Gus Malzahn's 2013 SEC champions are preparing for spring practice that will begin on March 18th. The Tigers will go on public display on April 19th at their annual A-Day spring game.
"We started our 6 a.m. workouts this morning, which was very good for our coaches to get with our players," Malzahn said. "We are ahead of schedule where we were this time last year, as to be expected.
"We are just really working on the mental and physical toughness element," he said. "Coach Russell (strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell) has done a great job preparing our guys. It's always good.
"The very first day you are looking for leaders and you have got the seniors from last year moving on so the dynamics are a little different," he noted. "It's always good for me just to kind of sit back and watch and see the new leaders emerge and go through the trials that help you later on once the season gets here."
In his first season as head coach of the Tigers, Malzahn's squad was the surprise team of the SEC with its 12-2 record.
"It was real good to be around the players," Malzahn said. "There was a lot of excitement. I don't think they were dreading it. This last year it was a completely different deal. I feel like we had some guys that were really looking forward to it. I felt it was very encouraging."
Joining the returning players from the 2013 team for winter workouts are five mid-term transfers. The group includes freshman wide receiver Stanton Truitt and tight end Chris Laye along with juco transfers center Xavier Dampeer, wide receiver D'haquille Williams and safety Derrick Moncrief.
"I think the early enrollees are just trying to get acclimated," Malzahn said. "They are just trying to get used to everything. Everything is going fast right now. They are just trying to get used to everything that goes with the pace, with the drills, the workouts and the class and the routines."
The head coach credited his 2013 team's winter workouts with helping building the edge the Tigers needed to succeed in game situations.
"We are always trying to improve and we are always wanting our guys to compete," he said. "We are at a completely different spot than we were last year, but we are still looking to improve.
"We are a little more mature, but our edge is that physical and mental toughness and this is the time of year that you can really work on that," Malzahn added. "You find different ways to strain your guys to prepare them as best you can. I would say our expectations are a little bit higher this year than they were last year at this time, which is to be expected."