The Honeymoon in the Plains is over, and the Gus Malzahn era is at a crossroad. The Auburn Tigers started the season with their quarterback Jeremy Johnson being mentioned as a dark horse Heisman contender but it ended with him being glued to the bench. An offense that was supposed to stretch the field sputtered to an abrupt holt. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong: Johnson lost his confidence, All-American wide out Duke Williams was kicked off the team, and the running attack failed to live up to its top billing.
Unlike last season, there is no pre season hype and very little is expected of the Tigers, which may be just how Malzhan would prefer it. Historically, the Tigers have always thrived as underdog. Although there is uncertainty abound on the offensive side of the ball, Malzhan certainly is the man to fix it. The quarterback reins have all but been handed to John Franklin II who intends to be the next JC transfer to lead the Tigers back to a national title game. Similar to the other JC QB predecessors, Cam Newton and Nick Marshall, he has the athleticism and wheels to thrive in Malzhan’s offense. Running backs Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson, now healthy, had their fare share of growing pains last year, but the experience gained from last year’s struggles may lead to a dynamic encore season. Despite returning an experience offensive line, playmakers must be found to stretch the field and keep defenses honest.
Another Saban-disciple Kevin Steele will attempt to make the Tigers defense respectable. Although the Tigers lack depth in the trenches, Byron Cowart, Montravious Adams, and Carl Lawson anchor a very talented d-line ripe with potential to terrorize. Although there will be new faces at each linebacker spot, the secondary will serve as a reliable last line of defense. Led by super sophomores, Carlton Davis who may be the next great shutdown corner and All-SEC safety Stephen Robert the secondary will be the strength of the Tigers defense.
When the pressure was on, the Tigers folded, now with expectations at an all time low will the Tigers surprise and thrive like they have done in the past? Malzhan learned last season that his job security lives and dies with a quarterback whose a threat to run. Has Malzhan learn from his failures or will he be the next Auburn HC to be given his walking papers? Stay tuned…I know I will. – A. Denmark
Anthony Denmark is a writer for eatdrnkslpsprtz.com. Follow him on Twitter@eatdrkslpsprtz2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. Listen to eatdrnkslpsprtz radio Subscribe to podcast