Caldwell Column: 5 AU Questions Media Days

Auburn opens SEC Media Days on Monday with plenty of questions surrounding the Tigers.

When Gus Malzahn strolled into his first SEC Football Media Days last year there was only the pressure of his first appearance to deal with because very few in attendance thought his Tigers were going to be a threat to make a run to Atlanta. That’s not the case this time around.

Rolling to the SEC Championship last season and just seconds away from a national title, Auburn is one of the favorites to win the league this season. While Alabama will likely get much of the preseason attention once again despite back-to-back losses to end last season, the Tigers are a team that should get plenty of attention this time around. With that in mind we take a look at five questions surrounding Auburn heading into this week’s festivities.

1. Should Nick Marshall have made his scheduled appearance?

After being given a citation for marijuana possession on Friday afternoon during a traffic stop, Auburn officials made a decision on Sunday night that Nick Marshall won’t be making the trip to Hoover for SEC Media Days on Monday. Marshall's spot will be taken by senior tight end C.J. Uzomah.

On one hand it would be a great learning experience for Marshall to stand and face the music for his actions. As one of the leaders for his team he’s expected to set an example for the younger players on the team to follow and that is always part of the job of a quarterback on any team.

The other side of the argument is that being given the chance to represent your team at SEC Media Days is an honor, not a privilege. Standing in front of the media and living out that dream is something many players have always hoped to be able to do. As a Heisman Trophy candidate it would have been a great opportunity for the national media to get a feel for Marshall’s personality and his story, but now he’ll have to live with the consequences of his actions.

2. What will Gus Malzahn say about the two recent drug situations involving Marshall and senior cornerback Jonathon Mincy?

After a very quiet first season at Auburn concerning off-the-field problems, Malzahn has had to deal with a pair of drug-related issues in the last month. A coach who doesn’t put up with much nonsense on or off the field and likes to keep things in-house, Malzahn likely won’t say anything specific on Monday on punishments for his players, but there is no question both Marshall and Mincy will have plenty of work to do in order to get back on solid footing heading into the 2014 season.

3. How will Auburn’s mindset be different this year than at last year’s SEC Media Days?

While Auburn’s players talked about winning right away and being confident in changing the culture of the program following a rough 2012 season, the media didn’t take much of it to heart a year ago. Now with success under their belts and a target on their backs, the Tigers will have to learn how to play as a favorite. That begins this week in Hoover when Uzomah, Gabe Wright and Reese Dismukes have to answer questions on how Auburn will respond to last season’s success.

Still hungry because of how things ended in a loss to Florida State, the Tigers are anxious to get back on the field and they will get that chance in just over a month vs. Arkansas.

Reese Dismukes is one of the leaders for the Tigers

4. Will Reese Dismukes finally get the respect he deserves?

While Marshall and departed stars Tre Mason and Greg Robinson got much of the credit for Auburn’s offensive success last season, Dismukes has quietly established himself as one of the top centers in the country. His presence in the middle of Auburn’s offensive line has been a stabilizing influence since he took over the job as a freshman. Now a senior he has become a team leader and has a chance to leave as one of the top offensive linemen in Auburn history.

5. Gabe Wright will say the right things but is it his time to have a breakout season?

Since he first caught everyone’s attention during the recruiting process when he donned an Auburn cap with the words “Nick Who?” on the side in reference to being the next Nick Fairley, Wright has been on a steady climb to being an impact performer for the Tigers up front. While he’s been a go-to interview since early in his career, his big plays have been few and far between. The same has been true of his defensive tackle teammates as a group since Fairley left in 2010.

Now back and in the best shape of his career, Wright looks primed to live up to the hype as a senior. Expected to see some time at defensive end as well because of a lack of depth, Wright has a chance to put together a huge season in his final year on the Plains. It wouldn’t be the first time that has been the case for an Auburn defensive lineman invited to SEC Media Days. All Wright has to do is look back one year ago to Ford for plenty of motivation.

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