April 3, 2014
As Auburn moves past the halfway point of spring practice today, there is no real drama. It’s actually been a little bit boring, and that’s a good thing.
Spring practices are most interesting when there is a new coach in charge or there is a quarterback race. At Auburn, both head coach Gus Malzahn and quarterback Nick Marshall are going toward their second season. And no coach or quarterback in the country is more secure in their positions than those two.
Like every school in college football, Auburn has questions. But almost all those questions have multiple good answers. Here are five of those questions with possible answers:
* Who will start at left tackle? The competition between Pat Miller and Shon Coleman has been fierce but remarkably friendly. It’s too close to call.
* Who will replace Tre Mason at running back? Cameron Artis-Payne is the favorite and has run that way. You could win with Corey Grant or Peyton Barber, too.
* Who will start on the defensive line? Gabe Wright is pretty much a lock at one tackle. Same for Carl Lawson at one end. After that, who knows? It doesn’t really matter that much, because probably a dozen or more will play on a regular basis.
* Who will join senior cornerback Jonathon Mincy and senior safety Jermaine Whitehead in the secondary? Jonathan Jones is probably the favorite at cornerback. Junior college transfer Derrick Moncrief has been one of the standouts of the spring at safety. When Joshua Holsey returns for preseason practice, he’s likely to be heard from at one of those spots. He can play either one.
* Who will replace Jay Prosch at fullback? It’s hard to get a good read on that. Brandon Fulse, listed as a tight end, is probably the frontrunner. Don’t count out Ricky Parks, a former big-time signee who was dismissed from the team last year and has returned. He will certainly be heard from. Walk-on Gage Batten is in the mix, too.
Coming off a Southeastern Conference championship and a near-miss in the BCS Championship Game, there is no doubt that the 2014 Tigers will be very good. The question is whether they will again be great.
Hundreds of high school coaches will be in town the next two days for Auburn’s annual coaching clinic. They’ll see a team that made a remarkable recovery from the disaster of 2012 and one that seriously intends to finish the job it left unfinished in the Rose Bowl last season.
New head basketball Bruce Pearl continues to be a big hit with Auburn people. Wednesday, he spent 20 minutes or so in a dunk tank outside of the university’s student center to help raise money for Pi Kappa Phi’s Push American fundraiser.
Watching the Elite Eight games last weekend, I couldn’t help but wonder if any of those players, on the biggest stage of their lives, felt exploited or mistreated? They didn’t look like they did to me.
And seeing the latest publicity stunt, when Northwestern players and their handlers went to Washington D.C. to talk about their union, I couldn’t help but wonder if they believe that, as employees, they should be subject to being fired or laid off like other employees.
My guess about the outcome of all this? Athletes at the highest level will get full cost of attendance scholarships, meaning a stipend will be added to what they get now. That was going to happen anyway. Beyond that, there’ll probably be more athletes on committees that deal with so-called student-athlete welfare. Maybe some of the money from memorabilia sales will go into some kind of trust fund. Beyond that, there won’t be much to it.
Anyone who believes college athletes are going to start negotiating salaries and being paid like professionals is dreaming.
Until next time …
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: