By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn's coaches will spend the first two weeks of preseason camp evaluating personnel before deciding on starters, Gus Malzahn said after Monday's first fall practice.
"This first two weeks, offense, there's going to be some great competition," Malzahn said. "Things will start to settle in after that two-week mark."
"The simplest answer for that is who gives you the best chance of winning," said Malzahn, who along with offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey will choose a starter. "There are a lot of things that go with that. Chip's got a good plan. The guys are competing at a high level. It's good competition. There's nothing better than competition. It just brings out the best in everybody.
"Quality depth has a chance to be one of our strengths," said Malzahn. "It's just a matter of who the starters are going to be, because [Chip and I] are really big on getting the continuity and everything that goes with that. Hopefully, we can have that lined out after two weeks."
Auburn's newcomers observed the veterans during the first part of practice before getting their chance to impress the coaches.
"There are quite a few of those guys we're going to need to help us on Saturdays," Malzahn said. "It gave us a chance as a coaching staff to really slow down and work with those guys."
While the quarterback competition generates the majority of headlines, Malzahn stressed the importance of being strong on the offensive and defensive lines.
"How you win in this league is up front," Malzahn said. "At least that's how we win at Auburn."
"We have a lot of talent at a lot of different positions," said senior defensive tackle Dontavius Russell. "They're stepping out but we have players stepping in who are just as capable."
Auburn's seniors are confident the Tigers can contend for an SEC Championship.
"We have a lot of talent, a lot of discipline, a lot of leaders," said senior linebacker Tre' Williams. "We have a lot of experience coming back, and we have a lot of talented freshmen. All we have to do is learn from each other, build off each other, and we'll be fine."
Malzahn announced several roster adjustments: Jason Smith and Jaylen McGriff have moved from receiver to safety, signee Carlito Gonzalez will attend junior college with the hope of joining Auburn in the future, defensive back Mike Sherwood plans to play elsewhere as a graduate transfer and Tucker Brown is moving from offensive line to tight end.
"I thought it was a good first day," Malzahn said. "Our focus was on our older guys the first part of practice. I was looking for effort, attitude, body language, just flying around. I thought for the most part our veteran guys did that."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer