NCAA Football Auburn Tigers

Auburn Football: 5 Questions Facing the Tigers Entering the Season

Auburn Football: 5 Questions Entering the Season

Auburn Football: 5 Questions Entering the Season
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn enjoyed an incredible, even miraculous run in 2013 all the way to the national championship game. They fell there to the Florida State Seminoles, but they still enter 2014 as defending SEC champs, a top five ranking and in the hunt for the playoffs. For the Tigers to repeat, here are five questions that need to be answered.

5. Will Off-the-Field Issues Kill Potential?

Jonathon Mincy, Auburn Tigers CB
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

5. Will Off-the-Field Issues Kill Potential?

Jonathon Mincy, Auburn Tigers CB
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers were not immune to the annual offseason issues that seem to plague teams all over the nation. First it was senior cornerback Jonathon Mincy arrested on a marijuana charge. Then quarterback Nick Marshall was hit with a marijuana charge of his own. Now, both players face a suspension, although Gus Malzahn has been vague. These things could derail a promising season in 2014.

4. Can the Offensive Line Continue Dominance?

Reese Dismukes, Auburn Tigers C
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

4. Can the Offensive Line Continue Dominance?

Reese Dismukes, Auburn Tigers C
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn plowed their way to the national championship game behind a dominant line and running game. This season they must replace Greg Robinson who was a force at left tackle. The good news is they have one of the best centers in the game in Reese Dismukes to anchor the middle and lead. Still, he can't do it alone, and the Tigers will need to find the right combination to make their running game go.

3. Is There Someone Capable of Filling Dee Ford’s Shoes?

Gabe Wright, Auburn Tigers DL
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

3. Is There Someone Capable of Filling Dee Ford’s Shoes?

Gabe Wright, Auburn Tigers DL
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Dee Ford was a wrecking ball on defense, terrorizing opposing quarterbacks and commanding a lot of attention to attempt to block him. The Tigers will miss his presence on defense and need an impact player to take his place. Gabe Wright could be that player as he brings considerable skill and experience to the table. If not Wright, then Auburn will need to find someone who can wreak havoc on defense.

2. Who Picks Up Tre Mason’s Carries?

Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn Tigers RB
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

2. Who Picks Up Tre Mason’s Carries?

Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn Tigers RB
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The running game was impressive last season. A big reason was the great play of Tre Mason. He produced a great season, and his play down the stretch earned him an invite for the Heisman presentation. Someone is going to have to pick up his 317 carries, and the early favorite is Cameron Artis-Payne. Artis-Payne averaged 6.7 YPC in 2013 and scored six touchdowns. He and Corey Grant will need to produce if the Tigers hope to continue their success.

1. Will Nick Marshall Take the Next Step as a Passer?

Nick Marshall, Auburn Tigers QB
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

1. Will Nick Marshall Take the Next Step as a Passer?

Nick Marshall, Auburn Tigers QB
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall had a tremendous season in 2013, coming from nowhere to lead the Tigers to the championship game. Much of that success was due to his ability to run the football. Teams will most likely force Marshall to beat them through the air, as he didn't cross the 2,000-yard mark last season and completed less than 60 percent of his passes. Those marks will need to improve if Auburn is going to repeat in 2014.