The Auburn Tigers wrapped up spring practice over the weekend with the annual A-Day Game in front of over 40,000 people at Jordan Hare Stadium.
I’ve been on record for many years stating just how meaningless I view these controlled scrimmages. In fact, I’ve attended only one such game in my whole life. It took the final rolling of the Toomer’s Oaks (poisoned by Alabama football fanatic and professional nutcase Harvey Updyke) in 2013 to actually get me in attendance.
I’m not saying it’s difficult to truly glean some useful data from a spring game, but squeezing a cup of water out of a rock might be easier.
What the heck? I’m thirsty and love a good challenge! Here are the ABCs of Auburn’s A-Day.
A stands for Acceleration
Gus Malzahn made the biggest wager of his career at the end of last season when it was announced he would be taking back over the play-calling duties.
One of the first campaign promises was to revitalize the tempo aspect of the Tigers offense. The reason it needed to be revitalized is because “Auburn Fast” had become a myth like Paul Bunyan or trigonometry. I’ve definitely heard of both, but I don’t think either actually exist.
Young children today listen to their parents wax poetic about the “Gus Bus hurry up no huddle” that ran defenses ragged but see no actual proof Saturdays it was anything more than some old wives tale.
As salve to my sore eyes, I actually saw signs of an up-tempo pace this Saturday. The substitution pattern was deliberate and there was an obvious intent to be fast.
Again, it was a scrimmage, but color me encouraged.
B stands for Breakout players
Auburn is going to miss the leadership and consistency of Ryan Davis who set the all-time record for catches in a single season in 2017.
Redshirt-freshman Matthew Hill is a wide receiver who could help ease the loss of Davis and have a huge season. He caught several big passes Saturday and showed a lot of explosive ability.
Obviously, Seth Williams burst onto the scene last year, but he looks primed to become a star in 2019.
The Tigers have significant depth at running back for the first time in a long time. JaTarvious Whitlow, Kam Martin and Shaun Shivers are all back. However, true freshman DJ Williams exhibited some ability to run between the tackles. There’s never too much depth at running back.
C stands for Competition
It looks like there’s lots of competition at practically every position on the team. That’s incredibly important.
Even the Bible says, “Iron sharpens iron.” I don’t think they were necessarily talking about linebackers in Proverbs, but the point is still valid.
When multiple high-level athletes compete for the same job, everyone usually gets better. That creates depth and, in turn, a better football team.
The headline competition is at the quarterback position. All four quarterbacks played well Saturday, but redshirt-freshman Joey Gatewood and true freshman Bo Nix looked to be on a higher level than Malik Willis or Cord Sandberg.
Malzahn won’t say it, but I feel comfortable in predicting either Gatewood or Nix will start against Oregon. It’s a little unsettling both are freshmen, but Gatewood has been around for a year and Nix is unlike any freshman on the Plains before him.
Andy Graham is a regular columnist for The Outlook.