Cameron Newton certainly didn't transfer to Auburn in hopes of becoming someone's backup.
And after a stellar spring, where he wowed his teammates, earned his coaches' trust and largely worked with the first-team offense, Newton didn't do anything to hurt his stock as the front-runner for Auburn's open quarterback job.
Yet Newton, along with Neil Caudle, Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley, will have to wait until August, when the competition resumes at the start of fall camp.
"I think there's some great competition going on in the position and thank God we don't have to name (a starter) tomorrow," coach Gene Chizik said after the Tigers' final spring practice. "We need more time."
Newton, who spent his first two years at Florida before transferring to Blinn (Texas) Community College, came into the competition considered the front-runner because of his status as the nation's top junior-college player. Throughout the spring, his teammates raved about his combination of speed and strength, along with an arm that will bring back the deep ball to Auburn's offense, wide receiver Darvin Adams said.
Newton, who also emerged as one of the team's top spokesmen during the spring, has remained humble throughout the process and has shown no signs of frustration while his coaches continue to mull the decision.
"It wasn't 'I'm going to Auburn because they're going to give me the starting quarterback job.' No. It's still unproven," Newton said. "Every quarterback brings something to the table, and everyone is talented."
This isn't something new for Chizik and his staff. The Tigers waited until the ninth day of fall practice to name Chris Todd, who did not participate during the spring, as the team's starter.
It's not exactly where offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn wanted to be at the end of the spring, but it's something both he and Chizik have accepted.
"I think any time you can name a starter as early as possible that will help with your timing and all that, but it's like last year," Malzahn said. "Until we're 110 percent for sure, we'll be patient."NOTES, QUOTES
--Tailback Onterio McCalebb came to Auburn last spring generously listed at 165 pounds. Now, he's a genuine 175 pounds and hoping to be at 185 by August.
His shoulders are bigger and so are his forearms, but he said his legs are where he feels heaviest.
"I walk heavy now," McCalebb said. "I can feel it in my feet. They weigh me down."
When healthy, McCalebb thrived as a change-of-pace running back during his freshman year, picking up 565 rushing yards and four touchdowns. This spring, though, McCalebb was focused on making a run at Auburn's open spot at tailback, where he hopes to receive the carries and pounding of an every-down back.
That job will likely go to senior Mario Fannin or incoming freshman Michael Dyer, but Auburn's coaches definitely have more trust in the sophomore.
--Defensive coordinator Ted Roof doesn't want 2010 to be like 2009 when it comes to all the depth-related issues that wreaked havoc on his linebacking corps.
That's why Roof spent a good part of the spring cross-training his linebackers so they're all capable of playing at any of the three positions in times of need.
"Part of what we're trying to build in our system is interchangeable parts," Roof said. "So the absolute next best player goes on the field at that position, not the next best left linebacker or strong linebacker goes on the field."
--Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen didn't play a traditional tight end role in high school and Auburn really doesn't want him to be one in 2010, but the rising sophomore focused heavily on the basics during the spring.
Lutzenkirchen's speediness and shiftiness in open space make him a tricky matchup for opposing linebackers and safeties. But Auburn needs him to be more than that in 2010, which has forced the affable sophomore to hone his focus on being just as dangerous when he pops out of a three-point stance.
"I didn't play a lot last year because I wasn't comfortable playing on the ground," Lutzenkirchen said. "All last year and all this spring we've been working with my hand on the ground a whole lot more, and I feel a lot more comfortable with that. I feel pretty even with both of them."
S Ikeem Means -- Yes, he's a walk-on and yes, it's only the spring, but don't count out Means as a surprise first-teamer when Auburn opens the season against Arkansas State. Safeties coach Tommy Thigpen and his teammates have raved about Means, who played exclusively on special teams in 2009. Auburn's depth chart is cloudy in the secondary because of a number of injuries, making the time right for a great story like Means'.
OT Brandon Mosley -- The junior-college transfer appeared to get the best of fellow junior-college transfer Roszell Gayden for the opening at right tackle on Auburn's senior-heavy offensive line. Mosley was expected to have a bit of a learning curve because he played tight end in JUCO, but coaches and teammates both raved about Mosley's preparedness.
WR Quindarius Carr -- Carr caught just two passes in 2009, but had a solid spring and capped it with a big performance in Auburn's A-Day game. Carr was named the offensive MVP after hauling in four passes for 152 yards and a touchdown. Carr has also emerged as a front-runner to return to punts, though that battle will definitely carry into August.
DE Michael Goggans -- Goggans lost his starting job to Antoine Carter midway through last season, and was considered an afterthought heading into 2010 with young players like Nosa Eguae and Dee Ford waiting in the wings. Goggans, though, had a strong spring, according to coaches, and appears likely to start the season opposite Carter on Auburn's defensive line.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's earned a lot of people's respect. He didn't come in too arrogant or anything. He just came in, got to know everyone and that's crucial at that position -- get to know everyone and just get comfortable with everyone. That's what he did. I bet he earned a lot of people's respect just by doing that." -- Llinebacker Craig Stevens, on new quarterback Cameron NewtonSTRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: With Gene Chizik and his staff now in year two, there's a bigger sense of comfort among Auburn fans and, in turn, the same old expectations have returned for 2010. The Tigers should have the same, potent offense that it boasted in 2009, but also the same depth-plagued defense, which should make for some exciting, yet nail-biting, football from start to finish. A favorable schedule gives Auburn most of its toughest games, minus Alabama, at home. Anything less than nine wins, which would mark a one-victory improvement from 2009, will be considered a major disappointment.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Assuming Cameron Newton wins the job, offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn will have a dangerously mobile quarterback at his disposal for the first time in his college coaching career. Newton, though, considers himself to be just as dangerous in the pocket, where he hopes to find returning wide receivers Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery deep down the field. The Tigers lose NFL-bound Ben Tate but will finally get to see what Mario Fannin can do as an every-down back. The biggest strength will be the offensive line, where Auburn returns four seniors, all of whom have at least a full year of experience as starters.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Tigers gave up a program-worst 358 points in 2009 and had a tough time stopping anybody, largely because of significant depth issues that never went away. Auburn will have a few more bodies in 2010, but could still be in for a rough season as question marks abound in the secondary, where the Tigers have three returning players -- Mike McNeil, Zac Etheridge and Aairon Savage -- all returning from major injuries. How strong Auburn's freshman defenders can play will likely gauge just how effective this unit will be.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Wes Byrum should be one of the best in the SEC, Auburn's top kick returner Demond Washington has the potential to be a game-breaker and Auburn's kick coverage should be bolstered by an increase in bodies, but the main focus will be on the Tigers' punt returners. Auburn used five in 2009, all of whom fumbled or muffed a punt at some point. Special teams coordinator Jay Boulware looked at the same players for the job during the spring and will likely tap into the freshman class during the fall.
QB Cameron Newton -- The nation's top-rated junior college prospect, Newton came to Auburn to start, bottom line. The ex-Florida Gator, who left the team after allegedly stealing a laptop computer, has just two years with the Tigers, so it isn't likely the Auburn coaches will try to break him slowly. It'd be a shock if Newton isn't Auburn's starter for the season opener.
OT Roszell Gayden -- He's certainly big enough at 6-foot-6 and 321 pounds to make an immediate impact, and that's what Auburn is hoping the junior college transfer can do at right tackle, the lone open spot on the Tigers' offensive line. Gene Chizik said signing a game-ready, junior college tackle was a top priority in the offseason and the Tigers appeared to have received just that in Gayden.
LB Jessel Curry -- He's one of the lowest touted prospects in Auburn's banner recruiting class, but he is already on campus and has a legitimate shot of receiving real playing time this season. Auburn's linebacking corps is still razor thin on depth, and Curry, a Ted Roof favorite, will have the chance to make a strong first impression. Auburn hopes to play more than three linebackers this season, which should give an opportunity for Curry to thrive in a backup role.
OT Brandon Mosley -- Mosley, who played tight end in junior college, is the dark horse to take over at right tackle. He's bulked up significantly to 294 pounds, making him certainly big enough to give Roszell Gayden a run.
--Gene Chizik said April 19 he planned to touch base with quarterback Tyrik Rollison, whose status with the team has been up in the air since Rollison announced on his Facebook page that he planned to transfer in February. Rollison, who was reportedly set to transfer to Sam Houston State, was not listed on Auburn's spring roster and did not participate in any spring practices.
--Five sparsely used players who were considered apart of Auburn's roster as of National Signing Day are no longer with the team. Fullback John Douglas and tight end Bailey Woods have both transferred to other schools. Kickoff specialist Morgan Hull and offensive lineman Darrell Roseman have both graduated and "moved on" from Auburn, Chizik said. Walk-on Jason King also left the team.
--Linebacker/safety Daren Bates did not face any contact during the spring because of offseason shoulder surgery. He is expected to be ready for two-a-days in August.
--Auburn's offensive line was plagued by injuries during the spring, as starting guard Mike Berry (knee), senior Bart Eddins (knee) and Jorrell Bostrom (arm) all sat out the bulk of the 15 practices. All are expected to be healthy enough in August.
--WR Philip Pierre-Louis was having a strong spring before it was ended abruptly by a serious knee injury. Coaches have yet to set a timeline for Pierre-Louis' return. Pierre-Louis missed all of 2008 after tearing his ACL on the season's opening kickoff.
Previous Report: 04/11/2010