So the Great Russell Wilson Craze of the Summer of 2011 is behind us, Auburn fans, with Wilson deciding he’d rather put his two-sport-honed athleticism and mobility to use by handing off 35 times a game and standing firmly in the pocket for his dozen weekly passing attempts.
But I’m not bitter. No, really, honestly, truly, I’m not. Despite the snark above, Wilson had plenty of legitimate reasons to choose Wisconsin, and I wish him the best of luck in Madison. Auburn probably could have used him, and I think given the amount of fun he could have had at the control of this offense, I think Wilson probably could have used Auburn.
But it didn’t work out, and I am more than fine with that, for two primary reasons.
Reason the first:
As long as Dr. Gustav is on Auburn’s sideline, Auburn is going to have solid quarterbacking. This is as close to an incontrovertible fact by this point as you can find in the often factless world of college football.
Auburn might have had better quarterbacking, possibly, if Wilson had come aboard. (If he hadn’t have arrived until fall camp, I might have disagreed. But that he’s already departed his minor league baseball team might have given him enough time to put his ample talents to use.) But we’re talking about a pair of quarterbacks with three years in the Malzahnian system each, both at least as talented as the no-names Malzahn coached to greatness at Tulsa and quite possibly more physically capable than the quarterback who gave us Mr. Todd’s Wild Ride two seasons back.
Whichever of Trotter or Moseley wins the job out of the chute (Kiehl Frazier will have his time, but I don’t think it’s going to be against Utah State) will be a question mark in the “will he be outstanding, or merely really good?” sense. But in the “will they be competent at all?” sense, Auburn has a dozen question marks more intimidating than the position coached by the game’s deservedly highest-paid assistant.
Reason the second:
I’m excited about the 2011 season. I am far more excited–already–about the 2012 season. The former is a rebuilding season that challenges Auburn with the most difficult schedule the Tigers have seen in years (2007, at the least). The latter is a we’d-call-it-reloading-except-every-damn-bullet-is-still-in-the-chamber season featuring a manageable schedule and a roster composed almost exclusively of Chizik and Co.’s blue-chippers.
One of these should be fun in a “I can’t wait for the future” kind of way. The other will be fun because it will be the damn future.
And Russell Wilson would not have been part of that future. Whoever finishes the 2011 season as Auburn’s quarterback will be. K-Scar beat me to this point earlier today (to the extent that it’s possible to be beaten to such an obvious point, and one I made myself multiple times in the as-yet-unannounced-for-some-reason Jeremy-edited project which I strongly suggest you go ahead and preorder) but whatever Auburn might have lost in Wilson’s decision in the short-term, they’ll have that much and far more repaid in the long-term.
Starting Wilson this year might be the difference between 6 wins or 8. Starting an experienced quarterback next year might be the difference between 9 or 10 wins and a championship. Isn’t the latter the bigger deal?
I wanted Wilson because Gus Malzahn, apparently, wanted Wilson, and I would not doubt Gus Malzahn if he told me it was in Auburn’s best interests to start a 10-year-old in a cardboard astronaut suit under center. (Note to Gus, if you’re reading: for my sake and my family’s, please do not start any religious cults. Thank you.) But whether we’re talking literal sleep or the metaphorical sleep of Auburn fandom, Wilson’s decision isn’t going to make me lose a lick.
In other news surrounding Auburn football this week:
— Cool to see Corey Grant officially in the fold this week; it’s just a shame it took a season and a spring to realize what was obvious from the beginning–that whether it was at running back (where the Tide simply don’t line up players of his size) or “slot receiver” (a position the Tide don’t even use), he wasn’t ever going to see the field for that offense.
Couple that with the word that Tre Mason may not reach NCAA qualification–though we’ve been told to be optimistic, it will apparently come down to the wire–and Auburn is in a bizarre situation in regards to its running back depth. If Mason doesn’t make the grade and Mike Blakely isn’t granted his NCAA waiver (and frankly I don’t see what reason the NCAA has to be generous, since “he never practiced!” seems like a dangerous precedent to set) we’re going to be one Dyer or McCalebb injury away from major carries for either a player who spent last year at corner. (Sorry, Da-Da Phillips fans: even healthy and fit, he can’t be an every-down back.) If Mason does qualify and Blakely gets a pass, voila: RBs for days.
And either way, we’re going to get whiplash from the 2011 situation to 2012’s. The former could be as thin as Dyer/McCalebb/Morgan/uh, Phillips; the latter will feature all four of those guys plus Mason, Blakely, Grant, T.J. Yeldon, and possibly another huge RB recruit to be named later. This year, it could be a major problem; next year, it’s the most stacked position on the roster.
— Also possibly muddying these waters is the HOT RUMOR that Eric Smith could be back on the team. Again. It’s not my team and I don’t know the guy. So I’ll just say it’s more strikes than I’d like to see our coaches giving out, and leave it at that.
— With Jaylon Denson now enrolled, 22 of Auburn’s 24 2011 signees have qualified and are on campus, with the only “holdouts” Mason and–since I don’t know if this is still “premium” info or not–a player from Gadsden we’ll call Blanthony Blain. Assuming Mason makes it and Blain does not (as seems to be the current scuttlebutt), Chizik and Co. will have seen two signees out of 2010’s and 2011’s total of 56 fail to qualify academically.
Tubby says you’re doing it wrong. (The rest of us? I suspect we’re rather delighted, no?)
Always great to see your work here!
Off-topic, am I the only one thinking Nosa Eguae should be getting a bigger share of the hype being thrown Corey Lemonier’s way?
Don’t forget Quan Bray. He may be more of a slot guy, but he could probably play RB if needed.
I forgot how much I missed you until I read your article. Good analysis as always.
Dave, I have had the same thought. Eguae had a solid year last year, and seems to be forgotten.
I’m all for Nosa getting no hype and Lemonier getting it all… throw the opponents off balance for a few weeks until they realize the beast on the other end. Plus maybe it’ll motivate Nosa to be even more of a beast.
Jonesy, that’s a fair point. That’s why it’s so hard to project AU’s RB situation this year. As I said, next year, we know we’ll have so many options you won’t be able to swing a dead cat at an Auburn practice without hitting a potential 1,000-yard rusher. But this year, soooooo many questions. Will Mason qualify? Is he that good? Could Morgan be competent or better? What can Phillips give us? Is Smith going to be in the mix? How will they use Bray?
The bottom line is that I’m not worried about finding someone to handle McCalebb’s sweeps/edge running; there’s plenty enough candidates for that. But if Dyer goes down and Phillips isn’t in shape, I don’t know who’s going to churn out the tough yards in the middle. Remember, we had major problems with this two years ago, and the guy who saved us wasn’t Dyer–it was Cam.
As for Eguae, what you guys said. The bottom line is that I think we’ll all be surprised if DE isn’t the strongest position on the defense.
Jonesy, good point about Bray.
I was thinking this was McCalebb’s last year but I realize now he went to prep school, not juco. That is better than finding $5 in your coat pocket!
David (the Attalla one) says
No truth to the rumor that Auburn will switch to the box offense in 2012…
Morgan is going to surprise folks if given the opportunity.I know it was furman, but two years ago he lit them up and looked dang good doing it. Fluid natural runner IMO. You got that or you don’t.
In CGM we trust, all others pay cash…
AU’s traditional role is the underdog with no respect….
AU is getting no attention from anyone…
So even with the brutal away games, there is a good opportunity
for 8-10 wins…
Of course 1 needs to be Bama, though I don’t know if the Updykes of the
world could handle Nabas being 1-2 vs CGC…
Just thinking about that makes me smile…
Welcome back Jerry. Good stuff as always. Hope to see you around more as I think all of us are finally starting to think about some college football again. Not that we ever totally quit, but you know what I mean. Who are our linebackers going to be this year?
Guys, thanks for the kind words. Be sure to order the Maple Street annual–lots of stuff of mine in there.
AU99, I have to think Holland at MLB with Eltoro and Bates at the outside spots are the best bets. But Jon Evans will see time, and if he doesn’t waste too much time at WR, I’d think we’d see Kris Frost in the rotation sooner rather than later.
Wow, that’s kind of what I was figuring. Maybe those boys put on about 40 pounds each during the offseason. If not, I hope ya’ll are right about the quality of our defensive line. Will all the hype surrounding the departures of Cam, Nick, Darvin, etc. – I just remember thinking, man we are going to really miss Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens next year.