July 15, 2013
AUBURN, Ala. - Where does Auburn football stand as the 2013 season is set to unofficially begin with Southeastern Conference Media Days? Is Auburn "rebuilding," as so many say?
I don't think so. I'm more inclined to say Auburn is rebounding.
A team that is rebuilding is short on talent. Auburn is not. A team that is rebuilding has gaping holes in areas that must be, well, rebuilt. Auburn doesn't.
Yet, Auburn is coming off a 3-9 season as Gus Malzahn prepares to make his first Media Days appearance as Auburn's head coach on Wednesday.
Auburn's coaches will tell you, some privately and some not, that they saw quickly once they watched their players work that this team and this program do not have 3-9 kind of talent. There is no sense rehashing what happened in 2012, but it was about a lot of other things more than it was about whether enough Auburn players had the talent to win in the SEC.
Auburn has a veteran defense, talented receivers and big-time running backs, including 1,000-yard rusher Tre Mason. It has lots of highly touted offensive linemen, tight ends and H-backs with all the skills needed to succeed. The burning question is who will start at quarterback. There is talent there, too.
But the waters in the SEC, in the words of Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes, are "deep and choppy." You can be really, really talented and still not be as talented as Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and friends. Even that doesn't mean you can't beat them on any given Saturday. Every SEC game is a mighty physical and emotional challenge.
The SEC has established itself as the most powerful force in the history of college football.
Tuesday through Thursday, schools that have won the last seven national championships and nine of the last 15 will be represented. The SEC has made the NFL draft its own and annually dominates recruiting rankings.
That's why Media Days is an extravaganza that attracts representatives from every major national media outlet, why more than 1,000 credentialed media members will descend on Hoover.
Nobody really knows where this Auburn team stands in the 14-team SEC, and we won't know until another season has come and gone. But rebuilding? Kentucky is rebuilding. Missouri is rebuilding.
Auburn, the national champion just two seasons ago, is a program on the rebound.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: