To say Auburn had a good season in 2013 would be the understatement of the year. It was almost magical, and maybe it really was even magic. Two plays basically changed this season from very good to pretty much incredible.
2013 was simply an astonishing year for Auburn football, one of the most complete turnarounds I have ever seen in the history of college football. To go from 3-9 and just absolutely pathetic and a laughing stock, to winning the SEC and playing for a national championship in one season is almost legendary. All credit is due Gus Malzahn and maybe from a higher power.
The hail Mary pass against Georgia with just over 30 seconds remaining to steal that game, was maybe the play of the year in 2013.
Some have named that play the ‘Prayer at Jordan Hare’. One of the most fantastic finishes ever seen in college football.
Probably just as fantastic and the play that would determine the champion of the West division of the SEC, was the Field Goal return against Alabama in the Iron Bowl. These two fantastic finishes made it seem like Auburn was the team of destiny.
The Auburn Tigers, or War Eagles, luck ran out against FSU in the title game, but it’s hard to complain for an Auburn fan considering where they came from in just one short year. That was an amazing turnaround and Gus Malzahn is an amazing coach. His rise to fame is almost as spectacular as Auburn’s turn around this season.
First time I ever heard the name Gus Malzahn was in 2005 when he was coaching at Springdale, Arkansas. His team won the Arkansas state championship and he had a boatload of recruits led by super QB, Mitch Mustain. Malzahn leveraged that state championship to get an assistant job at the University of Arkansas, as any good coach should do. Everyone needs that big break some time, and that was Malzahn’s big shot.
Malzahn is definitely a star in the coaching ranks and 2014 should be another great season for him
and the Auburn Tigers.
One of the reasons I am picking Auburn at #3 other than Malzahn is the return of Nick Marshall at QB.
Nick Marshall (6-1,210) is an interesting character. He played high school football in the state of Georgia and signed with Georgia coming out of high school because they offered him the chance to play both football and basketball. Marshall got into some trouble in Athens, and transferred to Garden City Community College in Kansas.
From there, he signed with Auburn and became an instant starter and a big star.
In 2013 Marshall threw for nearly 2000 yard and ran for over a 1000. Nick Marshall didn’t participate in Spring Practice last year, but he will this year and can work on his passing. That area of his game could improve a bit.
Marshall will be backed by rising sophomore Jeremy Johnson who is a more ideally sized QB at 6-5, 220. Johnson threw for 422 yards and ran for 47 in his true freshman season. He looks like the QB of the future for Auburn.
Another QB in the mix is Jonathon Wallace (6-2,205) a junior that played very little in 2013, but saw a lot of action in 2012.
Waiting in the wings is 4 star recruit Sean White (6-1,200) out of Fort Lauderdale. But, make no mistake about it, Nick Marshall is the man and should be all SEC this coming season.
As much of an impact that Nick Marshall had on the team, Tre Mason was probably the heart and soul of last year’s Tigers. Breaking Bo Jackson rushing records along the way, Tre ran his way into the Heisman race.
Tre Mason decided to take his talents to the NFL, leaving a huge hole that can’t be filled by any one player in 2014.
However, Corey Grant (5-11,205) and Cameron Artis-Payne (5-11,210) are no slouches. Both of them have great speed and rushed for more than 600 yards apiece. 5 star RB recruit out of Oxford, Alabama Racean or Roc Thomas (5-11,200) should be in the mix from day one. He is one of the top RB’s in the country and should be an instant factor.
Auburn’s running game was tops in the nation in 2013 and should be great again in 2014 even without Mason.
Lead blocker Jay Prosch will be missed. The man was a beast at Fullback.
The receiving corps should be in great shape, returning everybody from last season. Sammie Coates (6-2,200), Ricardo Louis (6-2,215), Marcus Davis (5-9,175) and Quan Bray (5-10,185) are a team strength and that’s before adding outstanding 5 star WR recruit out of Mississippi, D’haquille Williams (6-3,210). Sammie Coates is sensational and should be All SEC this season and potentially All American. Louis was the receiver on the other end of Prayer at Jordan Hare. Williams will turn heads this year. Nick Marshall has plenty of talented options at receiver.
CJ Uzomah (6-4,260) returns at TE. Good blocker, and not used much in the passing game, but he did manage to haul in 11 passes for 3 TDs. Brandon Fulse (6-4,270) returns at TE also and is mostly a blocker.
The Offensive Line was one of the best in college football last season and would have been even better in 2014 if Greg Robinson had not opted for the NFL. Reese Dismukes (6-3,295) is one of the top centers in the country if not the very best and is back as captain of the OL. The rest of the line is good and tough and should be a team strength again in 2014.
The Right tackle position is ably filled by Avery Young (6-6,305).
Next to him at Right Guard is Chad Slade (6-5,315) and Left Guard is Alex Kozan (6-4,295). Patrick Miller (6-7,290) has started 12 games and started the first few games at Right Tackle last season while Young was out. Shon Coleman (6-6,310) was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and missed some time but was back in 2013 and was a back up at Left Tackle to Greg Robinson. Coleman was a 5 star recruit back in 2010.
The Tigers coaching staff could either move Young over to the Left side or play Miller or Coleman there. Greg Robinson should go quickly in the draft and guys that talented are not easy to replace.
Defensively, the Tigers weren’t great last season. They did improve and played well in the championship game.
They do return 6 starters, but there is room for improvement.
Up front, Gabe Wright (6-3,295) and LaDarius Owens (6-2,260) return. At the other two spots, Montravius Adams (6-4,305) and Elijah Daniel (6-2,265) played a year ago. Angelo Blackson (6-4,310) started some in 2012 and should provide quality depth. Ben Bradley (6-1,295) looks pretty good here, too. The front four should be really deep and solid in 2014.
DaVonte Lambert (6-2,275) and Davaroe Lawrence (6-3,275) are JC transfers from Georgia Military College and should help out right away.
This group struggled against the run last season, but should be improved, I believe.
Cassanova McKinzy (6-3,245) was the leader in total tackles last season at LB and returns on the weakside. McKinzy was one of the bright spots on this defense last season.
Kris Frost (6-2,250) returns in the middle. The MLB’s were inconsistent last season but a year of experience under their belts should help Frost out.
Auburn plays a LB called a Star which is a combo LBer and DB. Robenson Therezie (5-9,205) returns after starting every game last season.
Back ups Anthony Swain (6-2,240), JaViere Mitchell (6-2,205) and Kenny Flowers (6-1,240) also return. Starters need to beware of 4 star freshman to be Tre Williams (6-3,230) and the nation’s top JC LB Derrick Moncrief (6-3,225). Both could push for playing time right away.
In the secondary, Jonathon Mincy (5-10,200) returns at one CB and the two safety spots should be manned by Jermaine Whitehead (5-11,200) and hopefully Joshua Holsey (5-11,195) if he recovers from a knee injury.
The other corner should be Jonathon Jones (5-10,180). Mackenro Alexander (5-11,205), Khari Harding (6-0,225), Johnathan Ford (6-0,200), TJ Davis (6-1,195), Brandon King (6-0,215) and Kamryn Melton (5-10,180) are others that could contribute in the defensive backfield this season.
Auburn had a new coaching staff last season and the defense was horrible in 2012. They made huge improvements in a single season and I expect even better this year.
With Marshall returning and a lot of other players coming back from last year’s incredible run, I see this team possibly competing for the national title yet again.
Auburn obviously has a tough schedule being in the SEC West with Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Miss State and Texas A&M. Throw in Georgia and South Carolina and Big 12’s Kansas State and it looks like killer’s row.
They may need a few breaks, but Auburn should be able to compete with anybody unless last season was a complete fluke.