Women’s sports have certainly carried the banner for Auburn athletics in 2015.
From gymnastics’ run to the Super Six to SEC-Champion softball’s ongoing run at history, two smaller-size sports have provided bright spots while bigger money sports have been a bit disappointing.
That doesn’t mean the future isn’t bright, however, and starting with football, better things could be ahead.
The SEC is ripe for the taking in 2015, and Auburn may be the team in the best position to bring it home.
While Auburn likely experienced as much turnover as any SEC team, there is a widespread feeling that the losses may be survivable.
Jeremy Johnson has SEC experience and two years in the Malzahn system.
Roc Thomas, Jovon Robinson and Peyton Barber should provide yet another stable of running backs for Malzahn to choose from in 2015.
Then there’s the return of D’haquille Williams, who figures to be one of the nation’s top receivers should he avoid injury and off-the-field issues.
As always, the biggest question mark is on defense, but the return of Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator gives hope that better days are to come.
There are a lot of unproven parts, but there’s certainly enough talent and coaching on the Plains for this to be a special season.
On the hardwood, coach Bruce Pearl has created unprecedented amounts of excitement around the basketball program, but turnover won’t make things easy in 2015-16.
Leader and top scorer KT Harrell was lost to graduation, while second-leading scorer Antoine Mason is also gone.
Meanwhile, role players such as Matthew Atewe and Alex Thompson have transferred to other schools while preferred walk-on Patrick Keim underwent ACL surgery this offseason.
One of the most important players figures to be point guard Kareem Canty, who reportedly lit up practice last season while sitting out for his transfer season.
If Canty can stay on the court this season, he could be the type of playmaker that thrives in the Pearl offense.
Pearl has made it abundantly clear how important recruiting will be for his program, and his early returns have been favorable.
Pearl landed the top junior college prospect for the second consecutive season in TJ Dunans, while adding more size in four-star forwards Horace Spencer and Danjel Purifoy.
The return of Cinmeon Bowers and Tahj Shamsid-Deen should provide stability, though it is yet to be seen how Shamsid-Deen will recover from shoulder surgeries.
The competition is rising in the SEC, as Ben Howland, Avery Johnson and Rick Barnes add to an already formidable coaching lineup. The future is certainly bright, though it could take another year before Auburn truly reaps rewards from Pearl’s program.
With names such as Malzahn, Pearl and the ever-impressive Clint Myers walking around campus, the potential for championships at Auburn is great. It will be interesting to see who can capitalize on that potential.
Eric Wallace is a writer for The Plainsman. He can be reached at sports@ThePlainsman.com.