Auburn's Burning Questions - No. 9: How will Tigers handle success, off-the-field issues?
Several questions abound as the Auburn Tigers begin their quest to become the first team to repeat as SEC Champions since 1998. Leading up to the first day of fall practice on Aug. 1, Saturday Down South will examine the 10 burning questions the Tigers face in their quest to win back-to-back SEC Championships.
Auburn’s burning questions:
- No. 10: How reliable will the kicking game be?
- No. 9: How will the Tigers handle success/off-the-field issues?
Most of the questions that Auburn faces going into fall camp revolve around player personnel, expectations and execution. Where the Tigers are mentally, considering the highs of last year’s magical season and some lows experienced in the off season, will also partially dictate just how successful Auburn starts the off in 2014.
A lot can be learned about a person when he/she has to go through a difficult situation. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was handed a huge challenge when he took over as head coach. Malzahn proved that he can lead a team out of a deep pit, restore confidence in a program and put the Tigers in the right place mentally.
“When I first got here, we had to do some Dr. Phil-ing,” Malzahn said after a couple months on the job. “There were some mental scars. I feel good about our team. They put it in their rearview mirror and they’re looking in the future.”
Malzahn will again have put on his Dr. Phil visor when fall camp opens on Aug. 1. The approach that Malzahn takes will be completely different than last fall. This is an Auburn team that is riding high after the Prayer at Jordan-Hare, the Kick Six, an SEC championship and 13 seconds from a national championship. Confidence is high. This year there are expectations to repeat last season’s success. The target is on their back now. How will the Tigers handle it? Malzahn must instill a balance in his squad of continuing last year’s momentum while not relying on the past to be successful this season. Seniors like Reece Dismukes, Gabe Wright and C.J. Uzomah will be expected to set the example of what Malzahn wants.
The off-the-field issues involving quarterback Nick Marshall and defensive back Jonathan Mincy were a bump in the road. Until Malzahn decides how he will discipline Marshall and the courts rule on Mincy, their unknown status will be a distraction. It is simply a matter of their teammates focusing on what they can control and doing their job.
The last time Auburn was coming off being this high atop the college football mountain, the Tigers proceeded to fall faster than a piano off a skyscraper. We learned last year that Malzahn can restore a program by players buying into his system and believing in themselves. This year they’ll be little, if any, drop off from last year. Malzahn will prove he is too good of a coach and too good of a leader for the Tigers go wayward.