The Auburn Tigers begin the encore to their 2013 national championship game appearance on Tuesday, and in a spring practice preview news conference on Monday, Gus Malzahn made it clear there will be no coattail-riding.
“That’s in the past; this is a new team,” he said. “The seniors have moved on and we’ve got to earn it. All we are talking about is earning the right to get back to a game like that. We’ll be working really hard every day to do that.”
Malzahn said he had three goals for the spring: First, improve offensive and defensive fundamentals; second, keep the edge he was focused on regaining in 2013. The third goal might send a chill up Bret Bielema’s spine.
“Third goal is play faster, both offensively and defensively,” Malzahn said. “Be able to communicate.”
Auburn was third in the SEC in 2013, averaging 72.4 plays per game.
“We think we can be quite a bit faster,” Malzahn said. “Last year, we had a lot of new people out there and a lot of moving parts. As you get more comfortable, though, the faster you can get. The thing about pace, too, is now there are so many pace offenses, we’ve got to get better on the defensive side, too, with our communication, our alignment and everything that goes with that.”
Seemingly unbelievable, this season will be the first in Malzahn’s nine-year college coaching career where he has had a quarterback return for a following spring. After Nick Marshall was forced to “learn on the job” after not going through spring in 2013, hopes are high for the senior.
“Just taking more control of the offense, and the base fundamentals, the base offense of who we are,” Malzahn said of his expectations for Marshall. “The way you leave spring and you get to the fancy stuff later, but you still have that foundation to fall back on. Nick is a very talented player, not just running. He can really throw it. Now that he has spring he will be more comfortable and more reactive.”
Auburn will practice Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays this spring.