By David Grimes Thursday, August 23 2012 00:00
There's a new sheriff in town and he has laid down the law on how the Auburn football program will be run under his administration. The differences can already be seen in everyday practices, as the Eagles look to break their 29-game losing streak under new head coach Jack Turner this season.
Turner, the former Pulaski County head football coach, who was an assistant coach last season at Franklin County High School, replaces Phil Collett, who stepped down last season after Auburn went 0-10 for the second consecutive season.
Turner, who tallied a 42-33 record in his seven years as the Cougars boss takes over an Auburn program that has gone 8-42 mark in the last five seasons. The Eagles last win came on Aug. 28, 2009 when they defeated visiting Craig County 16-13 in their season-opener.
The program is off in the right direction under Turner, as this year’s roster includes 42 players, of those, only four are seniors. Last year, the Eagles roster only contained 24 players and by seasons end, there were less than 20 kids left and there was even talk that the Eagles may not even be able to complete the season because of injuries. However, that’s not the case thus far, as Turner told us this past week that they were short of jersey’s and were trying to secure more.
Returning for the Eagles are seniors Tyler Wheeler (FB/LB), Jacob Howard (TE/DL) and Blake Spangler (WR/DB), along with juniors Caleb Palmer (WR/DB), Michael Hinkley (OL/DL), Derek McCroskey (OL/DL), Jeremy Cannaday (OL/DL), Kevin Martin (OL/DL) Brandon Akers (OL/LB), Caleb Harless (OL/DL), Nick Parcell (RB/DB), Gabe Spencer (QB/DB), Luke Wilson (RB/LB), Phillip Wills (RB/DB) and Gavin Haug (WR/DB).
Offensively, Auburn who averaged 9.8 points per game last season will run a wing-T, along with a few wrinkles.
“We will be a run team with motion,” said Turner, when asked about the offensive outlook and strengths.
A lot of our positions are still up for grabs as we look for the best fit on offense and defense,” Turner noted.
Spencer, who started at quarterback last season, will once again be calling the signals. He completed 71 of190 passes for 984 yards and eight touchdowns. He was also intercepted 22 times.
Probable starters in the backfield are Parcell (62 carries for 153 yards) and Justin Craft.
Parcell (21 catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns) and junior Phillip Wills have the nod at wingback.
Sophomore Seth Cox will handle the punting chores, while senior Vlodomir Phillips, who plays soccer, will now move over to other game of football and will take care of the kicking duties.
“We want to be a physical team,” Turner noted.
What does Auburn need to improve on offensively? “Ball security,” added Turner.
With the lack of returning players with game experience, the defensive unit could be a big question mark this fall.
Defensively, “We must stop the run and we can’t give up the big plays,” noted Turner. “Plus, no missed tackles.” The Eagles allowed 50 ½ points per game in 2011.
The Eagles top lineman, both offensively and defensively, is third-year starter Hinkley (4.5 sacks), along with Spencer (51 defensive tackles).
Key newcomers will be Wills and sophomore Tyler Irby at fullback and linebacker.
Despite, the higher numbers, several of the returning players will once again be called on to play both sides of the ball, as coach Turner continues to learn what certain players can do and can’t do.
“It’s still a learning process, as we look to build this team, not only for this season, but also for the years to come.” Judging by the turnout and the player’s willingness to learn, he’s heading in the right direction.
In last Friday night’s Benefit Game, in which Auburn won 13-7, the Eagles had 175 yards on offense, all running, while giving up 78 yards.
Every game will be Auburn’s top game of the season.
When asked what Auburn fans will see from the Eagles in 2012, Turner replied, “We will improve day to day and week to week. We must be patient.”
The Eagles open their season Friday night in New Castle when they take on Craig County. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
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