The shadow of Cam Newton lingers over Auburn football, and it has nothing to do with the controversy that dogged him for the last three months of the season.
Senior Editor Phillip Marshall
The belief seemingly remains strong that it was about Newton and little else last season. Add that to the departure of more than 30 players, and Auburn becomes probably the most lightly regarded defending national champion in recent years.
Based on what has been written and said, there seems to be a very good chance that Auburn won’t have a single player on the preseason All-Southeastern Conference team.
Not Mike Dyer, who broke Bo Jackson’s freshman rushing record and was the offensive MVP in the BCS national championship game.
Not Philip Lutzenkirchen, a fast and strong tight end with a nose for the end zone.
Not offensive tackle Brandon Moseley, who caught the attention of NFL scouts in his first season at Auburn.
Not T’Sharvan Bell, who was as good as any cornerback in the SEC down the stretch of last season.
Not Onterio McCalebb, who averaged more than eight yards per carry.
Not Emory Blake, who made big play after big play at wide receiver.
My friend Chris Low of ESPN.com picked preseason All-SEC West and All-SEC East teams. The only Auburn player he chose was Lutzenkirchen. Georgia's Orson Charles has most often been the choice of prognosticators. In the consensus preseason poll put together by Steve Helwagen of Bucknuts, Auburn was No. 23.
Auburn players are steadfast in their belief that the prognosticators have it all wrong. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Trovon Reed says he believes the 2011 team will be more talented than the 2010 team, just not as experienced.
Maybe sophomore defensive end Nosa Eguae had it right when he told me in an interview after spring practice that the lack of national respect “comes with the shirt.”
Regardless, the 2011 Auburn football players will have ample opportunities to prove themselves with what looks to be one of college football’s more difficult schedules in recent years.
Preseason polls are good for creating discussion. Performance is what matters.