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Auburn: Week 1

How do you expect this year’s offense to differ from last?

Bill Meador: I’m not sure what to expect on the offensive side of the ball, as we are filling some big shoes at QB and RB. I know AU will run the same kind of fast-paced offense, and I really don’t expect too many changes to what Gus Malzahn does. It really depends on Cam Newton and how well he picks up the offense. AU has plenty of senior leadership and experience to be solid. Newton certainly brings an added dimension with his running ability. The biggest question in my mind is whether he can lead and not make too many mistakes.

Rick Dunn: The greatest difference will be that we now have a real running threat at QB. Last year, defenses did not respect the QB run at all and that gave them an advantage. Also, I would estimate that the list of available plays has expanded by 40 percent.

Jonathan Jenkins: I think you’ll see more plays that give the quarterback the freedom to make plays on the fly if a designed play breaks down. Chris Todd was neither physical nor mobile. Cam Newton can create some plays with his legs if necessary.

Which player are you most excited about seeing in game-action this upcoming season?

Bill Meador: Even though there a lot of returning players on both sides of the ball, there are tons of questions about how the new starters will handle the pressure of being the one that is counted on to get the job done. To me, the most intriguing player is freshman RB, Ladarious Phillips ( 6-1, 288 ). He is so big, but so quick for a guy his size. He may wind up on the defense eventually. He will be one to keep an eye on and not be hard to spot.

Rick Dunn: With no doubt, Cam Newton. He may prove to be a Vince Young type of player. We should have a better understanding of him after the MSU game. I am trying to withhold my enthusiasm, but he could prove to be a “man among boys” type of player.

Jonathan Jenkins: The man of the hour is Cam Newton. Expectations are high at the quarterback position and we’re all anxious to see if No. 2 is as advertised.

Who has more to prove this season: Gus Malzahn and his offensive unit or Ted Roof and his defensive unit?

Bill Meador: AU scored enough points to win more games than they won last year. I think the defense definitely has to improve more for AU to be more successful this year.  If they can develop more continuity and depth, I think they have sufficient talent to get the job done.

Rick Dunn: I was not impressed with Coach Roof’s history coming in, but I continue to withhold judgment. It appears that the vast majority of our problems last year could be attributed to a lack of depth/talent. We will be much improved in that area this year, but there still will be issues. I will be watching to see if we tackle well and play aggressively.

Jonathan Jenkins: Ted Roof has a lot to prove. The offense scored enough points to win more games than they did, the defense just didn’t do enough to support them. We had some injuries last year on defense but this is college football. That happens. If you’re averaging nearly 35 points per game and lose five games, your defense is nowhere to be found.

Is AU’s highly regarded freshman class enough to put it in the hunt for the SEC West?

Bill Meador: Even though AU had a really good recruiting class, AU should be good enough with upper class starters at most positions that they should not have to rely on freshmen to fill those roles. Nonetheless, there will be a large number of frosh that will be in the playing rotation. Though they may contribute, I don’t think we can rely on our freshmen to put us over the top for a west division title.

Rick Dunn: The true freshmen will contribute and fill in some gaps, but I believe that the JuCo transfer players will be the ones who make the biggest difference. It is hard to tell who will get a lot of playing time at this point, but some of those guys should come into this season ready to play SEC style football.

Jonathan Jenkins: It’s a team sport and those freshmen will have to thrive under some veteran leadership but, yes, I think they are. Most of the skill positions are held by veterans or upper classmen so I think the Tigers are in good shape in the

west.

Why do you think Auburn was able to out-recruit Alabama this year?

Bill Meador: First of all, I’m not sure AU out-recruited UA last year. I think it really was too close to call. Despite Alabama’s success last year, I think AU enjoyed a good recruiting year because they play an exciting, wide-open offense, there is room on the depth chart for freshmen to  play early, and the coaching staff is full of dynamic personalities.

Rick Dunn: I would love to say that it was because of the Auburn Spirit, but typically one can not really understand what it is all about until they have lived it for a while. Auburn fans pull for their team, they do not push them. I feel that with many of them they saw an opportunity for some early playing time.

Jonathan Jenkins: The same way Saban did it when he first got to Alabama: Immediate playing time and the rebuilding of a team. Players want to play and everybody wants to be part of something special. Five or six years from now, the lettermen graduates can look back at the progress of the program and say, “We did

that.”