Oh, Frenchy, what might have been.
I guess offseason roster attrition comes for us all, where "us" equals the college football programs of America. (It comes to some more than others, of course, but you get my drift.) According to AuburnUndercover, it's come to Auburn, with four players now departed from Auburn's 2009 plans. Those four players are: Christian Thompson, Philip Pierre-Louis, Jomarcus Savage, and Cameron Henderson.
The first question is: Why? We don't seem to know just yet. PPL hypothesizes "brain cramps," and academics does seem like the most likely explanation, but we may just have to wait.
The second question is: how does this impact the team? On one level, it's not that bad, I guess. None of the four were projected starters, none of the four has made any kind of legitimate impact on the field for Auburn, none of the four is a veteran leader or even (Henderson mostly excepted) all that particularly hyped a recruit. Particularly if this is an academic issue, Auburn can count themselves at least somewhat fortunate that no one more crucial to the 2009 effort has had to bite the bullet.
But man, that's not to say this isn't a big deal. It's no secret that pretty much everywhere but running back, Auburn is a thin, thin team, and this is four players, all of whom were young and still had more than a chance to become contributors or maybe even something better. It's a blow, and a big one. Taking it a player at a time, from biggest loss to smallest:
Thompson: If Aairon Savage returns--I'm not betting on it--this won't be quite so bad, but if he's done for the year we're down to basically three safeties who we'd feel comfortable playing: McNeil, Etheridge, and Mike Slade. Thompson by all accounts had a nice spring and was poised to both let Savage stay at corner and possibly get some serious PT spelling the starters ... which, given McNeil's and Etheridge's injuries in the spring, might end up being something Auburn really needs. Now? Either Drew Cole is going to suddenly come of age, or one of McNeil or Etheridge is going to have to be on the field for every halfway-important play Auburn defends this year. Yuck.
Henderson: If Zach Clayton can lend some aid at defensive end, it won't be quite so big a deal ... but if Rocker doesn't want to give snaps to Clayton at end, it's hard to see who else might have taken Henderson's spot on the two deep. Coleman, Goggans, and Carter are entrenched as the top 3, but they can't play every snap, can they? Henderson was almost without question in line for some major time this year, and now ... well, uh, let's hope Terrence Coleman can both play some end and play some end well, or Gabe McKenzie's can start working on his pass rush moves again.
Frenchy: Auburn will need a good slot guy, and after the talk from last fall Frenchy was due to become that guy ... but after that injury, it just never seemed likely to happen, did it? He lasted one play, he clearly didn't endear himself to Taylor in the spring (for whatever reason), and for a guy whose entire career would have been based around quickness, shifty moves, and out-and-out speed, a knee injury was the worst possible thing for him. So my expectations had been lowered. But still--Auburn still needs a solid slot receiver, and now there's one less player who that receiver might be.
Savage: He seemed to have fallen behind both Derrick Lykes at tackle and Henderson at end. You never know, but Savage was already third-string coming out of spring before Nick Farley, Terrence Coleman, etc. got to throw their hats in the ring. Particularly with Henderson also gone, the added depth at end would have been very, very nice, but I also can't say I think it was going to happen for him.
So, the sum up: while it could have been worse, this is still bad, bad news, and an injury at any of the afflicted areas--particularly safety or the defensive line--will make the news even worse.