• Last season: 12-2 (7-1)
• All-time mark: 726-416-47
• SEC titles: 8
• Opener: Arkansas on Aug. 30
Quarterback Nick Marshall is commonly viewed as the catalyst of Auburn's record-setting offense a year ago under Gus Malzahn, but Malzahn is quick to give similar credit to center Reese Dismukes.
"In our offense, our center is just as important a lot of times as our quarterback with what we ask him to do with the communication," Malzahn said last week at SEC media days. "When you play fast, they have to ID things extremely quick and make decisions on the run. A lot of times your center is an offensive leader, but I truly believe Reese is a team leader.
"He demands that his teammates practice at the level the coaches expect, so he is really an extension of the coaches. He had a lot to do with our success last year."
The nation's top center in the 2011 signing class according to 247Sports.com, Dismukes has started a staggering 37 games for the Tigers. He administered 124 knockdown blocks last season and graded out more than 90 percent, which earned him a third-team spot on the Sporting News All-American team.
Auburn made SEC history by becoming the first league team to lead the nation in rushing, averaging 328.3 yards a game. Marshall rushed for 1,068 yards and former tailback Tre Smith amassed 1,816, including 304 yards in the 59-42 win over Missouri in the SEC championship.
The Tigers pulled out their most memorable victories ever against rivals Georgia and Alabama, and turning around the 3-9 debacle of 2012 nearly included a national championship until Florida State pulled out a 34-31 thriller in the BCS title tilt.
All that, according to Dismukes, is now for others to relive.
"Last season is over," Dismukes said. "It's a stat in the book now, and what we did last year won't help us win games this year other than the things we can take as far as how we won games. We were never out of it, and we learned that anything can happen, and coming up short has given us motivation.
"We've got to be 13 seconds better at getting to class and 13 seconds better at brushing our teeth."
Mason and tackle Greg Robinson, the No. 2 overall pick in May's NFL draft, are the notable offensive holes to fill, though Marshall's status for the opener against Arkansas could be in question following his recent citation for marijuana possession. Developing more balance offensively was the goal this spring, and with good reason, as Quan Bray, Sammie Coates, Melvin Ray, Trovon Reed, Jaylon Denson, Ricardo Louis and D'haquille Williams give Auburn its deepest crop of quality receivers in a decade.
Another receiving threat is senior tight end C.J. Uzomah, the hero of last September's triumph over Mississippi State.
"Our offense is a lot of fun to play in, and it's a lot of fun to watch," Uzomah said. "When it's rolling, it's a lot of fun for sure."
Not that the Tigers plan to abandon their ground assault, which could have a mix of Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant, Peyton Barber and touted freshman Roc Thomas at tailback.
"All we care about is scoring points," Dismukes said. "There are times we want to get water between each series, but other than that, you want to score as many as you can. We have some things in the backfield that may confuse some people, but at the end of the day we're running the football between the tackles.
"I don't think there is anything confusing about that."
Auburn has six defensive starters back under coordinator Ellis Johnson and expect to have a stronger secondary with Robenson Therezie, Jermaine Whitehead and Jonathan Mincy returning. Mincy, however, is another candidate to possibly miss time following his arrest last month for marijuana possession.
The Tigers this season will honor the late Philip Lutzenkirchen -- "Lutz was one of a kind, and I strive to be more like him each day," Dismukes said -- and they expect to be targeted after last year's stirring surge to the league summit.
"To go from 3-9 to 12-2 and playing for the national championship is a little unbelievable, and I've learned to take the highs with the lows," Dismukes said. "We lost some good guys, but obviously we've got good guys coming back and more good guys coming in. With Coach Malzahn, we're going to be one of the top programs every year, and that's going to be our goal."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.