Spring fever: Auburn

Auburn probably made more big plays in its 2009 spring game with Gus Malzahn coordinating the offense than it did in all of 2008 with Tony Franklin calling the shots.


Michael Alexander averaged 15.0 yards per carry (two rushes, 30 yards) in the A-Day Game but that wasn't the top figure. Ben Tate averaged 18.0 yards (four rushes, 72 yards) but that wasn't the top figure, either. Onterio McCalebb averaged 37.5 (two carries, 75 yards) but, incredibly, that wasn't the top figure, either. Instead, that distinction went to Terrell Zachary, who carried one time for 70 yards.

All told, 29 rushes produced 280 yards, an eye-popping average of 9.7 yards per carry.

Quarterback Neil Caudle had a productive day, as well, completing 11 of 16 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. One of the TD passes was a 45-yarder to Darvin Adams. Kodi Burns, who is bracketed No. 1 at quarterback with Caudle, completed just 3 of 8 passes but one was a 41-yard connection with Mario Fannin.

For what it's worth, head coach Gene Chizik insists the QB position is still up for grabs.

"We've got a long way to go, so there's not going to be any decisions made on who's The Guy and who's not The Guy," he said. "We know that this thing's probably going to play out a good bit."

Still, you have to believe The Guy will be named Caudle. He's a far better passer than Burns, who completed just 52.5 percent last season with 7 interceptions and only 2 touchdowns. Burns is a superior runner – he averaged 4.2 yards per carry last fall en route to 411 rushing yards – so he might be a better fit at tailback than quarterback in Malzahn's scheme. That move could be made this fall if QB Chris Todd makes a full recovery from shoulder surgery.

Like Malzahn, new Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof came out of spring practice smiling. He has two of the SEC's premier defensive ends in senior Antonio Coleman and junior Michael Goggans. Coleman was first-team All-SEC last fall and has 14.5 career sacks heading into 2009. Goggans was the A-Day MVP after registering two tackles for loss, including a sack.

Auburn's special teams should be solid, thanks to the return of Wes Byrum and Clinton Durst. Durst averaged 42.1 yards per punt last fall but Byrum needs to improve his accuracy a bit after making just 11 of 19 field-goal tries.

Bottom line: Wherever Malzahn goes, offensive fireworks happen. If Caudle can manage the attack competently, Auburn could bounce back quickly from last season's 5-7 disappointment.

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