By Jeff Shearer
HOOVER, Ala. - Continuing his positive outlook on the verge of his fifth season as Auburn's head coach, Gus Malzahn shared why he's so optimistic about the 2017 Tigers Thursday at SEC Media Days.
"The main thing is how excited I am about this team," Malzahn said. "We have a lot of experience back, more returning starters than we've had the last 12 years at Auburn.
"I feel like we've got quality depth. We've got really good leadership. Probably the biggest thing to me is we've got a hungry team. They've got something to prove."
Malzahn compared Auburn's mindset to the Tigers most recent SEC Championship team.
"The last time I felt this way was 2013," he said.
"That team went through a storm the year before [in 2012]. They were embarrassed. They had that edge to them," Malzahn said. "We were close last year. We were playing as well as anybody for six weeks before some impact injuries. These guys have that chip on their shoulder about rebounding."
Reporting day is July 30, with practice scheduled to start the next day. Auburn will seek to name a starting quarterback as soon as possible, said Malzahn, who along with offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey will choose between Sean White, Jarrett Stidham and Malik Willis.
"We really have some very talented young guys who we need to put in situations where we can evaluate them and get them prepared," he said.
Auburn opens the season at home Sept. 2 against Georgia Southern before traveling to Clemson in week two.
"Our mindset is Georgia Southern," Malzahn said. "But from a fan standpoint, the Clemson game is the one everybody is looking forward to. Obviously, that's going to be a huge game for us. The defending national champions on their home turf. It will be a really good measuring stick of where this 2017 team is."
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey named Malzahn to a committee of coaches and athletics directors who will address recruiting issues.
"The big thing for me is giving the high school coaches a voice," Malzahn said. "This really affects high schools and their players, especially when you're talking spring official visits that could really disrupt spring sports, and then when you talk the early signing period that could disrupt teams late in the playoffs. Being a former high school coach, I just want to make sure the high school coaches have a voice."
As Malzahn left the main room to make the rounds for nine more sessions of TV, radio and network interviews, he ended the way he began, bullish on the 2017 Tigers.
"They have high expectations," Malzahn said. "Their goal is to win the SEC Championship."
— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) July 13, 2017
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer