Despite winning the Music City Bowl against the Purdue Boilermakers this past season, Auburn’s greatest win could be when eight juniors that could have declared for the NFL draft decided to come back for their senior seasons.
“We have a lot of experience coming back. We had eight of our juniors that seriously considered leaving early to NFL that chose to come back,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. “I really think that’s where the core heartbeat of our team is, with those guys. They are very hungry. I feel like they’ve got something to prove, and we have very good leadership.”
Three of those eight juniors are defensive linemen Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson and Nick Coe. With those three returning, Auburn is projected to field another tough defense, along with possibly the best defensive line in college football.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops just can’t get a break. The Wildcats defeated Florida 27-16 last season, the first Wildcat win against the Gators in 31 years.
Legendary sports writer Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette wouldn’t let Stoops enjoy the moment.
“How good is it to come here and not be asked when are you going to beat Florida?” Holt asked. “And I also got to ask you, I don’t know if you know this, Kentucky hasn’t beaten Florida in back-to-back years since ’76, ’77.”
Stoops responded, “Oh, come on now.”
Holt then asked Stoops about how big it would be starting a winning streak against Florida.
“I’m just going to avoid that question,” Stoops said. “I thought I didn’t have to answer that anymore. But to answer your question, every game’s important. And, you know, each and every game, a team in the East, we had Florida at home, it’s an important game, but so are the other 11.”
The Big 3
On paper, this is Derek Mason’s most talented team during his time at Vanderbilt because of three skill players on offense returning for their senior seasons. Those three players are running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, wide reciever Kalija Lipscomb and tight end Jared Pinkney. Mason brought them with him to Hoover. The trio is being named as ”The Big 3.”
On how the nickname got started, Vaughn compared them to a prolific trio in the NBA.
“We are like the Warriors in 2017,” Vaughn said. “I am like KD because I joined the team as a transfer. Kalija is like Steph, and Pink is Klay.”
A comparison like that brings massive expectations, and we’ll see if this trio can bring the Commodores into the spotlight this season.
King in the North
Kentucky linebacker Kash Daniel, a fan favorite due to his personality and social media presence, wore a House Stark pin, from the popular HBO show “Game of Thrones,” on his lapel. Daniel said he wore the pin, not just because he somewhat resembles protagonist Jon Snow, but because he relates to the character’s tenacity and ability to beat the odds.