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Auburn: The Enigma

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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There’s as much hope and optimism around the 2017 Auburn Tigers as there is side-eyed skepticism, and, as usual, I have no idea what to make of them.

Auburn is why I have trust issues.

In 2013, the Tigers were picked to finish fifth in the West, here at SEC Media Days, and went onto win the league.

In 2015, they were picked to win the SEC Championship, but won just two conference games and finished last in the West.

In 2010, Cam Newton was hardly featured in the team’s preseason media guide. He won the Heisman.

Two years ago, Jeremy Johnson was being called a preseason Heisman candidate. He was benched for poor play.

We’ll find out for sure tomorrow, but it seems like a safe bet that they’ll be picked either second or third in the West by my esteemed SEC Media colleagues and I.

Frankly, though, I have no idea what to make of this team.

Kicker Daniel Carlson summed up the media’s historic struggles to get a read on his team, stating, “Y’all probably know a lot of stuff that I don’t know and I probably know a lot of stuff that y’all dont know.”

Last season, their offensive and defensive fronts were the strength of a team that’s biggest weakness was behind center.

With significant losses along both lines, what were once known quantities, and good ones at that, are now mysteries.

Alex Kozan was one of the better all-around guards in the league, last season, and right tackle Robert Leff was arguably the best run blocker in the country. Both of those players have gone on to the professional ranks.

Braden Smith and Austin Golson, both similarly excellent blockers, are returning, but it’s unreasonable to expect the offensive line, as a whole, to be as good in 2017.

With Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson’s departures on the defensive line, the cupboard isn't quite bare, but it’s slim pickens.

It seems that most of the optimism surrounds the SEC’s leader in rushing yards per game last year, Kamryn Pettway, again playing behind a depleted offensive line, and a quarterback that has never taken a snap in the SEC, Jarrett Stidham.

Although, Gus Malzahn maintains that Sean White still has a chance to be the starter.

There’s as much hope and optimism around the 2017 Auburn Tigers as there is side-eyed skepticism, and, as usual, I have no idea what to make of them.

We know only one thing for sure, their kicker is awesome.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP