HOOVER, Ala. — The unofficial kickoff to the football season is almost here.
We have plenty of questions to ask Auburn and other SEC coaches and players here at SEC Country as SEC Media Days begin at The Wynfrey Hotel on Monday, but will we get straight and honest answers?
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn will face plenty of questions about the upcoming season, but these are the questions we want to hear Monday when he approaches the podium at 1:55 p.m. ET.
Seriously, who has the edge at quarterback?
Auburn’s coaches have a good idea of where the quarterbacks stand heading into August. They watched their top three contenders face off against each other in the spring, and though John Franklin III was a newcomer, they have a great understanding of what he will provide to the offense.
Jeremy Johnson, Sean White and Franklin III are the top three contenders, but don’t forget about Woody Barrett. Will the true freshman get a fair shot as promised by Malzahn on signing day?
Also, when is the cut-off date for Malzahn to name a starter? It’s usually following the first two weeks of preseason practices, providing the Tigers plenty of time to strategize and prepare for Clemson with its new quarterback.
Do you feel the pressure is on to deliver this year?
Some believe Malzahn is on the hot seat, but we here at SEC Country believe his seat is only lukewarm. A trip to the BCS National Championship in his first season was an incredible feat but the trajectory of the program has been going south ever since. How can he turn it around against arguably the toughest schedule of the season? Can he survive a third straight year losing to rivals Georgia and Alabama?
It would be nice to hear Malzahn open up about his position, his future and his realistic expectations for a team possibly breaking in a new quarterback and several new receivers.
Do you finally have a top 25 defense?
Malzahn enters his 11th season as a college coach, but he has only been a part of one (!) team with a top-50 defense: his first season at Arkansas in 2006 (24th nationally).
The Auburn head coach enters his fourth season saying his No. 1 goal this upcoming year is to put together a top-10 defense. That’s quite the goal considering his defenses have ranked near the bottom half the entire FBS for most of his career. The talent seems to be on campus for the Tigers to piece together a top-25 defense with Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams on the defensive line (they will also be in attendance at SEC Media Days). But will Kevin Steele prove to be the difference and turn around an Auburn defense that has struggled to finish in the top 60 in each of Malzahn’s six seasons as a coordinator or head coach?
What’s the status of the four players arrested for marijuana possession?
Four Auburn players, all potential starters, were arrested on misdemeanor marijuana possession charges April 30 and not much has been said since then. Receivers coach Kodi Burns and defensive line coach Rodney Garner have hinted the in-house punishment has been handled, but will the players miss any playing time in the season opener against Clemson?
Receiver Ryan Davis, defensive end Byron Cowart, and defensive backs Carlton Davis and Jeremiah Dinson are due in court July 21.
Can you beat Clemson?
Clemson likely will be ranked in the top 5 after a national runner-up finish last season, and facing quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Heisman frontrunner, is a huge task for Auburn in the season opener.
Considering Clemson’s talent on offense and Auburn trying to figure things out on offense after the second-worst offensive season of Malzahn’s 10 years as a college coach, the home Tigers are lucky to only be listed as 8.5-point underdogs. The difference here is that Auburn is playing at home Sept. 3.
What gives Malzahn confidence his team is ready to knock off Clemson?