Auburn came into spring ball looking to recapture its offensive identity under former coordinator Gus Malzahn. He was the man who led Cam Newton and the Tigers to a National Championship averaging over 41 points a game in 2010. Last season the Tigers mustered just 18 points a game ranking 114th in the country. The Defense needs work as well, but maybe a change of leadership will quickly turn the Tigers fortunes. The talent when healthy is there for a nice turnaround if everyone quickly buys into Mazlahn’s way of doing things.
Much of the focus will be on the quarterback battle between Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace. Before you get frustrated he has not named a starter yet it could come soon after the spring game. In 2010 he did not name Cam the starter until he lit it up in the A-Day game. Both guys are trying to develop the skills to run the tempo offense while mixing and matching guys at receiver and running back due to injury. One guy who has made a move at receiver is walk on Melvin Ray who gave up baseball to after three seasons and is from Tallahassee Florida. That would be a welcome addition considering the Tigers are looking for Trovon Reed, Quan Bray and Ricardo Louis. The talent is there to develop it will be interesting to see who emerges in the Game. These three guys combined to catch only 23 balls last season and 1 touchdown. The running back situation should be in good shape with Tre Mason, but it will be interesting to see how many qb runs Malzahn will call in the game. Mason certainly was the offensive MVP of the team last year rushing for over 1,000 yards. They should get some depth at the position with Juco transfer Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant.
Defensively the Tigers will be led up front by end Nosa Eguae who be featured a lot more this year replacing Corey Lemonier. Dee Ford, Ladarius Owens and Craig Sanders will all be guys looking to make some noise off the edge. The inside should be anchored by Angelo Blackson who has been dinged up this spring and Gabe Wright. In my opinion these guys have the potential to take a quick jump to being pretty good with the right coaching. Youth will be served at linebacker but Jake Holland is back for his senior season. Kris Frost is sophomore with great size at 6’2 231 and potential. LaDarius Owens has worked some at outside linebacker. In the secondary Jonathan Jones the sophomore is making a move at corner and has had a nice spring. Jonathan Mincy and Chris Davis are back as well. Trent Fisher has had a solid spring at safety. Robenson Therezie is experimenting at the hybrid “star” position in Ellis Johnson’s new defense.
The offense will move fast and look to score plenty on the defense. This will not be a good indication of the improvement on the defense because of the attacking style. However the new defense has done well in the spring under Ellis Johnson. He is cross training the safeties and corners so that when they face hurry up offensive teams they can get lined up. It’s almost like simplifying by adding a responsibility. I think this was a major problem for Auburn last year and with Ole Miss and Texas A&M both tempo teams this is a good strategy by the Tigers. Offensive line will be a position to watch and that could determine the early success of the offense. The Tigers have some skilled guys who are talented but they need more depth. As for the quarterbacks, keep an eye on which guy gets his offense lined up on time and gets rid of the ball quickly. I wouldn’t worry so much about completions or interception but more about whether one guy or the other has command of the tempo offense.