The Auburn Tigers regressed from SEC champions in 2013 to a five-loss season in 2014, and now they must bid farewell to their starting quarterback, their top two tailbacks (including the SEC’s leading rusher), their four-year starting center and one of the nation’s most explosive wideouts.

Nick Marshall, Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant, Reese Dismukes and Sammie Coates all walked off the plains for the final time in 2014, closing the book on the first chapter of the Gus Malzahn era at Auburn — a two-year period filled with highs and lows, dramatic finishes that both benefitted and cost the Tigers, and nearly a national title to boot.

Malzahn is obviously not going anywhere, this we know for certain. But 2015 will be the beginning of a new phase of his Auburn tenure, one focused on replacing talent in an attempted return to the top of the SEC West.

This chapter of the Malzahn era is already off to a fantastic start, as the Tigers hauled in the nation’s No. 9 recruiting class according to the 247Sports industry composite rankings. More importantly, the recruits that formed that top 10 class fill needs all throughout the offense.

Four-star tailback Jovon Robinson (one of two four-star tailbacks in the class) should be able to follow in the footsteps of Tre Mason and Artis-Payne as the next dynamic back in Malzahn’s spread rushing attack. As the top junior college prospect at any position in the 2015 class, Robinson is an explosive athlete with two years of experience beyond the high school level who can step in right away to make an impact.

And as an early enrollee, he’ll have an extra seven months to learn every nuance of Malzahn’s unorthodox offense, and the opportunity to participate in spring practice and gain a rapport with his new teammates as well.

Malzahn also added three four-star athletes in this year’s class, two of which will likely play offense and both of whom are also early enrollees. If there was ever an offense in which raw athleticism without a defined position could be maximized, it’s Malzahn’s.

And while we’re discussing the Tigers 2015 recruiting class, it’s worth mentioning they also added two four-star wideouts, two four-star guards, a four-star fullback and a four-star center to hopefully one day fill the big shoes left behind by Dismukes.

So although Auburn may not have quite as much developed talent on offense as it did last year, it certainly maintained plenty of talent on the offensive side of the ball despite the massive personnel losses it suffered after last season.

And considering new starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson and top wideout D’haquille Williams are returning with experience, there will be leadership on the offense that can keep the unit afloat as its new faces acclimate themselves to the speed of the SEC.

With Will Muschamp now running the defense, paired with the addition of five-star defensive end Byron Cowart and the return of star defensive lineman Carl Lawson, the defense should be much more adequate than it was in 2014 when Ellis Johnson was eventually fired as defensive coordinator.

Will Auburn be better in 2015 than in 2014? It appears to be just as talented this year as it was last, but that talent is far less developed making that question hard to answer. No one saw the Tigers coming during their magical run in 2013, and that year serves as precedent for why this year’s squad could return Auburn to its former glory.

And even if 2015 is not the Tigers’ year, the talent in place will remain in place for some time, allowing for the potential of a title run in 2016 if Johnson remains in school.

Ultimately, no matter what record Auburn finishes with in 2015, it did as good a job as any program in the nation in replacing lost talent and filling needs in the lineup. And that should be rewarded with a promising season this fall.