Needing playmakers on both offense and defense, the Tigers signed a talented class that should provide some help for coordinators Rhett Lashlee and Ellis Johnson. While piling up yards and shutting down opponents are good for stats, in the end the name of the game is scoring points and keeping teams out of the end zone. With that in mind here are 10 players worth watching in 2013.
*Nick Marshall--This is the easy one as Marshall has the opportunity to become a major impact player if he wins the starting job at quarterback. One of the best athletes to come out of the Southeast two years ago, Marshall has the talent to be playing college basketball at a high level if he chose that sport, but fortunately for Auburn he decided to give quarterback another shot after transferring to junior college following his freshman season as a defensive back for the Georgia Bulldogs. A prolific passer on the high school level with an exceptionally strong arm, Marshall has the skills to push the offense to new heights in the first season back under Malzahn's guidance.
*Carl Lawson/Elijah Daniel--With Dee Ford the only proven pass rusher for Auburn heading into the new season, Lawson's ability to come off the edge with power should make him a candidate for early playing time this season even with plenty of veterans at defensive end. The 6-2, 255 Lawson is strong, athletic and explosive. The same is true of Daniel. A physical player at around 260 pounds, Daniel has impressed his teammates with his work over the summer.
Carl Lawson specialized in making big plays as a junior and senior for Milton High.
*Cameron Artis-Payne--Even though Tre Mason returns after rushing for 1,000 yards last season, Artis-Payne should be a perfect complement to the Mason's quickness because of his physical style and good vision. A patient runner who can grind out the yards between the tackles, Artis-Payne showed in the spring that he is more than capable of being an every-down back for the Tigers and having two of those runners is always a plus in Malzahn's offense.
Alex Kozan, a standout high school performer in Colorado, has a chance to be a key player this fall for the Auburn offense.
*Alex Kozan--Coming close to playing last season while being redshirted as a true freshman, Kozan is the favorite to earn the starting spot at left guard for the Tigers in 2013. A physical blocker who also has the ability to play center if needed in a pinch, Kozan was locked in a battle all spring alongside junior college transfer Devonte Danzey and emerged atop the depth chart.
*Brandon King--Coaches Ellis Johnson and Charlie Harbison are looking for immediate help at the safety positions and King could be just the guy to contribute early. With the coaches wanting their team to be more physical at that spot, the 6-2, 215 King provides the size of a linebacker with the athleticism to cover in space. With returning starter Demetruce McNeal fighting to get back in the mix after missing some practice time in the spring and cornerback Josh Holsey holding first string status at safety heading into fall camp, it wouldn't be a surprise to see King work into the rotation early for the Tigers.
Brandon King grew up a fan of the Auburn Tigers and is excited to be playing for Coach Gus Malzahn's team.
*Ben Bradley--A standout junior college defensive tackle, he transferred to Auburn in time for spring practice and while the work on the field was important for him it was the work off the field that may have meant the most. Checking in at 321 pounds in January, Bradley is down to 288 as the Tigers open preseason camp. In better shape physically should mean more explosion off the ball for Bradley, something Coach Rodney Garner is looking for out of his guys. With veterans Jeffrey Whitaker, Gabe Wright and Angelo Blackson already at the defensive tackle position, Bradley could be a solid fourth option early in the season or even challenge for a starting job.
*Kenny Flowers--Johnson says that you don't sign junior college players to sit on the bench, meaning Flowers has a great chance to see the field right away for the Tigers even in a backup role. Athletic enough to cover ground in the secondary if needed, the 6-3, 230 Flowers should challenge Cassanova McKinzy on the weak side at linebacker and move into the playing rotation early in the season. With Johnson wanting to play more linebackers to keep guys fresh for the fourth quarter and the second half of the season, the son of a former NFL player is a player to watch this season.
*Gimel President--At 6-4, 248, the defensive coaches are hoping that the young defensive end can give the Tigers a big-play threat coming off the edge. A promising performer as a redshirt last season, President is trying to earn playing time at a stacked position in terms of depth with seniors Dee Ford, Craig Sanders, Nosa Eguae and Kenneth Carter all at defensive end. If the former high school All-American can show the ability to get to the quarterback he has the chance to play early.
Peyton Barber is shown as a high school senior.
*Peyton Barber--Even though the running back position looks to be in good hands with the trio of backs who played there in the spring, Barber's ability to run with power could get him on the field this season. The 5-11, 225 freshman had a strong senior season at Milton High in Alpharetta, Ga., after an injury cut short his junior year. Malzahn made signing Barber a high priority for the Tigers and he could be one of the steals of the recruiting class for the Tigers when all is said and done.
*Tony Stevens was a two-way standout at Evans High in Orlando, Fla., who has a chance to contribute early at wide receiver where the Tigers are looking for playmakers. The former Texas A&M commitment has the size (6-4, 190) and speed to break into the playing rotation early this season.
*Speedy running back Johnathan Ford has a chance to contribute in the role Onterio McCalebb played in Malzahn's offense. Ford, who rushed for 27 touchdowns last season at New Hope High, also has the potential to help on special teams as a kick returner.