Saturday, September 15, 2007

Time to refigure

Last season, Auburn quickly went from the nation's No. 2 team to overachieving at 11-2. Fans and media got to know the team better over 13 games.
It won't take that long for Auburn's 2007 team. The Tigers are three games and two losses into the season, including a Southeastern Conference home loss to Mississippi State.
Auburn has SEC road games against Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and LSU ahead, and a freshman quarterback has begun cutting teeth because of senior Brandon Cox's sudden decline.
It's widely understood that Auburn's talent center is in the lower classes, so dare we say the word?
Dare we say rebuilding?
Actually, my pet term is "transition year." Auburn is clearly transitioning to a younger corps of players, and this year's schedule leaves little room to expect much record wise.
So how far does Auburn dip?
If one assumes those four road games are losses, then 6-6 looks like the best Auburn can do. Then again, one wonders if Auburn can win home games against Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Alabama with an offense that struggles to score touchdowns. Auburn has yet to score more than two touchdowns in one game. The offense has scored just five.
So how did Auburn get in this state?
I blame a hiccup year or two in recruiting, especially 2004.
Auburn had a loaded roster at the time, a team that was picked by some to win a national title in 2003 and went undefeated in 2004. Kids want to go where they can play quickly, and Auburn handed out redshirts with scholarship papers back then.
The whole Jetgate affair at the end of the 2003 season probably didn't help Auburn's recruting much, either.
Auburn currently has 17 seniors, four of which are walk-ons. There aren't too many difference makers in the bunch. There's defensive end Quentin Groves and then a major dropoff.
I blame a lot of Auburn's offensive woes on mediocre receivers, the kind that don't entice safeties to back off the line of scrimmage. Again, recruiting was a problem here.
The Tigers signed that class of Devin Aromashodu, Anthony Mix, Ben Obomanu and Courtney Taylor in 2002. They started playing as freshmen, so top receiver recruits knew Auburn could not offer quick playing time.
It doesn't help that Auburn advertises itself as a run-first team. If the coaches don't get freshman quarterback Kodi Burns using his arm as much as his legs, he's bound to scare off more receivers talented enough to make a difference.
Auburn made inroads with a touted receiver class of Tim Hawthorne, Terrell Zachery, Chris Slaughter and Alex Rose in 2006. Hawthorne, a redshirt freshman, made his first start Saturday. Zachery, also a redshirt freshman, resides in Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville's "dog house" and has yet to suit up. Slaughter, a true freshmen who re-signed this year after a prep-school detour, has played in Auburn's last two games. Rose hit the academic skids and is not playing this season.
None have made a significant impact.
Auburn signed Quindarrious Carr this year and has commitments from Darvin Adams, Harry Adams and Damion Allen ... all three-star prospects, according to
Auburn is recruiting others, most notably Julio Jones, but that won't help Auburn this year.
At the risk of coming off like a bad Yogi Berra imitator, this doesn't appear to be the year to think about this year.

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