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March 17, 2014
Four goals in mind
AUBURN | Gus Malzahn remains completely unconvinced that operating at a faster pace will lead to more injuries.
Now he's standing behind that idea in a very tangible way.
The Auburn coach said Monday that one of his primary goals for spring practice, which begins Tuesday morning, will be to shorten time between each snap next season. He believes that while last season's spring period was all about setting new expectations, this period will be about refining the systems and protocols that moved Auburn into the national championship game.
"We think we can be quite a bit faster," Malzahn said. "There's times last year … (when) we have a lot of new people out there, a lot of moving parts, and as you get more comfortable the faster you can get."
Though Malzahn wrote the book on operating offenses at a fast tempo, the Tigers actually weren't all that efficient in terms of maximizing time of possession during the 2013 season. According to data analyzed by College Football Matrix, the Tigers ranked 55th (out of 126 Bowl Subdivision teams) in number of snaps per minute.
He believes that returning so many critical offensive contributors, primarily quarterback Nick Marshall, will facilitate that faster tempo.
"We ought to be more comfortable. We've got an offensive staff that's been together for a year," Malzahn said. "With all that being said, and that being who we are is one of our advantages, we feel like this year we definitely need to improve in that area."
Still, pace was only one of four goals Malzahn discussed Monday.
He also wants to see additional refinements to individual fundamentals and get an even better feel for how the offensive and defensive systems work. Malzahn wants to see the Tigers maintain the physical edge they regained last season, which means players will spend the next month colliding often with one another.
"This time last year we were talking about getting our edge back," Malzahn said. "We felt like we did that -- (got) that mental and physical and mental toughness that Auburn's known for. We've got to keep that going."
Malzahn's fourth and final goal is to build more depth across the board. Personnel losses tend to happen in clusters and last season was no exception -- Auburn lost cornerback Jonathan Jones (foot), safety Demetruce McNeal (dismissal) and star Justin Garrett (foot) before the season began. Then safety Joshua Holsey (knee) was lost for the season in October.
"We were probably one injury away on the back end from being in a really dire situation," Malzahn said. "This spring will be really good for us in all areas and we'll have more depth coming into spring."