AUBURN – The Auburn football players will walk into hugs and handshakes all across campus Monday, smiling and hit by that old familiar feeling from the first day of school — and at the same time, across campus in some dark room in the athletics complex, one of their coaches will probably be rewinding tape.
It will be the first day of class on the Plains, which means Auburn’s Tigers are off from practice and free to meet their professors and classmates and get set for the semester, and that the team’s coaches are turning the page from preseason camp over into preparation for game week, and an Aug. 31 showcase showdown with Oregon in Texas.
First, though, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said he and his staff are using the day away from the practice field to watch their film from scrimmages and practices so far this fall and re-evaluate players across the roster to help build their depth chart and the battle plan for the season.
Auburn opened preseason camp Aug. 2, and ran practices nearly every day up to today with a complete focus on football, before classes start and opponent preparation begins as the team falls into its regular fall rhythm.
Monday’s look back could go a long way in decisions being made across the board — including at quarterback.
“We’re going to go back, now that fall camp’s over, and really at all positions, just evaluate each position, take a good 24 hours to see everything and go back,” Malzahn said Sunday after the Tigers’ last practice of preseason camp.
“A lot of times, from a coach’s standpoint, you remember the last practice in great detail, but not the things before, so it gives us a good chance to put the pieces to the puzzle — not just quarterback, but even some other positions as far as depth is concerned.
“The next 24 to 48 hours will probably really be focused on us, as far as putting the pieces to the puzzle,” he added.
The burning question remains as to who will be named the starter behind center for Auburn in that opener, among freshman Bo Nix and redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood. It could come soon. It could only come at kickoff. Malzahn wasn’t making promises either way.
“If we compare who gives us the best chance of beating Oregon — when we get to that point, we’ll name a starter,” he shrugged.
For now, they’re both turning the page, on to class and on to the Ducks, with an intense August camp finally behind the Tigers
“I like to have some free time back on my hands, but at the same time, I’m going to miss camp, too,” middle linebacker K.J. Britt said. “This is probably one of the funnest camps I’ve ever had, just being around ball 24/7, being locked in and just having fun playing football.
“Really, the biggest thing gone from camp is all your free time. But, man, right now I don’t want my free time. Only football. It’s kind of bittersweet.”
Sweet, though, because the Tigers are now one step closer to kickoff.
“It’s a game mindset,” sophomore wide receiver Seth Williams said on that shift in focus. “We’re not focusing on, ‘Oh it’s the defense and we’re going against our teammates’.
“We know we’re going against Oregon now, so everybody is locking in on one goal, and that’s to beat Oregon now.”