As the 2012 season gets underway in just under three months, we all know that Auburn is almost guaranteed by the “experts” to finish in the back of the pack in the western division. These people have looked so in-depth at the Tigers to find every possible angle to use to strengthen their argument that they have forgotten some of the most simple keys to success that lie right in front of their eyes.
The first thing I see from the 2012 team is experience. The Tigers are returning eight starters on offense and ten on defense. This makes the Tigers one of just a few schools in the SEC as well as in the country returning a lot of experience. Let us not forget that Coach Chizik and staff have turned out some talented recruiting classes and a lot of these starters and the talent has come from these classes. Last year, these guys were young and inexperienced, but they now have a season under their belt and that will be make a big difference on both sides of the ball compared to last season.
The second positive I see in the Tigers is the coaching staff they have behind them. Many outside fan bases want to knock the pay grades and experience of the original staff and the three new guys brought in, but they are sadly mistaken. Scot Loeffler is one of the brightest and best young offensive minds in the coaching world today and Chizik saw this potential and scooped it up. Jeff Grimes has had one of the best offensive line classes in three out of the four recruiting classes and can develop all that size into great offensive linemen. Brian Van Gorder has always been a great defensive coordinator and very good with the linebackers in particular. Not to mention the addition of Willie Martinez as a true secondary coach. Tommy Thigpen can finally move back to coaching a position he knows all too well, linebackers. The first few opponents on the schedule will not know what to expect from Auburn because this is somewhat of a “rebirth” for both sides of the football. Keep in mind, most “experts” have Auburn losing three out of the first four games.
Aside from experience, one of the biggest aids Auburn will have for potential SEC title contention in 2012 is motivation. These players are talented and most know where they stand as far as their abilities. I am not trying to say they are cocky or anything of that nature, but being told over and over again that you will settle for back of the pack and lose certain games, for certain, is going to push even more potential out of these players. Chizik and staff are some of the best motivators in the country and have stayed positive through a lot of adversities. I believe these players want to show the country that they are the same athletics kids that came out of high school and know how to win football games together under the direction of Coach Chizik and company.
In closing, improving the win column by two wins puts the Tigers as exceeding expectations and competing for the western division title as well as a conference title. By no means am I saying that Auburn can be in the national championship game just yet, but I am simply saying that pieces are in place to make a run at the division and ultimately Atlanta. I expect this season to be a rough one across the board for the entire conference. The SEC may finally be turning toward the way it use to be when there were so many varied opinions on the “powers” of the SEC and to whom would be in Atlanta in December of each year. Just some thoughts to ponder on for the next few months.