Auburn may have turned in one of the wildest rides to the SEC championship and BCS title shot in the 2013 season, but Bear Bryant Award winner Gus Malzahn knows there is still plenty of work to be done before being able to take the next step in 2014.
“We had some deficiencies in some areas we were trying to cover up,” Malzahn said Wednesday on Yahoo! Sports Radio. “It all starts with recruiting and now that we’ve had our defensive staff that has been intact for a year, they can specifically recruit to those areas.”
Auburn should see a nice momentum swing in recruiting leading up to National Signing Day. The Tigers picked up steam in recruiting the last time they won the SEC championship, and that should once again be the case with Malzahn gaining more national respect and showing just what his program is capable of doing moving forward.
Auburn’s strength came in the running game. Tre Mason rushed his way to record-setting performances and was named a Heisman Trophy finalist. He now takes his game to the NFL as one of the many early entrants to the NFL Draft this season. Even without Mason in 2014 the Tigers are going to be expected to run the ball well. The question is whether or not they can develop a complimentary passing game for the times when they will be forced to make some plays through the air. This may seem silly to say given how it was a passing play that made much of the storied season at Auburn possible, but Malzahn knows his team caught some breaks last season and does not want to have to rely on those miraculous moments too often. Malzahn seems optimistic in his quarterback, Nick Marshall.
“He’s got a big-time arm, and we didn’t throw it a lot, but we really feel like he’s going to be able to do that, be very effective,” Malzahn said. “We’re excited about him.”
Auburn should certainly be one of the top teams to reckon with in 2014. Playing in a division with Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M can throw some hurdles in the way, but all three will be breaking in new starting quarterbacks, shuffling coaching staff or replacing a number of other key players around the field as well. With four playoff spots available to compete for a national title next season, Auburn looks to have a good shot lined up if they can handle their schedule in the fall.
Helmet sticker to AL.com.