Aug. 1, 2014
It's back to practice for Gus Malzahn and Auburn
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn inherited a team that was in need of a mental makeover last year. He played Dr. Phil, as he called it, and erased those difficulties of 2012 with plenty of points, plenty of wins, camaraderie and an SEC championship.
Now, in Year Two, he says the expectations are greater and Auburn won't be slipping up on anybody.
"We're in a completely different state," he said as Auburn moves to the start of fall practice Friday.
Malzahn has met with his team and told them of the expectations and the distractions that they didn't face when they started fall practice a year ago. Auburn wasn't ranked in the preseason last year. The Tigers were ranked fifth in the country in the preseason coaches poll on Thursday.
"You've just got to be honest with them on the possible things that can keep us from reaching our goals. They have to aware," he said. "Last year at this time we weren't on anybody's radar. It was easy to be together with something to prove because they were embarrassed the year before."
There was no embarrassment last year. The Tigers went 12-2, won the SEC championship and just missed winning its second national title in four years, losing in the closing seconds to Florida State in the BCS title game.
"This year it's the motivation of being that close in the last game," Malzahn said. "This year we're going to be circled, we're going to have to be that much better, we've got players receiving attention, which we had zero last year. You have to be aware of everything that goes with that.
"It's been a long offseason from the standpoint of having lost the last game, and that big of a game, so I'm real excited, and I know our coaches are and are players are, to get back on the field, and carry on the momentum that we had last year. I'm excited to watch a new team develop. The positives are we have a lot of guys back and our entire staff back, which I think is very critical."
Malzahn, who had been Auburn's offensive coordinator from 2009-2011, was reunited last year with offensive players who remembered his system. That helped.
"But our defense bought in, too. They have a lot of respect for our staff. Our staff has 72 years of SEC experience, more than any other staff, by a lot. So they automatically had respect. Our players and our coaches are extremely close."
The talk of spring practice was of Nick Marshall's improved passing game, something he had a chance to work on after not going through spring practice the year before. That crash course of being an SEC quarterback, something he learned last August, is behind him. He played last season, rushing for 1,000 yards and passing for 2,000 more.
Auburn has to replace SEC rushing king Tre Mason, but has experienced backs in Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, and will give younger backs a look, starting Friday.
Auburn returns 16 starters. Counting kickers and specialists, the Tigers lost 11 starters.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine