Gus Malzahn’s Tigers are always difficult to project during the offseason, and their 2020 campaign should be no exception.
Still, with that enigmatic perception comes upside, which many believe Auburn has plenty of heading into next year. NCAA.com in particular pinned Auburn as the No. 10 team in college football in its early Top 25 rankings, released Sunday.
Auburn is the fifth-highest ranked SEC team in the Top 25, behind Alabama, defending national and SEC champion LSU, defending SEC West champion Georgia, and Florida.
Auburn finished the 2019 season 9-4 following a loss to Minnesota in the Outback Bowl, and it closed at No. 14 in both the AP and coaches polls.
Malzahn must replace six starters on his defense in All-American Derrick Brown, All-SEC first-teamer Marlon Davidson, two-year starting safeties Daniel Thomas and Jeremiah Dinson, and cornerbacks Javaris Davis and Noah Igbinoghene.
First team All-SEC linebacker K.J. Britt is expected to be the defense’s best player as he heads a talented and experienced linebacking corps. Rising senior defensive end Big Kat Bryant will be counted on to step up, as will rising junior safeties Jamien Sherwood and Smoke Monday, both of whom were waiting and learning under Dinson and Thomas for two seasons.
On offense, other than starting tailback Boobee Whitlow, who left the program in the offseason, there’s plenty of continuity at the skill positions, namely with lead receiver Seth Williams. And even with Whitlow’s departure, the running backs room is loaded with young talent, including the No. 5 running back in the 2020 class, Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby.
The offensive line, however, loses four of its five starters, but it was a group that was inconsistent over the past two seasons. They’ll work under a new offensive line coach in Jack Bicknell Jr.
More than anything, Auburn’s 2020 outlook is largely contingent on the expected progression of rising sophomore Bo Nix, the 2019 SEC Freshman of the Year.
Nix broke all the Auburn freshman passing records last season, and with a standout sophomore year under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chad Morris, the Tigers’ offense has a chance to blossom.
Like all of college football, Auburn’s spring practice schedule has been put on hold due to a nation-wide standstill in sports amid the coronavirus outbreak. Auburn’s spring game has already been canceled.
“We’ll prepared in any way no matter what happens,” Malzahn said of his team this past week.
NOT A MEMBER?
JOIN AUBURNSPORTS.COM TODAY to enjoy around-the-clock content including stories, analysis, videos, podcasts, call-in shows and The Greatest Message Board In The History of The Internet.