Oct. 17, 2013
Auburn's Jeremy Johnson provided some spark in win No. 6 last week (Anthony Hall photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. – Gus Malzahn figures Auburn's bounce-back year began before the Tigers ever kicked off the season.
He saw it in spring practice.
"It definitely happened this spring. We laid the groundwork. Everybody rose to the occasion. The guys who didn't are no longer with us," Malzahn said during his Tiger Talk radio show Thursday night.
Auburn hit the halfway point of the season last Saturday with a 5-1 record. That's a reversal of fortune from last year's 1-5 start, and it's the biggest turnaround in college football this season.
"Our leaders are starting to really emerge. They're not going to let their teammates let up," Malzahn said.
The Tigers' task this Saturday will be one of the toughest: A trip to play No. 7 Texas A&M. Malzahn spent part of the show talking about A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel; and how his No. 1 quarterback, Nick Marshall, will return to his starting role after missing last Saturday's win with a sore knee.
"He looks 100 percent to me. He's got that burst back and everything that he had before," Malzahn said.
Malzahn also had this enticing morsel about his decision to take the redshirt off backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson:
"It'll make a lot more sense as we move forward," he said.
But Malzahn also spent some time reflecting on the first half of the season, and how Auburn got to where it is.
"I'm one of the coaches who likes to put leadership on the seniors."
Malzahn said the seniors responded to their not-so-new head coach. Most of the team already knew Malzahn after he served as offensive coordinator from 2009-11, and he said that helped.
"They've really bought in into what we're trying to do," he said. "When a new scheme or regime comes in, it's the seniors who have the most trouble buying in, but those guys have really stepped up being the leaders. "
A caller wanted to know if Auburn would be pumped up for the Top 25 game.
"We better be, I'll tell you that," Malzahn said.
•On injuries: "I think we're OK. Anytime you go halfway through the season you'll have some nicks and bruises. We'll have to manage it."
He said he expects tight end C.J. Uzomah to return after missing last week's game with an injury.
"We've tried to be careful with him. We're hoping he'll be close to 100 percent," he said.
•Malzahn reiterated Marshall will be the starting quarterback over Johnson, who threw four touchdown passes in his college debut last week.
"We have a plan for Jeremy each week."
And: "We have two quarterbacks we feel very good about."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: