Archived Story

Impressions from a record Auburn A-Day

Published 10:15am Wednesday, April 24, 2013

By Andy Graham

More than 83,000 Tiger fans descended upon the Plains this past Saturday to witness the Auburn football program conduct a glorified scrimmage.
It’s said to be the largest crowd at any spring game across the country so far this year (even larger than the one in Tuscaloosa, if you can believe that).
To be fair, that record number was certainly aided by the draw of rolling the Toomer’s oaks one final time, which was evident by the mass of humanity gathered at Toomer’s Corner after the game.
The aerial photo of the intersection between College St. and Magnolia Ave. was unlike anything I have ever seen before.
It really doesn’t matter to me if Auburn people came together Saturday because of their excitement with the return of Gus Malzahn or because of their nostalgic feelings about a couple of beloved trees.
Either way, it was something positive for Auburn athletics, and these days that’s in short supply.
I distinctly remember Tiger fans making fun of Alabama people when 92,000 showed up for Nick Saban’s first spring game. That was the start of a pretty incredible run in Tuscaloosa.
I just hope Auburn can follow suit and use this positive momentum as a springboard moving forward.
Amongst all the hoopla, there was actually a game played Saturday or something resembling a game.
I’m a firm believer that there is absolutely no correlation between how a team looks in a spring game and the amount of wins they will accumulate the following season.
In fact, the only thing you can really gauge with any accuracy is a certain player’s athletic ability, and even that can be very deceiving at times.
Does anyone remember Cam Newton’s uninspiring performance in the 2010 Auburn spring game?
Obviously, newcomer Cameron Artis-Payne stood out the most during the game.  His 117 yards rushing and 47 yards receiving definitely opened my eyes.
Of course, he was going up against one of the worst run defenses in the SEC last year, but let’s focus on the positive.
Returning starter and 1,000-yard rusher Tre Mason looks to be getting some much-needed help in 2013.
A very productive running game can take an enormous amount of pressure off a young quarterback.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Jonathan Wallace’s numbers were actually pretty good, but both he and Kiehl Frazier are still too inconsistent.
On the other side of the ball, Justin Garrett (who we’ve heard about all spring) lived up to the hype and promises to be a very dynamic player on defense at Ellis Johnson’s “star” position.  It’s a specialized hybrid linebacker/safety in the 4-2-5 scheme.
Listening to Gus Malzahn after the game, it’s obvious that X’s and O’s were not his main concern. He was far more interested in the team’s energy level and attitude.
We witnessed in 2009 that it wouldn’t be a problem for Malzahn to implement his offensive system and the players to run it efficiently.
The biggest challenge for this coaching staff will be convincing the players that they can actually win ball games. The defeatist attitude that permeated the team last year is not something that goes away overnight.
The players will ultimately have to gain back their confidence on the field on game day.
However, the Auburn faithful spoke loud and clear over the weekend with their full support, and that certainly can’t hurt.
Graham is a sports columnist for The Outlook.

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