AUBURN – Auburn football has its plan in place.
The Tigers rode the sweet melody of their Music City Bowl win back into the weight room and out onto the recruiting trail this winter.
Players powered through workouts. The coaches counted up their returning stars. New recruits signed on.
Every day, the calendar’s turned to bring Auburn closer to AT&T Stadium in Texas and a showcase showdown with Oregon that will kick off the 2019 season in August.
Every day, Auburn’s working to prepare for it as the winter season turns to spring.
Auburn will open spring practices March 18 and run camp until its annual A-Day game April 13, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn announced last week.
The Tigers will practice four days a week starting that Monday after the university’s spring break, leading up to the fans’ best peak at the new-look team on A-Day.
The A-Day game is set for a 3 p.m. start time in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The schedule is different from what Auburn’s run in the past during Malzahn’s tenure as head coach at Auburn, he said last Wednesday in a press conference wrapping up the team’s effort on National Signing Day.
The start date is later, and the team will practice four days a week as opposed to the three the coaches have run in the past.
“Really, I’m looking forward to the changeup in the spring practice schedule,” he said.
The Tigers players, meanwhile, are looking forward to carrying their momentum from a strong postseason into 2019.
After a disappointing regular season, Auburn blasted Purdue 63-14 in the Music City Bowl in December in Malzahn’s first game back as the team’s down-to-down play-caller, and in a victory the Tigers are looking to as a turn of the page for the team.
“The bowl game made us realize that we can do more this coming season than we did this past season,” Auburn defensive line standout Nick Coe said last week. Coe is one of the eight Auburn third-year players that Malzahn said “seriously considered” forgoing further eligibility to play pro football, but decided to return for 2019.
“We should be much greater than we were before,” Coe said. “We have momentum coming into the spring with our goals as a team and the big picture and everything. Everybody wants to win a national championship, but they have to embrace the fact that you've got to make sacrifice to win that.
“The momentum is really high right now,” he added.
Returners like Coe have pushed through winter workouts with team strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell, lifting and racing across the indoor facility turf like in the videos the football program has posted to its social media pages in recent weeks.
“Elite-level performance requires elite-level preparation,” Russell tells players in one of those videos.
Malzahn praised Russell’s work last week and said this year’s spring schedule change will give players more time to work with Russell and grow their strength and speed.
“It gives our guys two more weeks to train, which I think is very important with their development,” Malzahn said.
The coach said Auburn will practice on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays during spring ball, whereas previously in his first six years as Auburn’s head coach, the team worked out on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The Friday workouts will be set up to be drill-specific, he said, with Saturdays being the team’s scrimmage days.
It’s in the spring, and in workouts now, that the Tigers look to lay the foundation for a strong push to the 2019 kickoff.
“We’ve got unfinished business,” Auburn defensive back Jeremiah Dinson said last week. “I could tell you we’re going to do this, and win this, but we just have to win today — day by day. Just be where your feet are at. That’s what I kind of tell the guys today, ‘Just be where you’re feet are at and don’t worry about the season.’ That’s seven or eight months away. We don’t know what’s going to happen.
“But if you can win today and be the best you each and every day, we’ve got a great shot in the long run.”