2017 Record: 10-4 (7-1) – Lost to UCF in Peach Bowl
2018 Coaches Poll Top 25 Rank: No. 10
While Alabama and Georgia make plans for a potential rematch in the College Football Playoff, Auburn will again be looking to play the spoiler role. They’re the third best team in the conference, but are the Tigers a legitimate threat to grab a playoff spot?
Gus Malzahn’s offense will again rely on an efficient run game and a play-action heavy passing attack, while hopefully opening things up a little more to challenge quarterback Jarrett Stidham. No Kerryon Johnson will complicate things, but Kam Martin and some younger players will have a chance to put themselves on the national radar.
While Auburn has question marks at running back, wide receiver is loaded. The team returns their top five wideouts from a year ago, led by Ryan Davis and Darius Slayton. If an offensive line that lost a couple quality starters can keep Stidham upright, the Tigers should have splash play potential on offense.
Defensively the secondary replaces several starters, including Carlton Davis and Tray Matthews, while Tre Williams and Jeff Holland are gone from the front seven. The Tigers defensive line should be their strength this season, as Derrick Brown, Dontavius Russell, Andrew Williams, Marlon Davidson and Nick Coe keep Deshaun Davis and the rest of the Auburn linebackers clean.
They’ll have plenty of competition in the SEC West, where Alabama is favored, and Mississippi State could be poised for an exciting year. LSU is always tough, and Ole Miss has a passing attack that could test the Tigers new-look secondary. Texas A&M and Arkansas aren’t pushovers either.
Top 5 Draft-Eligible Prospects
1. QB Jarrett Stidham
There are some things Stidham does well for Auburn, but when the game was in his hands last year, he was at his absolute worst. That will need to change in 2018, as Stidham looks to make good on the first round buzz attached to his name. There’s enough in the toolbox physically, but Auburn will have to open up the offense and trust Stidham more for me to buy into him being anything more than a mid-round pick.
2. IDL Derrick Brown
Brown has all the potential in the world between his size and movement skills, but his pad level, mental processing and technique still need to come a long way. Most believe Brown is a sure bet to head to the NFL early, but in a loaded defensive line class, his tools might not be enough to warrant him top 50 status if he doesn’t improve his attention to detail this season.
3. IDL Dontavius Russell
A big-bodied defensive tackle with flashes of pass rush moves, Russell works hard and is a respected leader at Auburn, but the athletic limitations are obvious and will hurt his stock. There isn’t much three-down projection in Russell’s game, and he’s not as dominant vs doubles as you’d like either. Russell might be who he is at this point, a player who is good enough to work into an NFL rotation, but will probably never be much more than that.
4. WR Ryan Davis
Billed as a speedster, Davis is used as more of a possession guy for Auburn, while Darius Slayton, Will Hastings and Nate Craig-Myers churned out the chunk plays. A lot of Davis’ targets come in manufactured fashion, but he’s creative, slippery and shows great vision after the catch. He’ll need to be a bit more dynamic in 2018 to elevate his stock anywhere near top 100 territory, however.
5. OT Prince Tega Wanogho
You won’t find many offensive line prospects that look and move like Wanogho, but the left tackle has yet to put it all together out on the field. In and out of the starting lineup last year, Wanogho had some struggles in pass protection, but seemed to be making strides toward the end of the season. The game is still fairly new to him after just one year of high school football, but Wanogho has a real chance to play himself into a draft pick with a strong season for the Tigers.
Also add to watch list: WR Darius Slayton, WR Will Hastings, WR Eli Stove, FB Chandler Cox, RB Kam Martin, EDGE Marlon Davidson, EDGE Nick Coe, IDL Andrew Williams, LB Deshaun Davis, CB Jamel Dean