By Greg Ostendorf
AUBURN, Ala. – Football is back on The Plains.
The 2018 Auburn Tigers will begin spring practice Thursday, and the goal, as it is every year, is to improve across the field. It’s an important time for the younger, more experienced players to get reps and develop. It’s the first opportunity for the coaching staff to evaluate various position battles. But more than anything, it’s about getting better as a team.
“I’m excited about the competition,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said prior to practice. “I told our coaches I want each player to improve in one area. Especially the older guys, the veteran guys that played and all that – we want to try and get that much better.”
The Tigers are hoping to build off a season in which they won 10 games, beat rivals Georgia and Alabama during the regular season and played in a New Year’s Six Bowl.
Here’s a look at some of the personnel changes and updates, per Malzahn.
- Larry Porter will take over as Auburn’s special teams coordinator this season. Porter, who will continue to coach the H-backs and tight ends, served as the special teams coordinator at North Carolina from 2014-16.
- Running backs’ coach Tim Horton will replace Porter as the team’s recruiting coordinator. He served in the same capacity in 2015-16.
- J.B. Grimes, who was hired last month, will be the new offensive line coach.
- New secondary coach Marcus Woodson, also hired last month, will focus on the cornerbacks, allowing Greg Brown to work exclusively with the safeties.
- Quarterback Jarrett Stidham is out of his sling following shoulder surgery but will be limited in the spring. The junior will be will only be able to do footwork drills only before the Tigers go to break next week, but Malzahn expects him to come back and begin throwing after the break.
- Wide receiver Ryan Davis had a minor procedure done on his shoulder and will be limited in the four practices before break, but the senior is expected to return to full speed when the team returns to practice after break.
- Defensive lineman Daquan Newkirk, an junior-college transfer who arrived in January, tore his Achilles heel on Wedneday.
- “It was a really unfortunate deal,” Malzahn said. “He’s had a very good few weeks of preparation. He will have surgery, and we expect him to be back for fall camp.”
- Wide receiver Noah Igbinoghene will also play some cornerback for Auburn this spring. The plan is to start him out on defense and help build a foundation at cornerback before spring break, but he’s expected to play both ways this spring and possibly beyond.
- “It’s just kind of one of those things that we really feel like he’s got a special talent,” Malzahn said. “We were very impressed with him last year on special teams and just want to make sure he has the best chance to be on the field.”
- Igbinoghene will also return to the track and field team once spring football is over. The freshman competed in the triple jump and long jump at the SEC Indoor Championships over the weekend.
- Defensive end Paul James III is no longer with the team.