10 Musts for the 2010 Auburn Football Team (Part 2)
6. RUN THE WILDCAT PROPERLY
The “Wildcat” was fun for a little bit during the 2009 Season. It even had sports writers running the requisite “Defenses Can’t Stop the Wildcat” articles. Fast forward to the end of the year and the wildcat was predictable, pedestrian, and just plain ineffective.
Why? I’m not going to blame Kodi Burns, but that was a big part of it. The Wildcat runs back when it’s that element of surprise involved. When there is a natural running back at the helm. It gets to be extremely effective when said Running back also has a bit of an arm. I wonder if there is a running back on the Auburn team who played High School Quarterback? (*cough* Dontae Aycock *double cough* Mario Fannin).
Auburn did run some elements of the Wildcat properly in 2009. Those results were evident on the field. However, later in the season whenever Kodi Burns came in the game, Defenses knew what was coming. That Element of surprise was gone and they might as well have spun the wheel above.
If they insist on putting a QB in the Wildcat, then how about Tyrik Rollison? That all depends on if his case of the brain farts (and midweek Skybar scuffles) are behind him and if he’s ready to become a productive member of the team.
7. REPLACE BEN TATE
I think it will take a couple of years for Auburn fans to realize just what a tremendous asset Ben Tate was to Auburn football. Yes, there were his ill-timed and out of context comments about being the Best Back in Alabama, and the sad fact that he had some his worst games on the biggest stages. However, when I saw the emotion on his face after the Georgia game, it cemented for me one certain fact: Ben Tate was and is a special Auburn man.
Tate was an emotional leader for the team. That void can be replaced by Kodi Burns. However, his role as a compliment back to OMAC the Squirrel chaser will be a huge loss for the 2010 Auburn Tigers. Some have speculated that Dyer is already fit for that role. That role as a punishing and bruising back. A back who can be the Mr. Inside to McCallebb’s Mr. Outside. Personally, I don’t feel like Dyer is ready just yet (but that’s for the coaches to decide). I think Eric Smith is perfect for the role as Tate’s heir apparent. He’s physical, bruising, and has soft hands. Eric “Lil Rudi” Smith should be able to flourish in Tate’s stead.
8. BUILD DEFENSIVE DEPTH
Nowhere was this more evident than in the Iron Bowl. Auburn only played 3 Linebackers. No rotations. No Subs. Good Lord. The same three players at the most crucial position on Defense, against the #2 Ranked team, for every. single. snap.
Thankfully, Defense has been a priority for the Auburn coaching staff on the recruiting trail. Barring no injury setbacks, there are a few guys like Joel Bonomolo, Ladarius Owens, Kenneth Carter, and Jawara Wright who can already come in an play immediately, in addition to the players who were already sidelined in 2009.
9. HANDLE EXPECTATIONS
Auburn won’t be picked to win the SEC, much less the West. However, the expectations will remain high. Especially when you look at how much is coming back offensively. A near intact Offensive Line, a couple of proven RBs, A maturing WR corps, the loss of Tommy Trott, etc. Jerry over at The War Eagle Reader already gave a pretty in depth account.
So going in to the 2010 year, the expectations will be high. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Auburn (with the help of a bowl win) crack the Top 25 at the start of the year.
The real task comes at handling those expectations. In most of the games, Auburn will go from Hunter to Hunted fairly quickly. The schedule sets up nicely and on paper I can only see 3 games where Auburn wouldn’t be either favored or at least even with (Arkansas, Alabama, and Clemson). In addition, the only road games are Mississippi State, Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Kentucky. So, again, it looks good (on paper at least) for the Tigers.
So how do you handle those expectations? That will be the biggest test for Auburn.
10. PLAY IN A NEW YEAR’S BOWL
To put to plainly, the Iron Bowl should be Auburn’s final football game of the 2010 Calendar year. This, of course, barring an improbable birth into the SEC Championship game.
Auburn’s tasted that sweet sweet New Year’s Fruit already. They’ll want to taste it again. Anything less, to me, would be a set back. Cap One, Cotton, even Liberty would be another progressive step forward. I’ll even settle for Chik Fil A if need be. Anything else, however, wouldn’t make my Orange and Blue Heart flutter heading into 2011.