By Darrell Puckett
This is a new spotlight column for MVP Mondays highlighting and devoting time to mid-season SEC action. This week we look into the Auburn Tigers early success and a few essential components that could enhance their winning percentage.
The high expectations going into the season were considered unrealistic by many people, but the Auburn Tigers are seeking to amaze. Newly hired head coach Gus Malzahn dreamed about this opportunity, and believes that he had the tools for success. Still, critics have nothing good to say about the Tigers 3-0 (1-0 SEC) start.
Some say that Nick Marshall isn’t an SEC caliber quarterback and the defense can’t contain power running teams. I’m here to say that Auburn will stick around longer in SEC play then others believe. My reasonings are those of three simple factors that will propel them to an 8-5 season.
The first factor consists of three tailbacks that have the potential to rush into Auburn history. Junior running backs Corey Grant, Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne have the opportunity to each rush for nearly 1,000 yards. Malzahn’s offense consists of rushing the ball around 70 percent in various ways. Each back evenly splits carries, and Mason is a returning 1,000 rusher from just one season ago. The trio of backs this ’13 season can only compare to the one of ’04 with Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams and Tre Smith.
Secondly, the consistency of push on the offensive and defensive line side will determine how efficient as a team they will be. Prolonged injuries curtail the defense, but with a return by end Dee Ford, there is hope to develop pressure. Most surprisingly, Montravius Adams has brought a charge for this defense, and should see more early snaps as a true freshman. Ben Bradley should be also noted for his presence forcing indecisive passes during these first three games.
Finally, there must be a presence of big plays each and every game. Auburn’s secondary can’t get handled like a child on third downs, and the safety’s must not give up huge plays. Likewise, the offensive production needs to be more consistent throughout and especially on third downs. The Tigers have players such as Grant to hit a homerun, but need Marshall to continually get better on deep passing routes. Cornerback Chris Davis’s health is a huge concern in the secondary, but rising star Robenson Therezie brings an explosive impact at defensive back.
If Auburn is going to rise above the national expectancy, they must master both sides of the ball and execute their strengths. A team can only succeed if they execute their game plan and not fold to the opponent. I have high hopes for the Tigers capability this season, but there are many other SEC West teams still to face. With that said, the victory versus Mississippi St. this weekend was a must win game.
The Tigers face off against LSU this coming week in Baton Rouge, La. They face the most complete team in the SEC West and game day atmosphere this coming Saturday. Win or lose, AU is heading in the right direction.
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