Monday Morning QB Column: That Time Again

Football practices begin Tuesday for the Auburn Tigers and there are several major questions to be answered about how good the 2015 team can be.

Auburn, Ala.--When the Auburn Tigers open preseason practices on Tuesday there are several key areas that Coach Gus Malzahn will be looking for improvement from between now and when his team takes the field on Sept. 5 against the Louisville Cardinals. With plenty of players to replace in key spots it will be an important month for Malzahn’s third Auburn team.

The Edge:

No, I’m not talking about a member of the band U2, “the edge” is something you’ll likely hear Malzahn talk about often early in preseason camp. That drive was something that the 2013 team had in abundance as did the 2010 team, and just about every championship team in any sport. What exactly is “the edge”?

The edge that Malzahn is looking for is a determination to get better every day in practice. That was the mantra of the 2013 team and something last year’s group talked about, but that talk didn’t come to fruition. For a football team to reach its maximum potential it happens in practices with the focus on improving the little things. If this group can do that from day one it would be good news for the Tigers.

Becoming The Man:

There is no question that quarterback Jeremy Johnson has the skill set and attitude to be a very good quarterback heading into his first season as the starter. Now comes the biggest part of his job, establishing himself as the leader of not only the offense but the entire team.

Johnson has never been the most vocal of guys. Quarterbacks don’t have to be rah-rah guys, but when the game is on the line a team looks to the quarterback for guidance, poise and leadership. That is something the great ones have and if Johnson wants to be the next great Auburn quarterback it will be determined in those late-game moments when he has to produce to avoid a loss. We won’t know how he will respond until those times come, but developing that trust from his teammates in August is a huge step in the right direction.

Jeremy Johnson

Following The Leader:

While X’s and O’s are always going to be important to playing sound, fundamental defense, attitude is just as important. That’s the belief that no matter what the other team throws at you the guys lining up beside you will still get the job done. That is something Auburn hasn’t seen in quite a while on the defensive side of the ball.

The 2010 defense had the firepower to make a ton of negative plays up front with Nick Fairley and other athletic defenders leading the charge, but still gave up plenty of yardage and points along the way.

Developing a killer instinct is a necessity for having a dominating defense, something that is always the goal for new coordinator Will Muschamp. While just making improvements might be the goal for many in regards to the Tigers’ defense, Muschamp wants to be the best and will demand that of his group this year.

Never satisfied, Muschamp’s return should signal a renewal of defense on the Plains and the sooner the guys buy in to his way of thinking and playing the quicker the Tigers will begin to turn around the fortunes on defense.

The Count Is In

There is no question that senior Josh Holsey can get the job done at cornerback, but if Michigan transfer Blake Countess can make a smooth transition this preseason it would strengthen the secondary and give the Tigers some much needed experience. With Jonathan Jones coming back as one of the league’s top cornerbacks, Countess on the other side would make the Auburn duo potentially one of the league’s best. It could also allow Holsey to make the transition to the “nickel” position in Muschamp’s defense.

A player who has seen action at both corner and safety, Holsey is smart and physical, both prerequisites for the nickel spot. That is potentially three seniors with experience in the secondary and when you throw in junior Johnathon Ford, a returning starter, and talented transfer Tray Matthews it should mean good things for Coach Travaris Robinson as he looks to rebuild Auburn’s secondary in his first season back as an assistant.

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