RB Kenny Irons

2005 Statistics

Coach: Tommy Tuberville
60-27, 7 years
2005 Record: 9-3
at Arkansas WON 34-17
at Louisiana State LOST 17-20 (OT)
at Kentucky WON 49-27
at Georgia WON 31-30
vs. Wisconsin LOST 10-24

2005 Final Rankings
AP-14, Coaches-14, BCS-9

2006 Outlook

Auburn had a remarkable 2005 season when you consider how much talent they lost (Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, and Jason Campbell the most notable). Coach Tommy Tuberville showed just how solid a program he has built at Auburn by having talented young players like quarterback Brandon Cox and running back Kenny Irons to step in productivity-wise and do an adequate job filling such large shoes.

Tuberville doesn’t have a bevy of first round picks to replace this season, so expect even more with regards to where they left off. Even after an opening loss to Georgia Tech in ‘05, he still banks on the core of a team that came within an overtime loss to LSU of sweeping through the SEC. Once Auburn gets rolling, they seem to play consistently, and without many early-season challenges, the sky is the limit for this year’s squad.

The Tigers will continue to field a dependable defense, but still one that does not force many turnovers or make game-changing plays. That is the only knock on a D that will clamp down and allow next to nothing for 60 full minutes, when needed. Fortunately for Auburn fans, the Tigers’ offense has the potential to develop into one of the best in the nation, and they should do such. Few schools are as dangerous and balanced in both their passing and running games as Auburn will be.

The schedule is favorable, if you can consider a September 16th visit from fellow SEC West contender LSU good fortune. Florida and Georgia also have to travel to Auburn, which plays eight home games in their 12-game schedule. When trips to Starkville, Columbia (S.C.), Oxford and Tuscaloosa are your road games (all in states adjacent/close to Alabama), the table is tilted toward success. That could spell disaster if/when Auburn is finally tested in a big bowl matchup on a neutral field that may not be so close by, huh.

If Auburn defeats LSU in the battle of the Tigers, they could easily go into their season finale at Alabama with BCS championship possibilities riding on the outcome. The proverbial coin flip could more accurately pick between LSU and Auburn to choose the best team in the SEC, and anything less than ten regular season wins will be a major disappointment with so much talent/potential. Keep an eye on the growth and progression of Cox to see how far Auburn will go.

Projected 2006 record: 9-3
QB - 4 DL - 3.5
RB - 4.5 LB - 4
WR - 3.5 DB - 3.5
OL - 4 ..

Passing: Brandon Cox, 306-177-8, 2324 yds., 15 TD

Rushing: Kenny Irons, 256 att., 1293 yds., 13 TD

Receiving: Courtney Taylor, 22 rec., 278 yds., 1 TD

Scoring: John Vaughn, 12-20 FG, 50-50 PAT, 86 pts.

Punting: Kody Bliss, 44 punts, 44.9 avg.

Kicking: John Vaughn, 12-20 FG, 50-50 PAT, 86 pts.

Tackles: Will Herring, 69 tot., 34 solo

Sacks: Marquies Gunn, 12.5 sacks

Interceptions: Jonathan Wilhite, Steve Gandy, Zach Gilbert, Eric Brock, Montavis Pitts, Karibi Dede - 1 each

Kickoff Returns: Brad Lester, 4 ret., 49.0 avg., 1 TD

Punt Returns: Tre Smith, 26 ret., 7.8 avg., 0 TD


DB/LB Will Herring
OFFENSE: Jake Slaughter-FB, Ben Obomanu-WR, Devin Aromashodu-WR, Anthony Mix-WR, Cooper Wallace-TE, Marcus McNeill-OT, Troy Reddick-OT
DEFENSE: T.J. Jackson-NG, Wayne Dickens-DT, Travis Williams-LB, Antarrious Williams-LB, Stanley McClover-DE (NFL)

Brandon Cox’s first career start in the 2005 opener was a rough one. Cox threw four INTs (loss to Georgia Tech), but showed great resiliency by throwing only four more in his final ten games. Cox, of average proportion at 6’2”, 202 pounds and modestly athletic, is a pro-type drop-back passer who has enough agility to avoid oncoming pass rushers and instincts that are just coming to bear. The junior is a very accurate passer (70% completion rate at prep level), but last year’s 57% - along with his 2:1 TD:INT ratio – means he needs to work to get (the team) to the next levels. His progress will dictate just how far the entire Tiger squad progresses. We are confident that with a full season of playing time under his belt, Cox will eventually emerge as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in 2006. His backup, redshirt sophomore Blake Field, played well in his one start for the injured Cox vs. Western Kentucky, but in nowhere near ready to be a full-time quarterback in the SEC. Four-star recruit Neil Caudle is the future, and this quick drop-back guy could easily shake up the depth chart if he progresses as planned. There is a wide range of results possible for how well this unit could potentially produce, but the team’s QB glass is at least half full.

Running Back
Kenny Irons began last season as only part of the running back mix for the Tigers. Irons, a transfer from South Carolina, averaged only 11 rushing attempts during Auburn’s first five games, but WAS the running attack during the Tigers’ final seven. Irons averaged 139 yards on 29 carries during that span and wound up as the SEC’s leading rusher. Expect him to be the “iron man” (sorry, couldn’t resist) the Tigers need from the opening snap this campaign. Fighting for the carries that don’t go to Irons will be senior Tre Smith, junior Carl Stewart and sophomore Brad Lester. The versatile Smith will be in line for the most touches, both as a runner and receiver. Stewart and Lester are both big play threats. Sophomore fullback Mike McLaughlin, a first-year starter, will also be a productive runner if given the opportunity beyond his blocking duties. Tuberville even likes when two guys fight for time through superior productivity (Williams, Brown), so expect the unexpected as Tommy plays his strongest hand weekly. The Auburn running game always sets up the pass, so expect the coaching braintrust to continue to put much effort (ran it 58% in ’05) into making this dimension grind out some offensive worth.

Though Auburn loses their top three wide receivers, they will have a healthy Courtney Taylor and a bevy of unknowns ready to emerge. The seventh leading receiver in school history, Taylor was hampered by an ankle injury in ‘05 and failed to live up to his preseason all-SEC selection. Taylor is a big, fast game-breaking threat. Other receivers who will see plenty of time are Prechae Rodriguez and Lee Guess. Rodriguez, a long, lanky junior who was a JUCO star two years ago, has proven to be a viable deep threat. His height makes him dangerous in the red zone (especially if he bulks up) enough to get separation from defenders. Definitively, this team needs “finishers”. Guess, a 5’10” senior, has only caught seven passes and could lose his ‘slot’ in the rotation if one of the many younger receivers has a strong showing. There have been five four-star recruits (Rivals.com) over the last two classes, so potential at Jordan-Hare is just waiting to break out. There’s not a lot of proven big-play ability in this group beyond Taylor, but that is not a major issue in the Tigers’ version of the West-Coast offense. The Tiger’s ability to stretch the field, therefore, becomes a key for the running game to take shape, and with two new tackles, such a dimension will be a challenge to establish.

Offensive Line
The interior of Auburn’s offensive line will be their (offense’s) strength, with both guards and the center all seniors and returning starters, too. Center Jon Cope and guards Ben Grubbs and Tim Duckworth will anchor a line that will be even better than in 2005 when it allowed only 21 sacks and led the running game to an average of 4.8 yards per attempt (good for second in the SEC). Cope is a bit undersized for an SEC offensive lineman. Grubbs and Duckworth are both converted defensive tackles and use that aggressiveness to punish opponents. King Dunlap, an ex-DE with exceptional jumping ability, will man one of the tackle spots and fellow junior Leon Hart may get a shot at the other tackle spot. Hart is still trying to find his best position, having been plugged in all over the offensive line the last two seasons, and both have experience. Even without proven depth on the outside, Auburn looks like they will “get their feet underneath them” by the end of September when LSU begins the SEC onslaught. There is reason for scrutiny, but not worry here.

Tight End
Senior Cole Bennett has seen plenty of playing time at tight end, but this will be his first season as the starter. Bennett’s size makes him a strong blocker and an important part of Auburn’s running game. The Tigers like to throw to their tight ends on first down as a change of pace, so Bennett’s proven soft hands will see a few passes each week. Sophomore Tommy Trott will see some action in passing situations since he is (currently) the best pass catching tight end on the roster. True frosh and Alexander City-native Mike Goggans has speed beyond the other two, so watch the seam route be something the Tigers can likely exploit.

Another season of experience for quarterback Brandon Cox and running back Kenny Irons will allow them to hit the ground running (or passing as the case may be) and allow them to also be amongst the best in the nation at their positions. Irons could even emerge as a Heisman Trophy candidate if he can handle his 2005 late-season workload over a full 12-game span. Auburn does not have many proven options at receiver beyond Courtney Taylor, and both tackles will be inexperienced, but the talent at the other positions and the leadership of certified guru Al Borges, the Tigers’ offensive coordinator, will be more than enough to compensate and bring any newbies along. In 2005, Cox had only one pass play go over 50 yards, which means teams will dare the Trussville-native to beat them – a true risk. With Cox mildly seasoned and big receivers (many waiting to become the future of the corps), Borges will be able to put in more of his offense and watch his team light up the scoreboard well enough to outscore foes when needed. Utilization of the TEs and going deep early will keep safeties honest and the running game in charge of both the clock and the line of scrimmage – a proven recipe for recent success(es) there in Tigertown.


OG Tim Duckworth


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Brandon Cox-Jr (6-2, 201) Blake Field-So (6-2, 196)
FB Andrew Turman-Jr (6-0, 228) Stephen Gowland-Fr (6-4, 228)
TB Kenny Irons-Sr (5-11, 202) Brad Lester-So (5-11, 190)
Carl Stewart-Jr (6-2, 220)
WR Prechae Rodriguez-Jr (6-4, 200) Lee Guess-Sr (5-10, 177)
WR Courtney Taylor-Sr (6-2, 202) Montez Billings-Fr (6-2, 180)
WR Robert Dunn-So (6-0, 177) Rodgeriqus Smith-So (6-0, 181)
TE Cole Bennett-Sr (6-5, 261) Tommy Trott-Fr (6-5, 247)
OT King Dunlap-Jr (6-8, 313) Oscar Gonzalez-Fr (6-7, 294)
OG Ben Grubbs-Sr (6-3, 301) Tyronne Green-So (6-3, 317)
C Joe Cope-Sr (6-0, 276) Jason Bosley-So (6-4, 279)
OG Tim Duckworth-Sr (6-4, 310) Leon Hart-Jr (6-4, 300)
OT Jonathan Palmer-Sr (6-5, 320) Antwoin Daniels-So (6-5, 286)
K John Vaughn-Sr (6-1, 201) Zach Kutch-So (5-9, 172)



Defensive Line
The Tigers are stacked at defensive end. Junior Quentin Groves’ proven ability to put pressure on while holding down his run-stopping duties means he is plenty strong. At the other end, senior Marquies Gunn’s 16 QB-hurries and 12.5 TFLs mean he offers the same kind of tight contain, no matter the play-call. They may each be a bit undersized for SEC linemen, but together, they play much bigger than their girth suggests. Both projected starters at defensive tackle, juniors Tez Doolittle and Josh Thompson, have seen little game action, but Thompson is versatile enough to play inside or on the edge. Five-star recruit Greg Smith headlines several highly-touted freshmen (some redshirted) who will soon rotate in and bolster AU’s 22nd-ranked run-stuffers as they pick up where they left off. The Tigers can do some mixing and matching up front and give opponents several different looks. It looks like only the best foes will be able to tame this unit.

Auburn will again have a group of very small linebackers. They held up well last season, and there is no reason to think that will change. Senior Karibi Dede will need to step up his playmaking and assume a leadership role with so many departures. Senior Kevin Sears will add some much needed size to the middle of the Tiger defense. Sophomore Chris Evans will step into a starting role and can cover ground. This is not a group that will excel at putting pressure on opposing QBs, but they defend the run well by committee and cover (even WRs) well. There is some depth to call on if needed, but it is largely unproven and also on the smaller side. That said, injuries here could deeply affect the entire D if too many LBs go down.

Defensive Back
The secondary will be even better, and it was already steady and strong. They are led by senior Will Herring, an all-American candidate. Big for a free safety, Herring is constantly in the hunt and can make a tackle from anywhere on the field. And though sophomore Steve Gandy beat out junior Eric Brock for the strong safety spot late in ’05, this competition will continue and only helps in developing better Auburn DBs. The unit will be bolstered by the surprising return of senior (again) cornerback David Irons, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility due to missing two entire seasons because of injuries. Junior cornerbacks Patrick Lee and Jonathan Wilhite, along with sensational senior cover man Montavis Pitts, will compete for the other starting corner position. Both Lee and Wilhite spent time on the first-string and the entire group affords Auburn a solid group across the line. The disciplined Tiger secondary plays the run very well, but they need to double the paltry total of eight interceptions.

The biggest change on this side of the ball for Auburn is their new coordinator, Will Muschamp. Coming from a season in charge of the Miami Dolphins’ defense, Muschamp worked for noted defensive guru Nick Saban for five years, including the national championship season of 2003 at LSU. Muschamp does not expect to make any major scheme changes, nor does it appear (m)any are needed. If anything, the middle looks a bit soft, but the speed Auburn possesses on defense creates mismatches as their toughness compensates for any size issues. This showed up in their consistently strong numbers (19th nationally in total defense and sixth in scoring). Auburn’s secondary, especially the group of safeties, is amongst the best in the nation. Overall, the Tiger defense should be marginally better, but since the LBs do not return a core of starters, they will progress less than if that were also true. It will again place amongst the nation’s leaders in both yardage and points allowed, and has the potential to completely shut even strong SEC offenses down so as to secure any games that turn into defensive struggles. This D will not lose any games for the Tigers.


DE Marquies Gunn


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Marquies Gunn-Sr (6-4, 254) Octavius Balkcom-So (6-4, 247)
NG Josh Thompson-Jr (6-0, 302) Tez Doolittle-Jr (6-3, 298)
DT Chris Browder-Sr (6-5, 260) Sen'Derrick Marks-Fr (6-1, 287)
DE Quentin Groves-Jr (6-3, 250) Antonio Coleman-Fr (6-2, 249)
SLB Will Herring-Sr (6-4, 220) Alonzo Horton-Fr (6-2, 246)
MLB Karibi Dede-Sr (6-0, 216) Kevin Sears-Sr (6-4, 233)
WLB Tray Blackmon-Fr (6-0, 210) Merrill Johnson-So (6-0, 201)
CB David Irons-Sr (6-1, 189) Patrick Lee-Jr (6-0, 203)
CB Jonathan Wilhite-Jr (5-11, 182) Jerraud Powers-Fr (5-9, 184)
SS Eric Brock-Jr (6-1, 213) Steve Gandy-Jr (6-1, 198)
FS Tristan Davis-So (5-10, 204) Aairon Savage-Fr (5-11, 187)
P Kody Bliss-Sr (5-11, 177) Patrick Martyn-So (5-10, 197)




John Vaughn is back for his fourth season, not necessarily great news for the Tigers. The longest field goal of Vaughn’s career is 43 yards, and he was 0-for-6 from outside 40 as he went 12-for-20 in ‘05. He was 12-for-15 overall and 2-2 from outside the 40 in 2004, so his potential keeps him their starter. Senior Matt Clark will again handle kickoffs. His strong leg produced 28 touchbacks and led the SEC in that percentage.

Auburn has no lack of experience in the kicking game, returning senior Kody Bliss here. Bliss led the SEC with an average of 44.8 yards per and has the third highest career average in school history. Only half of his kicks were returned last year, but the ten yard opponents averaged on those returns needs to be reduced. Still, AU coming close to last season’s 11th net punting rank will mean even more (field position) wins.

Return Game
Tre Smith will again be the primary punt returner for the Tigers. He averaged a decent 7.8 yards per return, but did not show much explosiveness (long was only 25 yards). He could be first in line for kickoff return duties also along with Brad Lester—both did spot duty there last year with Lester running one back 93 yards for a touchdown. Base speed is not a problem even with others who wait in the wings, so expect this area to be strong, regardless of who is under the falling rock.