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The tough questions Auburn faces going into spring camp

Replacing defensive lineman Montravius Adams is one of the key questions Auburn is facing this spring.
Replacing defensive lineman Montravius Adams is one of the key questions Auburn is facing this spring. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Football returns to the Plains in less than two weeks with Auburn scheduled to open spring practice Feb. 28.

The program hasn’t released a practice schedule yet, but the team is allowed 15 sessions — eight involving live contact — culminating with its annual A-Day scrimmage at 1 p.m. on April 8.

Here is a look at the biggest marks Auburn is facing this spring…

Chip off the old block

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is handing the reins of the offense over to new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey.

How much it will resemble the offense Rhett Lashlee ran last year is still up in the air.

While Lindsey pledged to stay committed to main philosophy behind Malzahn’s system — mainly the coach’s up-tempo style — the assistant promised the offense would reflect his “own personality.”

Spring practice will offer a glimpse of what changes Lindsey has in store, which could include overhauling the team’s passing attack and placing an emphasis on getting the ball to the team’s rarely used tight ends.

White out

Sean White wants to get back to work, but will he be ready? The team has sent out mixed signals about his recovery from the broken forearm he suffered against Oklahoma.

Malzahn sounded pessimistic about White’s chances during a January visit to the Senior Bowl, but less than two weeks later on National Signing Day the quarterback said he was healing “faster than expected” and plans on being ready for spring.

When asked about White’s comments, Malzahn didn’t walk back his original response.

“I like the fact he has that goal, and things are going a little faster, healing better than we originally thought,” Malzahn said. “I probably can answer that a little better when we get to a couple of days before spring. But I do like his mindset.”

If White were to miss an extended portion of time during the spring it could have a substantial impact on the team’s open quarterback competition.

JUCO transfer 2.0

Is Jarrett Stidham the answer Auburn’s offensive woes? Fans hoped John Franklin III would the solution last year, but that didn’t quite work out as expected.

Franklin plans on being part of the competition this spring but is mostly an afterthought, as the focus has shifted solely to what Stidham is capable of.

Stidham played in 10 games as a true freshman at Baylor in 2015. He threw for 1,265 yards (75 of 109 passing) with 12 touchdowns, but sat out last fall while taking classes at McLennan Community College.

How will Stidham bounce back from the long layoff? Can he live up to the potential he showed at Baylor? How will he fit into Lindsey’s scheme? The answers to those questions will start to take shop over the next two months.

A 562-pound void

Auburn isn’t lacking talent along its defensive front with Marlon Davidson, Derrick Brown and Dontavius Russell among the names coming back.

It’s a solid group, but are they ready to replace Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson? The pair of NFL-bound teammates helped dictate the success of the entire defense in 2016.

As a senior, Adams was a dominant force up front drawing double teams every time he put his hand in the ground while Lawson was the defense’s top pass rusher by a wide margin.

Adams might be the more difficult of the two defenders to replace, considering defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has a number of edge rushers waiting in the wings (Jeff Holland, Byron Cowart, Paul James III and even incoming freshman T.D. Moultry).

It took the Georgia native multiple seasons to develop into an impact player capable of consistently disrupting an opposing offense’s game plan.

Brown has all the physical characteristics to match at 6-foot-5, 317-pounds but might need to get a few more games under his belt before teams consider double-teaming him.

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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