Auburn opened spring practice this week, taking the field for the first time since losing the BCS National Championship Game to Florida State, 34-31, and doing so with a steadfast goal in mind: make 2013 the rule—not the exception.
The Tigers return enough depth (and then some) to make that goal a reality, although some of the names they did lose, chief among them Tre Mason, Dee Ford and Greg Robinson, will be difficult to replace.
Let's take stock of some early developments.
Stanton Truitt Making Early Impact
What do you get for the coach with the borderline-genius offense?
The one thing he doesn't have.
Stanton Truitt is 5'10'' and plays a position—the slot receiver/scat back combo—that has become popular in college football. It is suited well to the uptempo offense because it forces matchup problems against teams with tired, out-of-place defenders.
This helps explain why Truitt, an early enrollee who was only a 3-star recruit on the 247Sports composite, has already taken reps with the first team offense, according to Alex Byington of the Opelika-Auburn News. He could bring a whole new dimension.
"Truitt is going to be a good guy. He’s quick with his feet, great hands," said safety Jermaine Whitehead, per Byington. "(He's) going to be able to help us real fast.
Trovon Reed and "Rudy" Ford Officially Move to Defense
With an infusion of talent at wide receiver, rising senior Trovon Reed, who has only played receiver in his four years at Auburn, was asked to make the transition to cornerback.
So far, so good.
According to Alex Byington of the Dothan Eagle, Reed impressed defensive teammates with his energy early in camp.
"When [Reed] played offense, he was the guy who got us pumped to have a good (time)," said Whitehead. "Now he’s on my side of the ball, so it’s going to be a long year for the offense."
Per Byington's piece, Reed rotated first-team reps opposite Jonathan Mincy with Jonathan Jones and Kamryn Melton. It's unclear what the hierarchy is at the position, but Reed will at least be given a shot to start (and if not, still make an impact) on defense his senior year.
Meanwhile, in a more surprising move, former running back Johnathan "Rudy" Ford has been running with the safeties. According to Byington, Whitehead said he is "always in my back pocket," so it seems like Ford is eager to make the position change work.
This defense could use another player with that last name.
D'haquille Williams Looking Comfortable
D'haquille Williams enters his first year at Auburn with lofty, perhaps unreasonable, expectations.
The last time a receiver was the top-ranked JUCO player on the 247Sports composite, it was budding NFL star Cordarrelle Patterson. The last time Auburn secured a JUCO player so highly regarded, it was only some guy named Cam Newton.
No pressure, kid.
But Williams has gotten off to a good start in his first few practices on the Plains. He's shown off the obvious physical gifts, as expected, but has also gelled comfortably with his teammates and brought a fiery attitude to the practice field.
"He's a competitor," said cornerback Jonathan Mincy of his new teammate, per James Crepea of the Montgomery Advisor. "He’s going to get in your face, and that’s something you want from your wide receivers."
Sounds like he'll fit right in.
Close Battle to Replace Greg Robinson at Left Tackle
In some ways, the supposed three-man race to replace Greg Robinson at left tackle has begun to sharpen into focus.
In others, it is just as blurry as ever.
Avery Young will remain at right tackle, the position he played for the last nine games of last season after replacing Patrick Miller. Miller, meanwhile, will get a crack at taking over the blind side, where he is battling oft-used 2013 reserve Shon Coleman.
And then there were two—but that doesn't mean we'll have an answer promptly. Right now, Miller and Coleman are neck-and-neck.
"Between Pat and Shon, there is really no separation at all," said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, per Crepea. "We haven’t even put pads on...We just kind of take it day-to-day."
Don't expect an answer until fall.