Caldwell Column: Plenty Of Questions Remain

One week into preseason practices there are still more questions than answers for the Auburn Tigers.

We are one week into preseason practice for the Auburn Tigers and there are still many more questions than answers for Gus Malzahn's team as it continues to prepare for the 2013 football season.

First and foremost is the logjam at quarterback.

Returning starters Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace had a spring under Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. That gave them a basic feel for the offense and what the coaching staff was looking for at the position. For Frazier it was a refresher course after playing for Malzahn as a true freshman at Auburn in 2011.

It has been a much different story so far for junior college transfer Nick Marshall and incoming freshman Jeremy Johnson. Neither had the luxury of working in the offense before arriving on the Auburn campus over the summer. Getting just the basics down while training with teammates in the captain's practices, Marshall and Johnson now have to impress the coaching staff, and do it quickly, with the need to narrow the race at quarterback a must for the Tigers.

That has already started as both players did some good things in the first scrimmage as all four quarterbacks got reps with the first team in Wednesday's first scrimmage. With the second scrimmage on Saturday expected to focus more on situations, we should have a much better idea of the direction at quarterback next week.

Quarterback isn't the only position where the race is on, however, as the wide receivers are fighting to see who will be in the playing rotation this fall. At this point it's a safe bet that Trovon Reed, Quan Bray, Sammie Coates, Ricardo Louis and Jaylon Denson will get plenty of game action, but to this point the biggest riser on offense may be freshman receiver Tony Stevens. Along with fellow freshman Marcus Davis, Stevens has shown the ability to make plays and could make an impact early in his career.

Up front the offensive line appears to be coming together with the only major questions remaining at right tackle and left guard. Back from his injury, Avery Young has settled in with the first group at right tackle, but Patrick Miller and Shon Coleman are both still in the mix as well. Alex Kozan came out of the spring as the number one left guard and has kept that role early in the preseason, but will need to hold off junior college transfer Devonte Danzey to keep that position heading into the season.

Defensively, the theme of the camp so far has been newcomers making a solid impression. That starts up front where ends Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel as well as tackle Montravius Adams all had solid performances in the first scrimmage. That's good news for a defensive line that is looking to make more plays in 2013. The increased depth and competition is welcome news for Coach Rodney Garner. If the newcomers can improve in the coming weeks and show the consistency needed to compete in the SEC it would be a huge plus heading into a season featuring several explosive offenses.

At linebacker it will be surprising if Jake Holland, Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy aren't the three main players at the two positions, at least early in the season. With redshirt freshman Javiie Mitchell still not big enough to play the position on a consistent basis, Auburn needs someone else to step up and fill that role. LaDarius Owens is an option as is junior college transfer Kenny Flowers.

In the secondary Chris Davis and Jonathan Mincy are finding the new system and Coach Melvin Smith's teachings to their liking. Both have a chance to really improve this season as does the entire cornerback position.

One of the positives for the defense during camp so far has been senior Ryan White. He has played well to this point and that would be a huge boost with sophomore Josh Holsey currently working at safety instead of safety where he played last season.

Josh Holsey is a sophomore from Creekside High in Fairburn, Ga.

It may be a surprise to some that Holsey is playing well even with his limited time at safety, but coming out of high school he was an all-around good football player with track speed and outstanding coverage skills.

Bigger than former Auburn defensive back Travaris Robinson, the move could have the same impact on this year's team if Holsey sticks at safety. Robinson was an instinctive player who overcame his lack of size with a nose for the football. Holsey is the same kind of player and getting your best players on the field is never a bad option in football, especially getting ready to face several of the nation's top quarterbacks on the 2013 schedule.

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