Two years removed from a dream season in which it won a national championship, Auburn received a rude awakening when the team went 3-9 in 2012. Adding insult to injury, the team went winless in the Southeastern Conference, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished in more than six decades. The school fired Gene Chizik and hired former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn in an effort to regain a spark. Malzahn’s familiarity with the program along with his unique offensive schemes and talented players make Auburn a team that will surprise in 2013.
The Buzz: Auburn returns 15 starters from last season – six on offense and nine on defense. All eyes will be on the quarterback position as junior Kiehl Frazier and sophomore Jonathan Wallace look to battle for the starting nod during fall camp. The offense, which ranked last in the SEC in total offense (305.0 yards per game) and second to last in scoring (18.7 points per game), will get a huge boost with the addition of junior-college transfer Cameron Artis-Payne, a 5-foot-11, 208-pound running back who could be the second-best player named Cam to play at Auburn. Artis-Payne rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns last season at Allan Hancock Junior College and will share duties with starter Tre Mason this season. Mason provides Malzahn with a proven back and along with Artis-Payne gives the team a one-two punch out of the backfield. Auburn’s defense was next to last in the league in total defense (420.5 yards per game), but gets a boost with the return of most of its defensive front line. The secondary also returns four starters from last season. While the schedule is brutal thanks to being in the SEC West, Auburn should make marked improvements from last season.
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