The Auburn Tigers are heading into a new era of football with Gus Malzahn leading them into spring practice for the first time in 2013. This program is full of talent and there are a handful of underperforming stars who will reach their potential this spring.
The running back position is in need of at least two more playmakers, linebacker is in need of consistent play and the defensive line needs a rising star at defensive end.
After Gene Chizik left this team underdeveloped, what were once strengths for the Tigers are now weaknesses.
This is a look at five players who will step into the spotlight this spring for the Tigers.
Corey Grant is a burner out of the backfield, but his impact was limited over the past year. Grant should be able to find a spot in the Malzahn offense as the speed back role that was previously occupied by Onterio McCalebb.
Grant has a bigger body than McCalebb, but runs with the same straight-line speed.
The Tigers will be looking for four or five ball-carriers to share the load this fall. Grant should become one of the regulars by summer. This spring will be huge for Grant to prove that he can be a reliable player from the backfield.
He is one of the hardest-working stars on the team. He just needs to put it all together on the field, and that happens this spring.
Kris Frost arrived on the Plains with high expectations, but he has yet to capitalize on his talents.
The Tigers are moving to a two-linebacker scheme and that will actually benefit Frost. At 6’3”, 233 pounds, Frost has the size to be a formidable option for the Tigers defense this fall.
He is an aggressive defender that struggled to find his role in the Brian VanGorder scheme last year. This season, Ellis Johnson will allow for him to play more on instinct in the 4-2-5.
The new scheme will also ask for Frost to play more coverage, which is a strength for the rangy linebacker. Frost is as talented as they come at the position and he will prove that he belongs in the starting rotation this spring.
C.J. Uzomah came to Auburn as a quarterback and he has transitioned into the tight end role over the past two seasons.
The Tigers were in need of players to step in and pick up where Philip Lutzenkirchen left off after this season and Uzomah is that player. He has steadily progressed over the last few seasons and is now a force for the Tigers in the passing game as a sizable tight end.
As the Tigers transition back into the Malzahn offense, having a solid player at H-back to be a safety valve in the passing game will be huge this fall.
Uzomah has flown under the radar in the past few years, but this should be a breakout spring for the young tight end.
Justin Garrett came to Auburn as an undersized linebacker, but he now will find a home at either outside linebacker or the star position.
At 6’2”, 215 pounds, he fits the mold of the star position in the Ellis Johnson scheme.
Garrett is speedy enough to handle coverage on slot receivers and aggressive enough to be a solid run-stopper for the Tigers defense. Garrett will be a solid contributor this fall and it will start this spring, as the Auburn staff finds his perfect fit.
The Tigers roster will start over from ground zero with the new staff, and that is a great thing for Garrett.
This is a player that has flown under the radar since he signed, but he will become a star now that the right scheme has landed in Auburn.
LaDarius Owens is a hybrid defender that found his way onto the field last season as a standing defensive end. This year, he will be able to do much of the same, but will primarily play as a hands-down rushing end.
The Tigers are in need of explosion off the edge as they head into the 2013 season and Owens is one of the players that will fill that void for the Auburn defense.
New defensive line coach Rodney Garner is taking over an underperforming unit, but he should be pleasantly surprised with the motor and drive that Owens possesses.
Look for Owens to be one of the stars of this spring practice session.