Aubserver Mailbag 116: Just how much of the Script will be Flipped?
This week: A way-too-early look at the fall, elite players on not-elite teams, A-Day formats, the backcourt future, Milo's and bellybuttons
RB Brian Battie (Austin Perryman/Auburn Athletics)
Welcome to A-Day Weekend on the Plains. Hope you brought some better weather with you.
As it stands right now, Saturday’s forecast in Auburn calls for a 90% chance of rain and temperatures in the 50s. After what has been a run of spring to early summer-like weather here, a colder and wetter stretch ahead of Easter is some unfortunate timing.
And even though we’ve still got five months until an actual competitive game in Jordan-Hare Stadium, A-Day is the most public and prominent day of preseason ball for fans. It’s not a full practice, and Hugh Freeze has already talked about how he doesn’t want to show off too much Saturday.
But it’s one that fans can watch, either in-person or on the SEC Network’s streaming service. What we see in this football-like substance will stick around for a while, carrying projections and outlooks from now to Media Days and beyond.
Naturally, the end of spring practices turns into the ideal time to look ahead to when things will actually count in the record books. That bats leadoff in this week’s mailbag, as so much of what we’ve heard and seen from the Tigers over the last several weeks has been about how different things will look when it matters most.
This mailbag covers a ton of ground, from looking back and looking forward on the football side to the always-popular topic of transfers on the basketball side. There’s also the most bizarre question I’ve ever gotten in one of these. Enjoy!
Before we begin, let me make one more pitch: Our $40/year sale for spring practices will end Sunday. This is the best deal we’ve ever offered and probably will ever offer. So if you’ve been on the fence about subscribing or have been considering gifting a yearly subscription to a friend or family member, the time is now to pull the trigger. Just hit the buttons below, and you’ll be on your way.
Hearing the Flip the Script motto this spring and the improved morale, what are your way-too-early thoughts about this team for the fall? Care to take a shot at their record?
And what record would get Auburn fans excited about football again? We saw that it was possible in Cadillac’s brief interim run.
My biggest positive takeaway for Auburn football this spring is the improvement at the line of scrimmage. The offensive line isn’t a finished product yet, but the offseason transfers of Gunner Britton, Dillon Wade and Avery Jones definitely give the Tigers a real shot at having their best unit there in years. Having Izavion Miller and Connor Lew quickly look like quality depth options — at the very least — is a great sign, too.
On the defensive line, there’s been a lot of buzz about the three transfers on the other side of the ball, most notably Justin Rogers and Mosiah Nasili-Kite. Auburn’s interior line wasn’t very good last season, but there’s a lot of experience and size here, and actually playing the likes of Jeffrey M’ba could feel like a new transfer. Pair that with a deeper inside linebacker room, and I could see the Tigers being much stronger at the heart of their defense in 2023.
The rest of the rooms should feel great about where they are. The running backs should be the strength of the offense, the tight ends have a lot at their disposal, and the secondary has a lot of talent it can lean on if it stays healthy.
However, I’m going to leave spring feeling the same way about the two biggest question marks on the team: the passing game and the pass rush. Robby Ashford having to still deal with injuries have limited what all we could have learned about him in spring ball, and the receivers have dealt with something similar as a whole.
Holden Geriner looking like a stronger competitor in the battle is a real development, but he’s going to be a real wild card as someone who hasn’t played much college ball. And while Keldric Faulk has gotten rave reviews early, he’s most likely not going to singlehandedly save Auburn’s pass rush as a true freshman.
Throwing even more wrinkles into this is the fact that those two areas of need can and probably will be addressed in the transfer portal next month. And whoever the Tigers get will have to hit the ground running in the summer in order to be ready for the fall.
Having improved play in the trenches, what looks like a strong running game and several go-to players at linebacker and defensive back all bode well for Auburn in 2023. And, as Painter and I have discussed on the podcast several times this offseason, the Tigers’ 2023 schedule sets up pretty well for a bounceback season.
But, to me, what you can do with your quarterback and what you can do in getting after the other team’s quarterback are the biggest factors of separation for teams at this level. All those other things can be a solid foundation for a winning record, there’s no doubt about it. Until Auburn shows that it can throw the ball much more efficiently and disrupt the opponents’ passing attacks, you’re probably looking at a team that can beat a lot of teams it’s more talented than — but it will need more time to start knocking off better foes.
What does that look like in terms of a win-loss record? A 7-5 mark feels like the most realistic one. Getting both of the Mississippi schools at home will be helpful, along with having Vanderbilt as your rotating crossover opponent.
Is that going to be enough to get fans excited about football again? Your results may vary. I think the ultimate goal for Auburn in 2023 is to just get another winning record again, use that momentum to make a much-needed jump on the recruiting trail and take a big next step in 2024. In terms of Year 1s, it’s not 2013, but it could look more like 2009.
There will be growing pains, but there’s a clear plan in place.
Tank will likely go down as one of the most underappreciated players in Auburn history, being an elite talent stuck behind a stinky line and staying put when he had every opportunity to go elsewhere. Who are some other elite players that were victims of circumstance?