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Auburn football opens spring practice this week with plenty of question marks facing revamped coaching staff

Auburn's football team returns to the practice field on Tuesday with Jeremy Johnson (No. 6) ready to compete for the starting quarterback job.
Auburn's football team returns to the practice field on Tuesday with Jeremy Johnson (No. 6) ready to compete for the starting quarterback job. AP Photo

Auburn kicks off spring practice with the first of 15 sessions Tuesday at university’s athletic complex.

The Tigers will run three practices a week pausing for spring break from March 12-20 culminating with the program’s annual A-Day game at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday, April 9.

Coach Gus Malzahn traditionally opened spring practice in the middle of March, but this year bumped it up two weeks to get a head start on recruiting.

On national signing day, Malzahn was already eager to get back on the field.

“We really focused on recruiting and we usually do at this time, but now we can transition into our players and really get back to being around our players and get ready for spring practice,” Malzahn said. “Spring practice has moved up a little bit -- I think it’s March 1 -- so I’m excited to get on the field with those guys early, so we’ll flip the switch.”

Earning a spot

Auburn heads into spring practice with question marks all over the field.

The Tigers open camp with a high-profile competition at quarterback, but that is just one of a half dozen position battles. The coaching staff needs to replace both of the team’s starting offensive tackles, multiple linebackers, fill two vacancies in the secondary and figure out what’s going on with an underperforming group of wide receivers.

In discussing the quarterback position, Malzahn said “competition brings out the best in everybody,” but it’s an ideal he hopes carries over to the rest of the team with Auburn searching for impact players heading into the fall.

Coaching carousel stops spinning

With the high turnover on Auburn’s coaching staff this season, spring practice will be the first time those new coaches get to interact with players outside the weight and meeting room.

Five coaches from Malzahn’s staff left the program voluntarily in a two-month period following the 2015 season.

Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Gardner is the only member of last year’s staff returning on that side of the ball.

The Tigers have a new defensive coordinator (Kevin Steele), new secondary coach (Wesley McGriff) and new linebackers coach (Travis Williams).

Kodi Burns was a late addition to the staff to replace former wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig. The offense will also have a new line coach in Herb Hand.

What on-the-field changes are in store for Auburn? That’s to be determined.

Steele was made available to the media in early January, but declined to answer any questions about scheme or scouting evaluations. The other staff members have yet to field any questions from reporters.

Each coach brings their own unique background and style to the staff, but it remains to be seen what kind changes are in store for the Tigers as they plan to get back to work.