Above is a general overview of the two squads followed by a clip from the CUAD website below (link).
Now that we've discussed the coaches, we need to chat about the players. Auburn waited until very late in the preseason to name Kiehl Frazier as their starter. He beat out a very unimpressive and injured Clint Moseley for the job. Why the staff waited so long to name Frazier the #1 is confusing to most Auburn people in the know. They all say he was the clear leader from the Spring game through fall practice. For those unaware of Frazier's credentials, he was the 2010 USA Today Offensive POY who played in 10 football games last season. He is a dual threat in the backfield--a dangerous runner with a capable arm. If Clemson cannot figure out how to contain a mobile QB, the Tigers could be in for a long night.
Running back for Auburn is somewhat of a question mark. After a tumultuous offseason, Michael Dyer left Auburn. This takes a tremendous amount of quality snaps away from the Tigers. You'll recall, Dyer was instrumental in AU's 2010 run to a title. You'll also recall that he torched the Clemson defense to the tune of 151 yards last year. Inexplicably, Auburn quit running him or else he would have had a boatload more. Why they chose to do that defies all reason. Onterio McCalebb takes over as the starter. McCalebb is a hit or miss runner who definitely has talent. Behind him are Tre Mason and Mike Blakely. Blakely is the name that grabs my attention. The Florida transfer was a big time recruit several years ago and will get his share of carries in the three man rotation. It would be nice if Dabo had even tried to get him to transfer here, as he was very interested in Clemson during the previous recruiting process.
Like Clemson, Auburn's offensive line looks dicey on paper. The questions further arise with the loss of Reese Dismukes at the center position. There is some experience at the guard position but Auburn's two-deep features nothing but freshmen at tackle (both of them). While these guys are extremely talented, experience is critical up front--especially when everyone is trying to put together a new scheme. Auburn fans point to the overall talent and the experience inside. Everyone will be watching this group, particularly the tackles.
An interesting, and often overlooked, member of the Auburn offense is Jay Prosch. Prosch transferred to Auburn from Illinois due to a family illness. He is thought of as one of the best blocking backs in America and gives Loeffler more options. This also frees up Auburn's excellent TE, Phillip Lutzenkirchen, to be more flexible. PL likely would have been used as a primary blocker in this offense without Prosch which, as most of you know, would have significantly limited a really good tight end who is a viable threat catching the football.
Travon Reed, Emory Blake, and Quan Bray will lead the Auburn receiving corps. Reed is the man everyone is watching. Last season he was predominantly used in gimmick situations. Since, the sophomore has bulked up and taken on a much bigger role in this offense. Bray is someone we heavily recruited. These guys will take on a much more traditional role; as Reed put it they will be real receivers running real routes.
Corey Lemonier is a beast at the defensive end spot. He will definitely test Clemson's offensive tackles during the course of this game. Lemonier dominated many SEC schools last season and is poised to carry that momentum into his junior season and parley that into a first round draft pick next spring. As I said earlier, this unit is deep. Dee Ford will start at the other end. Angelo Blackson and Jeffery Whitaker--two 300+ lb men--are the 1's inside. A nod to their depth up front is Junior Nosa Eguae, former 23 game starter, falling way down the depth chart going into the season.
Auburn's defensive backfield is a place the Clemson Tigers want to exploit what appears to be a talent advantage. Last season's starter, T'Sharvan Bell, lost his corner spot and will be used in nickel formations. Ryan Smith, Ryan White, and Jermaine Whitehead bring relatively little starting experience to the secondary. If Clemson can give Tajh time, it could be trouble for the Auburn secondary.
There are a tremendous amount of questions going into this football games on both sides of the football. I will not lie to you, I am not sure what to expect...out of either team. Clemson features inexperience on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Clemson seeks vast improvement out of the backers and in the secondary. Auburn has a ton of questions on the offensive line and both in the secondary and at linebacker. How each of the new coaches instill their respective systems and their players respond will be interesting. Clemson's performance protecting Tajh Boyd and getting Andre Ellington yards should give the fans a better idea of where this team is going in '12.