On the road with Alabama & Auburn

Lane Kiffin was just as audible. Alabama's new offensive coordinator, who came with plenty of baggage, wore a white visor and a white long-sleeve shirt. A laminated play card stuck out of his crimson shorts. "Play the ball, don't let the ball play you!" he told his receivers. "I want more air on the ball," he instructed his quarterbacks. If Kiffin came to Alabama with one order, it was to coax more big plays out of the offense. With a star receiver like Amari Cooper on the outside and a big-armed quarterback like Coker under center, the potential is there.

It was Day 1 of fall camp, but it's never too soon to get a feel for what lies ahead.

"I feel like we're going out there and we all got the right mindset, we want to win a championship," said linebacker Denzel Devall after practice. "I feel like we're going out there each and every day with a chip on our shoulder and striving to get better."

*     *     *

After Alabama's post-practice press conference and a three-hour drive across the state, it was suddenly 3 o'clock in the afternoon. There was no time to get a feel for the mood around Auburn's campus. Instead, it was straight to football.

In the indoor practice facility, there were reminders of last year's Iron Bowl everywhere. Near the north end zone, there was a giant poster of Chris Davis racing down the sideline for the game-winning touchdown.

Near the south end zone hung another giant poster. This time, it was an aerial photo of Jordan-Hare Stadium in the moments after Davis' return. The field was flooded with fans. Not an inch of green turf was visible.

It still seems like a dream. Lightning struck more than once for Auburn on its way to an SEC title. Now comes the sequel.

A noise signaled the end of the practice period, and the offense went outside to join the defense to stretch. Melvin Smith, an assistant coach, walked alongside a few players, saying to no one in particular, "It's all about being clean. It starts today." Another staffer blew his whistle when the stretch period ended. As he walked through the crowd, his shirt became visible. It read "Iron Bowl" on top, and "Enough Said," below.

Back indoors, the offense went to work. Nick Marshall, who burst onto the scene last year with 26 touchdowns and 3,079 total yards, looked comfortable at quarterback. He took the snap, got the ball out quickly and hurried to the line of scrimmage where another snap was waiting. With mechanical precision, the offense went 50 yards in roughly 35 seconds. There were no drops, not a single hiccup. Coach Gus Malzahn's up-tempo attack was in midseason form.

But after practice reality struck. Malzahn announced what discipline Marshall and starting cornerback Jonathon Mincy faced for their off-the-field troubles.

"I've decided that they will not start Game 1 as part of their punishment," Malzahn said, dropping the long-awaited bombshell. "I will say this: Nick Marshall is still our quarterback, Jonathon Mincy is still our cornerback, but that's part of their punishment."

If that wasn't bad enough, there was more.

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