SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Auburn Tigers

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Tommy Tuberville (5th year, 30-19)
2002 record: 9-4 (Defeated Penn State 13-9 in Capital One Bowl)
SEC finish: T-2nd (West)
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 203.7 ypg
(3rd in SEC, 25th in nation)
Pass: 183.8 ypg (8th, 81st)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 141.7 ypg (6th, 46th)
Pass: 186.5 ypg (6th, 26th)
Projected Starters
Offense (7 returning starters in bold)
WR   1   Devin Aromashodu   So.  
WR  81  Jeris McIntyre  Sr. 
WR  Ben Obomanu  So. 
LT   69   Mark Pera   Sr.  
LG  66  Troy Reddick  So. 
C   68   Danny Lindsey   Jr.  
RG   65   Monreko Crittenden   Sr.  
RT   73   Marcus McNeill   So.  
TE  Cooper Wallace  So. 
QB   17   Jason Campbell   Jr.  
FB   45   Brandon Johnson   Sr.  
TB  24  Carnell Williams  Jr. 
Defense (8)
DE   83   Jay Ratliff   Jr.  
NG   92   DeMarco McNeil   Sr.  
DT   53   Spencer Johnson   Sr.  
DE   82   Reggie Torbor   Sr.  
LB   11   Karlos Dansby   Sr.  
LB   54   Dontarrious Thomas   Sr.  
LB  51  Travis Williams  So. 
CB   4   Junior Rosegreen   Jr.  
CB   14   Carlos Rogers   Jr.  
Roshard Gilyard  Sr. 
10  Donnay Young  Jr. 
Special Teams
18  Philip Yost  Jr. 
41  Michael Gibson  Fr. 
KR  22  Tre Smith  So. 
PR  22  Tre Smith  So. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  USC 
Sept. 6  at Georgia Tech 
Sept. 13  at Vanderbilt 
Sept. 27  Western Kentucky 
Oct. 4  Tennessee 
Oct. 11  at Arkansas 
Oct. 18  Mississippi State 
Oct. 25  at LSU 
Nov. 1  UL-Monroe 
Nov. 8  Ole Miss 
Nov. 15  at Georgia 
Nov. 22  Alabama 
The expectations have climbed higher than at any other time in Tommy Tuberville's head coaching tenure on the Plains.

Some are saying Auburn will win the Southeastern Conference championship. Others think that the Tigers could take a step even farther than that. Tuberville welcomes the expectations.

"I think that this is the first time in four years that Auburn has really gotten any respect outside of our program," said Tuberville, whose team has won at least a share of three consecutive SEC West titles. "We're being recognized in magazines, on talk shows and in newspapers as a team that has a chance to be successful."

However, Tuberville is also quick to point out that championships aren't won in magazines, on talk shows or in newspapers. "You have to go do it," he said. "I think what that's going to do is motivate our players. It's time to take the next step."

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

The first option is running the football, and that is not meant as a slight to Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell. Campbell actually blossomed into a pretty good quarterback by the end of last season. But when you have a backfield that includes four outstanding tailbacks, why not take a run-first attitude?

Carnell Williams is one of the top running backs in the country when healthy. Unfortunately, he missed a good chunk of the 2002 season with a leg injury. Auburn simply inserted Ronnie Brown into the lineup, and he carried the offense until an injury forced him to the sideline heading into the Alabama game. That's when Tre Smith burst onto the scene.

All three of the Tigers' stellar runners are back this season, and Tuberville added 6-foot-4, 257-pound bruiser Brandon Jacobs to the mix.

Blocking for the four horses will be fullback Brandon Johnson and a very good line led by tackle Marcus McNeill and center Danny Lindsey. Ben Obomanu and Devin Aromashodu are big playmakers at wide receiver and Cooper Wallace and Anthony Mix provide good hands at tight end.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

Auburn has few holes in the front seven, but could be vulnerable against the pass. Of course, if the front seven provide enough pressure, then covering the pass will be much easier.

Defensive ends Reggie Torbor and Jay Ratliff should provide pressure on the corner, and DeMarco McNeil and Spencer Johnson are run-stuffing tackles. The linebackers are as deep and talented as any in the conference, provided Dontarrious Thomas makes a smooth transition inside from outside linebacker.

Outside 'backer Karlos Dansby chose to finish his college eligibility instead of entering the NFL Draft and should be one of the best defenders in the country. Travis Williams was a spring practice star and should stay ahead of a crowded field to start alongside Thomas and Dansby.

Carlos Rogers is an All-SEC caliber cornerback and Junior Rosegreen, who switched from safety to cornerback in the spring, will make plays wherever he lines up. Filling the other spots is a priority.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Philip Yost needs to be more consistent to give the Tigers a legitimate threat at place-kicker. Yost took over for Damon Duval at one point last season, but lost his job after just two games. Tuberville was pleased with the progression of punter Michael Gibson during spring practice. A pair of true freshmen -- kicker John Vaughn and punter Kody Bliss -- could push for playing time.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Tuberville likes the increased expectations the Tigers have this season. "Now is a time we can start saying that we should be a top-10 team every year," Tuberville said. "If we play like we should, we have a chance to maybe be even better than that."

Being better than that means Auburn moves the ball on the ground, preferably with a healthy Williams in the mix, and the athletic defense makes plays.

Southern California, Tennessee and Alabama all come to Auburn, which is favorable, but the Tigers have to travel to LSU and Georgia. Win those and Auburn could be traveling to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.

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