SEC 2009 // Tracking the Tigers This Season

We would like to think that our previews here at Team Speed Kills are fairly well-informed and perfect for an SEC fan looking to get enough to give them a good portrait of the team without overloading them with information that only appeals to a team's own die-hard fans.

But we freely admit we don't know all the league's teams as well as the bloggers who cover them, so we're asking those who do follow closely to give us some thoughts. In that spirit, SB Nation colleague Jay Coulter at Track Em Tigers agreed to answer a few questions about Auburn.

Burns, Caudle, Todd, Rollison, Moseley. Who you got at QB?

This is obviously the million dollar question at Auburn this year. Anybody who says they know for sure is lying - with the exception of the coaching staff. That said, my gut says Neil Caudle will start September 5th against Louisiana Tech. While the spring game showed little, it did appear that Caudle had a better handle on Gus Malzahn's new offense. He's made tremendous strides from a year ago, but remains unproven.

Burns appears to be running in place. His flashes of brilliance are typically followed by stupid mistakes. He's still in the mix, but all indications are that he's done little to wow Malzahn and Gene Chizik.

All the hype centers around Rollison, the four-star recruit from Texas. It's doubtful he'll make an immediate impact. Obviously, this summer is critical. We'll know in a hurry what kind of work ethic he has and whether he can digest the playbook quickly. My guess is that should Caudle flounder in September, the coaching staff will give Rollison a shot. On paper he looks like the perfect quarterback for Malzahn's system.

How do Auburn fans feel about Chizik now? A lot of them seemed horrified -- I don't think that's too strong a word -- when he was first selected. Is he still "Mr. 5-19," or do the Tiger faithful feel some hope?

I don't believe your term "horrified" is too strong. I would venture to say most Auburn fans were. However, since arriving, Chizik has done and said all the right things. He's hired some of the best names in the business as assistants and delivered a strong recruiting class considering the amount of time he had to do it. He's reached out to the Auburn family all year and there's no question Auburn people are warming to him. That said, he'll be judged on wins and losses. So the jury is still out. There's no doubt, he's come a long ways since December.

What makes this a successful season for Auburn? Going back to a bowl? Having a winning season? More?

Expectations for the team are lower than they've been since 1999. It's hard to believe that a year ago, Auburn was the pick to win the SEC West. A new coaching staff, an unsettled quarterback race, a struggling wide receiver corp and perhaps the toughest conference schedule in the league likely means a transition year. Winning six games and receiving a bowl bid against Auburn's schedule will be a major accomplishment. Auburn's road schedule includes trips to Tennessee, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia.

Auburn bloggers probably have gotten sick of this question, but for the benefit of our readers: Why is the Malzahn Spread going to be any better than the Franklin Spread?

One huge difference this year is that all of the offensive staff is bought into Malzahn's offense. That clearly wasn't the case with Franklin. Tuberville's core group of coaches never fully accepted Franklin or his offense and the results showed. Malzahn's offense is built around the run as much as it is the pass. Whereas Franklin passed to set up the run, Malzahn is just as comfortable running 50 percent of the time. If there's such thing as a balanced spread offense, this is it. Look for Auburn to run more this year than is typical for Malzahn. Because of the lack of depth and quality at wide receiver, look for coaches to lean on Ben Tate, Mario Fannin, Eric Smith and Ontario McCalebb.

Thanks to Jay for taking the time to talk to us, and if you want more on the War Eagles, hop over to Track Em Tigers.

MONDAY: Auburn Hopes to Regroup in a Hurry
TUESDAY: Inside Gene Chizik's Contract Negotiations; The Lovliest Line-up
WEDNESDAY: The Depth Chart at Auburn, Still Focused on One Position; Auburn: Where Offense is the Question
THURSDAY: Tomorrow's Tigers
LATER TODAY: Final Thoughts

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