With Auburn’s spring practice in the books, here’s what we know and what we learned about the Tigers as the offseason continues.
After three mediocre seasons for Gus Malzhan and Auburn, the hype is back for the Tigers as their spring practice ends and the long wait until fall practice begins. It all starts with the play of transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who finally got to show the Auburn faithful what he could do in Saturday’s spring game. He left them impressed and drooling over what could be one of the nation’s best offenses come this fall.
The defense is still solid after a season that saw the Tigers hold opponents to 17.1 points per game. Linebacker Deshaun Davis is still the leader of the group, but a few players have dug in their heels and proven to be assets for Kevin Steele’s group.
Here are three things we learned from Auburn’s spring practice and annual A-Day.
1. Stidham Is Auburn’s Guy Under Center
It is still the worst-kept secret in college football, but Jarrett Stidham will be the guy under center for the Tigers once September 2 rolls around as long as he is healthy. Stidham lit it up in front of 40,000-plus Auburn fans on Saturday, throwing for 267 yards on 16-of-20 passing attempts.
Malzahn will be diplomatic and say the competition isn’t over, with Sean White, Woody Barrett and Malik Willis all having a chance to win the spot, but the Tigers are at a different level on offense with Stidham in.
2. New Stud at Receiver
Nate Craig-Myers was part of the 2016 signing class that boasted a bunch of receivers, and he was expected to be the best of the bunch. He proved that might be the case as he had five catches and 154 yards in the A-Day game, showing that he could quickly become a deep and reliable threat for the Tigers. If Kyle Davis returns from dealing with personal issues, Auburn will have two receivers capable of beating defenders consistently.
3. The Defense is Solid
For the first time since 2014, Auburn will have the same defensive coordinator for two years in a row. Kevin Steele has brought a toughness to this defense that had been missing for some time, and while there are some holes to fill on the defensive line with the departures of Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams, the unit will be fine.
A player that has stepped up is defensive end Paul James III, who was awarded the defensive MVP for the game. Recovering from an injury that kept him out of most season, James has been challenged by his coaches and himself.
“It’s a challenge every day because you have your ups and downs and with the pain that I’m going through, it’s just something that’s motivating itself,” James said. “Because if I’m motivating myself, then most likely I’ll have a good practice.”