to block on the outside and his speed will allow him to get downfield and make big plays in the passing game. Wallace and Mix should prove to be very capable replacements for Diamond and Johnson in the years to come. Also, backup tackle Steven Ross is expected to see playing time at tight end.
Auburn's offensive line is expected to be a team strength in 2003.
On the offensive line a major battle is expected to ensue this spring at left guard where Danny Lindsey moved inside to replace Ben Nowland at center. Sophomore Troy Reddick is listed as the first team guard heading into spring practice after getting some valuable playing time last fall as a true freshman. He will have to hold off what should be a strong challenge from redshirt freshman Jonathan Palmer, who improved dramatically late last season on the scout team and is one of the better athletes on the offensive line for Auburn. Another challenger will be sophomore Taylor Bourgeois, who will also get some work at tackle behind Marcus McNeill. With the big man firmly hanging on to his job at tackle, expect Bourgeois to get a strong look at the guard spot. Big Rich Trucks (6-8, 323, Jr.) will also see action at both tackle and guard this spring as will Ross, who will play tackle, center, and even some tight end in an effort to get him on the field more next season.
Auburn is scheduled to open spring practice March 4 and will practice on the 5th, 6th, 8th (scrimmage), 11th, 13th, 14th, 15th (scrimmage), 18th, 19th, and 20th of March. The Tigers will wrap up the spring with practices on April 1, 2, and 3 with the A-Day game to be held on April 5 at 1 p.m. inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Editor's Note: It's two-a-days all week for Tiger Football Tidbits on the Tiger Ticket forum. On Tuesday, look for part 12 on the series of articles previewing spring football.