Entering Saturday’s season opener against Clemson, the Auburn football team is young. The offense, specifically, could not be much younger. Of the starting 11, the Tigers have a mere five upperclassmen.
Everything for Auburn will begin with the offensive line. With 2011 starting center Reese Dismukes suspended indefinitely, Tunde Fariyike will start. The change in the lineup caused senior John Sullen and experienced-sophomore Chad Slade to be placed at the two guards spots. Redshirt freshman Greg Robinson and true freshman Avery Young will play tackle.
Clemson provides a young, inexperienced defensive line that could help the Tigers transition into the swing of the 2012 season easier, but if they are unable to block well for Auburn’s running game and quarterback Kiehl Frazier, it may be a long night and season.
The Tigers’ running game will be something Coach Gene Chizik will rely on, lead by senior Onterio McCalebb. Sophomores Tre Mason and Mike Blakely are listed as his backups and have potential to play well. Mason is entering the season after rushing for 69 yards and a touchdown on nine attempts in last year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl.
The offensive line and running backs will have the assistance of fullback Jay Prosch on Saturday. A huge, physical player, the Illinois transfer is expected to make a significant impact in the Tigers’ run game and will have his first chance to show that against Clemson.
The first-year starter Frazier will have several receivers to look for Saturday, which begins with Emory Blake. After leading the team in every receiving category last season except for touchdowns, Blake is expected to have a monster senior year. Another senior, Travante Stallworth, and sophomore Trovon Reed and Quan Bray are also expected to contribute a lot as well.
Senior Philip Lutzenkirchen will be a huge target at the tight end position. After showing off his hands and clutch gene last season, leading the team in touchdown reception, he is expected to thrive in offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler‘s system that loves to throw to tight ends.
Frazier himself is going to need to stay calm and poise. Playing in every game in 2011, the sophomore only threw 11 passes, completing five and throwing two interceptions. Growing as a leader during the offseason and improving his arm strength, Frazier has the potential to be a good quarterback this fall, but simply enters the season inexperienced.
If the Auburn offense plans to be successful Saturday night against Clemson, it needs to rally around itself and play as a unit, learning on the fly and playing consistently.