Sunday marked the first day that NCAA football teams were allowed to line up in full pads, opposed to the shells (shoulder pads and shorts) they've been in for their first few practices.
When the full pads go on, coaches and players alike can begin to get an idea of what to expect this season.
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik decided against the pads on Sunday for reasons beyond his control. The depth issues the Tigers will deal with all season come into play now more than ever.
Having a healthy team for the September 5 opener is obviously the number one concern for everyone at Auburn. With a roster that is nowhere near close to full, Chizik can't afford to do much else.
So far, he has done a great job of emphasizing players' health by moving practices to late afternoon, as well as splitting up the squad into groups. Not only has this helped prevent injuries, but it also looked great in the eyes of the players.
Another big change was the move to the Auburn football practice fields and indoor facility. In the Tommy Tuberville era, the preseason consisted of practices on the grueling intramural fields, much to the chagrin of the players.
The big problem with all of this? The SEC.
It is the single most powerful conference in all of college football, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Defense is the glaring unit to which Auburn cannot afford any injuries.
Players get hurt—it's almost inevitable. Auburn's schedule will take a toll on them, and as hard is it may be, it's going to be tough to get around this.
We can all hope for the best, and maybe the Tigers will get lucky by avoiding the injury bug.
College football is an unpredictable sport, so let's not forget that this team is the same one that the media picked to win the SEC West just a year ago.
However, having a roster of 71 players when you could have as many as 85 is really stacking the odds against yourself.
Evidently, Chizik inherited a very tough situation. He knew what he was getting into, and it seems he has a plan to get out of it. Playing it smart and keeping things under wraps may just be what this Auburn team needs.
The grind of the SEC will take its toll on Auburn eventually, but Chizik is going to do everything in his power to prevent it. He's done a lot of surprising things thus far, and I can't wait to see what he can do with this team, barring injuries.
The expectations for the Tigers coming into this season weren't high, but that seems to be changing every day. That's what happens when you come in and change the face and swagger of a program, and eventually Auburn won't deal with this problem anymore.
Lucky for the Auburn faithful, because then things could get really scary for Auburn's opponents.