Saturday, 30 July 2011

2011 SEC Preview: Ranking the defensive players

The SEC hasn't won 5 straight National Championships without the help of great defenses, and each of the teams have featured some excellent players. Over that period of time, the SEC has seen an abundance of elite defensive players, such as Patrick Peterson, Rolando McClain, Nick Fairley and Quentin Groves to name a few.

But 2011 is no different, the conference will feature some top defensive players come September and I will name my (personal) top 5 defensive players of 2011, and what kind of impact they could make.

1. Dont'a Hightower - Linebacker - Alabama Crimson Tide

Hightower has the size of a typical defensive lineman (6'4 260) but also has explosive speed of a running back. Injuries have slowed down this monster for the last two seasons, but 2011 should be the year where he will get to navigate a Bama defense on their quest for another National Championship. The middle linebacker is one of the most important positions on defense, and Hightower will bolster an already stout 'Bama defense.

Hightower will be key to how good 'Bama will be this year on defense. The Tide needs to try their hardest to keep this guy healthy the whole year.

2. Stephon Gilmore - Cornerback - South Carolina Gamecocks

In 2010, South Carolina struggled mightily against the pass, but Stephon Gilmore was a bright spot in a poor secondary. Gilmore has started every game for the Cocks ever since he got to Columbia and has performed at a high level ever since. The Cocks are looking to make a title run in 2011, and Gilmore will lead a secondary that will hope to improve along the way.

In 2011, the 6'1 190 pound prospect finished with three interceptions and 79 tackles and solidified himself as the best corner in the SEC.

3. Courtney Upshaw - Linebacker - Alabama Crimson Tide

There isn't a bigger Upshaw fan (who's also an Auburn fan) than me. The sky is the potential with this slugger who is a whopping 6'2 265 pounds. He has an NFL linebacker body already, and is currently playing at a high level, which should get him 1st round honors in the 2012 NFL draft.

Upshaw led Bama in sacks in 2011 with 7 and also notched 14.5 tackles to go with that. He has every trait you want in a linebacker. He can rush the passer, and penetrate the backfield better than most players in the SEC. Upshaw thrives in Saban's 3-4 defense, and will be another player key to Bama's national title run in 2011.

4. Danny Trevathan - Linebacker - Kentucky Wildcats

This is one guy that doesn't get much press, since he plays for basketball powerhouse Kentucky. But that doesn't make his impact any less stronger. Last year, Trevathan led the conference in tackles with a whopping 144. 16 of those tackles were for loss, and also had forced 4 fumbles.

Trevathan should be getting more press for his efforts regardless of what team he plays for. Never the less he will end up being a pretty high draft pick for whichever lucky NFL team gets this stud.

5. Mark Barron - Safety - Alabama Crimson Tide

Barron is the third defensive player from Bama on this list, how can this be? Well they have a talented bunch in Tuscaloosa I'm afraid.

Mark Barron is entering his 3rd year as a starter in the Tide secondary and after a solid last two years, he hopes to top it off with a final impact before he departs for the NFL. Barron could have entered the draft in 2011, but elected to stay after getting injured at the end of the season against Auburn.

Barron is 6'2 220 and has the frame to be a solid NFL safety. Barron (in fairness) is mistake prone but another season under Nick Saban can help correct this and turn him into a solid and consistent prospect for the 2012 NFL draft.

Barron is a hard-hitter in the secondary, and will lead the
same group of guys in 2011 on their quest for another crystal ball. If Barron can stay healthy, he can be the best safety in the country and a first-round pick in 2012.


The SEC will continue to feature some of the best defensive players in the country yet again and all of which are set up for stellar 2011 campaigns. The conference had 3 defensive players go in the first round of last years draft (Patrick Peterson, Marcel Dareus, Nick Fairley).

The tradition of SEC defensive players going in the first round every year won't come to a halt any time soon.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

2011 SEC Preview: Ranking the WR's

I didn't find it too hard to rank the best WR's in the SEC. Last year the conference lost some talented WR's in AJ Green, Julio Jones and Darvin Adams, but there are still some elite WR's around and here are my top 5 WR's going into the 2011 season.

1. Alshon Jeffery - South Carolina Gamecocks

This guy should be the undisputed no1 on everyones list for this season. Jeffery came up big last season for the Gamecocks, as he became the main target for Stephen Garcia on offense. Jeffery is a big guy standing at 6'4 225 pounds. Though he is tall, he has excellent hands and impressive athleticism, as last year he made some great catches, including two great touchdown catches against 'Bama and Auburn. You can see his highlights against 'Bama here.

**Note: Watch out for the catch at 1:55 in the video. It's quite something.

Last season Jeffery hauled in 88 catches, for 1517 yards and 9 TDs. I don't anticipate his numbers taking a huge hitch this year even when taking on double teams, because defenses will have to account for the running threat in Marcus Lattimore as well.

Alshon Jeffery is a sure fire first rounder in 2012 and if he has another big year, he may sneak into the top 5 picks.

2. Joe Adams - Arkansas Razorbacks

Arkansas returns a great stable of WR's in 2011, and Adams headlines the three. Adams is 5'11 190 pounds and has great playmaking ability. The first choice was obvious, but you could say the next three spots are debatable. He isn't a big target, but that doesn't stop him.

Last season he had 50 catches for 813 yards and 6 TD catches. His biggest games last year were on the road to Georgia where he had 6 catches for 130 yards. He also got 6 catches, 138 yards and 2 touchdowns against Tennessee Tech.

Adams is another for sure future NFL WR, and even though he will be competing for Wilson's attention this fall don't look for his stock to drop off too much.

3. Greg Childs - Arkansas Razorbacks
Childs is the another member of the Arkansas trio and he comes in third on the list. Childs is a big target at 6'3 217 pounds for the Pigs. He was having a fantastic year before he got injured against Vanderbilt. In 8 games he had 46 catches for 659 yards and 6 TD's.

He is an athletic WR that should have a solid NFL career. If he can stay injury free this year his stock can surely rise by season's end.

Arkansas won't have a down year if this guy shows up again.

4. Reuben Randle - LSU Tigers
LSU hasn't had an adequate QB in a while, which you could argue is holding them back from more SEC titles. If Jordan Jefferson can improve this season, then Reuben Randle is poised for a big year. Last season Randle caught game-changing TD passes against the likes of 'Bama and Auburn. He has the big play-making ability that you want in your no1 target, and Randle will be the go-to guy on LSU's offense come September.

Randle is 6'4 207 pounds, and last season hauled in 33 catches for 544 yards. His stats aren't flashy, but the level of talent in this guy is elite.

If LSU can develop a QB, then Randle is poised for a monster year in the SEC and could live up to his star rating in the end. LSU has a big talent on their hands, and getting him the ball will be crucial this season.

5. Justin Hunter - Tennessee Volunteers
Justin Hunter still has at least two years left at the college level, and as a true-freshman last year Hunter hauled in 16 catches for 417 yards and 7 TD's. Thats a lot of yards for so very few catches isn't it? Hunter is a young prospect that has an abundance of talent, and a lot of Tennessee fans expect him to go down as one of their best WR's ever.

Standing at 6'4 and 183 pounds, Hunter is a big target who will be valuable for Tyler Bray in the next few years as he will develop and grow as well. Tennessee's offense will become much more of a threat this season, and teams will have to account for Hunter because of it.


The SEC attracts the best prospects in the nation for a reason, they have a proven record of developing stars and putting them in the pro's. The SEC lost two WR's that were top 10 draft picks in AJ Green and Julio Jones, but the SEC will reload as always.

Apart from the top 5 listed, the SEC does have other recievers who could have made the list. Honourable mentions go out to Auburn WR Emory Blake, Miss. State's Chad Bumphis and 'Bama's Marquis Maze.

Monday, 25 July 2011

2011 SEC Preview: Ranking the RB's

This season is being dubbed "The year of the RB" in the SEC as the conference will feature some of the best RB's in the nation. This article will rank my top 5 RB's in the SEC this year, so tell me what you think!

If you disagree with the ranking of your favorite RB don't get mad, because I think the talent level between the top five is beyond unmeasurable and I originally found it hard to name the five in this particular order. But none the less we will carry on as always:

1. Knile Davis - Arkansas Razorbacks
Yes, through all the squabbling over SEC fan bases the past few months about "which prized RB is the best in the conference" my personal no1 is Knile Davis. Davis is a prototypical big back, standing at 6'0 and 220lbs. Davis came on strong near the end of last season as he put up some big numbers, especially a 187 yard and 2 TD game against against Miss. State.

Davis was the SEC's leading rusher last season as he put up 1322 yards and 13 TD's. One upside he does have (statistically) is that Petrino covers a run and gun passing offense that gives Davis more space to run when defenses try to cover the pass. Arkansas is going to be dangerous on offense this year yet again and Davis will have another year to put
up even better numbers, and even improve his NFL draft stock. I believe Davis will be a very solid NFL RB and I think this will be his last year in the college game.

2. Marcus Lattimore - South Carolina Gamecocks
I was really upset when Marcus Lattimore ended up committing to South Carolina on the eve of Signing Day 2010. I knew Auburn lost out on a real stud, but it didn't exactly affect us too much (see Auburn's 2010 rushing numbers). Lattimore played the workhorse role at times last year and really impressed against Georgia (182 yards, 2TDs) and Florida (212 yards 3TD's). In the Florida game he ended up with 40 touches that game! Its obvious that Spurrier has a stud on his hands and with the chances Marcus will get he will flourish through the rest of his college career.

But will the work-horse role cost him in his later years in the pro's?

For now, I see him as the second best RB in the conference but will eventually become one of the best RB's in school history for the South Carolina Gamecocks.

3. Michael Dyer - Auburn Tigers

Wait a minute, this is an Auburn blog? Why is Michael Dyer
NOT the no1 RB in the SEC? It doesn't make any sense? Well it does a little. I love Big Mike and I think he could potentially go down as one of Auburn's best ever players. I did mention before that the rankings are close, so Dyer being third is not a shot at him by any means.

Dyer started last season behind Mario Fannin on the depth chart. After Dyer seemed to be outperforming Mario, he got the starting role and he severely impressed last season in a backfield with Cam Newton and Onterio McCallebb. Dyer still got sufficient touches, and made the most of every one he got. He is a strong efficient runner that always fights for the extra yard, and Auburn may lean on him early in the season whilst they get the passing game under control.

Dyer had some big games last season, especially against Ole Miss where he racked up 180 yards and 1 TD with 21 carries. He is also took over on offense in the BCS National Championship game, as he ran for 143 yards on 22 carries. That game was not Cam Newton;s best game, but Dyer's extra efforts earned Auburn the crystal ball and he is going to be key to how the offense will roll this season. He will have a new offensive line which is not in his favour, but never the less he will still have a respectable season.

4. Trent Richardson - Alabama Crimson Tide
I'm not hating on Trent, because someone had to be 4th didn't they? Trent is one of the nation's best RB's and could potentially have a big year if Bama's offense can develop a passing game. If they can't, then teams will stack the middle and stuff Trent every time. Richardson is built like a tank, as he stands at 5'10 225 pounds but statistically hasn't had a break out year (which he is poised for this upcoming season).

Trent looked great in some games last season (Against Penn State he had 144 yards and 1 TD with 22 carries), but hasn't had enough carries for him to break past the 1000 yard mark. He is as talented as they come, and will end up being a very good RB in the pro's. With the majority of the carries this year, Trent will be the premier threat on Bama's offense.

5. Vick Ballard - Mississippi State Bulldogs

The Bulldogs are turning into a legitimate threat in the SEC and Vick Ballard is the main work horse on their offense. Last season, Ballard racked up 968 yards with 19 TD's, and his numbers are poised to improve. Perhaps he is ranked this low because the Bulldogs are not a popular team to talk about in the conference, who knows?

Ballard had a lot of good games last season, including his 150 yards and 3TD performance with 33 carries against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Ballard is a touchdown machine and is built rock solid at 5'11 225 pounds.


The SEC is rich in talent, and these are the standout RB's in the SEC going into 2011. The rankings are close in my mind because all 5 have legitimate pro potential and it will be interesting to see how they progress and blossom through their careers.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

2011 SEC Preview: Ranking the QB's

Last year we saw many SEC QB's have stellar campaigns. Cam Newton won the Heisman, Ryan Mallet wasn't too shabby and we even saw the newcomer Aaron Murray deliver some good performances. It is going to be hard to rank the top 5 QB's since I think the talent level is very close between all of them, but I'll give my true opinion on my Top 5 QB's in the SEC. Let's get started:

1. Aaron Murray - Georgia Bulldogs

Despite Georgia's poor 6-7 record, last year Murray put up some very impressive stats for a freshman in the SEC. He racked up just over 3000 yards passing, as well as 24 touchdowns. Murray has the potential to be one of the best Quarterbacks in the country this year and he should hopefully improve a Georgia offense that needs to stay consistent. He is a calm, poised and has the patience to be a good Quarterback for the Dawgs.

2. Tyler Bray - Tennessee Volunteers

I genuinely think Tennessee will improve this season, and I think Bray will be a big part of that. Bray may seem like a strange pick at no2 but I think we will see a breakout year from him. He has two excellent targets in Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers to throw to which should help him out hugely. In the last 5 games of last season Dooley gave him the chance to show off his arm, and he wasn't too shabby as he put up 323 yards and 3 TD throws against Ole Miss. Although his performance in the Music-City Bowl wasn't too impressive (4TD's but 3 INT's) I think he will be a good QB for the Vols this year.

3. Tyler Wilson - Arkansas Razorbacks

All we really saw from this kid last season was his backup performance against Auburn when Mallett left the game injured. Even though Auburn's secondary was less than impressive in their 2010 BCS winning year, Wilson had a decent game as he threw for 323 yards, 4 TD's and 2 INT's in the game. Bobby Petrino is a terrific offensive coach and definitely has a good looking prospect in Wilson. He has the best WR corp in the SEC and I even think he could move up to being the no1 QB in the SEC this year.

4. Stephen Garcia - South Carolina Gamecocks

This guy is a Quarterback that you either love or hate, and you never know which Garcia will show up. He has the game of his life last year against Alabama throwing 201 yards, 3 TD's and an INT however he stunk up the joint against Florida State throwing 0 TD's and 3 INT's in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. South Carolina is poised for another decent year so if Garcia can stay consistent and stay off the booze, he has the chance to put up some decent numbers this year.

5. Chris Relf - Mississippi State Bulldogs

The Bulldogs had their most wins in the SEC since 1999 last season, and Relf was a big reason that was the case. He had 13 touchdowns last season, whilst running for 5 himself. He is a big guy and can protect the ball and is as efficient as they come. If he can have another good year look for the Bulldogs to improve.


So there you have it, there were a few others I could have listed but these were my top 5 picks. AJ McCarron has the tools to be a good one, and Barrett Trotter could have a solid year (if he wins the job of course).

Next time I'm going to rank the top 5 RB's (that should be fun). Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Gene Chizik's Top 5 Auburn Games: No1 - BCS National Championship '10

When Gene Chizik was hired, it was frowned upon by every Auburn fan. Fans/Alumni/Students were scratching their heads when Jay Jacobs hired Gene Chizik to be Head Coach at Auburn, but two years later Auburn has gone from a losing program into a National Champion. Chizik had to rebuild the program from a down-ridden 5-7 program into a National Contender, and it happened quicker than expected. Across the state, our bitter rivals had just won a National Championship and they looked to be not only on top of the state but on top of the country. But that didn't stop Gene did it?

Auburn's 2010 season was a wild ride. Even though Auburn finished undefeated you won't be the only one who thought there were times that Auburn was down and out, times where you just wanted to shake your head in disappointment, and times where you wanted to throw furniture around your living room. But just as Champions do, they find a way to win and all those wins were lead by you know who.

Auburn were coming into the bowl break sitting at 13-0 and were SEC Champions. Auburn got their bowl bid to play Oregon in the BCS National Championship game in Glendale, Arizona which was an exciting prospect for fans to be able to go out there and watch Auburn win their first ever BCS Title. Cam Newton had just been to New York to win his well deserved Heisman Trophy and Auburn were one step away from winning it all.

As the game grew closer the excitement was building everywhere. Fans began to gather around the UofP Stadium and atmosphere was starting to build. I was stuck in England to watch it, but on the day of game day I just could not contain my excitement. It felt like the game was still days away to me, but I knew in reality kick-off was closer than anticipated.

Glendale was rocking, fans were hollering, players were pumped and then came kick off.

The entire game in itself was (from my view) a real defensive battle. People were right when they said the large layoff would hurt the hotstreak of both offenses. Auburn had laid 56 points on their last opponent in the Georgia Dome so you knew that their offense was on a roll.

The first score of the game came when Oregon's Rob Beard hit a 26 yard field goal to give the Ducks an early 3 point lead. But that was short lived as some time
later Cam Newton hit Kodi Burns on a pass in the middle of the field, and after a quick juke and a short sprint Kodi leaped into the end-zone and Auburn had claimed a 7-3 lead. I was incredibly happy for him to get that touch down. It was his first touch down of the season and it ended up being one of the biggest scores of the season. He
is the epitome of an Auburn man.

A few minutes later on the 8-yard line, Darron Thomas rolled to the right and caught the Tigers defense off guard as he threw a short pass to LaMichael James, and he did the rest as he walked into the end-zone. Instead of kicking the extra point Oregon went for the two point conversion and it was successful after Rob Beard dived into the end-zone and Oregon claimed an 11-7 lead.

After Auburn strolled down the field on a long drive, Cam Newton had the chance to re-take the lead on a pass to Eric Smith, but severely under-threw the initial pass. That play still ruffles me to this day as it was very rare to see Cam under throw a pass like that. Eric Smith did make the catch but it slipped out of his hands. I don't blame Smith at all on that play, not one bit.

But it seemed to be a blessing in disguise. Oregon took possession very close to their endzone and a hand-off to James resulted in a safety after Mike Blanc found his way into the backfield, and even after James stretched out the ball it wasn't enough. Auburn closed the gap to 11-9.

On the next drive, Cam Newton hit Emory Blake on a 30 yard pass. Blake was left wide open and he just walked in to give Auburn the lead at 16-11. That play capped off a great season for Blake, and he will definitely become a weapon on Auburn's offense this season as well.

Then came half-time, and Auburn were 30 minutes away from winning it all. They had to hold on, and they had to make the plays. In the third quarter Wes Byrum hit a 28 yard field goal to extend the lead to 19-11, which ended up being the only score in the quarter. However after that field goal Thomas hit Tunei for a deep pass across the middle and it looked like he was about to score, until DeMetruce McNeal made a last gasp leg tackle stopping him just yards away from the goal line. Oregon looked destined to score didn't they? Think again.

1st and goal, Barner took a hand off and was stopped short by Corey Lemonier. 2nd and goal Thomas faked a hand off and tried to take it himself on the outside but was knocked out of bounds. 3rd and goal from the 5 yard line and LaMichael James was yet again stopped short. Then came 4th and goal and Oregon didn't want the 3 points. A reverse by Kenyon Barner was stopped as you know who (Big Nick) got in there to stop the dive in. Auburn had just made a huge stop on defense, and whilst Auburn's pass defense has been blasted all year, the run defense this year was much better than people thought. People forget that Auburn had contained LaMichael James, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Marcus Lattimore last season.

Then came the fourth quarter, which was full of drama, controversy and luck.

The fourth was scoreless until the last two and a half minutes. Both teams were trying their absolute best to finish each other off and Oregon tied it up, after LaMichael James took an option pass from Darron Thomas and found his way into the end-zone. The score was at 19-17 and I knew immediately that the Ducks were going to try for the two. I was standing still with the hands on my mouth and just praying that they didn't get it. Two and a half minutes was enough for Auburn to run the clock out and win it. I couldn't imagine going into over time. The ball was snapped, Thomas looked, fired and hit Jeff Maehl after he leaped for the grab. The game was tied at 19 a piece and there was time for one final drive. What a drive it was...

As the drive ensued, the offensive MVP of the night came up and made a huge play on offense. Michael Dyer recieved a hand-off through the middle and he was taken down 5 yards short of the first down mark. Think again! Dyer got up and was ready to give the ball back to the referees, but no whistle came and Auburn's sideline was shouting at Dyer for him to keep running, and Darvin Adams was doing the same. Dyer kept running and it ended up being a 37 yard gain for Auburn. A review came and even though I never saw the replay, I was sure that his knee was down. I was wrong, as the replay clearly showed that Dyer was
never fully down.

Nick Saban said it best on that play. "Defensive players must finish the play", and I don't think anyone can disagree with that. If a player spins around on top of your body you have to think somehow that his body never fully touched the ground. Did Dyer know this? Did the defender?

Who knows.

A few plays later, Dyer burst through the midde, spun around and got into the end-zone. We thought it was all over until it was reviewed. Dyer was very much down and Auburn got the ball on the one yard line. After a failed sneak by Newton, the Special Teams crew stepped onto the field where Wes Byrum was about to hit his most important field goal of his career. Wes has had a great great time at Auburn, and no one will forget his winning field goals against the likes of Kentucky (2010) and Florida (2007).

Byrum stepped back.

The ball was snapped.

Caudle held.

Byrum booted it through the uprights. Auburn had just won the BCS National Championship.

When the kick went through I couldn't process what had just happened. I've been an Auburn fan for only four years but I had such a surreal feeling after that kick, and I literally couldn't believe that after all the team went through the last 13 games, everything that was slung at the University, every comeback they made, every time they held on to win, Auburn were now the Champions.

The 2010 team held its own legend. They had their own strengths, their own weaknesses, their own luck, their own plays, their own will to win. Auburn had tried damn hard the last three decades to win another National title. 1983 didn't get the chance, 1993 didn't and neither did 2004.

I guess in a way, Auburn could have dedicated its title to all three of those teams that didn't get the chance that the 2010 team did. But like I said, this team is in its own right. They came into September 2010 with the will to win every game and they damn sure came away successful.

Gene Chizik lead this team to a title. He achieved what hasn't been done since 1957 and it came within two seasons of being head coach at Auburn. People can say everything they want about this title only being because of Cam Newton, or Gus Malzahn. But who put it all together? That's right, you know the answer.

It was truly a team effort last season, one saying has been drummed through the team and fans this year. The fans have been loud every game, the players have given 110% every game and the coaches did what they do best. This team never gave up.

Brief moments of happiness and great plays came down to one saying.

They were ALL IN

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Looking Forward: Will there be growing pains in 2011? (Defense)

Not that it hasn't been said enough, but Auburn loses a ton of starters and various role players on both sides of the ball in 2011, and they will obviously be given replacements. So I'm here to ask the question: Will there be growing pains in 2011?

Here is how I project the defence to look (right now) for Utah State on the 3rd September.

S: Neiko Thorpe/DeMetruce McNeal
CB: Chris Davis/T'Sharvan Bell
OLB: Eltoro Freeman/MLB: Jake Holland/OLB: Daren Bates
DE: Corey Lemonier/Nosa Eguae
DT: Jeffrey Whittaker/Kenneth Carter

Of course there will be other players who will be rotated in and out over the course of the season as well, but above is my personal projected defence.

Auburn loses a lot of experience on defence, but some areas I believe we will be upgraded in talent. Defensive End will be stronger this year from my point of view. I believe Corey Lemonier is poised for a break out year and Nosa Eguae could grow into a pretty solid DE himself. I do however think (right now) that the inside spots are worrying. I don't doubt that Carter and J-Whit are talented but it is an important position which we can't afford to dwell on. If Auburn is going to snag some big wins this year, we can't afford to have a soft inside, otherwise teams with strong rushing offences (Bama, Arkansas, USC) will carve us up like a warm christmas ham. I think this is a position where we may start out soft on, but over the course of the year I hope Pelton can make the inside as strong as it can be.

Linebacker is another position that is unproven. Holland played a bit last year, and when I watched him I was quite impressed. He seems to be a player that is strong on coverage, but I still have no idea how he will play against the run. Guess we will have to wait and see won't we?

Daren Bates is one of the few remaining starters on defence. His move to the outside last year I believe was a good one for the long term. Eltoro Freeman is another Linebacker who I believe has tremendous potential. He is a pure headhunter and is arguably the scariest looking player on defence. His mama didn't call him "The Bull" for nothing.

Then we have the cornerbacks, which is a position that I think we may be better at this year. Chris Davis played a bit last year so he has some experience under his belt, and T'Sharvan Bell is a player who I think has potential to be a terrific Corner. He improved a lot over the course of last season and it showed as he made some great plays near the end of last year, including his INT against Stephen Garcia in the SEC Championship Game which he returned for a touch down. Auburn does have other Corners who will challenge for playing time, including true freshman Jonathan Rose and Jonathan Mincy (Who had a great spring game).

Finally, we have the Safety position which will be another area to watch for this season. In the Spring, Neiko Thorpe moved to Safety after playing at Corner the last three years, and I believe that it may be a good move for him. He is one of the very few seniors on defence this season and he will have to step up and provide a leadership role if the defence is going to gel as a unit over the course of the year. His Corner play last year was none to impressive last season, so if he can step up and play a significant role on defence this year then I believe this defence (specifically the secondary) can get better sooner rather than later. DeMetruce "Meat" McNeal is another Safety that got a lot of playing time last year. He made some good plays as well, including a pass breakup against AJ Green and a leg tackle on Oregon's Lavasier Tunei, which ended up being a huge play in that game.

From the starters I projected earlier, only two of them are seniors (Thorpe and Freeman) so the reality is that Auburn will field a very young defence. Our first 5 games are going to be tough, as we have to play Clemson and South Carolina on the road, as well as a home game to Mississippi State. However, we will be playing two easier opponents in Florida Atlantic and Utah State, which will be games where Auburn will need to rotate in masses and get younger guys more in-game experience.

There will be growing pains this year, and there will be times where the defence will make some dumb mistakes, but I believe over the course of the season the unit will get stronger and stronger and will eventually become a strong core of young players.

Of the projected starters, two are seniors, two are juniors and seven are sophomores. Outstanding when you think about it?

Auburn will likely return the majority of the defence in 2012 and could make another championship run then. But I digress, since it isn't 2012 just yet.

Auburn may lose some experienced, talented players, but the upgrade in talent is going to be huge for the long term.