(EETV) - July is nearing its end, which means August football camp is just around the corner. Auburn is now 34 days away from their home opener against Georgia Southern.
The 2017 Auburn Football team is expected to do great things, and expectations are high going into the season.
After finishing last season with an 8-5 record and a Sugar Bowl appearance, the Tigers have had several roster and coaching changes that could mean big things for the team.
The 2016 Tigers defense made major improvements last season, and you can expect the Tigers defense to continue to improve this season under Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele.
The Tigers lost defensive standouts Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson to the NFL who played key roles in the pass rush. However, the Tigers retained six of their top seven tacklers on defense.
Safety Tray Matthews, returning for the 2017 season, was the teams leading tackler last season with 76 stops and is expected to exceed those numbers this season.
Another defensive player to keep an eye on is defensive lineman Dontavius Russell. Russell, a redshirt junior, started every game in 2016 and is projected to start the 2017 season as well. Playing alongside Adams and Lawson last season, Russell was a key component to the Auburn pass rush and I expect him to be the major player in the pass rush this season.
Now for the highly promising Auburn offense. With Rhett Lashlee out, Chip Lindsey is in as the offensive coordinator. At the end of the 2016 season, Auburn ranked sixth in the nation in rushing offense but was only ranked 112th in pass offense.
I expect a more balanced offensive scheme this season under Lindsey with a new starting quarterback for the Tigers.
Jarrett Stidham seems to be the most promising recruit Auburn has had since Cam Newton. Stidham, a five-star transfer, is the nation’s top rated dual-threat quarterback. While at Baylor in 2015, Stidham was 75-109 passing for 1,265 yards and a whopping 12 touchdowns as a true freshman.
Stidham looks to be the favorite to win the starting quarterback position over last year’s starter Sean White.
With Stidham’s arm, it helps that he has four of the top five receivers back for Auburn along with the addition to ESPN No.1 ranked JUCO tight end transfer, Sal Cannella.
The weapons Auburn has added on offense to help its passing game will most likely open up their run game even more than last season.
The Tigers have their top two running backs, Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson, returning this season. Pettway, a key player last season and one I believe to be a top player to watch in college football this season, led the SEC in 2016 in rushing yards. Pettway ranks 13th in Auburn history for most rushing yards, 1,224, in a season. I expect Pettway to exceed his numbers from last year thanks to the potential potency of the Tigers passing game.