2013 Auburn Spring Football Analysis
2013 Auburn Tigers: Head coach Gus Malzahn
Why To Be Excited ... Gus Malzahn has lots and lots of experience to work with. It got totally and completely lost in the disastrous 3-9 season, but 2012 was supposed to be a massive rebuilding season. The Tigers weren’t supposed to be that bad, but a few big recruiting classes needed time to mature and take some lumps – and did they ever. Nothing worked on offense while the defense was a disappointment considering all the speed and athleticism, but it wouldn’t be a stunner if there was a quick turnaround. Star defensive end Corey Lemonier is gone, but nine starters are back on a D that didn’t get any help whatsoever ever from one of the nation’s worst offenses. Eight starters are back for Malzahn’s attack including several options at quarterback and four starters on the line who spent last year figuring out what they were doing as underclassmen.
| 2013 Schedule|
8/31 Washington State
9/7 Arkansas State
9/14 Miss State
9/21 at LSU
9/28 OPEN DATE
10/5 Ole Miss
10/12 Western Carolina
10/19 at Texas A&M
10/26 Florida Atlantic
11/2 at Arkansas
11/9 at Tennessee
11/23 OPEN DATE
Why To Be Grouchy ... Malzahn might be a wizard, and he had a lot to do with bringing in some of the talent currently playing key roles, but it’s asking a lot to go from having the nation’s 115th ranked offense to becoming a challenger in the SEC West. The O line might have been young and banged up, but it was young, banged up and bad with little push for the ground game and no pass protection whatsoever. The pass rush was mediocre even with Lemonier, and now he’s gone along with linebacker Daren Bates, one of the team’s few true bright spots. This year will be an improvement, it can’t be any worse, but it could also be a major struggle considering two of the winnable SEC games against Arkansas and Tennessee are on the road and Washington State and Arkansas State aren’t gimmes to kick things off.
What Needs Working On ... The secondary has to start making more big plays. The new 4-2-5 alignment should help the cause with another safety on the field – although Auburn almost always utilized at least one safety-sized linebacker – but there has to be some sort of production against the better passing teams after coming up with a grand total of two interceptions on the season. One was in the opener against Clemson and the other was in the light scrimmage late in the season against Alabama A&M. Offensively, Malzahn has to quickly decide on his starting quarterback. Kiehl Frazier has the bigger upside and fits what Malzahn wants to do, but Jonathan Wallace was better under trying circumstances.
Non-Conference Games: Washington State, Arkansas State, Western Carolina, Florida Atlantic
Games Against The East: at Tennessee, Georgia
Realistic Best Case Record: 8-4
Worst Case Record: 4-8
Likely Finish: 6-6
Pre-Preseason Projected Wins: Washington State, Arkansas State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Western Carolina, Florida Atlantic
Pre-Preseason Projected Losses: at LSU, at Texas A&M, at Arkansas, at Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama
Schedule Analysis: The first part of the season won’t be without its share of storylines. Gus Malzahn’s Tigers need to gear up for a wild shootout with Washington State to kick things off, and then comes a showdown against his old team, Arkansas State, that’s good enough to pull off the road upset. And then comes the SEC schedule with Mississippi State coming to Jordan-Hare before going to LSU. If they can at least get a split, with a week off to prepare for Ole Miss and with Western Carolina to follow, 5-1 isn’t a crazy dream.
Going to Texas A&M won’t be a fun way to kick off a run of three road games in four weeks, but the home game is a layup against Florida Atlantic and dates at Arkansas and Tennessee are winnable. However, being bowl eligible by mid-November could be a must with Georgia and Alabama – with a week off in between – to close out the regular season.
Team Concerns For 2013: Can Gus Malzahn get the offense working again? The Tigers finished last in the SEC in total offense with a ground game that couldn't get moving and a painfully inefficient passing attack. The offensive line was the biggest culprit with problems in pass protection and no consistency. The defense has to improve the pass rush and come up with far more big plays. Essentially, Malzahn has to improve just about everything, but he has a few great Gene Chizik recruiting classes to make it happen.
The 2013 Class Is Heavy On ... Receivers. Gene Chizik brought in a few outstanding classes after winning the national title, so it's not like Gus Malzahn needs to come up with too many stars, but he's getting the receivers with Tony Stevens and Jason Smith the best of the lot.
Defensive tackle Mantravius Adams was a Signing Day star to bump up the
class, while end Elijah Daniel wasn't far off. Signing running back
Johnathan Ford gave the offense even more of a boost. The quarterback situation has to be better - everyone wants to work with Malzahn - and Jeremy Johnson and JUCO transfer Nick Marshall are going to get their chances to show what they can do. Don't overlook the kicking game getting the No. 1 punter Jimmy Hutchinson and No. 4 kicker Daniel Carlson.
2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking:
14. That Class Was Heavy On ... Not much. The Tigers and Gene Chizik came up with a whopper of a 2011 class and doesn’t have any glaring needs this year. Skill players were the priority in 2010 – led by a decent get named Newton – and the defensive back seven was strong last year. This was a young team that’s maturing and should be coming into its own.
2011 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 4. That Class Was Heavy On ... the defensive back seven.
Even without Cyrus Kouandijo, all the attention will be paid to an offensive line that features the nation’s best guard prospect, Christian Westerman
and top center, Reese Dismukes. Getting defensive tackle Gabe Wright was a nice pickup on Signing Day, but the real teeth in this class is in the defensive back seven. Justin Garrett is a safety-sized linebacker who should be a disruptive force, and Kris Frost has big-time upside. Safety Erique Florence can play anywhere in the secondary, and corners Jonathan Rose, Jermaine Whitehead, and Rubensen Therezie are big, strong talents on the outside. QB Kiehl Frazier and running backs Quan Bray and Tre Mason will stock up the backfield in a few years.
2010 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 4. That Class Was
Heavy On ... Skill stars. The
class went big on defense coming up with a whale of
a group for the line led by tackles Jeffrey Whitaker
and Kenneth Carter, and coming up with a key signing
getting end Corey Lemonier out of Florida. LB
LaDarius Owens will be an All-SEC performer before
he's done, and enough good defensive backs were
brought in to secure the secondary for the next few
years. As good as the defensive class is, the stars
signed on offense should make a bigger impact as
offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has his players to
work with. Cameron Newton is a 6-6, 245-pound
quarterback with a live arm, Trovon Reed and Antonio
Goodwin are special receiver prospects, and Michael
Dyer could've gone anywhere as, arguably, the
nation's top running back recruit. If he wasn't
No.1, he was in everyone's top five. Throw in all
the help on the line, including JUCO transfer tackle
Roszell Gayden and top guard Eric Mack, and the
Tiger offense should be fantastic.
2009 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 19. That Class Was
Heavy On ... receivers. After the problems on offense over the last few years, Gene Chizik and his staff went hard after players who can put points on the board. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn needs bodies, and he got them with QB Tyrik Rollison a player for the future, Onterio McCalebb a nice running back prospect, and a whole slew of receivers to finally get the passing game going. Travante Stallworth and Emory Blake are the best of a good lot, while tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen could be a centerpiece of the passing game in a few years.