One of a Series
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) _ For two years, Reggie Slack stood on the sidelines while Jeff Burger led Auburn to 19 victories and a Southeastern Conference championship. Now it is Slack’s turn.
″It’s been awhile since I got the attention I’m getting now, and it feels good,″ said Slack, a junior quarterback who will start for the Tigers this season. ″Last year, everything depended on Jeff.″
It appeared Slack might take over the Auburn offense last year after Burger was suspended by a university committee for alleged plagiarism. But a school official overturned the decision, and Burger played.
Another preseason cloud is hanging over the Tigers this year.
The father of highly recruited prep star Charlie Dare has accused Coach Pat Dye of offering to ensure Dare’s academic eligibility if he signed with the Tigers.
Dye has denied the charges, but both the school and SEC are reportedly investigating. Dare, a 305-pound offensive tackle, signed with Alabama.
Burger completed a school-record 66.7 percent of his passes last season, leading the Tigers to a 9-1-2 record, their second SEC title in five years and a No. 7 national ranking.
Slack started one game, completing 11 of 17 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers’ 38-7 victory over Mississippi State. Although he lacks Burger’s experience, Slack has more speed and quickness than his predecessor.
″A defense’s worst nightmare is a quarterback who can run or throw,″ Slack said. ″I believe I can do both.″
″He’s got great speed, he’s got a great arm,″ Dye said. ″He’s got no limitations, but he’s got to go out there and do it on Saturday.″
The Auburn coach is hoping his running backs will take some of the pressure off Slack, but there’s no Bo Jackson or Brent Fullwood in the backfield.
″We don’t have a game-breaker,″ Dye said. ″I like our running backs, but we do not have one who can go all the way.″
The No. 1 tailback is 6-foot-3, 206-pound sophomore Stacy Danley, who led Auburn in rushing with 468 yards last season even though he didn’t become a starter until the seventh game.
Dye’s other major concern is linebacker, anchored the last two years by Kurt Crain and Edward Phillips inside and Aundray Bruce outside. The Atlanta Falcons made Bruce the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.
″You cannot have a good defense unless you’re solid at linebacker,″ Dye said.
Dye sees plenty of talent and depth at wide receiver and along the defensive line and in the kicking game.
Lawyer Tillman, an All-SEC selection, caught 32 passes last season for 600 yards and six touchdowns. Freddy Weygand was the Tigers’ leading receiver in 1984 and 1985, and Alexander Wright averaged nearly 28 yards a catch last season to lead the team.
Tracy Rocker, a finalist for the Lombardi Trophy as the nation’s top defensive lineman, returns for his senior season after missing the final three games last year with a knee injury that required surgery.
Ron Stallworth, who filled in when Rocker was injured, and nose guard Benji Roland, a two-year starter, also are back.
Junior placekicker Win Lyle made 15 of 19 field goal attempts in 1987, and punter Brian Shulman was third in the SEC with a 40.7 average.
Dye said his team has the talent to repeat as SEC champion, but he’s worried about the schedule.
″I’m excited about the season and I’m excited about this football team,″ he said. ″But I think if you look at the schedule, of all the teams that are supposed to be contenders, we have about as tough a schedule as any.″
The media who attended the SEC’s football kickoff picked Auburn to win its second consecutive league title. But the next five teams in the survey - Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana State, Tennessee and Florida - all play the Tigers this season.
Auburn, however, will have the home-field advantage for eight games. The only road contests are at Florida and Louisiana State and the season-ending game against Alabama at Birmingham.
End Adv for Wed PMs