With the Auburn football team deep into its spring practice schedule it is apparent there has been a lot of improvement on the defensive side of the ball. That starts with effort by having all 11 guys running to the football with a purpose and having fun while they are doing it.
There were a lot of big licks last Saturday in the first scrimmage of spring training, which is encouraging. I think that is a sign that the 2015 defense is going to be different than the ones we saw on the field the past couple of seasons.
I believe the Tigers are going to be a different team on offense with Jeremy Johnson replacing Nick Marshall as the quarterback. Johnson is plenty good enough as a runner to be effective in Gus Malzahn’s offense, but defenses will have a different focus when facing the Tigers this year.
Last season the priorities against Auburn’s offense were number one, stop the running backs, followed by stop the running of the quarterback and then defending the pass. This year I think the priorities for defenses, in order, will be to stop the running backs, stop Johnson’s passing and then worry about stopping the quarterback from running the ball.
I don’t think there is any question that the Tigers can put another strong running attack on the field this fall, something that will always be important to Coach Malzahn. A key to making that happen is to keep the backs healthy.
Another plus for the running attack is the offensive line. I think the Tigers will be fine up front and there is no reason to worry about the experience at quarterback with Johnson already having proven himself vs. SEC competition.
With the threat of Marshall’s big-play ability gone as a runner it is going to be important that the receivers pick up some of the slack by doing good things catching the football and then doing more good things running with it after they make the catch. If the they can do that on a consistent basis the running attack will be there for the 2015 Tigers.
The schedule is tough again, but on the plus side the Tigers get to play their rivalry games vs. Georgia and Alabama at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but going to Baton Rouge to play LSU, to College Station to take on the Texas A&M Aggies and to Fayetteville to face the Arkansas Razorbacks is no picnic. It is difficult to win at those places even if you have a strong team like the SEC champion Tigers did two seasons ago. One thing that will make it less daunting is to take a strong defensive group with you, which from what I have seen is something that the Tigers have a chance to be this fall.
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