You know the season isn’t right around the corner, it’s already peeking its giant horned head around said corner when even Gene “Football team? What football team? I don’t know anything about any football team” Chizik is willing to release a depth chart.
Notes worth noting:
- The offseason assumption (particularly once fall camp started and the linebackers and secondary went M.A.S.H. unit on us) has been that the defensive line will be the deepest, strongest unit on the Auburn defense. And that assumption is still very true. But it’s a little less true this afternoon, since a big part of that assumption was Antoine Carter returning to his TFLrific 2007 form. With Carter completely absent from the depth chart, not part of Auburn’s plans for this weekend, and maybe injured and maybe not, the odds of Carter reemerging as a legitimate force seem slimmer than ever.
- Here’s to hoping whoever’s actually backing up Messrs. Coleman and Goggans–whatever the chart says, I’m with Tate in thinking some combination of Zach Clayton, Nick Fairley, and possibly Nosa Eguae are going to man the end positions when Goggans and Coleman aren’t–prove a more potent solution in this slot than Gabe McKenzie (bless his tight-end-shaped heart) was in 2008.
- Speaking of McKenzie … is he really the third-string “FB” (i.e. H-back) behind John Douglas? Would Montana-bred walk-on Jay Wisner really see time at tight end before an athletic fifth-year senior? If that’s (really) the case, it would be quite the shame for McKenzie, who had that mysterious bit of trouble in the spring but has otherwise paid his dues at Auburn and then some.
- I seriously doubt “backup” wideout DeAngelo Benton sees any less time than Tommy Trott (your No. 1 TE) or Mario Fannin (your No. 1 “FB”). Two of those three should be on the field for nearly every snap, but knowing Malzahn’s preference for field-stretching it seems more likely to be some combination of Benton and one-of-the-other-two than Trott playing alongside Fannin.
- Yep, Daren Bates is the starting safety. The true freshman. The true freshman who picked Auburn over Arkansas State. Is the starting safety. The starting safety. As I’ve said before: this is a very good sign for Bates. This is a very bad sign for Drew Cole, Mike Slade, and for the Auburn defense in general.
- We knew Fannin would return punts, but this our first official look at the kick returners. Onterio “Fast” McCalebb isn’t a surprise. But for Terrell Zachery to beat out Fannin and the other contenders here is another feather in a cap that has many, many more feathers than it did when Zachery began fall camp.
- Neil Caudle gets a second mention on the depth chart as the backup holder. This interests me for reasons I can’t explain.
Those are the specifics. The broader picture painted by the depth chart, though … well, if we’re honest, it looks like this:
Of the 30 players (aside from special teams) listed as second- or third-teamers on Auburn’s depth chart, would you like to know how many are either first-year players, walk-ons, or have switched positions since last fall? 21. Yep: 21. A full 70 percent. (And remember, I’m not counting Bates.)
Yes, some of those guys are JUCOs; yes, some of those guys (like Harry Adams) have been at their current position before; yes, it’s not necessarily likely that walk-ons like Wisner or Jorell Bostrum will see all that much playing time. But that they might see any time at all is … let’s say “not good” and leave it at that. It’s not news that this team is so thin you can see through it, but having it laid out in the black-and-white of a depth chart is still a bit of a shock.
All of that’s not to say that all ye who enter Jordan-Hare this fall should abandon hope, or whatever. That first-string’s got a lot going for it, and if those first-year players are as good as we’ve been led to believe by fall reports, we’ll be OK. (More on that, obviously, over the next few days.) But anyone clinging to the vague notion that this team will be fine even in the event of a handful of injuries or will hold up all right from a physical standpoint over the course of those first 11 bye-free weeks … well, that hope can be abandoned. I’m not telling anyone anything they don’t know, but Auburn’s got to stay healthy, and they’ve got to find some way of winning without wearing themselves out. Or they’ll lose.
Carter photo via al.com.