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2014 Auburn Recruiting Class Analysis

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Feb 7, 2014


2014 Auburn Tigers: Head coach Gus Malzahn


Auburn Tigers

2013 Record: 12-2
8/31 Washington St W 31-24
9/7 Arkansas St W 38-9
9/14 Miss State W 24-20
9/21 at LSU L 35-21
9/28 OPEN DATE
10/5 Ole Miss W 30-22
10/12 Western Carolina W 62-3
10/19 at Texas A&M W 45-41
10/26 Florida Atlantic W 45-10
11/2 at Arkansas W 35-17
11/9 at Tennessee W 55-23
11/16 Georgia W 43-38
11/23 OPEN DATE
11/30 Alabama W 34-28
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP
12/7 Missouri W 59-42
BCS CHAMPIONSHIP
1/6 Florida State L 34-31


Auburn | The Entire 2014 Recruiting Class

Team Concerns For 2014: The secondary has to be better. It was a disaster all season long, allowing 259 yards per game, and suffering late in the national championship loss to Florida State. The defense gave up too many first downs, and while it was great at times when it had to be, quarterbacks were able to do just about anything they wanted. Will defenses start to figure out the running game with an offseason to prepare? Nick Marshall needs the passing game to pick up the slack at times.

The 2014 Class Is Heavy On ... Defensive line. Getting the nation’s best guard – Braden Smith out of Kansas – sort of makes up for the embarrassing gaffe of losing out on local product, LB Rashaan Evans, to Alabama, but there were more than enough good parts to the puzzle to bring together a nice haul. Racean Thomas is the next great Tiger running back, and JUCO transfer D’haquille Williams will soon be the team’s best target. It would’ve been nice to get Evans to pair up with Tre Williams, but the D should get along fine. JUCO transfer Derrick Moncrief will help out the secondary right away, and he’ll be helped by a boosted up line led by JUCO transfers Davonte Lambert for the outside and Devaroe Lawrence for the interior. Ends Justin Thornton and Andrwe Williams are great pass rushing prospects.

2013 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 19. That Class Was 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.

2014 BCS Championship
Florida State 34, Auburn 31
Basically … The BCS era went out with a bang as Florida State rallied back from the biggest deficit ever to win a BCS championship game as Jameis Winston took advantage of a pass interference penalty in the end zone to connect with Kelvin Benjamin for a two-yard touchdown pass with just 13 seconds to play for the win. A sloppy start from the Seminoles led to a 21-3 Auburn lead as Tre Mason ran for a 12-yard touchdown and Nick Marshall connected with Melvin Ray for a 50-yard score, FSU showed signs of life, building off a fake punt to march to a late second quarter Devonta Freeman touchdown run from two yards out. After FSU only managed a 41-yard Roberto Aguayo field goal in the third quarter, the fireworks began as Winston found fullback had Abram for an 11-yard score to pull within two, but a penalty on Freeman forced the Noles to kick the extra point. Auburn answered with a long march, bu had to settle for a 22-yard Cody Parkey field goal. The Noles took the lead and momentum right back with a 100-yard kickoff return for a score from Levonte Whitfield, but Auburn appeared to have the BCS championship won going 75 yards in eight plays culminating with a 37-yard Mason run for a 31-27 lead. There was still over a minute to play, and Winston went to work taking the team down the field helped by a 49-yard pass play to Rashad Greene to help set up the final scoring play to Benjamin.

- Third Down Conversions: Auburn 10-of-18 – Florida State 2-of-12
- Fourth Quarter Time of Possession: Auburn 11:27 – Florida State 3:33
- Florida State QB Jameis Winston completed 20-of-35 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran 11 times for 26 yards.
- Florida State WR Rashad Greene caught nine passes for 147 yards and a touchdown.
- Auburn P Steven Clark averaged 43.2 yards per punt on his six kicks, putting five down inside the 20.
- Auburn RB Tre Mason ran 34 times for 195 yards and two touchdowns
- Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 14-of-27 passes for 217 yards and two scores with a pick, and ran 16 times for 45 yards.
- Florida State LB Telvin Smith made 15 tackles.
- Florida State KR Levonte Whitfield returned four kickoffs for 172 yards and a score.

Auburn 59, Missouri 42
Basically … In a crazy shootout of a game, Tre Mason ran for 304 yards and four touchdowns with scoring runs from one-yard out and from 13 yards away in the fourth quarter to finally allow Auburn to pull away. Down 28-27 at halftime, Missouri took the lead late in the third quarter on a Marcus Murphy ten-yard touchdown catch, but Auburn responded with two dominant drives with Corey Grant running for a two-yard score and Cameron Artis-Payne rolling through for a 15-yard score. Mizzou kept pace with a five-yard James Franklin touchdown run and the two point conversion to pull within three, but that was it. The Auburn defense held the rest of the way.
- Total yards: Auburn 676, Missouri 534. Auburn ran for 544 yards, Missouri threw for 303.
- Auburn RB Tre Mason ran 45 times for 303 yards and four score
- Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 9-of-11 passes for 132 yards and a score, and he ran 16 times for 101 yards and a touchdown.
- Missouri WR Dorial Green-Beckham caught six passes for 144 yards and two scores. Henry Josey ran nine times for 123 yards.

at Auburn 34, Alabama 28
Basically … In one of the most improbable endings in the history of college football Chris Davis returned a missed 57-yard field goal attempt, officially, 100 yards for a touchdown to give Auburn the shocking win. It looked like the game was going to overtime after Auburn’s Nick Marshall found a wide open Sammie Coates for a 39-yard touchdown with 32 seconds to play, but Alabama tried to get into scoring position and got what seemed like a big break at the time when a second was put back on the clock after a T.J. Yeldon run, but that led to the final big play. Before the final few minutes, the signature play appeared to be a 99-yard Amari Cooper touchdown catch that gave the Tide the lead, but four missed field goals, including a late one that would’ve made it a ten point lead, proved costly.

Nick Marshall started the scoring for the Tide with a 45-yard touchdown dash, but Alabama owned the second quarter with 21 straight points on two AJ McCarron touchdown passes and a one-yard touchdown run from Yeldon, but Auburn fought back with a one-yard Tre Mason run late in the first half and a 13-yard C.J. Uzomah touchdown catch early in the third to tie it up.

- Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 11-of-16 passes for 97 yards and two scores, and he ran 17 times for 99 yards and a touchdown.
- Alabama LB C.J. Mosley made 14 tackles. Trey DePriest made 11 tackles with a sack and a forced fumble
- Alabama QB AJ McCarron completed 17-of-29 passes for 277 yards and three scores. T.J. Yeldon ran 26 times for 141 yards and a score.
- Auburn RB Tre Mason ran 29 times for 164 yards and a score.

at Auburn 43, Georgia 38
Basically … Facing 4th-and-18 and 73 yards away with less than a minute to play, Auburn QB Nick Marshall threw a desperate heave down the field, Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons bobbled the interception attempt, and it went right into the hands of Ricardo Louis, who made the grab and ran into the end zone for an improbable touchdown. But Georgia and Aaron Murray weren’t done, driving deep into Tiger territory, but the final few throws were stopped and Auburn got the win. Before the late miracle, Georgia got some heroics of its own from Murray, who rallied the Dawgs from down 37-17 with two touchdown passes and a five-yard scoring run. Marshall ran for two touchdowns and Tre Mason and Corey Grant each ran for scores, and Cody Parkey hit three field goals to give the Tigers the big lead with just over ten minutes to play.
- The two teams combined for 1,098 yards of total offense.
- Murray completed 33-of-49 passes for 415 yards and two touchdowns with a pick, and he ran nine times for 37 yards and two touchdowns. Georgia RB Todd Gurley ran nine times for 37 yards and two touchdowns, and he caught a team-high ten passes for 77 yards.
- Marshall completed 15-of-26 passes for 229 yards with a touchdown, and he ran 19 times for 89 yards and two scores. Tre Mason ran 27 times for 115 yards and a touchdown.
- Georgia LB Ramik Wilson made 18 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss.

Auburn 55, at Tennessee 23
Basically … Auburn got on a roll in the second quarter with 21 straight points, and never looked back. Chris Davis returned a punt for a score, Corey Grant returned a kickoff for a score, Tre Mason ran for three touchdowns and Nick Marshall took off for two scores. Tennessee got up early 13-6 on a 17-yard Rajion Neal touchdown run, and Jacques Smith returned an interception for a score, but the Tigers owned the second half after closing out the first with Marshall’s 38-yard touchdown dash.
- Auburn threw the ball three times on the opening drive, and finished with seven passes total. The Tigers outgained the Vols 444 rushing yards – with Nick Marshall running for 214 yards and two scores - to 226.
- Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs completed 16-of-25 passes for 128 yards and a pick, and ran ten times for 49 yards.
- Auburn linebacker Cassanova McKinzy lead all tacklers with ten stops and 1.5 tackles for loss.
- Tennessee running back Rajion Neal ran 20 times for 124 yards and a score.

Auburn 35, at Arkansas 17
Basically … Tre Mason ran for four touchdowns, starting out the scoring with a nine-yard run and finishing it up with a 12-yard dash, and Nick Marshall hit Sammie Coates with an 88-yard touchdown passes as Auburn got up 28-3 and put it away early in the fourth. Arkansas got a 13-yard touchdown catch from Keon Hatcher and a two-yard Kiero Small scoring run, but Mason’s final touchdown stopped the slide.
- Auburn QB Nick Marshall, playing through a shoulder injury, completed 7-of-8 passes for 118 yards and a score
- Arkansas turned it over three times, Auburn didn’t give the ball away.
- Auburn RB Tre Mason ran 32 times for 168 yards and four scores.
- Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins combined to run 33 times for 196 yards.

at Auburn 45, Florida Atlantic 10
Basically … Auburn got up 38-0 in the first quarter touchdown runs from Tre Mason, Corey Grant and quarterback Nick Marshall, but Marshall left the game with a shoulder injury. Jeremy Johnson stepped in and kept the fun going with second quarter touchdown passes from 36 and 67 yards out to Sammie Coates. FAU scored ten straight points helped by a 29-yard Jaquez Johnson scoring run late in the first half, but the game was well in hand.
- Nick Marshall should be fine. The game was a rout, so there was no reason to keep the starting playmaker in with a shoulder problem. Fortunately, Jeremy Johnson showed he could play a little, too, completing 10-of-16 passes for 192 yards with two touchdowns and a pick, and Sammie Coates did his part with 113 yards and two touchdowns on three catches. This was a nice game for Auburn to stretch its legs a bit.
- The Tigers have to go on the road for two straight games against Arkansas and Tennessee, and there’s no letting up now. Unlike LSU and Texas A&M, Auburn is still in the hunt for the SEC title by winning out. Win four straight, go to Atlanta. It’s that easy … right.

Auburn 45 … at Texas A&M 41
Basically … Johnny Manziel didn’t have any magic left as Texas A&M’s one final drive was snuffed out in the final seconds with a sack. Before then, neither defense could come up with many stops as the two offenses combined for 1,217 yards. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall threw two touchdown passes and ran for two touchdowns to offset a huge day from Manziel, who threw for 454 yards and four touchdowns with Mike Evans on the other end of the scoring passes from 26, 64, 42 and 33 yards away. Auburn always had an answer, especially on the final drive as Marshall connected with Marcus Davis for a key 27-yard pass play to help set up the game-winning five-yard touchdown run from Tre Mason. Manziel, who was fighting through an injured shoulder, had one last shot, but Dee Ford came up with the sack to seal the win.
- Neither defense slowed down the other team’s offense, and it’s hard to give too much credit to Auburn after Johnny Manziel rolled up over 500 yards of total offense, but the Tiger defensive line was able to apply a beating. Auburn rotated its linemen, and it kept everyone fresh late – it showed. Dee Ford and the rest of the front four was just quick enough to batter Manziel and come up with the late plays needed to close.
- A&M isn’t relying enough on its running game from the backs. It might be so, so tempting to always let Manziel throw to Mike Evans, and it’s hard to argue with the offensive results, but the offense has to go on more grinding drives to give the defense a bit of a break. The D isn’t stopping anyone; it has to stay off the field.
- This is supposed to be when the Aggies go on a run, with home games against Vanderbilt, UTEP and Mississippi State up next before showdowns at LSU and Missouri, but now the national title is gone and the SEC West is bye-bye without a miracle. Very soon, Matt Joeckel might end up seeing more playing time – Manziel was battered.
- Nick Marshall might have been the star, but he only completed 11-of-23 passes . He made them count, throwing for 236 yards and two scores and running for 100 yards and two touchdowns. However, Tre Mason was one of the biggest keys, adding 178 yards to the team’s 379 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He used both power and quickness to burn the Aggie D.

at Auburn 62, Western Carolina 3
Basically … Auburn’s offense did whatever it wanted to on the way to 712 yards with Jeremy Johnson throwing four touchdown passes and Tre Mason running for two scores. Western Carolina came up with a 49-yard Richard Sigmon field goal in the first quarter, but it finished with just six first downs and 173 yards.
- With Nick Marshall a little bit dinged up, the Auburn coaching staff decided to let him sit this week. The Tigers didn’t need him as Jeremy Johnson completed 17-of-21 passes for 201 yards and four scores with a pick, and the running backs did whatever they wanted with Cameron Artis-Payne tearing off 133 of the team’s 511 rushing yards and Tre Mason adding 100 more with two touchdowns.
- Auburn averaged 11.9 yards per carry to 2.1. There was only one third down misfire – the Tigers were merely scrimmaging, and now they need to be fully tuned up with the showdown at Texas A&M up next. They won’t hold the Aggie running game to 66 yards.

at Auburn 30, Ole Miss 22
Basically … Nick Marshall only threw for 93 yards, but he led the team with 140 yards and two five-yard scores as Auburn took the lead right away and never let it go. Tre Mason ran for a one-yard score and Robenson Therezie took an interception for a 78-yard touchdown for a 29-3 Tiger lead, but Ole Miss fought back. Two Bo Wallace touchdown passes to Donte Moncrief in the second half pulled the Rebels within five, but after Cody Parkey’s 23-yard field goal, the Rebels failed on their final shot.
- It might not have always been pretty, and there were some problems with the passing game and the lack of overall pop, but Auburn is now 4-1, with a nice SEC West win. Nick Marshall found a way to get the offense moving, even if he didn’t do much with the passing game.
- It took almost half the year for Bo Wallace to look like the 2012 version. While he threw for 336 yards and two score, the two picks hurt. He had to keep on throwing with Jeff Scott gaining 66 yards on just six carries.
- The Rebel defense didn’t get to Marshall before he could get started. There weren’t any sacks and just four tackles for loss – the D wasn’t disruptive enough. However, Denzel Nkemdiche was back to form with nine tackles and a fumble recovery.
- The Auburn defense struggled a bit at times getting off the field, but it came up with the big sacks late when it counted. Carl Lawson, Gabe Wright and Dee Ford all came up with two sacks, and there was pressure on Bo Wallace throughout the entire game. The D dictated the action at times.

at LSU 35, Auburn 21
Basically … In the rain and the slop, LSU was surprisingly sharp with Jeremy Hill running for first quarter scores from 49 and ten yards out, and J.C. Copeland making it 21-0 for the half with a one-yard touchdown run. Auburn fought back with two, two-yard Tre Mason touchdown runs in the third quarter, but they were wrapped around a third Hill touchdown run, scoring from six yards out. Zach Mettenberger put the game out of reach with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry.
- The conditions were hardly ideal for doing anything, but LSU was able to slam away with Jeremy Hill and use the running game to control the game right away, and coast from there. The Tigers made a slew of mistakes – with ten penalties and two turnovers – but the offensive balance made up for it with 229 yards through the air and 227 on the ground.
- Auburn carried itself well under horrible conditions. Nick Marshall threw two picks, but he threw for 224 yards and kept battling. This is a national title-level good LSU team, and Auburn didn’t wilt in the second half. It got too far behind early.
- The LSU defense wasn’t a rock, especially against the run, but it held on early when it needed to help put the game away early. Linebackers D.J. Welter and Lamin Barrow each came up with 11 stops, but they had a few problems with Tiger RB Tre Mason.
- Auburn brought the pressure from the weakside linebacker. Cassanova McKinzy tied for the team lead with eight tackles, and he came up with 1.5 sacks. The Tigers needed to get more heat on Zach Metenberger, and didn’t.

at Auburn 24, Mississippi State 20, Sept. 14
Basically … Nick Marshall found C.J. Uzomah for an 11-yard touchdown with ten seconds to play to give Auburn the late win. The Tigers took an 11-0 lead helped by a 76-yard Quan Bray touchdown catch, but the offense only managed two Cody Parkey field goals until the final drive. Mississippi State took the lead on two Dak Prescott touchdown runs and a 15-yard Jameon Lewis scoring dash, but the defense couldn’t come up with one final stop.
- Very, very quietly, Auburn is now 3-0 and, unlike last year, a whole bunch of fun. The offense might not be as explosive as Gus Malzahn might like, but Nick Marshall is starting to come into his own. He completed 23-of-34 passes for 339 yards and two scores, and while he only ran for 22 yards, and he threw two picks, he showed he could come up with a dramatic game-winning drive.
- Dak Prescott did what he could in place of Tyler Russell. The Mississippi State offense wasn’t smooth, but he carried the ground game with 133 yards and two scores on 22 carries, and he wasn’t bad throwing the ball. Now the offense has to get the running backs more involved. There are too many good options for Prescott to be running so much.
- The Auburn defense came up with a nice pass rush. There might not have been any sacks, but the D was in Prescott’s face for most of the game with lots and lots of pressure. Auburn turned the ball over three times, didn’t force any turnovers, and couldn’t seem to control the tempo, but there was only one penalty and Marshall came through when he had to.
- It’s going to be a big few weeks for the Bulldogs. From the controversy to the 1-2 start, this has been a rough start. Beating Troy next week is an obvious must, and then there’s a week off to prepare for LSU at home. That has to be the kickstarter with winnable games against Bowling Green and Kentucky to follow.

at Auburn 38, Arkansas State 9, Sept. 7
Basically … Nick Marshall threw two first half touchdown passes, including a 68-yarder to Sammie Coates, but it was the running game that dominated with touchdown runs from Corey Grant, Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne. The Tigers tore off 301 yards on the ground. Arkansas State only managed three Brian Davis field goals.
- Auburn didn’t get fancy, as Gus Malzahn coached against his old team, getting the running game early and efficiently. The Tigers didn’t necessarily control the clock, but they had a hold of the game from the start.
- The defense bent, but it did a fantastic job of holding up well and not allowing ASU convert drives into touchdowns. The Tigers stopped the Red Wolves on all three fourth down chances.
- Nick Marshall wasn’t explosive in his second game as the Auburn starting quarterback, but he was more effective. Meanwhile Cameron Artis-Payne turned into the rushing star with 102 yards on 19 carries. Tre Mason added 99 yards on 14 carries.
- The ASU offensive line had a problem keeping up with the quickness of the Auburn defensive front. The Tigers were always behind the line, making 12.5 tackles for loss, and not letting the Red Wolves get their running game started.

Auburn
at Auburn 31, Washington State 24, Aug. 31
Basically … Tre Mason returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score and ran for an eight yard touchdown, and Corey Grant tore off a 75-yard run as Auburn held on for the tough win. Cody Parkey nailed three field goals as part of a 16-3 run to close things out, with the defense keeping the Cougars under wraps. Jeremiah Laufasa ran for two touchdowns for Wazzu and Bobby Ratliff caught a seven yard touchdown pass.
- Auburn picked off two passes in all of 2012, but came up with three against the Cougars with Robenson Therezie getting two including the game-sealer to stall a late Cougar drive.
- The Tiger defensive backs held up under the pressure, but Washington State’s Deone Bucannon also came up big with 14 tackles and a forced fumble. Far too often he was the last line of defense.
- How did Nick Marshall do in his first game as the Auburn starter? He wasn’t bad, completing 10-of-19 passes for 99 yards, but he didn’t exactly spark the offense. The attack stalled too much late, but Parkey came through with points.
- Connor Halliday threw 65 times for 344 yards and a touchdown, and while he and the Cougars had their chances late, they couldn’t close. There’s still work to be done to go from improved to good – no, the bottom half of the Pac-12 can’t beat the bottom half of the SEC.

Spring Analysis

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.

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.



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