March 12, 2014
How good will Auburn’s football team be next season? In my opinion, it will be very good, maybe great. But it’s not for the reasons you might think.
For sure, quarterback Nick Marshall and lots of other guys are potentially outstanding players who will make significant impacts and will be certainly important. Gus Malzahn has shown he is something special as a head coach.
But the real reasons I expect Auburn’s football team to be very good and maybe great are on the line of scrimmage.
I’ve seen great teams with ordinary quarterbacks, ordinary running backs, ordinary receivers, ordinary linebackers, ordinary defensive backs and even ordinary coaches. I’ve never seen a great team that was ordinary on the line of scrimmage. And Auburn’s offensive and defensive lines should be anything but ordinary.
I don’t know the particulars about every defensive line in college football, but I have to think Auburn’s is up there with the best of them.
At defensive end, almost everyone will be surprised if Carl Lawson isn’t an absolute beast of a football player. Elijah Daniel is a big-timer, too. LaDarius Owens started 10 games on an SEC championship team.
At defensive tackle, Gabe Wright improved dramatically over the course of last season. Montravius Adams has the potential to be positively Fairleyesque. Ben Bradley became a major contributor and sometimes starter last season. Angelo Blackson has the size and athleticism to play on Sunday. Jeff Whitaker is healthy and rearing to go for his fifth season.
There are guys like Keymiya Harrell, Gimel President and Tyler Nero who are talented but haven’t had the opportunities to show it. And that’s not to mention a very impressive incoming class of newcomers, some of whom are expected to make immediate impacts.
Four of five starters return on the offensive line. Center Reese Dismukes could be an All-American. Guard Alex Kozan is headed in that direction, as is tackle Avery Young. Chad Slade is a senior with three years of experience as a starter. Shon Coleman and Pat Miller will, at the outset, compete to replace Greg Robinson at left tackle. Both have NFL ability.
There’s whole group behind those guys who are ready to show they, too, are ready to contribute. No one doubts that J.B. Grimes will put the best five on the field.
Auburn led the nation in rushing last season, not because it caught defenses out of position but because it won the physical battles at the line of scrimmage.
And that’s why I expect the Auburn football team of 2014 to be ready to challenge for another SEC championship and maybe more than that.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: