Something to Prove in 2019
Three preseason All-SEC selections Nick Coe, Marlon Davidson, and Derrick Brown are big reasons why Auburn feels good about 2019 (photo: Auburn Athletics)
SEC Media Days are in the books, and it’s only 40 days till Auburn faces Oregon at AT&T Stadium in the Advocare Kickoff Classic in Dallas, Texas. Not surprisingly, Gus Malzahn said at Media Days that the top priority heading into the 2019 season will be the quarterback battle between redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood and true freshman Bo Nix.
Even with the prospect of a rookie quarterback leading the team, Malzahn has exuded a cautious confidence about the upcoming season. He even went so far as saying the Tigers had “a chance” to win a championship, “if” they can win some close games. “I don’t think every team in our league can say that,” Gus said. “But we have a chance.”
There are several reasons for the coach’s enthusiasm. First, whoever wins the QB race will play behind an experienced line. All five starters are returning from 2018, including Rimington Trophy nominee Kaleb Kim. Couple that experience with Boobee Whitlow and Kam Martin at running back and an experienced receiving corps that knows how to block, and you have the potential for a productive offense.
Special teams look strong as well with two preseason All SEC picks in kicker Anders Carlson and punter Aryn Siposs.
However, the real excitement about the 2019 Tigers lies with the defense. Under defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, the Tigers have been a top-15 scoring defense the last three years. And, Gus thinks they can be better in 2019. In fact, the head coach said they could be the best defense in his 10 years of coaching on the Plains.
As with the O-line, the defensive line will be full of veterans from 2018 with three preseason All-SEC selections. All but one starting defensive lineman will be back, and the second unit maybe just as strong as the first. “We’ve got a lot of experience [and] a lot of really talented guys on defense, specifically up front,” Gus said. “The strength of our team is up front. That’s a good thing in this league.”
But probably the number one reason for feeling good about Auburn’s chances in 2019 is the Tigers are hungry.
After a disappointing 8–5 season, Auburn ended on a high note with a 62–13 blowout of Purdue in the Music City Bowl. Gus says the bowl victory gave the Tigers an exciting feeling about a do-over in 2019. “I think that momentum has really carried over. They’re a real hungry team, and I feel like they have something to prove.”