If you were a SEC coach in 2017 and had the following record as part of your resume, you might be happy as the 2018 season approaches.
- First place at 7-1 in the SEC West.
- A 10-4 overall record with wins over Georgia and Alabama.
- A trip to the SEC championship game. A 28-7 loss to Georgia.
- A trip to the Peach Bowl. A loss to Central Florida.
The Gus Malzahn led Auburn Tigers had plenty of positive highlights last season but will be hard pressed to duplicate those results in the 2018 campaign. The offensive and defensive lines, plus the running back slots will be three areas of concern.
Like Tennessee, Auburn has a tough opener facing Washington in Atlanta. The Tigers also have Georgia and Alabama on the road in 2018. They host the Vols on October 13.
Jarrett Stidham (6-3, 215) returns at quarterback. He threw for over 3,100 yards and 18 touchdowns last year as he guided the offense to over 450 yard per game.
Four of five starters are gone from the offensive line. Only guard Mike Horton returns. Part time lineman, Nigerian born Prince Tega Wanogho is a work in progress but could be a force depending on his development.
Running backs Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway are gone but Kam Martin returns as the featured back this year. He averaged six yards per carry last year. JaTarvious Whitlow and top recruit Asa Martin add depth behind Stidham if the line can produce solid results.
The passing game is anchored by Ryan Davis and Darius Slayton. Davis is a posession type receiver and Slayton averaged 22 yards per reception last year.
The defense for the Tigers gave up 17 points or less eight times in 2017. Leading tackler at middle linebacker, Deshaun Davis is back. Defensive tackle Derrick Brown is a force in the middle. Jamel Dean and veteran Javaris Davis are solid at the corners.
The Tigers look to have enough firepower offensively for the 2018 campaign, but their schedule is brutal as usual. The Tigers, along with Georgia and Alabama are probably losses for Tennessee this season. Auburn will likely be an underdog to the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide, but don’t count them out as a player in the SEC West picture.