As reported by AL.com on May 2, Auburn linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen is hopeful about Auburn's prospects for the upcoming season and stated that the new coaching staff has energized the team.
During an interview, Thigpen said, "We played with the youngest group in all of college football last season, and not only do we get these kids back for this season, we get them back their junior and senior seasons and that's the key."
The linebackers coach also mentioned during the interview that it's rare to see a new offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator in the same year, highlighting what I feel is simultaneously an advantage and one of Auburn's most blaring challenges as the players and staff prepare for the 2012 season. As Thigpen stated, Auburn played with the youngest team in college football last year, which makes their 7-5 (regular season) record sound very respectable. Having lost their star quarterback and a majority of their offensive line at the end of the previous season, I don't believe the team could have been expected to do much better than they did.
On top of having a more seasoned group of players this year, Auburn has recruited talent such as four-star linebacker Trey Johnson, allowing new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to move Auburn back to the days of a defense based on large, imposing linebackers. Add to that the fact that Auburn now has much-needed depth at the quarterback position, and I believe Tommy Thigpen is justified in his positive outlook for 2012. The team is still somewhat young, but the experience gained by those who played last year and the addition of new talent for critical positions this year should make a substantial difference when the team hits the field in September.
All my talk of advantages compared to last year's team is not meant to downplay the challenges, however. I am an avid Auburn fan, but I admit that the players and staff have a number of hurdles to jump before it's truly safe to predict that this will be a successful year. While new offensive and defensive coordinators signify what appears to be a change in the right direction, learning to work with new staff members and adapt to an entirely new offense is no small task for the players.
Based on the progress I saw when watching some of the spring practice footage, however, I feel comfortable that the Tigers will hit the field in September having mastered offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler's new strategy. It is a year of dynamic change for Auburn, and I will not go as far as making specific predictions, but I do feel very positive about the upcoming season.
Christopher Brown is an avid, almost rabid college football fan. More importantly, he is a fan of the Auburn Tigers, a team that always seems to provide its fans with an unpredictable and even frustrating roller-coaster ride.
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