Five Burning Questions: Auburn Tigers

Here at Crystal Ball Run, we’re not naïve enough to believe that we know every single thing there is to know about every single team. It’s impossible. Well, unless you’re Gary Danielson (No seriously, just go ahead and ask him).

Which is why with fall camps set to open, we’ve enlisted some of our good friends, who run some great team-specific blogs all over the web, to answer the biggest questions on their clubs entering 2011. We’re calling it “Five Burning Questions.”

And to open the segment, it only seems fitting that we begin by discussing the defending National Champion Auburn Tigers.

After losing Cam Newton, Nick Fairley and a host of other players this off-season, we asked the WarBlogler, who runs the very popular Auburn site, to answer the biggest questions on his beloved Tigers.

Here’s what he had to say…

1. First things first, who will be the starting quarterback in Week 1, and what should we expect?

I believe that Barrett Trotter will be the starter for the opener against Utah State. He has the most experience, albeit very little, of any of the guys we have this season, and showed a few times last year that he is definitely capable of running Gus Malzahn’s offense. There’s a small possibility that highly touted recruit, Kiehl Frazier, could come in and set the practice field on fire and move into the starting spot, but I don’t see that happening. Trotter has decent wheels and is a smart player. He’s more than good enough to help the offense succeed.

2. The running backs (Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb) seem like they’ll be taking on an additional role this year. But can they improve production with so many new faces on the offensive line?

With only two guys that have had any significant experience returning to the offensive line, running between the tackles might be a little tougher than it was last year. However, that’s where Malzahn’s offense steps in. There are so many moving parts that you rarely ever know who has the ball and which way they’re going. Dyer and McCalebb are the perfect complement to each other and after a year of learning how to play together, they should be able to improve on their great performances from a season ago.

3. We’ve heard about the Auburn staff’s ability to recruit since they arrived on campus a few years ago. Who is the newcomer (freshman or otherwise) that fans need to know?

Incoming freshman Quan Bray, who may play running back, wildcat, or any other skill position is definitely someone to watch out for. He’s shifty, quick, and knows how to make people miss. He had a very tragic family situation occur in the last few weeks, but if he’s able to get on the field I expect special things from him.

There’s also Trovon Reed, who was injured and redshirted last year. Anytime the coaches are asked who the next star will be, his name always comes up. With the loss of a major running threat at quarterback, he’ll definitely step in and run the wildcat. He’s also dangerous at returning kicks, which is something Auburn lacked last season. I expect him to be a do-it-all guy this season.

4. There’s much more returning on defense than offense. What are realistic expectations for this unit?

As bad as the defense was talked about last year, they definitely won some games for Auburn down the stretch. The problem was that people were comparing them to Auburn’s offense. Under those terms, everyone paled in comparison, so it was unfair to say Auburn’s defense was the weak link of the team and actually think that meant they were weak.

The defensive line will have lots of new starters, but most of those guys played a good bit last year. Ex-defensive live coach Tracy Rocker substituted well and it got them some good experience. There have also been some changes in the secondary that should help, but the linebackers will need to step up and fill in a major hole after the loss of MLB Josh Bynes to the NFL.

5. Given everything was lost off the 2010 team, what are realistic expectations? What would be considered a good season? What would be considered disappointing? How do you think Auburn will actually finish?

As we saw in 2009, Gus Malzahn’s offense doesn’t need a team full of All-Americans to be successful and score points. That’s not to say Auburn doesn’t return any talent. Losing Cam Newton and Nick Fairley to the NFL is obviously a huge loss, but it seems that the media is overlooking what Auburn has left.

Auburn returns both of their top running backs, the top-scoring receiver, and the best tight end in the SEC. The defense will be young, but talented, and should be able to hold it down while the offense scores enough to win.

A good season for me would be 9 wins. Disappointing would be 7 or less wins. As much as it pains me to say they won’t go undefeated, I think Auburn will finish with 9 wins.

For more coverage of the defending National Champion Auburn Tigers, before to visit and follow on Twitter @WarBlogle

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About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.