July 29, 2013
AUBURN, Ala. - Every preseason football camp opens with optimism and questions, concerns in some areas and confidence in others
It will be no different when Auburn players take the field Friday for the first preseason camp of the Gus Malzahn era. In the weeks ahead, we'll hear about players who have made dramatic progress since spring. We'll hear about the race to be the starting quarterback, who is moving up or down at linebacker, safety, on the offensive line and elsewhere.
It will all culminate with the season-opener against Washington State on Aug. 31. And as the season unfolds, we'll find that some things that seemed obvious in camp weren't so obvious after all. So it always is.
Join me for a quick trip down memory lane, to the last 10 preseason camps.
Optimism is soaring as preseason camp arrives. The Sporting News and others have picked Auburn to win the national championship. The Tigers are the SEC Media Days pick to win the overall SEC championship. Bobby Petrino has left after one year as offensive coordinator to be head coach at Louisville. Offensive line coach Hugh Nall has been promoted to offensive coordinator. Steve Ensminger has joined the staff as quarterbacks coach and play-caller.
The season: A major disappointment unfolds as Auburn loses to USC and Georgia Tech to open the season and goes 8-5.
Running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown are back for their senior seasons, having declined to leave early for the NFL. Head coach Tommy Tuberville, having survived the "jetgate" saga, is secure. Al Borges has joined the staff as offensive coordinator. Nall remains as offensive line coach. Ensminger coaches tight ends.
The season: You know the story. The Tigers go 13-0 but don't get the opportunity they deserve to play for the national championship.
David Gibbs has replaced Chizik, who left for Texas, as defensive coordinator. Quarterback Brandon Cox and running back Kenny Irons, having waited their turns, are ready to assume starring roles.
The season: It starts on a downer with a loss to Georgia Tech. After that, the only regular-season loss is in overtime at LSU when John Vaughn misses five field goal tries. It ends on a downer with a loss to Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl that leaves the record at 9-3.
Gibbs, never seemingly comfortable at Auburn, has left and has been replaced by fiery Will Muschamp. Wide receiver Courtney Taylor is poised to break Auburn's career record for receptions.
The season: The Tigers struggle to score points but go 11-2, beating Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl.
Freshmen offensive linemen Lee Ziemba, Ryan Pugh, Chaz Ramsey and Kyle Coulahan create a stir. Ziemba, Pugh and Ramsey will become starters in the season's fourth game. Cox seems poised for a big senior year, but freshman Kodi Burns is getting lots of attention.
The season: After a 1-2 start, the Tigers miss making the SEC Championship Game only because of a last-second LSU touchdown in Baton Rouge. Tuberville fires Borges after a 17-10 win over Alabama and hires spread guru Tony Franklin, who installs his offense and unveils it in an overtime victory over Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Franklin's offense has generated great enthusiasm. Muschamp has left for Texas and been replaced by Paul Rhoads. Auburn is the SEC Media Days favorite to win the West. The quarterback race between Burns and Chris Todd is still not decided by the end of camp. The announcement is made that they will alternate by possession by possession in the opener against Louisiana-Monroe.
The season: After a 4-1 start, the Tigers lose six of their last seven. Tuberville fires Franklin after a 14-13 loss at Vanderbilt. Ensminger takes over playcalling duties. Auburn's winning streak over Alabama ends at six games and in ugly fashion, 36-0 in Tuscaloosa. Tuberville resigns.
Chizik has arrived as head coach. When Todd is named starting quarterback, a disappointed Burns stands up in front of his teammates. He tells them he is behind Todd and wants them to get behind him, too. Burns moves to wide receiver.
The season: The Tigers do better than most expect, going 8-5 with a victory over Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. They take eventual national champion Alabama to the wire before giving up the lead with just more than a minute left.
The buzz about quarterback Cam Newton is growing louder, but no one is talking about a national championship. Freshman running back Mike Dyer is showing why he was one of the nation's top recruits. On the offensive and defensive lines, Auburn seniors approach their last season brimming with confidence.
The season: Newton has one of the great seasons in college football history, winning the Heisman Trophy and leading the Tigers to a 14-0 record and the national championship.
With Newton gone, Barrett Trotter and, Clint Moseley battle into camp for the starting quarterback job. Finally, on Aug. 18, Trotter is named the starter. Moseley is so distraught he can barely talk when meeting with reporters. Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker has left for the Tennessee Titans and been replaced by Mike Pelton.
The season: It's a mixed bag. Eight wins is more than most expect after the loss of more than two dozen players from the national championship game. Five lopsided losses don't sit well.
Practice starts after a trying and even tragic summer off the field. Scot Loeffler has replaced Malzahn, who has left to become the head coach at Arkansas State. Brian VanGorder has replaced Ted Roof as defensive coordinator and brought along Willie Martinez, who replaces Phillip Lolley as secondary coach. Kiehl Frazier beats out Moseley, who had become the starter during the 2011 season, to be the starting quarterback.
The season: It is a full-blown disaster. The Tigers go 3-9, resulting in the departure of Chizik and the return of Malzahn as head coach.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: