Marshall: What we know

We’re almost two weeks into fall practice and almost two weeks before the season-opener.

Malzahn wants a physical, hard-nosed team/Todd Van Emst photo

What have we learned and where are we headed with this new staff?

If anything, we’ve learned that information - real information - is at a premium. Even former Auburn football players have a hard time getting into scrimmages.

All big-time college football coaches control the information and demand such secrecy. Gus Malzahn, I’m told, is highly intense, apparently more than any of his immediate predecessors.

Don’t let the professorial look and the Southwestern twang fool you. Malzahn is a driven coach.

It sounds as if you’d have to go back to the days of Pat Dye to match his intensity. It also sounds as if preseason practices have been more physical than previous preseasons.

All of that is good, especially for a team that has had the reputation for poor tackling. If you want Auburn to “get that edge back,’’ as Malzahn puts it, that’s one of the ways to do it.

Some major steps in the rebuilding process are being more physical on both sides of the ball and “getting that edge back,’’ along with better tackling. Another sign of Malzahn's urgency is an increase in scrimmages.

So we know, for starters, that Auburn will be a more aggressive football team than the previous two seasons.

Lawson has impressed this fall/Todd Van Emst photo

We know, too, that Auburn will score a lot of points this season. How do we know?

Malzahn’s coaching record says that good things happen when you get out of his way. No one will be standing in his way.

We don’t know for sure, but I’m confident in saying that Auburn has two capable and athletic quarterbacks in Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson.

Marshall is the likely starter, but Johnson has been tagged as a future star by several people with longtime connections to the Auburn program.

So I think it’s safe to say that Auburn will have much better quarterback play this season.

With all the attention on the quarterback race, there has been little discussion about the defense. Maybe that’s because there are probably more questions there.

The depth appears thinner, especially at linebacker, where Auburn is trying to find a fourth linebacker to go with Jake Holland, Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy.

There seems to be a shortage of depth at defensive end, and the depth just got thinner with the injury to Dee Ford. The good news is that freshman Carl Lawson has been impressive in fall practice.

Lawson, defensive end Elijah Daniel, defensive tackle Montravius Adams and cornerback Kamryn Melton are among the freshmen who are expected to add depth on defense.

Word is, Adams has been physically dominant in fall workouts. Linebacker Kenny Flowers, a junior college transfer, is another newcomer who’s expected to contribute.

On offense, freshman running back Johnathan Ford will likely be one of the contributors at Ontario McCaleb’s old position. A freshman wide receiver or two is expected to play.

So we know, too, that Auburn has a talented freshman class, with at least eight freshmen expected to contribute.

On the subject of wide receivers: I think wide receiver will be one of the most improved positions on the team.

Auburn has talent there, perhaps more than many realize. Now, with Dameyune Craig and Malzahn, I’m looking for better results.

So where are we headed?

A knowledgeable long-time observer of Auburn football, a former player who is still close to the program, has passed down word that he expects this team to score a lot of points and give up a lot of points.

With a plan and some actual direction, it’ll be entertaining at the very least, which is far better than what the Auburn faithful have experienced since the brakes went on early in the 2011 season.

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