Scouting report: Tailbacks
Hey everyone. I'm into the second half of my Kentucky/Indiana/Ohio shindig, and I wanted to pass along some random observations. I'll do a scouting report on the tailbacks toward the end of this entry.
So let's get going.
**People in southern Ohio drive pleasantly. When the speed limit is 65, by God, they drive 65. Not 75. They use turn signals. It was surprising to me. I expect all large cities to be like Atlanta, where 20 under the speed limit is considered slow-lane material.
**We had a great time at Kings Island in suburban Cincinnati. I love me some rollercoasters, and KI certainly has plenty. Of note, the Drop Zone ride was closed because of a recent incident on a similar ride in Louisville, Ky., and Son of Beast was closed because of a 2006 incident. I used to believe people never got hurt on amusement-park rides.
**We skipped the Reds-Cardinals game on Friday night. Too much money. We never sit in our seat anyway. If they sold walk-around passes for like $2, we'd go.
**Apparently, there's a Mini Cooper plant in Cincinnati. I see maybe one Mini per week in Montgomery, maybe a few more in Birmingham. In Cincinnati, every 15th car is a Cooper. The bad thing for me is that I so badly want a silvery Cooper S with 18" wheels. So I got to see them every two minutes on the road. Swell.
**We saw "Knocked Up" at a spacious theater that was both a.) more expensive than Rave and b.) not as good as Rave. Bummer. The movie wasn't a bummer, though, and is one of the best light dramas I've ever seen. I won't review it for you; that's Josh and Kimberly Moon's job.
OK. On to some Auburn talk.
ON THE RANKINGS:
I like grading on a scale of 1 to 5.
5 is best.
3 is SEC average.
1 is a long-term project or someone who could play in NAIA right now.
I post two grades for each player: current score (college peak score)
2006 overview: Kenny Irons and Brad Lester handled business for most of the season behind an offensive line that was pretty good at run blocking. I'll admit that Irons never developed into the college star I predicted in 2004. He put together some excellent games but seemed to struggle with lower-leg injuries. Lester was an outstanding complement to Irons' grinding, north-south style. Lester isn't the dancer he was as a redshirt freshman, and was more willing to bang with linebackers in 06. Carl Stewart earned tons of snaps at the team's slot/fullback hybrid position. He made some truly outstanding catches that saved games – particularly the LSU win. Ben Tate earned sporadic playing time as a true freshman. His receiving skills are outstanding. Tate showed that he still has a lot to learn about rushing.
2006 depth chart:
STARTER (tailback) – Kenny Irons 4.25
BACKUP – Brad Lester 3.75
REDSHIRT – Mario Fannin 1.5
STARTER (fullback) – Carl Stewart 3.5
BACKUP 1 – Ben Tate 3.0
BACKUP 1A – Tre Smith 2.5
My projected 2007 depth chart
STARTER (tailback) – Brad Lester 4.0 (4.5)
BACKUP – Mario Fannin 2.5 (4.25)
BACKUP 2 – Tristan Davis 2.5 (3.0)
REDSHIRT – Enrique Davis 1.5 (tba)
STARTER (fullback) – Carl Stewart 3.75 (4.0)
BACKUP – Ben Tate 3.25 (4.0)
The franchise player: Brad Lester. He is quick, fairly strong and a passable receiver. When he's healthy and working behind a line that's blocking properly, Lester is a top-three SEC back. The problem is that Lester is a fairly lean kid and I don't see how he's going to hold up under heavy hitting. I'm not sure this offensive line will be all that good. I can't tell yet. I like Fannin a lot more than I used to. He is Tristan Davis with significantly better hips and receiving skills. That's a good package. Davis is great on straight-ahead runs, but doesn't fool defenders for whatever reason. Carl Stewart is what he is. I guess the best way to describe my thoughts on Ben Tate is that I don't appreciate him at common levels. He is a gifted receiver, possibly the best on the team right now, but doesn't seem particularly fast or elusive. A lot of people I trust believe that Tate is going to be a star. I just don't see it yet.
The next generation: It's going to be a while. Lester has two full seasons remaining, and Fannin could be just as good. Incoming freshman Enrique Davis, provided he qualifies academically, probably will spend the season on the scout team because there are several quality backs already in the system. Two Auburn coaches who scouted Davis in high school believe he has Carnell Williams-type ability. I have no way of verifying this until Davis hits the practice field. Remember, though, that freshman backs rarely make an impact at Auburn. I'm not sure Bo Jackson, the 1982 version, would get a lot of carries in this system right now.