Remember me? I've visited many, many places on the Interwebs listing many, many reasons to be optimistic about Auburn's upcoming campaign, and it seems a bit strange that "Brad Lester" has been one of those reasons essentially not at all.
If you'll recall, Lester had positioned himself to take over the starting job in the first few weeks of 2005 before injury struck; scored a touchdown every 11 touches in 2006 while generally looking like the most explosive back on the team; and was expected by virtually everyone to carry the Rudi-Cadillac-Ronnie-Kenny torch into 2007.
Unfortunately, six-game academic suspensions have a way of derailing that kind of career momentum, particularly when you play a position as perpetually loaded with capable replacements as "running back at Auburn." But as capable and as versatile and as hard a runner as a guy like Ben Tate is, the JCCW's hypothetical "Let's wager on who gets the starting tailback job" money remains firmly on Lester, for the very simple reasons this Charles Goldberg piece points out:
This time he doesn't have a starter like Kenny Irons in front of him, like 2006, or academics hanging over his head, like last season.Just as importantly: the athletic promise Lester showed back in '05 and '06 is still whole and intact, as Lester proves at the 2:18 and 2:45 mark of the following (which you have seen before but should watch again):
With all due respect to Tate (who looks mighty fine in said video as well), with Mario Fannin out wide there's only one guy in Auburn's backfield with the raw talent to make tailback not just a strength but the Tigers' traditional all-league Guns-o'-the-freaking-Navarone weapon. That's Lester. He's a reason to believe. (Of course, now we'll all get to watch Tristan Davis blow up.)
Not that we should forget about Fannin, either. The transplant at receiver seems to be taking, very good news considering what else Auburn has--or doesn't have, as the case may be, based on 2007--at that position. (Pointless aside: I found the image of Fannin running around as the only guy on the entire team in shoulder pads for the first few days HI-larious. Like he's the kid with lazy eye who has to show up for the first day of third grade toting an eyepatch, or something.)
Shorn of Furr. That whole "Watch, it'll just blow over" prediction worked out peachy-keen, didn't it? This is why they pay me the nonexistent bucks.
I'm not of the knee-jerk "We're better off without him" opinion; Furr by all accounts is easily an SEC-quality athlete and I don't have much doubt Auburn could have turned him into a useful (or better) safety in time. It's also not like the secondary is a stocked cupboard at this point, either. Auburn would likely be a stronger team with Furr than without.
But still--if your position coach gave you the whole of spring to prove yourself and still believed you six "longs" away from seeing the field, perhaps the more mature course of action would be to suck it up and accept that quarterback is neither going to be your D-I position nor certainly where your pro potential lies, yesno? If your choice is to to play quarterback come hell-or-high-water, fine, find a lower-division team that's interested. But going through the charade of showing up to fall practice only to dog it through drills for a day and bail the first time you get called out on it--again--just doesn't seem like an especially thoughtful approach.
Yet more practice hoo-ha. Tommy Trott and Gabe McKenzie aren't expected to go the way of the Spread Eagle dinosaur just yet, but the other tight ends on the roster might want to either bulk up or slim down in a hurry (or work on their pass-rushing skills, perhaps); Rhoads and McFadden at least talk the talk re: Savage's absence; and Raven Gray celebrates his arrival at Auburn by betting harangued and inappropriately tackling Tristan Davis.
Opponent watch. You can't exactly take as gospel truth the opinion of a writer who can't tell the difference between "three" and "five," but it's probably worth perusing this quickie list of reasons West Virginia is overrated anyway. In my humble opinion, however, he missed the biggest doubt of all for WVU: that not only did Rodriguez leave, but he took OC Calvin Magee with him. Ask Steve Ensminger and Hugh Nall about how easy it is to run an offense designed and orchestrated by guys who aren't around any longer, pleaseandthankyou.
Question marks regarding the offensive scheme abound at Tennesee as well, where the system being installed by new OC Dave Clawson, formerly the I-AA Richmond Spider head man, has been labeled by players as "really complicated" and "a whole lot harder than Cutcliffe's offense." Forgive me, but if I'm a Tennesee fan:
Also at RTT, Joel names Auburn one of the 29 boringest college logos, which I might take issue with if I didn't totally dig nearly all the interlocking letter logos he J'accuses of dullness. You say tomayto, I say tomahto. And oh, speaking of the world of design, there's gotta be a better way for the Hogs to sell their new jersey than this. I mean, seriously: there's gotta be. Much as there has to be a better choice than Fran to call the Alabama-Clemson game, as Tide Druid so humorously points out.
CFN hijinks. The advertisin'-est site in college football managed to dig up the first non-Wally Hall writer to give Auburn a legit shot at winning the conference, which was kind of them. But CFN lead dog Pete Fiutak also dogged the coaches' ranking of Auburn, suggesting that "SEC respect" explained the Tigers' spot 11 places ahead of Penn State as opposed to "aren't coached by the undead and his pansy-ass pinko son." Even curioser was CFN's projection for Auburn's schedule: a clean sweep of LSU, Tennessee, and West Virginia, but losses at Mississippi St. (!) and Alabama. Full credit for thinking outside the box, guys, I guess.