Any time a team loses seven of its 11 starters on either side of the ball, there is an opportunity for new players to establish themselves. For Auburn, quarterback Jeremy Johnson's transition into a starting role in place of Nick Marshall has taken the headlines, but coach Gus Malzahn noted multiple other positions that have provided plenty of depth on the offensive side of the ball.
Speaking of his offensive line, he said it had as much depth as it has had at any point during his time at Auburn as an assistant or a head coach. The question going forward will be its chemistry and how it progresses as a unit.
"I think that's the big key," Malzahn said. "We probably have more quality depth on the offensive line than at any point I've been here before at Auburn, which is a very good thing. But it's a matter of jelling. The good thing is that we'll have a chance to get better each game offensively, similar to what we did in (2013). That'll be our plan."
He mentioned two names -- Alex Kozan and Xavier Dampeer -- who will continue to provide depth and competition on the offensive line.
"We ask a lot of our center, and his snaps were very good in the spring," Malzahn said of Kozan. "He's a guy that we feel like we can count on."
Despite losing the majority of its rushing production from a year ago -- including leading rushers Cameron Artis-Payne and Nick Marshall -- Malzahn said Auburn had plenty of options in the running game. A trio of backs lead the way, including Jovon Robinson, Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber, who combined for 53 carries and 268 yards last season. Robinson is new to the team, having signed with the Tigers last November as one of the top-ranked junior college prospects in the country.
"We've got three guys that we feel confident in, and that's the positive, Malzahn said. "It's just a matter of who's going to establish themselves as the guy. Y'all have seen us before. We do use multiple guys, but you like to have a guy that is consistent. ... We do have confidence in all three of them, but we lost the majority of our rushing yards, so we will need guys to step up."
Kerryon Johnson, a four-star freshman out of Madison, Ala., also figures to get opportunities in the backfield as well, Malzahn said.
"He's got a unique skill set and can do a lot of different things," Malzahn said of Johnson. "He's extremely talented with the ball in his hands, so we'll just see. We have a little more information on our veteran guys, but KJ's a guy that will have an opportunity too."