AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Coach Gus Malzahn doesn’t think the Auburn Tigers need mottos or reminders of last season posted around the football complex.
Auburn opened preseason camp Tuesday trying to rebound after a promising 2014 season ended with four losses in the last five games and significant defensive struggles.
Malzahn said the returning players “have a little edge to them to redeem themselves, and I think that’s a good thing.” He said that’s all that’s necessary.
“We’ve just really been preaching the standard,” he said. “The standard that we have to be at to have a chance to win a championship. Eight-and-five is enough to motivate our guys.”
That’s the record Auburn was saddled with after rising as high as No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings. Malzahn used the phrase “13 seconds better” after the Tigers fell just short against Florida State in the national championship game two years ago. Players coined the motto “Tough ‘N Together” before last season.
The Tigers open the season as the preseason favorites to win the SEC, in voting by reporters covering the league.
They return with quarterback Jeremy Johnson already having been anointed the starter after two seasons backing up Nick Marshall. New defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s presence was evident with his critiques of players booming through the practice facility, and his turnaround efforts have heightened expectations on that side of the ball.
“It gives us a lot of confidence that he’s going to have the defense prepared to basically make stops,” wide receiver Melvin Ray said. “It gives us that much more room to feel like we can put up points and we have a defense that will do (its) part.”
The defense gets a boost with the return of end Carl Lawson, who missed last season with a knee injury. He said the added knowledge gained during that time on the sidelines makes him “a much better football player.”
“I’m not thinking about the injury,” Lawson said. “My coaches are more thinking about that than me. Even when I got back out there, I’ve never really thought about how my knee went out.
“I’m one of those players who play with reckless abandon.”
NOTES: Safety Tray Matthews missed practice for personal reasons but Malzahn said he’d be back on Wednesday. A likely starter, Matthews was kicked off Georgia’s team for violating team rules after the 2013 season and sat out a year after transferring. … Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes was at practice about a week after having surgery to remove a cancerous spot on his tongue along with some lymph nodes from the right side of his neck as a precaution. Malzahn called him “probably the toughest coach in college football” for returning so quickly. Grimes will have to wait awhile before he’s able to yell again, relying more on graduate assistant Johnny Brewer.