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2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #39 Auburn

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 5, 2016

#39 Auburn Tigers

2015 Recap:
A down year for the Tigers as they entered the Birmingham Bowl as an underdog against Memphis but emerged with a 31-10 victory giving them a 7-6 record. The disppointing part of the season was the 2-6 mark in the SEC, showing just how tough life in the SEC can be as Auburn was umblemished outside the conference.


Coaching:
Gus Malzahn is entering his 4th year and the offensive guru looks like he may have a defense that will allow his team to be competitive in the conference. Malzahn is known for the remarkable turnaround he brought to Auburn during his first season,  if the Tigers suffer through another 2-6 SEC campaign he will find out just how short fans memories can actually be.


Offense

Auburn has always been known as a running football team. Even when Cam Newton was leading the Tigers to a National Title his duel threat as a runner is what made him so dangerous. You would have to go back to the days of Jason Campbell to find a Tiger quarterback who was a consistent throwing weapon. Auburn needs to find balance as their 111th ranking passing the football at just over 173 yards per game is not going to allow the running lanes to open. 2015 was supposed to be a coming out party for quarterback Jeremy Johnson, now he enters 2016 looking like he will be the backup to John Franklin III. Even with Franklin currently slated as the starter expect to see Jeremy Johnson and even Sean White splitting time behind center. Jovon Robinson takes over as the starting running back once again even with his 3 rushing touchdowns in 2015 while the departed Payton Barber crossed the line toting the rock on 13 occasions. Robinson has the patience and low center of gravity we have seen from Tiger runners in the past but finding seams behind a retooled offensive line might be the tough part. Lineman Sean Coleman and Avery Young have moved onto the greener pastures of the NFL and they turn over the reigns to Darius James and Robert Leff with Austin Golson showing the ability to play on both sides of the line. The interior of the line with guards Alex Kozan and Braden Smith is where Auburn has the most returning expertise. At wide receiver we could serve witness to a star in the making as freshman Nate Craig-Myers could crack the starting lineup to start the season. If Craig-Myers isn't a starter in week 1 it won't take long as he and fellow newcomer Kyle Davis could form a formidable duo in the SEC in upcoming seasons.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Alex Kozan OG 5th Round 2017.

                                      Jovon Robinson RB 7th Round 2017.


Defense

While the defense ranked a pedestrian 71st in the nation there is a wealth of talent returning for a sqaud that will be among the upper echelon of the conference, and ultimately why Auburn will be competitive. Defensive end Carl Lawson only played in half of Auburns games due to injury last season but his 11 quarterback hurries still ranked second on the team. Sophomore Byron Cowart will see an increased presence along the edge and his prowess for sniffing out the quarterback will likely aid Lawson in reaching a double-digit sack total. Just when opposing offenses think they can go up the gut of the defense to avoid the edge, they find returning starters Dontavius Russell and Montravius Adams, both players who have NFL aspirations and credentials. There are no returning starters at linebacker but plenty of experience led by T. J Neal in the middle. Cornerback Carlton Davis may only be a sophomore but he made the All-SEC freshman squad in 2015 and this year he could make the All-SEC squad period.

Best Draft Prospects: Carl Lawson DE 1st/2nd Round 2017 (With Early Declaration).

                                      Montravius Adams DT 3rd Round 2017.


Special Teams:

Daniel Carlson proved to be a secret weapon for Auburn as his 23 field goals may give Auburn an edge in close games. Carlson also led the conference with 4 field goals converted from 50 yards and beyond to go along with 49 touchbacks. Auburn failed to return a kickoff or punt for touchdown in 2015 but Marcus Davis and Rudy Ford are more than capable of bringing kicks back to the house and aiding in the special teams battle. The coverage units and the consistency for punter Kevin Phillips will need to improve.


Schedule:

Auburn wastes no time in showing their potential moxy for 2016 as they play host to last years National Championship runner-up Clemson right out of the gate on September 3rd. Weeks 3-4 should pave the way for the remainder of the SEC schedule as Auburn will have home contests with Texas A&M and LSU. The toughest road contests look to be Ole Miss, Georgia and the annual schedule closer with defending National Champions, Alabama. With life in the SEC we know the schedule will be tough but it seems to be a little easier than 2015 when the Tigers struggled with only a pair of conference victories.



Draft and Overall Outlook:

Carl Lawson will command most of the attention but the interior play of Montravius Adams will catch the eye of a number of scouts at the next level. While Auburn will be looked at more for their defensive prowess the future does look bright down the road with the incoming wide receivers who have legitimate size and big play ability.
 

DJ Boyer