Spring lookahead: Auburn Tigers

The upside for the Auburn Tigers is that it couldn’t get much worse.

The 2012 season was historic for all the wrong reasons, with the Tigers logging the biggest collapse in the modern era — just two seasons removed from a national championship.

But with a new head coach, new outlook and renewed sense of urgency, Auburn hopes to fly high again starting this spring.

2012 record: 3-9 (0-8 SEC)

Spring schedule: Practice starts on March 27, and the A-Day Game is scheduled for April 20. That will put it head-to-head against most of the other spring games in the SEC, including Alabama.

Last year: The Tigers lost early, often and ugly. The quarterback position was never filled to anyone’s satisfaction, but that wasn’t as big a surprise as the defensive failures. After bringing in former Georgia Bulldogs and Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, the Tigers gave up an average of 31.25 points per game and lost all eight of their conference games by an average of 24 points.

The Biggest Hole to Fill: It’s hard to focus on just one for 2013, since the team was exposed in so many areas last season. The biggest loss, though, will likely be defensive end Corey Lemonier, considered one of the top NFL Draft prospects at his position. The Tigers signed a couple of outstanding high school defensive ends in Elijah Daniel and Carl Lawson and while they will likely see playing time in the fall, they won’t be around to make an impact in the spring.

One to watch: Quarterback Kiehl Frazier has a skill set that is more in line with Gus Malzahn’s fast-paced, spread-option offensive philosophy than the slower, pro-set stuff Scot Loeffler was trying to run. And while Frazier struggled at the quarterback spot, losing his starting role and playing sporadically throughout the 2012 campaign, he is certainly the QB to watch during spring practices.

Should Frazier stumble, Jonathan Wallace, who stepped in last year, will be back with starting experience and could see some playing time.

Also, Nick Marshall, the former Georgia cornerback who was dismissed by Mark Richt for reportedly stealing money from a teammate, is transferring in from Garden City (Kan.) Community College as a spread-option quarterback. Marshall will probably be the best athlete to compete for the quarterback job. But right now, the starting role is seemingly Frazier’s to lose.