Returning starters and system continuity help offensive performance. That could be a scary prospect for teams facing Auburn next season. The Tigers jumped from 90th to 8th in yards/play offense under Gus Malzahn in 2013, en route to the BCS title game. Auburn could return all 11 starters from that unit for 2014.
It’s not a given everyone will come back. Junior RB Tre Mason has a decision to make. He has not been considered among the top prospects at running back, a position the NFL views as dispensable. But, after his monster last month of the SEC season that vaulted him into the Heisman discussion, his stock won’t get any higher.
Redshirt Sophomore LT Greg Robinson may have a bigger decision. He is up to No. 12 overall on Mel Kiper’s Big Board and could be a potential first round pick in 2014 if he comes out.
Even losing those two standouts, the worst-case scenario for Auburn looks like nine starters back. That will include quarterback Nick Marshall, a potential Heisman candidate in his second-year at the position, two senior running backs, all the wide receivers and tight ends and four offensive linemen. That’s in an SEC that should take a step back on offense with Mettenberger, Manziel, McCarron, Murray and Shaw leaving.
The Tigers lose a bit more on defense, although defense has not been a pivotal component of Auburn’s success. Expect to see the Tigers in just about every “way too early” top five for 2014.
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[Photo via USA Today Sports]