AUBURN — When Marcus Davis made his return to the Plains in late December, he understood the significance of the moment. Davis had been a freshman on the 2013 SEC Championship squad and was part of the resurgence led by Gus Malzahn.
"This is a great opportunity to return home to Auburn, a place that means so much to me," Davis said in December. "It's one of those things I don't take for granted, and I am very appreciative to Coach Freeze for this opportunity. I'm ready to 'work, hard work' and do the little things to help get Auburn back to where it belongs."
He spent the years after Auburn mostly in the coaching ranks, first at Auburn and Florida State before building an impressive resume between Hawaii and Georgia Southern. In 2022, Hugh Freeze brought him onto his staff as another former Auburn player as Freeze, and his staff looked to rebuild the offense.
Now with spring practice in full swing, Davis looks to leave a new mark on the program.
"The biggest thing I'm coaching for them, man, is attitude and effort. You can control what you can control," Davis said. "The buy-in has been really good from them. We've just got to continue to get better with those small details."
Davis is inheriting a unit that has struggled to fill the void left by Seth Williams, and the Tigers went through three wide receivers coaches during the two-year tenure of Bryan Harsin. Auburn did not have a wide receiver with over 500 yards last season, and running back Tank Bigsby led the team in receptions with 30.
With Bigsby, John Samuel Shenker and Shedrick Jackson gone, Auburn will lose a lot of experience at the position, and Davis will have to replace 66 receptions, 605 yards and one touchdown. It is unclear where the Tigers could find that production right now, but Davis is also focused on creating a fun and disciplined environment.
"A fun, loose, disciplined play style. That's the biggest thing for me. Football is fun, so go out there and have fun," Davis said. "We're also gonna be disciplined at the same time and doing the little things that we need to do."
One candidate to take another step forward for the Tigers is JaVarrius Johnson. Johnson led the Tigers in yards(493) and touchdowns(3) but was not utilized as heavily later in the season when the offense shifted to a run-oriented approach.
Davis' time on the Plains is only just beginning, but for the coach that has already found success at his last two stops, the chance to do the same at his alma mater is an exciting opportunity.
"Somewhere you played, a place that you love, it just means that much more to make sure things are right," Davis said. "So you can be successful, the team can be successful, the group can be successful."
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