Though it took us a while past Auburn week to get everything squared away, we talked with Jay Coulter of Track Em Tigers about Auburn's 2010 season and whether the defense will
be visible have a better season this year.
Did last season remove any doubts the Auburn fan base might have had about Gene Chizik after his ... um ... less-than-stellar career at Iowa State?
Jay: To a large extent yes. You would have been hard pressed to find anyone who believed Auburn was capable of more than six wins. Eight wins certainly exceeded expectations. Just as importantly, was the job Chizik did on the recruiting trail. Tommy Tuberville had Auburn fans convinced that three-star athletes were going to be the norm at Auburn. When Chizik went after the blue chippers and delivered, fans started to believe that maybe this guy knew what he was doing. Any remaining doubts will come early this year. For the first time in his tenure, there are expectations. With Miss State, South Carolina and Clemson coming in the first month of the season, fans will know quickly how much progress has been made in year two.
Just how high are the expectations for Cam Newton this year?
Jay: There are expectations, but mostly Auburn fans just don't know a lot about him. With spring practice closed and Newton only getting a few snaps in the A-Day game, fans are optimistic, but they really have no idea how he'll turn out. The coaching staff is apparently impressed. He beat out two guys that have been in the program awhile. He's been getting a lot of publicity in the off-season from the likes of Phil Steele who seems to believe he'll be a difference maker. He's got the pedigree, but finally it's time for him to perform.
Let's just do word association with this question: Defense.
Jay: Improving. When Ted Roof took over as defensive coordinator, he inherited a pretty barren defense. Graduation combined with injuries forced him to play guys last season that had no business on the field. A year later, that experience should pay dividends. Look for improvement on the defensive line and the linebacking corp. These are veteran units that should do a better job at stopping the run. They've also had a year to adjust to Gus Malzahn's offense. Its fast pace means they stay on the field longer than most any defense in the conference. Last year was a tough adjustment.
What would make this a successful season for Auburn? Bowl game? Bowl game and defeating Alabama? Contending for the SEC West? More?
Jay: An eight win season would satisfy most Auburn fans. The schedule is favorable in the sense that a lot of big games are at home, but they are still against big time opponents that will give you trouble. Auburn swaps West Virginia for Clemson early in the year. Clemson loses some playmakers, but they'll be tough early.
Auburn gets South Carolina in the place of Tennessee as its alternating conference opponent. In terms of competition, this is a huge upgrade. Spurrier will be ready. Add in Arkansas, LSU and Georgia at home along with Kentucky, Ole Miss and Alabama on the road, and you can see Auburn being much improved from last year and it still not reflect in the won-loss column. A return bowl trip is a must.
And just for those who haven't heard the explanation -- are y'all the Tigers, the Plainsmen and/or the War Eagles?
Jay: Glad to answer. Auburn's mascot is the Tiger. Its battle cry is War Eagle. Auburn is often called The Plains; so years ago, students were called Plainsmen. The term is still around today, but is used less often.