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Spring needs: Gus Malzahn building depth in Year Two

March 17, 2014

Auburn's Jonathon Mincy makes the stop in 2013 (Anthony Hall photo)

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. -- The "fancy stuff," as Gus Malzahn called it, will have to wait. Auburn's spring practice will be about fundamentals and physical play as it was last year. 

Only more so. 

Auburn starts spring practice Tuesday fresh off a Southeastern Conference championship, a 12-2 record and a berth in the BCS title game with plenty of experience, as in 15 starters, depending on your formations. 

Returning is quarterback Nick Marshall which is good, but gone is SEC-leading rusher Tre Mason, which is not as good. Gone are starting defensive linemen Dee Ford and Nosa Eguae, but the Tigers still return plenty there. 

Malzahn stressed playing faster on several occasions, but his spring goals were more basic. 

"The first one is to improve our base offense and defense and really just the fundamentals," he said during a Monday pre-spring practice press conference. 

"This time last year we were talking about getting our edge back. We felt like we did that, that mental and physical and mental toughness that Auburn's known for. We've got to keep that going. 

"We're going to have a very physical spring just like we did last spring. 

"The third goal is to play faster offensively and defensively, really with an emphasis on communication." 

"The last goal is to develop quality depth at each position. Last year we had a lot of unknowns. We know a little bit more about our team right now obviously than we did this time last year, so we're really focused on the depth." 

Auburn was thin in the secondary last season, and now must replace defensive backs Chris Davis, Ryan Smith and Ryan White. That's one reason he's moved Trovon Reed from receiver to cornerback and is officially moving Rudy Ford from running back and cornerback to safety. Top junior college safety Derrick Moncrief will practice Tuesday, too. Robenson Therezie will remain at the Star position. Jonathon Mincy is back at cornerback. Justin Garrett will play the Star and linebacker. 

Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson will fill out the depth chart from there. 

"Coach is going to mix and match some during the spring, with Moncrief and a couple of those other guys," Malzahn said. "With the safety positions, we're going to mix and match a little bit. We'll see where we're at, and probably by the middle of the spring we'll have a better idea moving forward." 

Malzahn said Moncrief will begin at boundary safety. 

"As it goes, there's a lot of unknowns and spring is a good time to try people at different spots so you could see some movements at the safety position," Malzahn said.

"Jonathon's a guy that has a lot of quality big game experience. He's a guy that we'll rely on to really lead that back end, specifically that corner position."

Malzahn said Mincy improved last season. 

"He's more confident and he had a good offseason working out. You can tell a little difference in him. I think he's really ready to step up as a leader back there," Malzahn said. 

Auburn will fill in on the depth chart, and Malzahn said that will be easier in Season Two. 

"We're getting closer, there's no doubt," Malzahn said. "We didn't have a whole lot of what I'd say quality depth last year. We had a lot of moving parts on the back end and we were probably one injury away on the back end from being in a really dire situation so this spring will be really good for us in all areas and we'll have more depth coming our spring we feel like."

Earlier Monday...

Nick Marshall and Auburn's fast offense.

Auburn spring notebook.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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