July 29, 2014
Corey Grant ready to show off his stuff when Auburn begins fall practice Friday
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- The new head coach took Auburn to the SEC championship and a spot in the national championship game last fall. This fall, there's a lot more familiarity for Gus Malzahn, who will open his second Auburn fall practice schedule Friday afternoon with a preseason fact sheet that says the Tigers are returning 16 starters.
The Tigers, who announced Tuesday the first portion of their fall schedule, went 12-2 last season and came within 13 seconds of winning the national title. Malzahn's second season officially begins against Arkansas on Aug. 30 in Jordan-Hare Stadium, though the foundation has been laid throughout the offseason.
"Last year I think we were picked toward the bottom of the league, but we were able to win the league," Malzahn said.
Now? "I think we've got our program turned around."
Auburn will practice seven straight days before taking its first break. Some notable fall practice milestones: The first day in pads will be the fifth practice day, on Aug. 5. The first two-a-day practice is Aug. 6. Another two-a-day is Aug. 9.
Auburn's first off day will be Aug. 8. All practices are closed to the public.
Officially, Auburn returns nine starters on an offense that led the nation in rushing last season; and six starters on a defense that returns five of the top seven tacklers from last year.
Quarterback Nick Marshall returns after a season in which he passed for 2,000 yards and ran for a 1,000 more. Most of the offensive line will return, too, anchored by center Reese Dismukes. Also back isl big-play recevier Sammie Coates and fellow receiver Quan Bray and tight end C.J. Uzomah. Junior college transfer Duke Williams, a player with promise, joins them. The Tigers have to replace SEC rushing leader Tre Mason. Corey Grant, Cameron Artis-Payne and newcomer Roc Thomas will be first in line to do that.
Defensive end Dee Ford and Iron Bowl hero Chris Davis have to be replaced on defense. Defensive lineman Gabe Wright has won preseason accolades, suggesting he can fill the void. The Tigers have to replace punter Steven Clark and place-kicker Cody Parkey, too.
Auburn is returning 53 lettermen, an even 26-26 split on offense and defense plus deep snapper Forrest Hill. Nineteen lettermen are gone.
Fan Day is Aug. 10 in Auburn Arena.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: