Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn looks at the scoreboard during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/April L. Brown)
*Courtesy Auburn Media Relations
MOBILE, Ala. – Gus Malzahn dropped by Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Wednesday to offer a salute to the past, but his focus was firmly on the future.
Malzahn and wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig stopped to see defensive end Dee Ford, cornerback Chris Davis, fullback Jay Prosch and kicker Cody Parkey, players who helped Auburn get to the BCS Championship Game and will play in Saturday’s Senior Bowl.
When they left, they returned to the recruiting trail. Signing Day is but two weeks away.
The Tigers finished 12-2, won the Southeastern Conference championship and finished No. 2 in the final polls. Malzahn and his staff must replace some of the key players, including those who Malzahn came to see.
“We are hoping we have quality depth in those positions,” Malzahn said. “This spring will be really good for us to see where they are. Our players are excited. Our coaches are excited to coach them. I can’t wait for spring ball.”
For the first time in his career, Malzahn won’t have to replace the starting quarterback. Nick Marshall will return for his senior season and second as the starter.
“We are really looking forward to having our quarterback back in the spring, and having Jeremy Johnson, too,” Malzahn said. “We are excited about both of them.”
Offseason workouts with strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell are under way, and picking up steam. It was at this time last season, Auburn players say, that the drive to the championship game began.
“The team is excited to get back to working out,” Malzahn said. “Coach Russell is excited. It’s kind of putting last year behind us and moving forward. We want to try to build on the foundation that was laid this past year. Our guys are a year into the program. The guys are excited about getting out there and working out. That’s exciting to me.”
Malzahn said recruiting has gone well from the start and continues to go well.
“Anytime you have success, recruiting is obviously easier,” Malzahn said. “It’s been a good year. We just have to finish it.”