Football opens "very physical" spring practices
The start of Auburn's 2014 spring practice will bring head coach Gus Malzahn a luxury he's yet to experience as a collegiate head coach.
"This is the first time we will have a quarterback in the spring who started the fall before and I know Coach Lashlee is excited about that," Malzahn said. "It'll be a good thing moving forward."
Elusive senior quarterback Nick Marshall is expected to again lead the Auburn offense in 2014, with goals of improving his throwing ability in the offseason.
"Nick is a very talented player, not just running; he can really throw it," Malzahn said. "I said that a lot during the fall, but now that he has spring he will be more comfortable and more reactive. We feel very good about him throwing the football."
With a season of experience under his belt, Marshall's teammates said they've seen his role change on the team.
"It's good to see him evolving as a team leader," Chad Slade said. "He was a team leader last year, but this year it's getting more and more as he gets used to the offense. He knows the offense like the back of his hand now."
Though he is normally soft spoken, Malzahn said the senior's words carry weight throughout the Tigers' locker room.
"He doesn't say much but when he does, people listen," Malzahn said. "I think he is really looking forward to the spring and being comfortable."
Marshall is also expected to benefit in the passing game from an influx of talented wide receivers in the 2014 recruiting class.
D'haquille Williams, the nation's number one junior college recruit in this year's recruiting class, has already turned heads in the Auburn secondary.
"D'haquille is probably going to be a great player for us this year," defensive back Jermaine Whitehead said. "He reminds me a lot of Sammie (Coates). He can get vertical fast, but he also likes to put his foot on the ground and make plays across the field."
Fellow defensive back Jonathon Mincy said that in addition to Williams' talent, the 6-foot-3 wideout already plays with the attitude of a big-time wide receiver.
"D'haquille is going to talk, get in your face and that's something you want from your wide receivers," defensive back Jonathon Mincy* said. "We're ready to get out there and play with them."
Though not as heralded as Williams, Whitehead said he was already impressed by true freshman receiver Stanton Truitt.
"Truitt is quick with his feet and has great hands," Whitehead said. "I have a lot of confidence about both of those guys."
Malzahn's second season on the Plains will bring new experiences for the 48-year-old head coach, but Malzahn said not to expect his process to change.
"We felt like we got that mental and physical toughness that Auburn is known for," Malzahn said. "Look for a very physical spring, just like we did last spring."