Sept. 25, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
One man’s thoughts after one-third of Auburn’s football season …
* Gus Malzahn and the staff he brought to Auburn have injected new energy, new enthusiasm and new confidence into the program. When players play with passion, it’s more fun for them and more fun for those who watch.
* When you consider that quarterback Nick Marshall didn’t arrive on campus until late June, he has performed as well or better than anyone could have reasonably expected. He needs to be more consistent, as a lot of Tigers do, but there is no reason to believe he won’t get better with every game.
* Tre Mason is a big-time running back. That was clear last season, when he broke the 1,000-yard barrier running for a dreadful and dysfunctional team. It was clear again last Saturday at LSU. Ironically, in the past 16 games, he has had 20 carries or more just four times.
* I have a feeling that wins over Washington State and Mississippi State might look a lot pretty darned good in hindsight.
* Auburn players intended to win last Saturday night in Baton Rouge. They believe they could have and even should have.
* A big challenge for Auburn’s offense, much bigger than most realize, is replacing the physical presence and ferocious blocking of wide receiver Jaylon Denson, who is probably out for the season after suffering a leg injury at LSU.
* Auburn’s young defensive linemen, for the most part, are as good as advertised. As the season goes on, I expect their share of snaps will continue to increase.
* Speaking of defensive linemen, tackle Montravius Adams has a chance to become the kind of dominating force every team wants and few teams have.
* It mystifies me that upperclassmen like Robenson Therezie, Corey Grant, Ryan White, Ryan Smith, Craig Sanders, LaDarius Owens and Justin DeLaine were all but discarded last season. They’ve all played significant roles this season.
* Kudos to Jay Prosch for being a team player. Malzahn’s offense doesn’t Prosch’s game all that well. He was more productive and more comfortable as an I-formation fullback, but he continues to put it on the line and play as hard as a person can play Saturday after Saturday.
* Auburn’s offensive line was good to start the season and seems to be getting better.
* If there’s a better center in college football than Reese Dismukes, I’d like to see him.
* If you want to take just a glimpse at the future, consider that every Auburn offensive player except Prosch will be back next season.
* Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson is as good as I’ve seen at making in-game adjustments. He’d be the first to tell you that the Tigers need to stronger at the start than they have been thus far.
* After a redshirt season forced by injury and an uneven redshirt freshman year, sophomore Sammie Coates is starting to look like the kind of big-play receiver he was expected to be when he signed out of Leroy High School.
* Linebackers Jake Holland, Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy haven’t been great, but they’ve been solid across the board. Johnson recognizes that. Few others seem to.
* It’s going to be interesting to see what Justin Garrett’s role will be going forward. Garrett was the standout of the spring at the star position in Johnson’s defense. When an injury forced him to miss the first two games, Therezie played so well at the star position that Garrett moved back to weak side linebacker. Will he stay there? Will he play more snaps? We will see.
* Next week’s game against Ole Miss is really, really big. No, it won’t make or break Malzahn’s Auburn career. A loss wouldn’t mean this season is a lost cause. But a win would open all sorts of possibilities. With virtually sure wins ahead against Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic, a win would mean, for all intents and purposes, that Auburn would be bowl eligible. That in itself would be an accomplishment after last season’s 3-9 record.
* Adams, defensive linemen Elijah Adams and Carl Lawson and wide receiver Marcus Davis have been the most impressive of the true freshmen who have played. Don’t be surprised if 6-foot-4 wide receiver Tony Stevens joins that list soon.
* Place-kicker Cody Parkey and punter Steven Clark have been nothing short of terrific. Only one punt has been returned against Auburn in four games, that for 10 yards by Mississippi State.
* Considering that it started with just 1:56 left in the game, the 88-yard drive Marshall led to beat Mississippi State was the best I’ve seen by an Auburn quarterback and Auburn team since Dameyune Craig led the Tigers 80 yards to beat LSU in Baton Rouge in 1997.
* Auburn is 13-of-14 in the red zone, with nine of those trips resulting in touchdowns. Hard to argue with that.
Until next time …
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: