Aug 14, 2013
AUBURN, Ala. - It's been just more than eight months since Gus Malzahn was named Auburn's head football coach. He vowed on Dec. 4 to make Auburn a championship program again. And the work began that night.
There was a staff to be hired and players to be recruited. There was a scarred and dispirited team to be made whole again. There were speeches to make and hands to shake.
Spring practice came and went, followed by more recruiting and more speeches. Finally, it was August and time for preseason camp. It was then that the famous Malzahn focus showed up. When it's time to get ready to play, those close to him will tell you, Malzahn's intensity and focus go to another level.
You can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. It's almost time to play.
Seventeen days before the season-opener, some questions still need answers. Some of those answers will come soon. Some will take longer.
Who will be the quarterback? How will the rotations look at running back and wide receiver? Who will join Jake Holland, Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy in the playing rotation at linebacker? Will Kiehl Frazier, after moving from quarterback to safety, be able to progress quickly enough to help out? Who will help Dee Ford rush the passer off the edge? Will senior Demetruce McNeal, who missed the first 11 days of practice, shake off the rust in time to reclaim his starting job at safety?
And maybe the biggest question of all: Are the scars of 2012 really completely healed? Can Malzahn's first Auburn football team summon the confidence it takes to win consistently in college football's fastest lane?
Malzahn knows well what he's up against. He plays four games against teams that, as of today, would probably be double-digit favorites over his team. He plays four games that would be considered tossups. And two of four nonconference games - Washington State and Arkansas State at home - certainly can't be viewed as sure wins.
The fierce competitiveness that drives Malzahn will be on display every Saturday. Sometimes his team will have enough to win. Sometimes it won't. But the real mission will be for this team to be better every Saturday than the previous Saturday and for it to play Auburn football the way it has been played for so many years.
If these Tigers do that, they might have a season that shocks the college football world. And they might not. But Auburn football will be on its way back.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: