What Have We Learned?
Answer: Not as much as I expected.
Still, we know some stuff. Here's a look at the five things I know now that I may not have known (or realized) two weeks ago.
- Kodi Burns walks the walk: The junior quarterback learned last week that he no longer was under consideration for the starting job. He lost out to Chris Todd, who has been a consistent obstacle to Burns' upward mobility.
When Todd was named Auburn's starter, Burns had several choices.
He could have requested a transfer. Nobody would have been upset with him for making a decision that seemed obvious. Burns believes he has the skills to play quarterback and, surely, there are plenty of schools who feel similarly.
He could have sulked. Dreams fuel passion and when those dreams disappear, Burns easily could have become discouraged.
Burns instead asked where the team needed help. When it became obvious that wideouts were in short supply and the so-called "Wildcat" position was vacant, Burns said he'd make a push.
And he has. Burns scored a rushing touchdown out of the Wildcat formation during Auburn's second scrimmage and assistant coach Trooper Taylor said he's been amazed by how quickly Burns has emerged as a productive element at wideout.
This could be the story of the year.
- Subtraction by attrition: Auburn is a surprisingly sparse program right now.
The NCAA allows teams to allocate a maximum of 85 scholarships each year.
The Tigers don't have to worry about running afoul of that provision this season. Including the three walk-ons who were awarded scholarships last week, the team now has 76 players receiving aid for their work on the field.
It's easy to see where those nine missing bodies should be.
Auburn doesn't have many linebackers. Freshman Jonathan Evans started in the scrimmage because Eltoro Freeman is out with a wrist injury. Behind Evans is another freshman, Harris Gaston.
Two other linebackers, Adam Herring and Spencer Pybus, are injured.
The Tigers have similar issues at safety and along the offensive line. It's critical that Chizik and his staff find a way to increase staffing levels in short order.
His lack of depth could become a terminal issue.
- Freshmen are in the fray: Auburn typically uses only a few freshmen in meaningful roles, but this is no ordinary year.
The Tigers will play freshmen at wideout. It's clear that Taylor, the team's wideouts coach, is smitten with his group of youngsters. DeAngelo Benton and Emory Blake have been in the spotlight all along, though observers said Anthony Gulley (pictured) showed surprising ability in the second scrimmage.
Travante Stallworth also has earned praise.
Auburn's youth movement starts now.
- Taking offense: The offense has "won" both scrimmages according to the scoring system Chizik uses for these events.
Surely that's not a good development.
Defenses almost always win fall scrimmage regardless of score. Offenses require precise timing that typically isn't honed so early in the season, giving defenders an advantage that cannot be mitigated.
The issue is this: Auburn's second-team defense is not very good right now. It's mostly populated by freshmen and players without a single meaningful performance on their resume.
Defensive starters will be asked to play more snaps than usual this season.
- It's business time: Chizik doesn't like mess.
That's the primary reason behind three players leaving the program this summer. The coach has instituted a reasonably strict dress code and holds his players to reasonably lofty behavioral standards. He also demands that helmets be lined up almost perfectly during warm-ups.
No detail is too small.
It was reasonable to assume the no-frills aura he created upon arrival would wane as fall arrived. That was an errant assumption. Chizik is as guarded and focused as ever these days.
We'll soon see if Auburn's new tone, set by the head coach, makes a difference on the field.