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Auburn 2015 Fall Camp Preview and Key Position Battles to Watch

Carl Lawson

Carl Lawson

Auburn is a favorite to compete for a spot in the 2015 College Football Playoff. The Tigers are coming off an 8-5 (4-4 SEC) record, but were several lapses from being a national contender.

Auburn was predicted to win the SEC championship during a poll conducted at SEC Media Days. Many speculate that the team's offseason adjustments will pay off and the Tigers will dethrone archrival Alabama in the SEC West.

Related: Why Auburn Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

There are several storylines to watch as Auburn prepares for a season of high expectations. Here are the Tigers' five biggest questions that need to be answered in fall camp.

Auburn’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines

1. Will Muschamp's Defensive Improvements

Auburn made Will Muschamp the highest paid assistant in college football this offseason. But the Tigers hope the estimated salary of $1.6-$1.8 million will bring an immediate defensive improvement. Muschamp-coached defenses have ranked in the top 10 in the FBS each year since 2009. Auburn hasn't finished higher than No. 60 in the past six seasons, a span that includes two teams (2010, ‘13) that either made it to or won the BCS title game. The move pairs the defensive guru with head coach Gus Malzahn, one of the best offensive minds in college football, which continues to raise high expectations for Auburn fans.

2. Is Jeremy Johnson's Heisman Hype Valid?

Johnson is a Heisman candidate. Jeremy Johnson is the next Cam Newton. These are some of the expectations the junior faces in his first full season as Auburn's starting quarterback. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, he has a similar frame and skill set to Newton — who won a Heisman Trophy while leading Auburn to its 2010 BCS National Championship — and is an ideal fit for a Malzahn-coached offense. Not to mention Johnson will step into one of the most talented offenses in the SEC. The stage is set for him to have a historic season but he must prove his validity as a top-tier college quarterback.

Related: Analyzing Auburn Quarterback Jeremy Johnson's Heisman Trophy Candidacy

3. Is Carl Lawson Back to 100 Percent?

Lawson enjoyed a breakout season as a freshman before suffering a knee injury during spring practices in 2014. He underwent surgery May 1 to repair his ACL and was forced to miss the entire season. Still, Auburn fans should remain optimistic for a strong return from Lawson, who returned to practice last December. "I tested in my 10-yard split faster than I ever have," he told in March. Lawson should see a spike in production with the addition of Muschamp and a talented supporting cast that includes two of the SEC's best linebackers in Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost.

4. Which Running Back Will Emerge as No. 1 Option?

Cameron Artis-Payne led the SEC with 1,608 yards rushing and 303 carries. Auburn looks to replace his production with two talented backs in Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson. Thomas had 214 yards and two touchdowns during limited action as a true freshman. Robinson was the top junior college transfer for the 2015 class and has a "blend of power and quickness who possesses good natural instincts," according to's Joel A. Erickson.

5. Is D'haquille Williams Ready to Be the Primary WR Option?

Williams is the top wide receiver prospect for next year's NFL Draft, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper. He may be the most naturally gifted wideout in the SEC. But is he ready to step up as the team's primary option? Williams shared targets with newly drafted Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Sammie Coates and had mirror-image numbers. The duo combined for 70 receptions, 1,471 yards and nine touchdowns in 2014. Coates' departure should mean more targets for Williams, who will still have a strong supporting cast to take away double coverage.

— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.