Auburn University's investment in enhancing the on-campus buildings will have an impact on the Auburn football team in 2013.
The historic Sewell Hall, the old athletic dormitory that has served as the starting point for Tiger Walk since the 1960s have been destroyed. In their place will be a mammoth new housing facility for Auburn students, with a majority of the residents expected to be athletes. Construction has been underway since the spring of 2012 and is expected to be move-in ready by the upcoming summer.
With a couple of months left in the spring semester, the construction appears to be on schedule.
This means that a majority of the Auburn football team will pack up their things from off-campus apartments and move on-campus into the luxurious (relative to other college dorms) South Donahue Residence Halls.
The move will result in an Auburn football team with more chemistry and accountability.
Other than talent, chemistry and accountability are arguably the most important things a team can have. The lack of those two intangibles were something that could be seen with the naked eye in 2012.
Rising senior defensive end Dee Ford sees a lot of positives in the players living closely (via Phillip Marshall, AuburnUndercover.com):
"There were a lot of guys last year that I didn't even know, said Ford, who lives in an off-campus apartment but plans to move into the new dorm. "When I came over here, it was straight business. Now we're going to be staying together. A lot of guys are going to get to know other guys, good and bad. You'll find out a lot about your teammates that way."
The lack of chemistry in 2012 was evident.
Historically inferior teams talent-wise like Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Mississippi State proved to be the better team in 2012 despite Auburn playing with athletes that were a part of top 10 recruiting classes.
There was a cohesiveness and willingness to fight in the fourth quarter that Auburn did not have.
Teams with chemistry have those things to go along with leadership and working toward a common goal as one.
Look no further than the 2010 Auburn football team for an example of a team with chemistry. Throughout that season, there were many times when a team without chemistry would have folded.
Being down at halftime against Clemson, a game-winning drive on the final possession against Kentucky and being down by 24 points inside of a raucous Bryant-Denny Stadium against Alabama all proved to be something that team could handle on its way to an undefeated season and a national championship.
With the most seniors it has had since that season on the roster in 2013 (16), seniors like Ford plan to create the chemistry and leadership Auburn needs. "It hurt last year. It hurt, and we learned from it, so we were sitting down, talking about things that we needed to fix, problems that we needed to fix," Ford told Joel Erickson of al.com. "We're taking more of a player approach to leadership, taking ownership."
Taking ownership means holding each other accountable and the opportunity to be around the majority of the teammates at all hours of the day will make that easier.
Accountability was as absent as chemistry in 2012.
In early November James Crepea of The Montgomery Advertiser broke the news that former head coach Gene Chizik had hired members of an outside security agency to perform curfew checks at players' off-campus housing.
The move was made in response to a public intoxication arrest of Auburn center Reese Dismukes prior to Auburn's Week 1 game against Clemson.
Player discipline became an issue during Chizik's tenure. “Yeah, there were issues. It had a lot to do with maturity—just a lot of young cats,” Ford told Aaron Brenner of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. “We have a lot of guys taking better approach to those things.”
That task should prove to be easier with the majority of players living in closer quarters. Players will have more of an opportunity to hold each other accountable and the leaders can take control of the team without the coaches.
Chemistry and accountability aren't the only thing that Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn will have to fix in rebuilding the Auburn football program, but they would be a big step in the right direction.
After the worst season in the modern era of Auburn football and a program that has regressed since hoisting the BCS trophy in January of 2011, a step in the right direction would be a welcome sight.