GENE CHIZIK sees both promise and peril on his roster. "About 70 percent of our players will be either freshmen or sophomores," he says. "We're building our program in the right direction, but we're going to need our guys to develop quickly." He'll be counting on sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who in limited action last season struggled in the passing game (he completed five of 12 passes for 34 yards and threw two interceptions) but flourished in the Wildcat. (He rushed for 327 yards on 76 carries.) New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has scrapped the spread in favor of a traditional two-back set, which means Frazier will need to make plays with his arm for Auburn to have a puncher's chance against the SEC's heavyweights.
AVERY YOUNG A 6'6", 292-pound tackle from Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) High, Young surprised plenty of folks when he signed with the Tigers. A five-star recruit according to Scout.com, he'll see playing time early this season and should be a long-term starter at left tackle.
PHILIP LUTZENKIRCHEN The player with the most letters in his first and last name (19) in Auburn history already holds the school record for most career touchdown catches by a tight end (14) and the single-season record for most TD receptions (seven). He'll be a middle-of-the-field security blanket for Frazier.
THE TIGERS are still a year away—at least—from returning to the goodness of 2010. The talent gap has closed enough, however, that they could pull off an upset or two, especially if Frazier builds on a strong spring ("Kiehl's accuracy was incredible," says senior wide receiver Emory Blake) and the defense (more than 400 yards a game allowed in '11) shows the improvement you'd expect from a group that has nine returning starters. The D will be more blitz happy under new coordinator Brian VanGorder, who spent the last four seasons as the Atlanta Falcons' defensive coordinator.