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SEC Media Days recap: Auburn flies mostly under the radar at conference gathering

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn speaks to the media at the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days, Monday, July 11, 2016, in Hoover, Ala.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn speaks to the media at the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days, Monday, July 11, 2016, in Hoover, Ala. AP Photo

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn didn’t make many headlines on the stage at the Wynfrey Hotel’s main ballroom.

Malzahn spent much of the press conference talking about the importance winning close games.

It wasn’t an entirely unexpected performance, but in a meeting with local media before the press conference the coach addressed more substantive issues.

The coach handed out an unspecified punishment to four Auburn players arrested for possession of marijuana in April — Byron Cowart, Carlton Davis, Ryan Davis and Jeremiah Dinson — that didn’t included missing any playing time.

Malzahn shared his plans to move Prince TegaWanogho from the defensive to offensive line and focus on the team’s older quarterbacks in the competition at the position this fall.

Lowered expectations

The SEC championship expectations from a year ago for Auburn are long gone. The team was picked by the media to finish sixth in the SEC West with no first place votes. The Tigers had the most first place votes to finish atop the division a year ago.

Auburn’s seven players on the media’s preseason All-SEC team was the smallest group since coach Gus Malzahn’s first season on the Plains when it had six. The Tigers had 10 on the list last season and 13 n 2014 following a run to the BCS championship game.

Auburn players are using the more modest expectations as motivation.

“You have everybody against you and it's always easier that way when you don't have to live up to something,” Auburn wide receiver Marcus Davis said. “You just have to play football and be who you are.”

View from the other side

Auburn appearance at the Wynfrey Hotel Monday wasn’t the only time the team came up in discussion.

LSU running back Leonard Fournette couldn’t hide his smile when he was asked about Auburn safety Rudy Ford. Ford’s controversial take on stopping running back went viral before the teams played in September.

http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/sports/college/sec/auburn-university/war-eagle-extra/article89586492.html

“That shouldn't be difficult, that much, of a challenge,” Ford said.

Fournette responded with a career performance against Auburn, rushing for a career-high 228 yards with three touchdowns.

“What I can say man? It was a great game,” Fournette said.

Georgia offensive lineman Brandon Kublanow reflected on his rivalry with Auburn defensive lineman Carl Lawson, a rivalry that goes back to their time playing a nationally televised game in high school.

“We whipped his butt,” Kublanow said. “Nah…I’m just kidding.”

Kublanow is excited to see Lawson 100 percent healthy going into the season.

“He’s a great player,” Kublanow said.

South Carolina coach Will Muschamp spent time praising Gus Malzahn — “Gus is as good of a person as you ever meet” — and his former defense during his press conference. Auburn’s former defensive coordinator accepted the job at South Carolina less than two weeks after the Iron Bowl.

“I'm excited about those guys,” Muschamp said on the final morning of SEC Media Days. “I'm glad we don't play them, but I want to those guys to do extremely well taking things forward.”

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema didn’t mention Auburn by name, but it wasn’t hard to make out which SEC rivals he was talking about when he discussed the many discipline issues in the conference.

“You don’t have to ask me if I’m going to suspend anyone for our first game,” Bielema said. “It doesn’t even come up in our program.”

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