Everything’s new for Tigers this year

Published 1:25 am Sunday, September 6, 2009

It’s football season and I’m back to give my weekly commentary on the Auburn Tigers football season.

Please keep in mind that this is a fan’s perspective. The next time I play college football will be my first time. In fact, I quit playing football in the sixth grade.

With that said, I was born an Auburn fan, and I have attended practically every home game since I was a single digit. I’d pay to get to talk about Auburn football, and the nice folks at the Selma Times-Journal let me do it for free.

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Are you still hung over from last year’s 5-7 season? Are you looking for a fresh start? If so, the 2009 Auburn Tigers are the team for you.

Almost everything will be brand spanking new. First-year coach Gene Chizik brought in his own coaching staff and will field a young team his first season on the Plains. The Tigers have a total of 10 true freshmen listed on the first and second teams.

Even returning QB Chris Todd has a new and improved arm. I heard that he can throw the ball through a car wash, and it won’t even get wet.

A few newcomers to look for on offense are RB Onterrio McCalleb, and WR DeAngelo Benton. They are the game breakers we have been waiting for all these years.

On defense watch out for true freshman safety Darren Bates. He’s tough. He would hit his own mother if she were toting the pigskin. He is the only true freshman listed as a starter, but there is no doubt that you will see new faces everywhere.

I for one am happy that Chizik was chosen to lead Auburn’s football team. The 5-19 record that he produced at Iowa State was a pothole in what has been a successful coaching career.

His critics seemed to have forgotten that while he was Auburn’s defensive coordinator we went 30-9, and he was part of consecutive unbeaten seasons at Auburn in 2004 and Texas in 2005.

He is the right man for the job. It won’t be easy because he inherits a 5-7 team that ended the season on a 1-6 streak. No team would have been able to succeed with the coaching drama that went on last year, but this year will be different. Chizik has assembled a highly regarded staff that seems to be up to the task of returning Auburn back to the top.

All indications are that this staff is unified, and that team morale is at an all-time high.

What a difference a year makes. Last year in this space I was hyping a team that was ranked 10th in the preseason polls, and picked as the favorite to win the SEC West. This year is a totally different story. We are picked fifth in the SEC West and got a measly seven votes in the AP poll.

We should get off to a fast start. I look for us to be favored in our first four games at home. After that it will get tougher.

Four of our last eight are on the road, and four of our last five are against preseason top 25 teams. I’m afraid that our lack of quality depth will rear its ugly head and get us in the end.

A winning season and a bowl game will be a step forward for Coach Chizik and his youthful group of Tigers.

Auburn is listed as a 13-point favorite in the game against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

I’m a little nervous about this one. Tech is no pushover. They finished 8-5 last year and won the Independence Bowl.

I really have no idea how Auburn is going to look. I do know that a new coaching staff with a young team will have some growing pains. I’m going to the game expecting to see a close game, but one where we pull away in the fourth quarter.

I think Auburn wins it 24-17.

War Eagle!

Andy Stewart lives in Selma and graduated from Auburn University in 1990 with a degree in Business Administration. He is the local president of Wachovia Bank.