1. Sammie Coates (WR) – After a great two seasons where he caught 72 passes for 1,619 yards and 11 touchdowns, Coates, who graduated with his degree this month, has decided to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL draft. To impress the NFL scouts, Coates must work on his Achilles heel: dropping the ball. If there is one knock against him, it is that he drops too many easy passes. Sure, he can make amazing catches like the first touchdown against LSU in October, but to make it as a high draft pick, he has to show some sort of consistency. Coates his coming off the best game of his career after recording five catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama in the Iron Bowl. If he does it again, I expect more attention paid to him leading up to the draft.
2. Every returning defensive player – There is a new sheriff in town, and his name is Will Muschamp. If I were a defensive player, I would be going all-out in practices leading up to the game to impress the new defensive coordinator. The missed tackles and dumb penalties that were a problem all season will not get you on Muschamp’s good side going into next year. Watch for the Tigers defense to be flying around against the Badgers in their battle to stop the great Melvin Gordon.
3. Roc Thomas – The question is this: will Thomas become the go-to guy for next year? After a solid freshman season, Thomas is expected to fill the gap left behind by Cameron Artis-Payne. (Personal note: my friend Keith, a lifelong Auburn fan and alumni, STILL can’t get his name in the correct order.) Thomas has the potential to be just as good or better than Tre Mason and excellent running backs of Auburn’s past. He needs to prove that he is the workhouse that Coach Gus Malzahn can depend on.