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Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Strong and weak: Auburn Tigers

By Edward Aschoff

Every year, players come and go in college football. With that teams can either grow or take steps back because of turnover.

It's time to check out Auburn's strongest position and weakest position heading into the 2013 season:

Strongest position: Running back

The Tigers didn't have too many bright spots at all on offense last year, but running back Tre Mason barreled his way to more than 1,000 yards, eight touchdowns and 5.9 yards per carry. Mason is back in 2013, and he should have even more space to move around in with Gus Malzahn's spread offense coming back to the Plains. Auburn lost Onterio McCalebb and Mike Blakely, but Mason will have quality help with junior Corey Grant returning and junior college transfer Cameron Artis-Payne on the roster. Grant is a big-bodied back who was once at Alabama and should help Mason stay fresh. Artis-Payne was the No. 2 juco running back last year, after rushing for 2,048 yards and 25 touchdowns last fall, and had a very strong spring for the Tigers. He was also named MVP of the Tigers' spring game with his 117 rushing yards and two receiving touchdowns. Auburn could have quite the trio on its hands at running back.

Weakest position: Wide receiver 

Auburn really struggled to throw the ball last year and doesn't return anyone who registered more than 136 yards -- and that was tight end C.J. Uzomah, who could have a big year in Malzahn's spread. But as for actual wide receivers, Auburn returns just two who went over 100 yards last year -- Trovon Reed (122 yards) and Sammie Coates (114). While there was some improvement made this spring, the Tigers don't have any true proven weapons at wide receiver right now. Reed and Quan Bray, who leads all current Tigers with his 14 returning receptions from last year, have all the potential and skill to be valuable options in the passing and rushing game, but they have fallen below expectations during their time at Auburn. That has to change if this passing game is going to go anywhere in 2013. Sophomore Ricardo Louis was a prize recruit for the Tigers last year, but caught just three passes as a freshman. He had a good spring and showed that he can be a true deep threat for Auburn, but it has to translate to the field this fall. It will help that three ESPN 300 receivers will be on campus this fall.