Thursday, February 05, 2009

Recruiting wrap: Offense

Phenomenal as this cut is, here's to hoping Tyrik's next one is some sort of mystical feng shui 'do that unlocks the hidden power of his brain cells just before he retakes the ACT.*

Welcome to the JCCW's position-by-position breakdown Auburn's shiny new recruiting class, starting with ...

QUARTERBACK

Currently on roster: 4 (Burns, Caudle, Trotter, Todd)
Needs: Even with four guys on scholarship, Todd's immobility and (probably) spent arm and Caudle's inability to even beat out Trotter for last year's third-string slot meant that taking a flier on someone who could challenge Trotter for the backup job (in this year and future years) would be a good idea. And if a potential heir apparent to Kodi's throne could be found, all the better ...

Signed: Tyrik Rollison, Clint Moseley
Needs met? Look, I'll just come right out and say this: I don't expect Rollison to qualify. The dude's an Army All-American, four-star, top-100, No. 1 most-accurate QB in the country, and his non-Auburn offer list read Baylor, Kansas St., Oregon, Texas A&M. There's a reason for that, and in cases like these the most obvious answer is probably the best one. I'm hoping like hoperson I'm wrong, but I don't see him making it.

That said, Rollison is as perfect a fit for Malzahn's offense as you're going to find and getting a big head start on the re-recruiting process for next year (or two years, if he goes JUCO) is a shrewd move. In the meantime, Rollison's status (and the scarcity of replacements at anywhere near the "heir apparent" level once Ray Cotton decided he was going elsewhere) means it was all the more important to pick up that second, "flier" QB, and Clint Moseley was going to fit that bill as well as anyone. As a prospect who's got the athletic goods to hold his own in Malzahn's offense and might have the small school-sleeper effect going, it's hard to see how offering Moseley in this particular class has more downside than up.

So, happy? Mostly--keeping Cotton aboard would have been the best-case scenario. Failing that, though (and can you really blame recruit or staff for failing to keep things together after that much turmoil?), Rollison-plus-Moseley looks like about the next-best thing, and if Rollison actually makes it to campus this fall ... well, "mostly" happy won't begin to cover it.

RUNNING BACK

Currently on roster: 4 (Douglas, Smith, Tate, Fannin)
Needs: You're reading that right: if you don't count fullback (not for long!) John Douglas, Auburn had fewer running backs on scholarship at the end of last season than quarterbacks. Considering that of the four, Fannin is the only one with the kind of speed and slashing ability the Malzahn Spread Eagle thrives on at tailback, adding one or two weapons in that West Virginia Slaton/Devine mold was a must.

Signed: Onterio McCalebb (Googled), Brandon Jacobs (Googled), Dontae Aycock, strong possibility of David Oku
Needs met? Uh, yeah. Former track star and consensus four-star McCalebb seems like the prototype tailback for this offense ... and if Oku commits, he still might end up being the second-best back in the class. And if somehow neither of those guys pan out for whatever reason, Aycock's blend of power and speed makes him an intriguing prospect as well. The straight-ahead Jacobs I'm not as high on--as explained in the Google post, he appears to be a poor fit for the offense, comes with less upside, and seems to replicate Eric Smith's skill set--but who knows? The point is that the odds of all four of them (or even all three of them, in the event Oku gets chased off by the competition and picks Syracuse) failing to live up to their billing is basically nil.

So, happy? Yes. Particularly if Oku commits, I'm going to wish that Aycock or Jacobs could become an offensive lineman, but this was a position of need and that need was obliterated. With a redshirt or two, could conceivably skip the position entirely in 2010.

WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END

Currently on roster: 7 WR (Adams, Billings, Carr, Hawthorne, Pierre-Louis, Winter, Zachery), 5 TE (Slusher, Smith, Trott, Woods, McKenzie?)
Needs: It's really, really, really unfortunate that with 12 scholarships spread out between these two positions you could make an argument that they were still collectively the biggest area of need on the team, but that's where we stood after last fall. Malzahn's offense all-but-requires an athletic pass-catcher at TE; Trott and maybe McKenzie are the only ones listed here, meaning getting a replacement and/or back-up had to be a top priority (particularly since Trott is coming off of an injury and McKenzie's presence could be required on defense). At wideout there's nothing even resembling a deep threat, and finding a couple of jitterbugs to join Frenchy in the slot was a necessity as well.

Signed: Deangelo Benton, Emory Blake, Anthony Gulley (Googled), LaVoyd James, Travante Stallworth (Googled), Philip Lutzenkirchen (Googled).
Needs met? There's still some question as to whether Benton will qualify (and if he does, how long he'll stick around before jetting off to the NFL), but there's no doubting his physical ability: those who might know say he's in the same league with Rueben Randle. If he hasn't lost his mojo during his year off and he qualifies, he's likely Auburn's best wideout from Day 1. Blake won't come in with anything like the same expectations, but amongst this motley bunch he should find some time on the outside. Lutzenkirchen should immediately battle Trott for the TE spot. And between Stallworth, James, and Gulley, the chances seem good that one of them is an overlooked gem. That's pretty much everything on the checklist.

So, happy? Asking anything more out of the coaching staff would be ludicrous, though if Benton doesn't make it, having to wait another year for that out-and-out No. 1 stud would make things look a little bit less rosy.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Currently on roster: 11 (Berry, Cooper, Coulahan, Eddins, Greene?, Isom, McCain, Pugh, Roseman?, Ziemba, Odom?)
Needs: You kidding me? Looking at this unit on paper feels a little like being a pilot cruising over the Pacific, looking down, and seeing a desperate guy on a deserted island beach with HELP spelled out in rocks.

Signed: Andre Harris (Googled), John Sullen
Needs met? To extend the metaphor, watching this Signing Day come and go with only the two gentlemen listed above signed on was a little like being the guy with HELP spelled out on the beach and watching the plane sail blindly off into the distance. Grimes should be able to cobble together a respectable-to-good starting five, but that's as far as the good news goes. Sullen's smarts (28 ACT!) may help him hold his own if pressed into last-resort service this year, but when you take every single healthy lineman on the previous year's roster and can't even fill out the two-deep, you're in trouble regardless. Expect position switches: with two years at JUCO and offensive experience Nick Fairley seems like the best candidate amongst the incoming class, and in a system like Malzahn's that would tend towards smaller linemen, one or more of the backup TEs (Vance Smith?) might be able to bulk up enough to help out. But yeah, it's pretty grim.
So, happy? Not in the least. Despite the obvious, glaring need, neither staff ever got a lineman ranked higher than a middling three-star into the class, and Chizik responded to the near-empty cupboard left him by Tubby by essentially swapping out Aaron Moore for Sullen. Even if Auburn bats .500 on the Sullen/Harris combo, we're headed for a 2011 season in which 9 of 10 members of the two-deep will be JUCOs or underclassmen. Better make 'em good underclassmen, guys. (Though I guess there's always the possibility of high-profile preferred walk-ons making an unexpected splash.)

CONCLUSION

As mentioned yesterday, the skill-position recruiting couldn't be much better. The RBs look set for years, the WRs (and TE) get a major upgrade, and given the time constraints and Cotton's disillusionment the QBs are as good as they were going to get. If if IF Rollison and Benton both qualify, Chizik and crew will have totally revamped both the team's immediate and long-term outlooks at the skill positions in the space of this single class.

Ah, but with two low-rated o-line prospects signed over the course of two years, we can't have unbridled optimism, now can we? Suffice it to say Jeff Grimes will certainly earn his paycheck these next couple of seasons.

*Hair pic via Fields of Donahue.

7 comments:

easyedwin said...

Where's the DEFENSE, man?

Loganville Tiger said...

We are Sucking Hind Tit along the O line!! Barely enough there to field 2 offensive squads for the the freakin' spring game! Has anybody heard if we are going into an 8 man league or something next fall? If A-Day is still on, better hope nobody goes down with a serious injury or we are more than toast come fall...

LT

JayAU'92 said...

AU will have to resort to the old but successful conversion of (quicker) DLs to effective O-linemen. There's plenty of them already in the NFL, and Tyronne Green will join them there soon.

Since we're in dire need of DL too, however, I'm not sure who that will be. N.Fairley is WAY too talented to donate to the offense.

tiger7_88 said...

"Kodi's throne"? When you say "throne", are you using the slang term for toilet? I really don't understand the infatuation that some of you guys have with a kid who throws the ball with the same efficiency as a Gabe Gross or Jeff Klein (it's true... look it up).

Yes, let us all HOPE that Kodi improves under the new staff. But shouldn't we be hoping that ALL the quarterbacks improve under the new staff? Why do some of you place all your hopes and dreams with ONE player? That kind of cult-like behavior is freakin' scary.

Here's what I hope... I hope that ONE of the list of Burns, Caudle, Todd, Trotter, Rollison, and Mosely steps up and wins the QB position and plays well. And I hope another one or two "get it" and provide quality back-up and are ready to take over when needed.

But why some of you guys are so heavily invested in Kodi, a quarterback that in all of his starts over the past two years has YET to beat a Div. I-A opponent, is beyond me. I truly believe that kind of heavy investment, encouraged by the fans, picked up on by the team, was one of the many, many reasons that Auburn football was such a basket-case from top to bottom last year.

Seems like some fans are so heavily invested they want to "turn those machines back on" and try it again.

Good god have mercy on us.

Jerry Hinnen said...

tiger7, maybe you're right that "Kodi's throne" is a little over-the-top. But--and I sort of outlined my reasons for this a couple posts back--there's a reason to be this invested in Burns, a reason to think the job is his to lose for the next two seasons. In this offense his physical ceiling and raw potential, even after two admittedly *ahem* up-and-down seasons, is MILES ahead of what Trotter, Caudle, or Todd bring to the table. Those guys--well, Trotter, maybe Caudle if some light he kept hidden for all last season turns on--have the chance to be good. Burns has the chance to be great. I don't think you can blame anyone for latching onto the hope that we'll have a great QB rather than just a good one.

As for last year, you're right that the fans should have done more supporting of Todd and less vocal pining for Burns, and that it didn't help what was obviously going to be a difficult season all along. But I also think you're selling Burns short by holding against him his freshman efficiency numbers (when he probably should have been redshirting) and inability to beat the likes of Ole Miss, West Virginia, Georgia, and Alabama--while Todd got the call against Southern Miss, Miss. St., and Tennessee.

I agree no QB should be turned into a cult figure, but I really don't think I'm going too far by saying I expect (and hope) Burns will be our QB for the next two years.

Grotus' Acorn said...

tiger_7,

The issue is not that we are slavishly devoted to Kodi. The issue is that we are slavishly devoted to good coaching. Auburn's coaching staff has mismanaged our quarterbacks for two years, and in doing so has crippled the leadership development of the one quarterback with the aptitude and physical gifts. It has to stop now.

I don't mind if there's some brief competition in the spring. But if the Auburn coaches are going to show leadership and develop leadership in our quarterback, they need to pick our starting quarterback very early on so he can start learning the offense. This is the third offensive system in two years - we don't have time to futz around pitting noodle-armed white boys against their more talented rivals.

The guy they pick is going to have the best combination of physical gifts and game-time experience, and he is not going to have a redshirt on him.

We can go down the list and see why it just doesn't make sense to start anyone but Burns.

First, Moseley and Rollison are not options. I want them to redshirt. Immediately. And I don't want to hear a peep out of them until 2010 unless every other quarterback on the roster gets hit by a bus including Mario Fannin and we can't find a walk-on. These guys are investments, not quick-fixes, and we need to treat them as such. We tried that burn-your-redshirt nonsense with Kodi Burns and it did him and Auburn nothing but harm. If we play Moseley and Rollison, we will have the exact same problem, except doubled. We will not Burns-shirt our freshmen.

Second, Caudle and Todd simply don't have what it takes physically. Caudle has been silent since he got here even behind Cox. Todd had his shot, and he proved he can't throw hard enough to make it in the SEC. And, both are statuesque pocket passer types, which is not a good fit for the direction we're taking. These guys are done. I wish them well but they're done. The last thing we need is a Cox clone.

And last, Trotter is like Kodi Burns but with less experience and IIRC less physical ability. Kodi has at least lost to starting opponents - Trotter has never taken a snap. Starting him (unless he's got some kind of fire in him) is a giant step backwards.

I'm with Jerry. The only guy with enough the physical gifts and the necessary experience is Kodi Burns. If he doesn't emerge as the clear choice for starter almost instantly, I'm gonna be worried.

tiger7_88 said...

I couldn't disagree more, Grotus. If you watched Tulsa, all that they want out of the QB in the running game is a "little bit". That's it. This offense does not DEMAND in it's QB a two-way player totally effective in the rushing and passing game.

What this offense DOES demand out of it's QB is what every other offense outside of the West Virginia spread and the Ga Tech option offense demands of it's QB... to throw the ball effectively.

If Kodi Burns doesn't show VAST improvement in his ability to actually read the field to make throws instead of (as they were obviously doing at the end of last year) ignoring one side of the field and letting Kodi concentrate on at most two receivers on the other side of the field, his talent to be able to run with the ball will just be a hindrance to this offense.

Unless you are in the triple-option of spread-option offense, if you are a QB then FIRST you must throw. It's just that simple. If Kodi doesn't show more dedication to studying the passing game than he did last year (my contact close to the team says that Todd constantly worked extra with the receivers and lived in the film room whereas Kodi... didn't), then he has no business being Auburn's starting QB just because you and Jerry and the rest of the Kodi Klub are enamored with his vast "talents". When you're playing in the SEC, it's almost guaranteed that almost every player on the other side of the ball is as "talented" as you are, so you dang well better be harder working and smarter than that guy or you will have NO edge.

If Kodi can't throw more TD's than INT's and he struggles to break the 50% barrier in completion percentage, then we need to see if somebody else can do the job.