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The Knights of The War Eagle Reader Roundtable’s Rest of the Best

PREVIOUSLY: Is it possible (in both the physical and spiritual realms) for Auburn to ever have a better season than 2010? 
PREVIOUSLY: Do the Knights of The War Eagle Reader Roundtable still thrill to memories of Tommy Tuberville?

When will Auburn win its next national championship?

Kelly Jolley: God knows.  By that I do not mean to slight the obvious success of Chizik, both on the field and in recruiting.  But playing in the SEC West, while putting you in a sometimes 4-team playoff for the NC, also always puts you in harm’s way, really in harm’s way.  What is happening in Tuscaloosa and in Baton Rouge isn’t being done with smoke and mirrors, but with scary assemblages of talent, on the field and on the sidelines.  To deny that is foolish.  And so would be confidently predicting another, especially soon-ish, title.  I do think that AU will be competing for the West over the next few years.  If so, and if there’s a break or two along the way, who knows?.

Riley Downing: I’ve seen one national championship in my 35 years, which means I can die a happy sports fan. My grandfather is an 86 year old South Carolina graduate and he can’t say the same. So with that in mind, I have a hard time predicting it will happen again in the very near future. I do think that we are headed in the right direction, despite what many national writers would have you believe. I think recruiting has been as consistently excellent under Chizik as it has ever been and that is where it all begins. I love all the young talent all over the field, with more young talent backing them all up and more coming next year. If the whole Loeffler thing works out and our guys on the line and behind center get some quality experience this year, we will have taken a giant step towards reclaiming the crystal ball. I have a lot of faith in VanGorder to right the ship on defense, but it may take a year to really show on the field. All that to say that I think things really start to look bright in 2013 and 2014. How bright? I don’t know.

Kenny Smith: After the 2010 celebration in Jordan-Hare something was said about crossing the Rubicon and reaching more championships. Elated rhetoric aside, to you and I that has to mean soon, right? RIGHT?

John Ringer: I believe that Auburn will another national championship in the next 8-9 years with this head coach. With the recruiting classes being ranked in the top 10 every year, Auburn will have the talent, depth and experience year in and year out to compete for the SEC championship, and therefore the national championship. I believe the upcoming four team playoff makes this more likely, since Auburn will only need to finish in the top four to have a real shot.

Van Allen Plexico: I can imagine a few windows of opportunity. The next one will probably open in 2014. That would be when the players from our recent great recruiting classes will have matured a bit, and the more favorable even-numbered-year schedule will have rolled around again, and they will have had this season and next to learn the systems of the new coordinators. Without a Cam or Fairley-level player to elevate us to 2010 status again, however, we will probably be just one of several roughly equal contenders that year. We will need luck as well as skill and talent and coaching. Beyond that year, you’d have to wonder what the coaching situation will be like in 2016 or 2018. Can a coach that’s been around that long (assuming Chizik is still our coach by then) and has peaked so early get it all back together again for another big run? Or will Auburn have run him off after too many 8-5 seasons?

Ben Bartley: No idea. Can’t say I’m that worried about it. Quality over quantity. Present over past. Tomorrow over forever.

John Magruder: Auburn won’t win another national championship this year, and probably not the next. I’m thinking three years at the soonest, and the reason is our offensive line. I think the play of Ziemba, Berry, Pugh, Isom and Mosley was the reason why we won in 2010. Without those five guys, Cam could have just been the next Dameyune Craig. With them, he was unstoppable. We’re setting ourselves up similarly now, with a green but talented offensive line. If these guys pan out and play to their talent level, they’ll gel some time this year or the next. In 2013 Auburn’s going to make some noise, but probably not get the necessary voting. In 2014 we will have a senior quarterback, a veteran line, and a couple of flashy skill players on offense. Our coordinators and their schemes will have been in place for two years. We’ll be ready.

Justin Lee: Historically, you could almost say that Auburn should make another run at a national championship in about 10 years. Look at 1983, 1993, and 2004. Auburn could have won it all in each of those years, even though it didn’t (for various reasons) until 2010. When you think about it, Auburn is supposed to be a part of the Big Six in the SEC. When you’re one of the Big Six, that means you should win the conference about once every six years. Then, when you win the conference, it seems like you’ve got about a 50/50 chance of winning the national championship. As long as the program enjoys the support it has now, Auburn should be able to stick as one of those Big Six schools and be able to put together a big run every 10-12 years or so.

Amorak Huey: 2014.


Which player will have a breakout season?

Kelly Jolley: Short answer:  Dee Ford.  I expect AU’s pass rush, barring injury, to be fearsome.

Riley Downing: I had to think about this one for a while as we have a ton of good candidates on both sides of the ball. In the end I’m going to go with Kiehl Frazier because if he doesn’t breakout the whole offense might breakdown. I also think people are forgetting how highly touted he was coming out of high school. I think his limited outings as the wildcat in 2011 have really lowered expectations to the point where I consistently see quarterback listed as a liability for the Tigers going into the season. I think Frazier can be a star. Yes, the SEC is a difficult place to cut your teeth at the most important position on the field, and he will most certainly have his bad moments, but I think he will do a lot more to help us win this year than many seem to think. On the defensive side of the ball I’ll go with Angelo Blackson. Based on reports from camp, he is really starting to come into his own. He showed flashes of ability last year and I really like his massive frame. I also love the name Angelo Blackson.

Kenny Smith: He got hurt last year, so I’m sticking with him: Gabe Wright. Also, Tunde Fariyike.

John Ringer: On offense, Lutzenkirchen. You know he is good, but he has never gotten the ball enough to put up big statistics – this year he will. He will win the Mackey award as the best tight end in college football after this season. On defense Kris Frost. Auburn needs more than it got from its linebackers last year and Frost can make a difference.

Van Allen Plexico: Tre Mason is going to rock the house. I expect Loeffler to use McCalebb wisely, but without Jovon Robinson to smash for yards up the gut, you have to think Mason is the go-to guy who will have to churn out the tough first downs in Ben Tate/Cam Newton/Mike Dyer style. If he can do that, we will be okay.

Ben Bartley: Dee Ford.

John Carvalho: I think Kiehl Frazier will do better than folks are predicting based on last year.  On defense, I am looking forward to the new starters whom BVG has identified as players (Ryan Smith and Angelo Blackson, for example) as surprises.I’m a quantitative guy, so I will say that 9-4 is an improvement over 8-5, and that is success (especially with so many 6-6 predictions floating around out there).  Failure is when we let football become so consuming that it takes our focus off the important things in life.  For some folks, 13-1 falls into that category, if the loss is to Alabama.

John Magruder: If a player has a breakout year, it’ll be a wideout (like Bray or Reed) becoming a consistent target, or it’ll be a defensive player. My money’s on Nosa Eguae. I think that the coaches are trying to challenge him by putting him third in the rotation. He’s going to rise in the depth chart and he’s going to start. Opposing lines will be focused on Lemonier, and Nosa’s going to get loose.

Justin Lee: I don’t think you can really call it a “breakout season” when it’s with a senior, but I feel like the stars are aligning for Daren Bates in 2012. He hasn’t been able to make quite the impact that fans would like to see at weakside linebacker since being switched there from safety, but after bulking up and finding himself comfortable in Brian VanGorder’s defense, Bates could end up putting down a lot of production on the stat sheet from the defensive side of the ball. Offensively — and going out further on a limb — Quan Bray definitely has the confidence and the attitude that any football coach would want in his players, and he could end up making an impact for the Tigers at wide receiver and in special teams.

Amorak Huey: I hope, I hope, I hope Kiehl Frazier. But I’ll go with Corey Lemonier.


Record-wise, success for Auburn is ______? Failure is ______?

Kelly Jolley: 9-4 or 10-3.  7-6 or anything less.

Riley Downing: A successful year for Auburn is eight or more regular season wins and a nice bowl date on or right around New Year’s Day. We also need to beat one or more of the Axis of Evil along the way and remain competitive in our defeats. Mostly, we have to show progress throughout the season to ride high (not Dyer high, though) into 2013. A failure is 6-6 or worse. Big failure. There is too much talent, no matter how young it is, to lose that many games in year four of Chizik’s tenure. I’m terrible at picking records and too often let my sunshine pumping ways burn off my doom and gloom, but I’ve said for a while now to anyone who will listen that I think this is an 8-4 team… plus or minus two games. That may seem like a major hedge, because it is, but with so many unknowns as far as our new staff and personnel, that’s the best I can do. 10 wins would be a monumental achievement, but if everything comes together and we ride the positive energy (and avoid energy vampires), it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. I’ve already discussed the minus-2 scenario above. Not good.

Kenny Smith: Enough with the young and rebuilding business, I’m ready to see the future, today. 9-3, for me, seems to be the place where realism and optimism meet. (I think they are building regular 10-win teams in any other division of college football, though.) Anything less is of varying cause for concern. This is important: no blowouts.

John Ringer: Successful year is 9-3 and a good bowl game. The team is competitive in the big SEC games, unlike last year. Failure is 6-6.

Van Allen Plexico:  9-3, though I would settle for 8-4 if we at least don’t get blown out in every loss again.  Failure is 6-6.  And that could happen.  Lord– we could actually start 1-4!

Ben Bartley: Success: 10 wins and a great year from Kiehl Frazier. Failure: 6 wins and season-long quarterback issues. Would be nice to have some stability at quarterback entering spring practice.

John Carvalho: I’m a quantitative guy, so I will say that 9-4 is an improvement over 8-5, and that is success (especially with so many 6-6 predictions floating around out there).  Failure is when we let football become so consuming that it takes our focus off the important things in life.  For some folks, 13-1 falls into that category, if the loss is to Alabama.

John Magruder: Failure is 7-5, meaning we lose every one of Clemson, LSU, Arkansas, Georgia, and Alabama. Success is winning two of those. If we hit ten wins I am buying tickets to the 2013 SECCG.

Justin Lee: Success is 8-5. I know — after 2009 and 2011 it feels like a tie in kickball or something to go 8-5 all over again, but with the schedule the Tigers are facing, it wouldn’t be a bad finish at all. On the other side, failure would be anything less of that — a 7-6 record or below — or whatever other horrible nightmares could take place if the Tigers start the season 1-4.

Amorak Huey: Eight or more wins would be a clear success. Failure is six or fewer. Seven would be disappointing but understandable, and acceptable if the losses are competitive and we see growth with the young talent and new coordinators.

Related: Where did the Knights of The War Eagle Reader Roundtable watch the 2011 BCS National Championship Game, and what did it feel like?

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