Head coach Gus Malzahn won’t sneak up on anyone this season in the SEC and the Tigers will most likely get everyone’s best shot.
Personally, I believe that Malzahn is one of the best coaches in the country and will soon bring multiple national championships to Auburn. As long as the Tigers can continue to feature a playmaker at quarterback, Auburn should be considered a contender each year in the SEC.
But for now, Malzahn is looking to build off last season and get into the College Football Playoff. Let’s take a look at what he’s concerned about going into his team’s spring game:
1. Who Will Replace Greg Robinson at Left Tackle?
Robinson could be a top-three NFL draft pick and will certainly be missed by Malzahn’s run heavy offense. Robinson was the best run blocker on the team last season and Auburn needs to find someone to step in and fill his shoes. But the Tigers are certainly in good shape at offensive line, returning the rest of the starters from 2013.
The candidates to replace Robinson include Patrick Miller, Avery Young and Robert Leff.
2. Who Will Step Up at Running Back?
Star running back Tre Mason is gone, so now it’s time for someone else to shine. But Malzahn isn’t upset about the idea of running backs by committee this season.
"You would like to have some sort of idea moving forward, but running back is a position we have had success with two and three guys," Malzahn said, according to al.com.
The competition is between Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant, Peyton Barber and five-star recruit Roc Thomas will arrive this summer.
3. What Will Auburn’s Secondary Look Like?
Ryan Smith and Ryan White are gone and Iron Bowl hero Chris Davis has also moved on. Jermaine Whitehead will return at free safety, but there are still several question marks among the secondary. The coaching staff likes junior college transfer Derrick Moncrief at the other safety position but the spot is still up for grabs.
Auburn has moved Trovon Reed to corner for this season and he is still adjusting to the new position after playing wide receiver for three years. But the coaches are excited about him and think he can step in and be a difference maker.
“Sometimes you move a guy over and he won’t tackle, he’ll run into somebody but he doesn’t really want to. But he’s been very aggressive as a tackler and his coverage technique and all that, so it’s just a matter of getting polished and we feel like he’s going to be a huge contributor to us," said defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, according to 247sports.
4. Who Will Complement Sammie Coates at Wide Receiver?
Coates led the team in every receiving category in 2013 and was the obvious go-to guy for Auburn. The coaches are hoping that the top-ranked junior college prospect D’haquille Williams can step into the starting role. C.J. Uzomah, Marcus Davis and Ricardo Louis are also candidates to be the other featured receiver.
5. How Much Has Nick Marshall Improved?
This subject may be the key to Auburn’s 2014 season. Malzahn has never coached the same starting quarterback in back-to-back years at the college level, but now he has his chance to really develop Marshall.
Marshall’s accuracy was questioned last year after only completing 59 percent of his throws, but that didn’t stop him from leading the fast-paced offense. Malzahn wants him to focus on his fundamentals this off-season and that should ultimately improve his accuracy. Look for Marshall to throw more in 2014.