HOOVER, Ala. — Auburn’s representatives couldn’t have asked for a better trip to SEC Media Days.
In past years, the Tigers have fallen short after being thrust into the preseason spotlight. When Auburn has been been picked to finish last (2013) or remained in the shadows, Gus Malzahn’s team has competed for a national title.
There was an appropriate balance to every Auburn discussion ahead of the 2017 season, and a few outside assists, too. Malzahn stepped up to the podium after Nick Saban and Alabama players kind of wrote off Auburn — and right before the much-anticipated appearance of Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze.
No Auburn player said anything outrageous. Finally, few picked the Tigers to dethrone Alabama in the SEC.
Despite the frigid temperatures in the Wynfrey Hotel ballroom, Auburn was exactly where it wanted to be.
Highlights of Auburn’s day:
- Fans won’t have to wait nearly as long as they did in 2016 to hear Malzahn announce his team’s starting quarterback. There is a plan in place, and the winner will be announced much sooner, rather than later when preseason camp gets rolling.
- The Tigers are healthy overall. Malzahn told local Auburn media before his podium appearance that there have been a few minor injuries, specifically mentioning hamstring or quads. Still overall, following a distressing 2016 season, “We’ve got a chance to be healthy,” Malzahn said. Auburn also received medical redshirts for Paul James III and Malik Miller.
— SEC Country Auburn (@SECCountryAU) July 13, 2017
- Malzahn and Auburn understand the importance of breaking the losing streak when Georgia and Alabama come to Jordan-Hare later this fall. Senior defensive back Tray Matthews said Auburn might put together a 10-2 record, but if those two losses are to either of those teams it changes the outlook of the season.
- Quarterbacks galore. Or at least, that’s kind of how Auburn feels after a rough couple of seasons when it comes to pocket play. Jarrett Stidham and Sean White will compete for a starting spot. As an added bonus Malzahn admitted he’s not ready to say if he’ll play freshman Malik Willis just yet. “I was very impressed with him in the spring. He’s a talented young man, and we’ll see how the season goes.”
- Tray Matthews has been through a lot and has never been one to hold back his opinion. The senior was the team leader Malzahn praised early on Thursday, saying all the right things. On the other side of the room, Braden Smith — the Kansas, native, has been outspoken about his desire to get better with media appearances — was fantastic. Smith elaborated on responses, shared personal information about himself (he’s pretty interesting) and set a new precedent for offensive linemen to follow.
They said it…
- Defensive back Tray Matthews on the emotional experience of transferring from Georgia to Auburn: “The last couple of years have been the most amazing years of my life. I bounced back. I’ve met great friends. I’ve met so many great people in Auburn. It’s unbelievable. The teachers and custodians are even nice. They’re the greatest people you’ll ever meet. It’s been an honor to come to Auburn because they blessed me with a lot. I’ve earned my degree. I’m actually working on my master’s degree now, so everything has worked out perfectly.”
- Senior offensive lineman Braden Smith on Gus Malzahn’s cooking: “Coach will sometimes host the team meal, probably twice a semester, and usually one of the those times we go out to his house. One time we had some sausage, brisket and a lot of other stuff that I don’t even know what it’s called, but it tastes good.”
"It's definitely been a shift to being one of the SR leaders. It's a big responsibility & we can't slack off."
— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) July 13, 2017
- Daniel Carlson on being the only kicker at Media Days: “It feels good. Luckily I’m a little taller so I’m not the smallest guy here. It’s a big honor for me to be here and represent Auburn.”
Under-the-radar comments by Malzahn…
- Remember Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and just how good Auburn’s defense was last season? The unit might be just as good, if not better in 2017. “Defensively, our coordinator Kevin Steele is back for his second year. Just did a wonderful job. Turned around our defense. Top ten defense. We’ve got seven starters back. They understand his expectations. In the spring it was like night and day compared to last spring.” With all the talk involving Stidham and new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, however, the defense hasn’t gotten too much attention — and that might be the best thing for Auburn.
- Malzahn doesn’t open up about much, but he had no problem voicing his pleasure regarding the 2017 team. “Overall I’m very excited about this team. We have a lot of experience back. I think we have more returning starters than we’ve had the last 12 years at Auburn, and of course in this league there’s nothing like experience.” Alabama was still the star in Hoover, which helped outshine the fact that Auburn has a chance to compete with the Tide at the end of the year.
- Cam Newton is still a driving force in the program. SEC Country’s Benjamin Wolk pointed out recently that many of the players who are just arriving and are being recruited by Auburn were kids when the NFL MVP was running the show on the Plains. “Cam will come back from time to time,” Malzahn said. “He was at two of our games, I believe, last year. And when he has off time, he likes to come back to Auburn. It feels like home to him, but I’m very proud of Cam.” If there was ever a chance for another magical season, now seems like it might be the time.
— Coach Gus Malzahn (@CoachGusMalzahn) July 13, 2017
What you might have missed at SEC Country
- Auburn teammates just roll with the hype surrounding QB Jarrett Stidham
- Gus Malzahn’s plan for Jarrett Stidham vs. Sean White in Auburn fall camp
- What Gus Malzahn said about Auburn football at 2017 SEC Media Days
- Gus Malzahn embraces SEC West realignment talk, calls division “a man’s league”
- Jordan Rodgers: John Franklin III was “a cancer in the quarterback room” during 2016 season
- Auburn freshman DB Carlito Gonzalez has not arrived on campus
- 2 Auburn football players given extra year of eligibility with medical redshirts
- Auburn football’s Braden Smith name to Outland Trophy watch list
- Auburn fan paints dog like tiger at SEC Media Days
- Kevin Sumlin: Jarrett Stidham ‘is going to be successful’ for Auburn football
- Texas A& ‘looking to break’ the home-team losing streak in Auburn series
- Missouri looking forward to potential ‘statement’ game vs. Auburn, former assistant Greg Brown
- Alabama coach Nick Saban doesn’t mention Auburn in list of SEC teams he respects