As an old coach his team's organization, attention to detail and intensity is impressive to me. When they are on the practice field there is no lost motion and a sense of urgency. When you have got that kind of atmosphere players have got to be getting better and improving in all aspects of the game--their techniques, fundamentals and attitude. Those are the building blocks for putting a strong football team on the field, which is something the Tigers will need to do to be successful in the SEC where as the defending league champion opponents will be eager to prove they can beat the Tigers this fall.
The 2014 Auburn team has a positive situation this spring because there is a lot of competition taking play on the practice fields. That is particularly important on the line of scrimmage as Coach J.B. Grimes looks to get his tackles, guards and centers ready with a lot of physical work going against Coach Rodney Garner's defensive ends and tackles. Getting to work against quality players at each spring practice will pay dividends for those guys in the fall.
There is also a lot of competition taking place with the wide receivers working against the secondary. I expect the receivers group to be improved this year and the same is true of the quarterbacks throwing the football to them. Being tested by talented players is exactly what the defensive backs need to get ready for the 2014 schedule, which looks like it will have plenty of challenges.
Traveling to Kansas State early in the season will be a test for this team and you know that South Carolina and LSU will bring strong teams to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Playing Georgia in Athens and Alabama in Tuscaloosa is always challenging and I expect the Bulldogs and Tide will have strong teams this year.
I think we can expect Coach Malzahn's team to be strong, too. Last season the Tigers won close games early in the season and built chemistry and momentum as they steadily improved. If the 2014 team does the same thing the Tigers could be good enough to repeat as SEC champs. The expectations have really changed since this time last year. I know a lot of Auburn people last spring would have been happy to see their team win seven or eight games coming off the disappointing 2012 season.
When fans come to this year's A-Day Game one thing that I think will stand out is how the Tigers look physically. You won't see fat, sloppy-looking players on the field that day. Coach (Ryan) Russell and his strength and conditioning staff are doing a great job because you can see positive changes in the way players looked compared to this time last year, which as a head coach is exactly what you are hoping to see when you look at your players.
I am looking forward to A-Day and I expect a lot of other folks are, too. The campus will be beautiful with the azaleas and dogwoods in bloom, there will be a lot of activities going on that weekend and it should be a fun time to be in Auburn.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming.