It is certainly a different feeling for the Tigers going into the 2014 season compared to last year at this time. Folks were on pins and needles wondering what was going to happen. It was clear that Gus Malzahn and his new coaching staff had some players to work with, but after what happened the previous season a lot of people weren’t sure how good the 2013 team could be.
Although a lot of the faces are the same this year, this is a different team. I believe there is more talent and more depth. There are several quarterbacks the coaches are confident in playing, there is plenty of depth at running back, wide receiver and even in the secondary, an area where the Tigers were short on players last year. There are a lot of good looking linemen up front on both sides of the ball and the depth should be better at linebacker.
The biggest question I see is how good the kicking game is going to be having to replace Steven Clark and Cody Parkey along with return man Chris Davis. My take as a coach is you really don’t know for sure how your kickers will perform in games until they actually are called on to make plays in pressure situations.
Talent, depth and experience are very important for a coaching staff, but it takes more than that to put together a great football team. When I think back on my years as a head coach it is clear that the key to winning championships is the team’s chemistry and leadership, and not just on game days.
With college teams around the country going through preseason practices this month you have players with tired legs and sore bodies. Although they probably love football, they love it a lot more when they are fresh and aren’t hurting.
This is the time when seniors and other experienced players need to step up and set the tone to make sure their teammates take advantage of every practice as an opportunity to get better and not just go through the motions to get by.
With the opening game closing in practice time is too valuable to waste. That is especially true for the freshmen and other new players on the roster who are learning the system. With teams still in the camp portion of their workouts before classes start, players can get a lot done when they are focused on making that happen.
In Auburn’s case Coach Malzahn and his staff understand the importance of this time of year and building leadership and chemistry on their team. They are experienced enough to know exactly what they are doing, which is another reason I am looking forward to seeing what type of team they put on the field this year.