Auburn Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from SEC Media Days
The annual preseason football friendly known as SEC media days descended on Hoover, Alabama, earlier this week, and the Auburn Tigers were front and center from the beginning.
The defending SEC champions were the first in the spotlight—after SEC commissioner Mike Slive's annual address, of course—and media members from all over the country wanted to hear head coach Gus Malzahn and his team's take on their remarkable turnaround 2013 season and what lies ahead for them.
Malzahn wasted no time in addressing an off-field incident for one of the team's leaders, updating the injury status of a star defensive player and breaking down his goals for 2014.
The Tigers brought a trio of seniors to media days: defensive tackle Gabe Wright, center Reese Dismukes and tight end C.J. Uzomah, who gave their insight on the past, present and future of Auburn football.
With the entire event now in the rearview mirror for the SEC, let's take a look at the main takeaways and a few of the best quotes from the Tigers' time in Hoover Monday.
Marshall Will Face 'Consequences' for Citation
Three days before he was scheduled to attend SEC media days, quarterback Nick Marshall was cited for marijuana possession following a traffic stop in the town of Reynolds, Georgia.
After replacing Marshall with senior tight end C.J. Uzomah for Monday's session in Hoover, Malzahn defended his decision in his opening statement.
"It is a privilege and a reward to represent Auburn here at SEC media days," Malzahn said. "Last Friday, Nick lost that privilege. We have high expectations for our players but specifically our quarterback being the face of our program."
Malzahn later said Marshall would "have to deal with the consequences," although he did not specify whether those consequences would include a loss of playing time.
According to his teammates, Marshall was "remorseful" about the incident during a team meeting Sunday night. Those same teammates are rallying around their leader as they prepare for the 2014 season.
"Our trust in him hasn't faltered at all, and our faith in him is as strong as it's been," Uzomah said. "He made a mistake, and Coach Malzahn addressed it, and we'll get back on track."
Defensive Linemen Are Ready to Step Up in Place of Lawson
The news of Carl Lawson's knee surgery had been reported by Auburn beat writers for the last couple of months, after the sophomore defensive end missed the annual A-Day Game with an undisclosed injury.
However, no one at Auburn confirmed the extent of the injury and operation until Malzahn's time at SEC media days.
"I'd like to confirm that Carl had successful ACL surgery at the first part of May," Malzahn said. "He injured his knee the last week of spring practice...Carl is working extremely hard, and he's determined to come back towards the end of the year."
While a long-term injury to a projected starter is definitely bad news for Auburn fans, the defensive line is an area of talent and depth. Eleven Auburn linemen played in 12 or more games last season, and the team signed six at the position in February to replace the four seniors from the SEC Championship squad.
The pressure will especially be on players such as sophomore Elijah Daniel, sophomore defensive tackle Montravius Adams and senior defensive tackle Gabe Wright to fill Lawson's place on the depth chart until he can return—if he is able to return in 2014.
"I wanted [Auburn defensive line coach Rodney] Garner to put me at end last year, but he said I wasn't mentally ready yet," Wright said. "I don't second-guess him, but I will be ready if I'm called upon this year. There's no doubt about that."
Auburn Grabs the Most All-SEC Selections
If preseason awards are any indication, the defending SEC champions will be among the class of the conference once again in 2014.
While rival Alabama was the conference champions pick by the media, which placed more Crimson Tide players on the All-SEC first team than any other school, a close second-place Auburn finished with the most All-SEC selections at 13.
Marshall, wide receiver Sammie Coates, Dismukes and Wright represented Auburn on the first team. The four were Auburn's first preseason first-teamers since the 2011 selection of the late Philip Lutzenkirchen.
Uzomah, left guard Alex Kozan and "Star" Robenson Therezie were all named to the second-team list.
Six more Tigers—running back Corey Grant, right guard Chad Slade, Lawson, Adams, linebacker Cassanova McKinzy and cornerback Jonathon Mincy—rounded out the Auburn contingent on the third team.
Auburn finished second in the preseason SEC West and overall championship poll. Last season, the eventual conference champions were picked to finish fifth in the division and received zero championship votes.
Balance Continues to Be the Offense's Motto
While Marshall's off-field situation was discussed heavily at media days, reporters from around the country wanted to know how the senior quarterback was going to lead an offense that won't take anybody by surprise in 2014.
The message was simple: If teams continue to load the box against a team that ran the ball 72 percent of the time last season, Marshall is ready to make them pay.
"His finesse and his touch has improved tremendously," Uzomah said of his quarterback. "When he needs to thread the needle, he does it."
Marshall's success through the air will be crucial in the Tigers' efforts toward more offensive balance in 2014. After completing only 59 percent of his passes in a run-heavy offense, he needs to see improvement in getting the ball to his veteran corps of receivers, which features a dynamic target in Uzomah.
Balance will also allow Malzahn to expand his playbook thanks to an entire offseason with his starters, something he didn't have in 2013. Uzomah said he believes that opponents will continue to be off-balance when they face Auburn this season.
"We have so many plays under the same formation that look the exact same, so it’s really hard to game-plan for something like that," Uzomah said. "Our playbook is deep, and it takes a lot to really grasp. It’s not something that can be learned overnight."
Gus Malzahn on Freshman RB Roc Thomas
"We were tickled to death to have him."
C.J. Uzomah on Malzahn's Offense
“No telling what we’re going to do. No telling what Coach Malzahn is going to call. He definitely has enough tricks in his bag where no [defense] can adjust for the next 50 years.”
Gabe Wright on Excitement for Fall Practice
"I just can't wait to get out there and do what we do—get after it."
Reese Dismukes on Team Goals, Punctuality and Oral Care
"In everything we do, we’re trying to get 13 seconds better. Thirteen seconds better getting to class, 13 seconds better brushing our teeth. Just 13 seconds better."
Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!