Thursday, December 17, 2009

Something to prove

My story for today's Anniston Star examined the players I think have the most to gain over the next few months.

There were a few more guys I wanted to mention but couldn't because of space issues. Heck, you guys were probably ready to quit reading after the whole Neil Caudle/Bart Eddins portion.

Anyway, here's a quick read on why I think certain players have plenty to gain over the next six months.

1. QB Neil Caudle: Duh. This is it for Caudle, a formerly well-regarded recruit. He has been a career backup labeled as injury-prone at one time and interception-prone lately. Caudle should have an edge in the early race. He's competing against two true freshmen and a redshirt freshman. Chris Todd had a strong senior season and Caudle would love nothing more than to follow in his footsteps.

2. OL Bart Eddins: Very much in the same boat as Caudle. Career backup has one final chance. It won't be nearly as easy for Eddins. He needs to play very well in spring and hope a starting guard, most likely Mike Berry, can impress line coach Jeff Grimes enough to justify a position switch. Incoming JUCO players Roszell Gaydon and Brandon Mosley won't make Eddins' task any easier -- especially if Gaydon can get into school in time for practice this spring.

3. RB Dontae Aycock: I couldn't quite spell it out in my story because no one will say it directly, but this might be it for Aycock. Auburn is clearly recruiting past him having already landed RB Michael Dyer and putting itself in great position to potentially nab RB Marcus Lattimore as well. RB Onterio McCalebb said Wednesday that he's hungry to shake theories that he's not durable enough to shoulder the load of a feature back. Aycock is only a redshirt freshman, but he had better have a breakout spring. He might not get those same chances come August.

4. DE Cam Henderson and WR Philip Pierre-Louis: These two players have battled off-the-field issues resulting in missing playing time. Henderson missed the entire 2009 season while Pierre-Louis saw time strictly as a punt returner -- a role he proved incapable of handling during his redshirt freshman season. Both will be sophomores next year and neither is close to seeing regular playing time. If they can't make a move this spring, they might never see the field.

5. WR DeAngelo "Voodoo" Benton: An easy way to guess whether Auburn was running or passing in 2009 was to look and see if No. 3 was in the game. If he was, the Tigers were more than likely preparing to run the ball. That's not a good sign for Benton, a former five-star recruit. WR coach Trooper Taylor defends Benton whenever asked about him. He says Benton would have played more if WR Darvin Adams hadn't been so productive and he still expects Benton to "re-write" the record books before he leaves. Well, Adams is just a sophomore, Terrell Zachery is a junior and has established himself and fellow freshman Emory Blake has apparently taken a bigger role in the offense than Benton. Now Auburn is preparing to land a talent-heavy receiver class that includes Trovon Reed. Benton might have a ton of potential, but he'd better start showing it soon because it could just as easily go to waste on the sideline.

6. DE Nosa Eguae: The current redshirt might be a household name by now if he hadn't been slowed by a foot injury. Instead he's entering the 2010 season with four years of eligibility remaining and a year of college life under his belt. That might not be such a bad thing. Eguae has a chance to be a four-year starter. He will probably be more of a strong-side end. On the surface that seems like a tough position to crack, but Antoine "Hot" Carter should move to the pass-rush specialist spot once Antonio Coleman leaves. That would pit Eguae in a position battle with Michael Goggans, who was demoted from a starting role this season. The coaches love Eguae. Don't be surprised if he shows why next year.

7. DB Demond Washington: It didn't take long for Washington to emerge as a big-time presence for Auburn. Now he needs to do so at cornerback. Neiko Thorpe struggled badly at times in 2009 and Auburn desperately needs a lockdown corner with Walt McFadden leaving. Before Washington moved to strong safety, he was starting to split time as a regular corner with Thorpe. Washington should have a real chance of winning the top corner spot this spring.

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