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July 17, 2012
Helium Watch: Offense
Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler finds himself in an interesting position headed into his first season on the Plains.
His group lacks experience at some important positions, yet many of those youngsters have been in the system preparing for a chance at full-time work. The young guys were recruited and signed and groomed to be ready this fall. Most of them have developed on schedule.
Loeffler's task won't be easy. His offense represents a significant change from Gus Malzahn's hyper-speed attack. All players must learn new skills and techniques that will challenge them in new ways.
Some will struggle. Some will flourish.
With that in mind, here's a look at three players who will begin the season with meager expectations yet have a chance to make the All-SEC team in December.
OT GREG ROBINSON: Auburn fans have been following the freshman's progress for a year, but he wasn't part of the team's blocking solution last fall.
Robinson said he needed a semester to acclimate to the college lifestyle. So he matriculated with the scout-team offense last fall with an eye on 2012.
The time is now.
Robinson, a redshirt freshman this fall, has a clear shot at the starting job at left tackle. He may weigh 315 pounds, but the Louisiana native has remarkably quick feet. He reminds some observers of Marcus McNeill, who contributed as a freshman in 2002 and later emerged as an All-Pro in the NFL.
Robinson isn't close to a finished product, but he's more advanced than you think.
WR TROVON REED: He's another Louisiana native whom Auburn fans have coveted for years. Still, injuries have undermined Reed during the past two seasons to the point that few outside the program are even paying attention to him.
That will change.
Reed remains one of the Tigers' quickest players. The same skills that make him a useful punt returner (lateral agility and field awareness) also give Reed the look of a potentially excellent slot receiver. He'll have to impress assistant coach Trooper Taylor and Loeffler to get a shot at consistent playing time in September, though that can be accomplished if Reed remains healthy.
One area where Reed must improve is getting upfield. Unusual agility gave him a clear advantage in high school, but the sophomore sometimes gets a little ambitions with juke moves on the college field.
Maneuvering with more purpose after the catch was emphasis for him throughout spring ball. Taylor and Loeffler will be watching closely for clues revealing progress during two-a-days.
RB TRE MASON: Mason burst on the scene last year as a kickoff return specialist - his touchdown against Ole Miss was a highlight - and finished the season as the de facto featured back in the bowl game.
Is he ready to take the next step?
In some ways, Mason is a tweener. He's officially listed at 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, but may or may not have the body to bang with SEC defenses for hours at a time. Some see shades of Ben Tate here. I can't say I disagree, though Tate needed time to acclimate while Mason made substantive contributions just weeks after enrolling.
One thing nobody questions is Mason's speed. Teammates suggest the Florida native is one of the team's three or four fastest players. Mason has a home-run burst that Tate simply didn't have. That always comes in handy.
If Loeffler truly craves a power running game, it's unclear if Mason is the guy to carry that load. Freshman Jovon Robinson is several inches taller and already 15 pounds heavier. He was an outstanding leverage/cutback runner in high school, which may fit better with what the Tigers need.
Either way, Mason's speed and ability to apply that speed in meaningful ways all but assures him a chance to shine this fall.