Rejuvenated veterans are keys to Auburn's charge

Dec. 26, 2013


Corey Grant had just nine carries in 2012 and has averaged 10 yards per carry in 2013 (Anthony Hall photo)

By Phillip Marshall
AuburnTigers.com

AUBURN, Ala. – How did it happen? How did an Auburn team that was 3-9 in 2012 become the 12-1 Southeastern Conference champion and earn a spot in the BCS National Championship in 2013? Coaches and players say there’s no simple answer.

When Gus Malzahn was named head coach on Dec. 4, he quickly went about the business of energizing a team that had lost its mojo. Players point to the coming together that took place in the offseason program, of the influence of strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell and of Malzahn and the staff that joined him.

Universally, players point to returning players like running back Corey Grant and safety Robenson Therezie who played small roles or no roles at all last season becoming key players this season. And they point to players like running backs Tre Mason and cornerback Chris Davis who played significant roles last season but still raised the level of their games significantly this season.

Newcomers like quarterback Nick Marshall, defensive ends Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel, defensive tackle Montravius Adams and offensive guard Alex Kozan made it a championship mix.

Other veterans who entered the season with high expectations lived up to or exceeded those expectations. Center Reese Dismukes, left tackle Greg Robinson and defensive end Dee Ford, along with Mason, had all-star seasons. Jay Prosch established himself as the SEC’s most dominant blocking back.

Grant says word that Malzahn, who was just one year removed from being Auburn’s offensive coordinator, had been named head coach immediately raised the spirits of players across the board.

“I was very excited,” Grant said. “Other teammates were excited. A lot of guys here were recruited by him. The whole team was excited.”

Following are returning players who performed at unprecedented levels in Auburn’s championship season along with their key statistics from 2012 and 2013:

RB Tre Mason

2012: 171 carries, 1002 yards, 8 touchdowns; 3 kickoff returns, 79 yards

2013: 283 carries, 1621 yards, 22 touchdowns; 15 kickoff returns, 395 yards, 1 TD

CB/PR Chris Davis

2012: 46 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 3 PBU; 0 punt or kick returns.

2013: 60 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 14 PBU; 14 punt returns, 282 yards, 1 TD; 1 kick return, 100 yards, 1 TD.

RB Corey Grant

2012: 9 carries, 29 yards, 0 touchdowns

2013: 65 carries, 650 yards, 6 touchdowns

DT Gabe Wright

2012: 19 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 sack, 6 QBH

2013: 30 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 9 QBH

WR Sammie Coates

2012: 6 catches, 114 yards, 2 touchdowns

2013: 38 catches, 841 yards, 7 touchdowns

WR Ricardo Louis

2012: 3 catches, 36 yards, 0 touchdowns; 2 carries, 2 yards, 0 touchdowns

2013: 26 catches, 297 yards, 2 touchdowns; 18 carries, 204 yards, 0 touchdowns

S Ryan Smith

2012: 27 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss

2013: 62 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 3 INT, 3 PBU

STAR Robenson Therezie

2012: 3 tackles, 1 TFL

2013: 55 tackles, 3 TFL, 4 INT.

DE LaDarius Owens

2012: 11 tackles, 3 TFL

2013: 28 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 11 QBH

DE Craig Sanders

2012: 9 tackles, 1.5 TFL

2013: 20 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 7 QBH

LB Kris Frost

2012: 5 tackles, 1 QBH

2013: 52 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 PBU, 6 QBH

S/CB Ryan White

2012: 11 tackles

2013: 49 tackles, 1 INT, 5 PBU, 1 QBH

LB Cassanova McKinzy

2012: 23 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 QBH

2013: 66 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 6 QBH

 
       

Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: