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24 Auburn

Aug. 20, 2012
Aug. 20, 2012

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Aug. 20, 2012

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24 Auburn

They aren't the 2010 national champs, but they're better than the 2011 version. And that's progress

This is an article from the Aug. 20, 2012 issue

The Skinny

GENE CHIZIK sees both promise and peril on his roster. "About 70 percent of our players will be either freshmen or sophomores," he says. "We're building our program in the right direction, but we're going to need our guys to develop quickly." He'll be counting on sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who in limited action last season struggled in the passing game (he completed five of 12 passes for 34 yards and threw two interceptions) but flourished in the Wildcat. (He rushed for 327 yards on 76 carries.) New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has scrapped the spread in favor of a traditional two-back set, which means Frazier will need to make plays with his arm for Auburn to have a puncher's chance against the SEC's heavyweights.

Key Recruit

AVERY YOUNG A 6'6", 292-pound tackle from Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) High, Young surprised plenty of folks when he signed with the Tigers. A five-star recruit according to Scout.com, he'll see playing time early this season and should be a long-term starter at left tackle.

Breakout Player

PHILIP LUTZENKIRCHEN The player with the most letters in his first and last name (19) in Auburn history already holds the school record for most career touchdown catches by a tight end (14) and the single-season record for most TD receptions (seven). He'll be a middle-of-the-field security blanket for Frazier.

Final Analysis

THE TIGERS are still a year away—at least—from returning to the goodness of 2010. The talent gap has closed enough, however, that they could pull off an upset or two, especially if Frazier builds on a strong spring ("Kiehl's accuracy was incredible," says senior wide receiver Emory Blake) and the defense (more than 400 yards a game allowed in '11) shows the improvement you'd expect from a group that has nine returning starters. The D will be more blitz happy under new coordinator Brian VanGorder, who spent the last four seasons as the Atlanta Falcons' defensive coordinator.

THE VITALS

Coach Gene Chizik (4th year)

30--10 (15--9 SEC)

2011 Record 8--5 (4--4, 4th in SEC West)

Final AP Rank NR

Returning Starters Offense 6, Defense 9

2011 STATS

Total Offense (FBS Rank) 337.9 YPG (100)

Rushing Offense 182.3 YPG (32)

Passing Offense 155.5 YPG (105)

Total Defense 408.0 YPG (81)

Rushing Defense 189.2 YPG (94)

Passing Defense 218.8 YPG (51)

TELLING NUMBER 125

Point deficit (170--45) last season in the Tigers' losses to their four primary rivals: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and LSU.

TOP PLAYERS

Offense

RB Onterio McCalebb

Sr. 5'11", 168 pounds

641 YDs, 5 TDs

WR Emory Blake

Sr. 6'2", 197 pounds

36 RECs, 613 YDs

C Reese Dismukes

Soph. 6'3", 202 pounds

13 STARTS

Defense

De Nosa Eguae

Sr. 6'3", 258 pounds

38 tackles

LB Daren Bates

Sr. 5'11", 205 pounds

104 tackles, 2½ sacks

CB T'Sharvan Bell

Sr. 6'0", 182 pounds

7 pass breakups, 2 INTs

Special Teams

P Steven Clark

Jr. 6'5", 228 pounds

40.8 AVG; 39.2 NET AVG

PHOTOKEVIN COX/GETTY IMAGES (BLAKE)Hampered by a right-ankle sprain for half of the '11 season, Blake still led the Tigers in receiving yards.PHOTOJOHN REED/US PRESSWIRE (LUTZENKIRCHEN)