College Football Preview: The 2014 Auburn Tigers
2014 College Football Preview
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Overview: The Auburn Tigers were the biggest surprise team in the country last season under first-year head coach Gus Malzahn. After just three wins in 2012, Auburn won the SEC with 12 wins and came a play or two away from winning the national championship. It was easily one of the best seasons in Auburn history and has fans giggly about what the future holds. Some may call it a fluke, but Auburn fans will take it however they can get it. Of course, this season will tell a lot with where exactly the program currently stands.
Offense: Replacing Tre Mason at running back is no easy task considering he was the bread and butter of the team with 1,816 rushing yards and 24 offensive touchdowns. However, the Tigers do have two senior backs in Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant who are more than capable of doing the heavy lifting and making Auburn fans forget a little bit about what the Heisman finalist was able to do last season. In order for this offense to reach its full potential will be decided on the overall development of quarterback Nick Marshall. Still raw as a passer, Marshall is an excellent athlete and can make things out of nothing a lot like Johnny Manziel. If Marshall can improve his completion percentage well over 60 percent, Auburn should be a pretty explosive offense.
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Defense: Auburn is a young, athletic defense that should improve in defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson’s second season. Replacing Dee Ford’s 10-plus sacks won’t be easy, but youngster Carl Lawson has all of the potential in the world and could quickly become an All-SEC player. Montravius Adams and Gabe Wright form a defensive line tandem that is going to harass many quarterbacks this season and turn Auburn into one of the best pass rushing teams in the country. For the first time in a while, Auburn has some stability as far as the defensive scheme is concerned. You can expect this defense to improve by leaps and bounds this season.
Special Teams: Auburn is going to be extremely young on special teams, as redshirt freshmen Daniel Carlson will handle the kicking duties, and Jimmy Hutchinson will takeover at punter. This is one area where you’re sure to see a few growing pains.
Outlook: Auburn is an extremely talented team and has a ton of upside with all the youth on both sides of the ball. However, you have to wonder just how much this team is going to suffer without Mason on the field, as he did often put this team on his back. Marshall will have to become a more consistent quarterback if this team can make another run at a national title. I give this team a chance, but don’t surprised if the Tigers take a minor step backwards and fall just short of another SEC Championship bid.