By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: "If you go back and look at the wins and losses of last
year's season, you always look back and you can always look at the games that
you would have, should have, and could have won," says Auburn head coach Gene
Chizik. "We certainly look back at last year and see a football team that at
times played well, at times didn't play well."
Chizik was a controversial hire at Auburn, as he hadn't achieved any success
during his tenure as the head man at Iowa State. The former defensive
coordinator of the Tigers did silence many critics early in the 2009 season,
as his team won its first five games. Sure, three of the victories came over
Louisiana Tech, Ball State and Mississippi State, but Chizik's group also
knocked off West Virginia and Tennessee, the latter of which occurred in
Unfortunately, things went down hill from that point on, as the next three
outings all resulted in defeat. After getting rolled by Arkansas on October
10th, the Tigers fell to Kentucky at home and then LSU on the road. Back-to-
back wins over Ole Miss and Furman made Auburn bowl eligible, but the regular
season closed with narrow losses to Georgia and Alabama.
At 7-5, including 3-5 versus SEC competition, Auburn was headed to face
Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. That game proved to be one of the most
entertaining of all the bowl matchups, and Auburn escaped with a 38-35
OFFENSE: Leading the offense for Auburn in 2010 will be quarterback Cameron
Newton, a former Florida Gator who made a stop at a junior college last
season. Once a backup to Tim Tebow, Newton is a junior who will be given every
opportunity to shine in offensive coordinator Guz Malzahn's wide-open attack.
"There's question marks in terms of what's he going to do and how is the
function of our offense going to be when you're playing in front of 90,000
people," says Chizik of Newton.
Despite the lack of SEC experience, however, Newton's talent is undeniable.
Should he falter, senior Neil Caudle will be ready to step in. A couple of
starting wideouts are back in place, including standout Darvin Adams, who
recorded 60 catches for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
The offensive line returns four starters, and while that is great news, there
is a question of whether the team will be able to successfully replace Ben
Tate. Last season, the recent second-round pick of the NFL's Houston Texans
rushed for over 1,300 yards. Mario Fannin, a senior, is a multi-talented back
who has yet to shine for the Tigers, but he certainly has the talent to do so.
DEFENSE: "There's times on our defense, we played really well (in 2009)," says
Chizik. "There was times when we played very poorly. So we've had to go back
and really kind of reevaluate."
The Tigers placed last in the SEC in scoring defense a year ago, allowing 27.5
ppg. They struggled against both the run and the pass and simply need to get
better. With eight starters back in the fold, there is certainly good reason
Start at the linebacker position, where senior Josh Bynes returns after
posting 104 tackles last season. Fellow senior Craig Stevens and Daren Bates,
a sophomore, are projected to be impact players in the second tier as well.
Bates was formerly a safety, and he brings a great deal of athleticism to the
Up front, Antoine Carter is a man who will be counted on to provide a
consistent pass rush as a senior, something he hasn't been able to do so far
in his collegiate career.
Safety Zac Etheridge is the leader of the defensive backfield, and the senior
will be counting on fellow senior Aairon Savage to shine at corner.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Wes Byrum was tremendous last season as the Tigers'
placekicker, and the senior is certainly an asset to the club moving into the
2010 campaign. The same can't be said for fellow senior Ryan Shoemaker, a
punter who has been mediocre at best. Fannin is a solid kickoff returner, but
he may not continue to occupy that role if he emerges as Auburn's featured
OUTLOOK: There is a great deal of buzz surrounding the Auburn program, as many
expect the Tigers to emerge as an upper-level SEC team. Don't be surprised if
the team falls short of those expectations, however, especially without Tate
and with a new quarterback at the helm. Sure, the fact that 16 starters are
back on both sides of the ball helps a great deal, but this team lacks star