2003 SEC Football Preview- Auburn

Many magazines, including the SEC sportswriters and broadcasters at Media Days, are picking Auburn to win the conference. Can Tommy Tuberville's team live up to the hype? Today's edition of our 2003 SEC Football preview examines the Tigers, and our staff boldly predicts the outcome of all 12 games.

COACHING

Head Coach: Tommy Tuberville (Career Rec: 55-39)
Offensive Coordinator: Hugh Nall
Defensive Coordinator: Bene Chizik

2002 Record: 9-4 overall (5-3 SEC)

2002 NCAA STATS RANKINGS

Total Offense: 44th (387.54)
Rushing Offense: 25th (203.69)
Passing Offense: 81st (183.85)
Scoring Offense: 38th (29.85)
Total Defense:26th (328.15)
Rushing Defense: 46th (141.69)
Pass Efficiency Defense: 14th / (100.32)
Scoring Defense: 13th (17.77)

Auburn tailback Ronnie Brown finished third in the SEC in rushing, averaging 84.0 yards per game (1,008 total yards) in just six starts. (AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove)

STARTERS RETURNING

Offense (8):

*TB Ronnie Brown (6-1, 217, Jr.)
*QB Jason Campbell (6-4, 220, Jr.)
LT Mark Pera (6-6, 309, Sr.)
LG Danny Lindsey (6-2, 294, Jr.)
RG Monreko Crittenden (6-5, 338, Sr.)
RT Marcus McNeill (6-9, 347, So.)
WR Devin Aromashodu (6-2, 189, So.)
FB Brandon Johnson (6-1, 234, Sr.)

Defense (8):

DE Jay Ratliff (6-5, 253, Jr.)
DT DeMarco McNeil (6-2, 297, Sr.)
DT Spencer Johnson (6-3, 283, Sr.)
DE Reggie Torbor (6-3, 242, Sr.)
*LB Karlos Dansby (6-5, 221, Sr.)
*LB Dontarrious Thomas (6-4, 233, Sr.)
S Junior Rosegreen (6-0, 185, Jr.)
RCB Carlos Rogers (6-1, 191, Jr.)

* All-Star Candidates

Roster

TEAM STRENGTHS

Running back, defensive line, linebacker.

TEAM QUESTION MARKS

Defensive secondary.

KEY GAME

tha October 11, at Arkansas. This game will likely decide the SEC West Champion.

HEAD COACHES COMMENTS

"I don't know how good we'll be. Be better than last year. We are running the same offense and defense for second year in a row. We have a lot more depth, which is what I've always talked with you about how you win championships. You don't win championships with your first team players. Last few years not had luxury of getting one guy hurt and reload. This year we do have the luxury in most areas. Guys who can play on this level. You win it with your offensive and defensive lines. On the offensive line we have some inexerpeience, but we have some good football players."

"My goal when we got to Auburn is we want to try and get this program to where top 10 or 15 team every year. Do that have legitimate chance to win the SEC. Then can control our destiny. IN the last few years we've basically been pretenders. Tried to convince our team. Now team is coming together. WE have more players in almost every position. Confidence factor is starting to get there. Last four or five games last year as good a football as any teams I've been associated with. Have to play with confidence. Have to feel like when you walk on that field you can win that game. This year, whether do it or not, our team will have that feeling."

"Very good off-season and spring practice. Best season of conditioning we've had in the summer. Every player's been on campus working out. Our players have done their part this summer. They've laid it on the line. We've got to find a kicker and punter, find a quarterback have opportunity to be a strong backup to Jason Campbell. Great to come here first time in long time and say know who starting QB will be. Try to get this team back to where we were last Jan. 1, play with same intensity, and take it to Aug. 30. Our schedule is very tough."

"Want to go in the USC game and play well. Want to go to Georgia Tech and improve. Then go to Vanderbilt. Our goal is to get to Atlanta and win Atlanta."

"Got a new offensive coordinator, Hugh Nall which is really nothing new. Steve Ensminger will spend even more time with Jason Campbell and make him better. He will call the plays but the plays are called basically during the week."

"I've been out trying to sell our team to our fans and let them know how we're going to handle it. I think we'll be even better next year because we've got a lot of guys coming back."

"We sat down and thought, Jason Campbell was as good or better than Daniel Cobb last year, we knew that. Problem was we threw Jason to wolves year before. Lost his confidence. Good quarterbacks can make things happen but not make things happen unless players around them. Thought it was better to let Jason stand on the side and watch a little bit."

"We made decision going into last season let Daniel Cobb, his ninth year to play for us, give him chance to go out, let Jason learn early. Knew were going to run the football with Carnell and Ronnie. We started out, I saw the scenario of letting Jason go in more often as season went on. Got to Florida game, needed a shot in arm, put Jason in, everything took back. After that Jason big strides. Look back, he had a good running game and his receivers started catching the ball. It worked out great for us. Not won any more or less if started Jason earlier."

"Guy that I'm really excited about is Courtney Taylor, tremendous spring, Played QB in high school. We have three guys can have opportunity to be All-SEC if stay healthy. All had luxury of going through this offense for a year. Last year Daniel drop back if one was supposed to run 15 or 16-yard route, he'd cut it to 12 yards. All about experience. Receivers have to read coverage on the run and get off those cornerbacks. I'm excited about the receivers, and I know Jason Campbell really excited."

Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown will be our running backs. No doubt, their two of the best in the country. Tre Smith could be as good as those too. The little guy brought in Brandon Jacobs, 6-4, 257. Last year started out with that many, ended up with zero end of the year. Very physical league. Everybody has good defensive players and great speed. What separates us from other conferences. Speed of our defensive linemen. At Miami us winning a lot of our games had nothing to do with Testeverde or Toretta, those guys on the defensive line gave up maybe 8 touchdowns a year."

VandyMania Projection

Auburn has a host of good players back from an overachieving 2002 squad. They are well coached and should challenge in the SEC West. 9-3 overall. 5-3 SEC.

2003 SCHEDULE AND PREDICTIONS

Aug. 30 USC, W 23-17
Sept. 6 at Georgia Tech, W 27-10
Sept. 13 at Vanderbilt, W 28-21
Sept. 27 Western Kentucky, W 42-6
Oct. 4 Tennessee, W 21-17
Oct. 11 at Arkansas, L 21-17
Oct. 18 Mississippi State, W 28-10
Oct. 25 at Louisiana State, L 21-17
Nov. 1 Louisiana-Monroe, W 38-3
Nov. 8 Ole Miss, W 31-21
Nov. 15 at Georgia, L 21-20
Nov. 22 Alabama, W 23-10


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