Tigers hit practice field with focus on finishing the job



Gus Malzahn talks to his players after the first day of spring practice Tuesday (Lauren Barnard photo)

By Phillip Marshall
AuburnTigers.com

AUBURN, Ala. - On a cool and damp Tuesday morning, Auburn's football team began the long climb toward another season and a chance to finish the job it couldn't quite finish last season.

Most of the players who fell 13 seconds short of the national championship were back on the field for the first day of spring practice. They'll all proudly wear Southeastern Conference championship rings. But the painful memory of Jan. 6 and a 31-27 loss to Florida State in the BCS Championship Game is with them every day.

Senior cornerback Jonathon Mincy was on the field when Florida State cut Auburn's heart out with a 2-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left on the Rose Bowl clock. He remembered that on Tuesday.

"Going to the big show and not really getting the task done is going to stay with me until we get back to that point and hopefully win the whole thing," Mincy said.

Getting back and getting it done was on the minds of all the players who were there. And the belief was strong that they can get back and can finish the job.

"We can be as good as we were last year or even better," senior offensive guard Chad Slade said. "We have very, very high expectations for this year's team."

Second-year head coach Gus Malzahn wouldn't have it any other way. He was stung as much as his players were stung, but he was proud, too, of a team that made Auburn big in the college football world again.

"We are proud of how far they came," Malzahn said. "That's in the past. This is a new team. The seniors have moved on, and we've got to earn it. All we are talking about is earning the right to get back to a game like that. We'll be working real hard every day to do that."

Senior safety Jermaine Whitehead said that's just what Auburn players have in mind. The loss to Florida State, he said, only makes them hungrier.

"Most definitely," Whitehead said. "You get to hear about it a lot. You are always seeing it. We know we are the hunted this year. We just want to make a statement and live up to expectations."

Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: