Spring practice starts Wednesday, March 27 for Auburn football and new head coach Gus Malzahn says he's excited to get back on the field with the Tigers.
"I've really enjoyed everything up to this point," said Malzahn. "But there's nothing like being on that field. I've been excited probably since Sunday."
Malzahn briefly spoke with the media on Tuesday, March 26 regarding the state of the program heading into spring practice. He discussed the importance of strength and conditioning as well as being mentally prepared for practice.
"We have to get our edge back, that's physically and mentally tougher," said Malzahn. "We're going to be very physical during spring practice and we're going to have the pads on and get after it with the basic fundamentals of football."
The second goal of spring practice for Malzahn is for the players to have a working understanding of the systems he will put in place.
"We want our guys when they leave spring to have a very good understanding of their responsibilities in our base offense and defense," said Malzahn. "The reason being is that this summer we want them to build on things and not develop bad habits."
Since being hired in December, there have been questions circulating Malzahn about starting positions, most importantly at quarterback. The head coach says that "every position is open" and it appears he's going into spring practice with an open mind.
"I'm trying not to have anything in the past, any preconceived ideas. When I say a new day, I'm looking for a fresh start," said Malzahn. "I do know there are guys who have improved greatly since I've been here. There are also a lot of guys that I've never even watched, so our coaches are keeping an open mind about everything."
Malzahn did mention Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace, saying they will be getting a lot of reps in practice this spring, possibly putting them in the top candidates for the quarterback position.
"We'll probably start them with equal reps.," said Malzahn. "Probably the biggest concern is their arms. We have to protect their arms."
Freshman star quarterback recruit Jeremy Johnson was not mentioned in the press conference, but the 2013 Mr. Football award recipient is expected to compete alongside Frazier and Wallace this spring.
Known for his fast-paced, no-huddle offense, Malzahn wants the players to get used to his up-tempo coaching style in the spring so they will be ready to go in the fall.
"We're going to be a no huddle team. We're going to learn how to play fast, practice fast," said Malzahn.
Malzahn also emphasized the importance of stressing discipline on the field and soon after, it was announced that junior safety Erique Florence would not return with the team this year because of personal issues. Florence played sparingly in 2012 only recording eight tackles.
Blake Burgess has graduated early and will also not be participating in spring practice this year meaning there are five players from last year's team not returning to the Tigers. Defensive tackle Devaunte Sigler, Quarterback Clint Mosely and offensive guard Christian Westerman were the previous three leaving the team.
Malzahn looks to use spring practice to build a depth chart position by position with an open mind and condition the players to his fast-paced type of play. A-Day, the annual Auburn spring game, will be on Saturday, April 20.