By Jeff Kubiszyn @JeffKubiszyn on April 9, 2014
No one could have predicted the impossible run by the Auburn Tigers last season. Winless in the SEC in 2012, Auburn was just minutes away from winning the 2013 BCS National Championship game. The transformation may have been a surprise to most of college football, but not to Auburn fans. 2014 will present new challenges for the Tigers. Auburn has several intriguing players who will need to step up if the Tigers hope to make another title run.
Nick Marshall was just expected to manage games last year. The offense flowed through the run game and Tre Mason. Mason has left for the NFL, leaving Auburn with an unproven stable of running backs. This may put pressure on Marshall early in the season to carry the team. Can the senior make the necessary plays to keep Auburn afloat?
Cameron Artis-Payne saw some early season action last year, but he had only six touches in the final four games. Built similarly to Mason, Artis-Payne could be just as productive as Mason was. He could also struggle under the weight of expectations. Artis-Payne will be competing with Corey Grant, a speedier back, for the starting job. The winner of this battle should see lots of touches.
Marcus Davis did not see a lot of action last season, but that could change this year for the speedy slot receiver. For one, the receivers have had another offseason to work with Marshall. Teams will most likely try to stop the run and force Auburn to throw the ball. Sammie Coates will draw the most attention, opening the door for Davis to break out in 2014.
Carl Lawson came to Auburn as the nation's No. 2 ranked defensive end prospect in 2013. It took the freshman a while to get used to the college game, but Lawson still had four sacks in 2013. With another offseason of training and conditioning under his belt, Lawson should be primed for a spectacular sophomore season.
Jonathon Mincy is expected to take over for the graduated Chris Davis. Mincy started all 14 games last season, but now he will be counted on to match up against teams' No. 1 receiver each week. He isn't the tallest corner at 5-foot-10, but he will have to play big to protect an inexperienced secondary that may rely heavily on freshmen.
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