John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn RB Tre Mason
Returning Offensive Starters: 6
Returning Defensive Starters: 8
After securing three straight top-15 recruiting classes prior to 2013, talent isn't that much of an issue. But was the 3-9 debacle in 2012 a product of a team that quit on its coaches, talent that was remarkably overrated or something in between?
The Tigers will return 1,000-yard rusher Tre Mason, four starters on the offensive line and two of the three players who started at quarterback a year ago. Gus Malzahn turned around the Auburn offense in 2009 when he took over as offensive coordinator after the Tigers were inept the previous year. Considering most of the players in the system were recruited for his system, an encore is likely.
A new defensive scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson means that all eight returning starters are fighting for their jobs. A defensive front that features Dee Ford, Angelo Blackson, Nosa Eguae, Jeff Whitaker, Kenneth Carter and Gabe Wright will allow Johnson to keep players fresh throughout the game. They're going to have to improve their rush defense after finishing last season last in the SEC after giving up 197.58 yards per game on the ground.
The secondary, led by Chris Davis, Jermaine Whitehead and Josh Holsey, was good at times last season, and another offseason of work should help.