The Auburn Tigers are ushering in a new era at quarterback, but which signal-caller fills the void left by Jarrett Stidham has yet to be determined.
The ongoing search for a new starting quarterback is the top story going into Auburn's spring game Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Alabama.
Head coach Gus Malzahn will choose his starter from a group of four quarterbacks, but Saturday's game is only another step into naming the top man on the depth chart in the summer.
Although the quarterbacks will receive the bulk of the attention Saturday, there are a few other players to watch as Auburn gears up to challenge in the SEC West.
2019 Auburn Spring Game Information
Date: Saturday, April 13
Start Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Live Stream: Watch ESPN or ESPN app
Auburn isn't expected to do much on a national level in 2019, as it is far down the odds chart of potential national champions at +2800 (bet $100 to win $2,800), per Oddschecker.
Before the Tigers can focus on shocking people on a national stage, they have to figure out who will be starting under center.
Joey Gatewood, Malik Willis, Cord Sandberg and Bo Nix are all in competition to take over the spot held by Stidham on the depth chart over the last few years.
The good news for Malzahn and his staff is the group has progressed since the start of spring practice, per AL.com's Tom Green.
"We got more information, but we've been challenging them, we've been straining them, putting them in a lot of different situations," Malzahn said. "That's a very, very important position for us, but I feel more comfortable than when we started."
Willis is the most experienced of the bunch as a junior, while Sandberg and Gatewood are redshirt freshmen and Nix is a true freshman.
Even though each contender for the starting gig will receive snaps Saturday, the decision, and even a depth chart, might not be prepared for the public, as Malzahn noted, per Josh Vitale of the Montgomery Advertiser.
"I can't tell you right now that we're going to leave spring with a depth chart or anything like that, but I will say this—each day you get more information," Malzahn said. "Some days, certain people look better than others, and the next day is different.”
There's plenty of pressure on Malzahn to make the right decision at quarterback since his teams have produced a single 10-win season since reaching the national championship in 2013.
An eight-win season in 2018 and the continued success of rival Alabama puts Malzahn under more pressure to show improvement after a year in which the Tigers landed in the Music City Bowl.
As long as the Auburn coaching staff gets a good feel for who should win the job come August, the Tigers will take an important step forward Saturday.
But the focus won't solely be on the Auburn offense, as a few spring standouts are expected to make their mark in Saturday's contest.
Of the positional groups on defense, the defensive line should stand out the most given how much depth there is at the position.
Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson are among the top returners on the defensive interior, while T.D. Moultry, Richard Jibunor and Big Kat Bryant are part of a large collection of players looking to take the next step on the line.
If Auburn's loaded defensive line is able to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks in 2019, it will flip the ball back to the offense quickly, which means Auburn has to have the right signal-caller in place to take advantage of scoring opportunities.
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