It was just a few days short of a year ago that Auburn opened another spring practice with all kinds of excitement surrounding new coordinators on both sides of the ball. Players were happy. Coaches were smiling. All seemed right with the world.
Anyone being realistic knew there would be an adjustment period as players learned new schemes brought by Scot Loeffler on offense and Brian VanGorder on defense. But I don’t believe anyone – coaches, players, fans, reporters – would have imagined the disaster to come.
I thought, at the time, VanGorder was a great hire with a great resume that would resonate with players. I also remember wondering if Chizik would give the 37-year-old Loeffler freedom to run his offense. After talking to Loffler, I became convinced that he would. And so it began.
It became obvious over the course of spring practice and later in preseason practice that there some issues at quarterback. On the other hand, VanGorder praised the defensive line almost daily. Running back Corey Grant was a standout from the start of spring practice until the end. Running backs coach Curtis Luper said that Tre Mason, Onterio McCalebb, Mike Blakely and Grant all would play significant roles in the offense. Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor predicted Emory Blake, who wore No. 80, would catch 80 passes and predicted big things for redshirt freshman wide receiver Sammie Coates. He said Trovon Reed had turned the corner.
But a black cloud moved over the Auburn football program as the season neared and never left. And that’s why, in eight days, Auburn will go to spring practice with first-year head coach Gus Malzahn and an entirely new coaching staff
“It’s a new day,” is a slogan Malzahn and his assistants repeat often.
The thing about this new day is that it isn’t as new as those faced some other coaches. Most of Auburn’s players knew Malzahn from his days as offensive coordinator, and he knows them. Most of Auburn’s offensive players have experience in Malzahn’s scheme.
Defensive players will have more to learn, but if there is one thing I feel absolutely safe saying will be different than the past few seasons it is that defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson will face no interference from the head coach.
I’ve never witnessed an Auburn football season like 2012. And I’ll be surprised if I ever do again.
For Auburn football, it truly is a new day.