The thing that stood out to me more than anything about the 2013 Tigers wasn't the talent, the schedule or an individual player. What made that team such a joy to watch is that every time it lined up to play a game the players took the field with a purpose. You never walked away from the stadium not feeling good about them, even after the national championship game they lost out in Pasadena or the regular season game they lost at LSU.
They played with intensity every time out, even when they were big favorites against Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic, and finished the season with a lot of great wins. That doesn't happen by accident. It was the result of great coaching and great leadership from the players on that team.
Now as we look ahead to the 2014 season, Gus Malzahn's team faces a different set of challenges. The schedule sets up differently this year. There will be different leadership on the team. The coaches have the task of trying to get the same type of effort the 2013 Tigers produced week after week. That was a hungry team they were coaching--a group of guys who had been devastated by what happened the previous season. They were eager to buy into to what their new coaches wanted them to do, and it was a beautiful thing to watch.
Auburn has a chance to be an outstanding football team this year, but there are a lot of intangibles involved in making that happen. It is not all about great players, even though you have to have them to build a great team.
I really believe the challenge this staff and these seniors are facing as they go into this season is just as great as it was going into last year because a 7-5 record would have been acceptable for the 2013 team at this time last year. That is not going to be the case this time out.
Every team the Tigers face will have Auburn circled as one of the most important games on its schedule. While the Tigers certainly got the best shot of some of the teams they played last year, we know they are going to get the best shot of almost everybody they face this year because of what happened with them winning the SEC Championship in 2013.
That makes the developing the leadership, attention to detail and building chemistry between the players and the coaches vital to building the type of team capable of handling what awaits them this fall. If that happens I think the 2014 Tigers will have the talent and ability to repeat last year's performance, but it won't be easy.