1. What was the general feeling surrounding Auburn coming out of this year's spring practice?
I think there's a lot of optimism coming out of Auburn this Spring. There are some worries on the defense with replacing Adams and Lawson and the Safety position is thin, but there's a lot of talent ready to step up on the defensive line. In terms of the offense, I think everyone is extremely excited. We know we have strong running backs. We know we have a lot of very talented young receivers. The missing piece is a healthy QB. Sean White can be that, but Jarrett Stidham is an even better upgrade. A-Day showed his arm strength and finesse with the ball and the WRs looked great, too. That's even with Kyle Davis not participating in Spring. The only worry on offense — and it is a big one — is who will play where on the OL and how they'll perform.
2. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham comes in with a big-time reputation. Did he hit the ground running this spring?
Absolutely, he did. By all accounts he has stepped up in a huge way during practice. He knows he's still got a quarterback competition this Fall (even if it is likely just to give Sean White a fair chance), so he never let up. His performance during A-Day has Auburn fans salivating. We all know it was just the Spring Game, but the touch on the deep balls, knowing when to rocket the ball through gaps and when to put a bit more air under it, and his ability to scramble are all things that will translate to the real thing.
3. How's the defense looking after losing a couple of very good players out of the front seven?
I think the defense is looking pretty good. Losing Lawson and Adams hurts, but Derrick Brown is ready to step into a bigger role. Byron Cowart will be very interesting to watch on the interior. We've also got true sophomore Marlon Davidson on one end and probably Jeff Holland and/or Paul James III on the other as pass rushers. I'm confident that Rodney Garner has planned for this in his recruiting and development and will have players ready to step up with more playing time.
4. Any major causes for concern right now?
Offensive line is a huge concern for me. We don't have a clue what it's going to look like this Fall. Any number of players could move around to different spots. It's going to be a tall order for Herb Hand to get things settled into the best 5 before the Clemson game. I'm not as concerned about Georgia Southern's defensive line - and I say that as a life long Georgia Southern fan, so I'm not just dismissing them off hand; I know what they have and what they lost - but we've got to have the line solidified before heading to Clemson in Week 2.
5. What do you think are reasonable expectations for Auburn in 2017?
Competing for the SEC Championship as long as Stidham stays healthy. Even if he doesn't, I think Sean White is perfectly capable of getting us there if he and everyone else stay healthy, too. The offense is stacked and I really look forward to what Chip Lindsey brings to the table in terms of RPOs and a more advanced passing game. Auburn was running all over folks during the mid-year winning streak with little passing game. I can't wait to see what they can do when teams actually have to respect the deep ball and intermediate passing game (of which we've had none under Gus). I'm not saying Auburn will win the SEC this year, but I think competing for it is perfectly reasonable. Especially since that's what we were doing last year before Sean White got hurt in the Ole Miss game and played against UGA broken and things went downhill from there.