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Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Auburn spring wrap

By Greg Ostendorf

Three things we learned in the spring about the Auburn Tigers:

1. The offense is scary good: Gus Malzahn’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense made quite a splash in his first season as head coach at Auburn, and although star running back Tre Mason is gone, the offense could be even better in Year 2. Quarterback Nick Marshall is back and looks more confident running the show. He has a deeper and more talented group of skill players at his disposal, and the offensive line returns four starters. SEC defenses beware.

2. D’haquille is the real deal: The expectations were high for D'haquille Williams, the No. 1 junior college player in the country in the Class of 2014, but he not only met those expectations, he exceeded them. The coaches say he’s further along than they thought he would be at this point, and it was evident during the spring game as he had five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown.

3. Depth remains a concern: Injuries took their toll on Auburn during spring practice, and while it might have created opportunities for some, it also showed what little depth the Tigers have at certain spots. Players had to play out of position in some cases, and the second-team offense and defense looked completely outmatched in what turned into a lopsided spring game.

Three questions for the fall:

Auburn's Nick Marshall
Auburn signal-caller Nick Marshall will have several talented playmakers around him in 2014.
1. How good is the defense?: At this point, we have no idea. It was a question mark heading into the spring, and it remains a question mark. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said he probably had close to a dozen players on defense who missed a good chunk of spring practice, making it nearly impossible to see how all the pieces fit. Not to mention, the coaches expect part of the 2014 class to make an impact, specifically on defense.

2. Who will be the starting left tackle?: It was clear early on that the staff would wait until the fall to make a decision on who would replace Greg Robinson. After the spring, Shon Coleman seems to be in the driver’s seat, but Patrick Miller is still in the mix, and there’s also the theory that he moves to right tackle and Avery Young moves to guard.

3. Where does Holsey play?: The emergence of junior college transfer Derrick Moncrief at safety has created a logjam in the secondary. Moncrief impressed the coaches so much this spring that they are now considering keeping him at safety and when Joshua Holsey returns from injury in the fall, they would try him at either cornerback or the Star position.

One way-too-early prediction:

If the offense is as good as advertised, then there’s no way that Marshall won’t be invited to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation. He led all quarterbacks with 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing last season, and he’s made it a point to improve as a passer this offseason. In a league where most of the elite quarterbacks have moved on, Marshall has a chance to be special for Auburn this season.