Auburn should be better record-wise next year as they keep building toward championship seasons in the future. How much better depends on depth at positions and quarterback. The defensive interior line will be anchored by Nick Fairley, who could be a star, Zach Clayton and Mike Blanc. Antoine Carter should be one defensive end and the other is to be determined,. Three defensive ends have committed, two four-star players, so they will have to add depth. This will be a numbers game as it is for most defensive lines.
Linebacker will be better. Josh Bynes played a phenomenal game against Alabama as he single-handedly shut down Mark Ingram. He'll be a senior. Jonathan Evans, who is only going to be a sophomore, looks like he has a bright future. He posted eight tackles against Alabama. Eltoro Freeman looks like he could be a dominant player if he can stay healthy. There is a little depth and four lbs have committed; one four-star and three, three-stars.
The secondary was riddled with injuries this year and the Tigers' coaching staff is hopeful of the return of guys like Zac Etheridge and Neiko Thorpe. Whether Aairon Savage comes back for another season is a question mark. He was hurt all of this season and last and could get a sixth year if he wants that. Auburn is not sure if he'll do that. I'll keep you posted on that. Daren Bates looks like a standout at safety and Demond Washington is versatile and is a stellar kick returner as he showed against Georgia with a 99-yard kickoff and some nice punt returns.
The defense will probably need some help from the incoming freshman class, but if they can stay healthy, they should be a pretty decent unit.
The offensive line has Ryan Pugh, Lee Ziemba, Mike Berry and Byron Isom as starters who are back. They need some numbers too. Bart Eddins is a returning player and could crack the starting lineup. There are three commits so far, two four-stars. Probably need to add one or two more.
Phillip Lutzenkirchen was an outstanding high school tight end and should be a standout. Depth is a key there as Tommy Trott graduates.
The backfield loses dependable Ben Tate, a great running back, but has Onterio McCalebb returning for speed. The always explosive Mario Fannin is back. He should have a big year running and receiving. What an athlete. They are high on Dontae Aycock, who will be a redshirt frosh. He's 5'10", 221 and can run between the tackles. Eric Smith (5"10" 237) is another who runs hard inside and has deceptive speed.
Then there is five-star Michael Dyer, a huge pickup for the Tigers out of Little Rock. He could make an immediate impact. The running back position may be the deepest position on the field.
But the wr position is pretty close. The outstanding Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery will both be back. Rising sophomores Emory Blake and DeAngelo Benton are talented. Xavier Brown and Quindarius Carr are others who could help.
And one who could be one of the most important players on the team is Kodi Burns. Look for a stellar season out of the multi-talented and versatile Burns, who can run it, throw it and catch it. Great athlete like Fannin and great kid to go along with it.
With talent at the skill positions, who will get them the ball?
There are four candidates. Returning veteran Neil Caudle has some experience, and Gus Malzahn could use the same philosophy in '10 that he did this year and go with the veteran. Caudle has a strong arm and can move. He has a shot.
I watched rising redshirt frosh Clint Moseley in high school and was very impressed. The former Leroy qb was extremely impressive in the state championship game his senior year. He has the arm strength and has gotten stronger this year. He can also run around. He's in the mix.
Barrett Trotter was hurt this year, but he's listed at 6'2" 203 on the roster, but has probably gotten bigger. He's another candidate. Caudle is 6'3", 200 and Moseley is 6'3", 2oo.
Then there's the big question mark: Tyrik Rollison. He's 6'0", 200, and apparently has all the tools. But he barely got in school; not sure about his ability to make decisions on the field. He got in trouble recently, too. Apparently, he's a good dropback passer and can run. His status remains to be seen.
Should be a great competition for the starting qb position with talented players competing for the job.
Auburn has eight home games next year. Clemson, South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia all come to Jordan-Hare. There are road games at State, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Alabama. The only week off they have is the week before Alabama. The other non-conference opponents are Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe and UT Chattanooga.
Eight wins would be a good season, Nine wins is possible and ten would be terrific. How effective the quarterback is and how healthy the team can stay will be determining factors in this team's success next year.
The Tigers' best years may be two more years away. Still next year could be good.