HOOVER, Ala. — The unofficial kickoff to the football season is almost here.
We have plenty of questions to ask Auburn and other SEC coaches and players here at SEC Country as SEC Media Days begin at The Wynfrey Hotel on Monday.
Auburn sends defensive end Carl Lawson, defensive tackle Montravius Adams and receiver Marcus Davis to Hoover to kick off the media frenzy at 1:35 p.m. ET. Lawson and Adams are probably Auburn’s two best players — regardless of position — on the team, and their voices carry weight in the locker room. Davis is a player expected to lead the receivers, but he has plenty of questions to answer about his senior season.
Here are five burning questions we have for the trio heading into Monday afternoon:
What is Carl Lawson capable of achieving with a healthy season?
The potential is there for a big season for Carl Lawson, but injuries have kept the defensive end from performing at 100 percent throughout an entire season since his freshman year in 2013. What does Lawson think he’s capable of achieving this season? Many scouts see him as a potential first-round draft pick next spring, but he needs to record the stellar numbers to get to that point. The fact remains he has recorded a total of five sacks in two seasons (one in 2015), and he may need to double that with 10-plus sacks in 2016 to get into the first-round conversation.
Lawson has the talent, he has the smarts, but will his body hold up following knee and hip injuries in two of the last three years?
Is Auburn’s defense built to support the offense?
If Auburn breaks in a new quarterback, along with the expectation of playing new receivers, there will be hiccups early in the season. The good news? Auburn’s first five games are at home. The bad news? The likes of Clemson and LSU are coming to town.
The chatter of pushing Auburn’s defense to the realm of the top 10 has been a topic of discussion in each of the last two years but the defense has yet to come close to that mark. As mentioned in our preview of Gus Malzahn’s time at SEC Media Days, Malzahn has coached on only one team with a top-50 defense (Arkansas in 2006).
The expectation, however, is that Auburn is in position now more than it has been in the last half decade to be in the top half of the SEC defensively. If that’s the case, the defense will be the story of the first half of the season, and if not, a losing record could be on the horizon. Is the defense ready to prop up the offense as it goes through growing pains this season?
Who will be the top receiver?
Auburn counted on the likes of Sammie Coates, Duke Williams and Ricardo Louis in the last three years to move the offense down the field. All three of those players are long gone, leaving behind a mishmash of talent that has yet to have breakout seasons, including senior Marcus Davis. The senior has a better perspective than anyone to tell us who will step up and be the go-to receiver in the offense this season. Will it be him? Tony Stevens? Or maybe a freshman such as Nate Craig-Myers or Eli Stove have proven themselves enough in summer drills to show the senior the Tigers may need to rely on a newcomer.
Either way, Davis may have an idea, but we will not find out until the Tigers hit the field in September. That’s not a good feeling after entering the last three seasons knowing who would be Auburn’s top guy each time.
How many games will Auburn win this season?
Expectations are low following a 7-6 season, but the feeling inside the locker room is one of potential redemption. Is a championship truly the expectation behind closed doors? Why? Do the Tigers feel disrespected being ranked and picked so low in the SEC? It will be interesting to hear what the players have to say about the experts’ projections.
Which quarterback is taking the leadership role in the locker room?
Jeremy Johnson, Sean White, John Franklin III and Woody Barrett will battle for the starting job in August but word is Johnson has been the most vocal — and friendly — of the competitors when it came to reaching out to incoming freshmen in the spring and summer. What does that mean? Maybe not much, but is shows initiative from the former starter.
Is White doing the same thing? What about Franklin III? Do any of the players have a favorite in the quarterback battle and what are the strengths of each quarterback and what separates one from the other?