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Countdown to SEC kickoff: 20 days

In less than three weeks, we'll have some SEC football to dissect. Until that time, we'll dissect some of the more compelling storylines entering the 2013 season.

On the Plains, they're hoping that first-year coach Gus Malzahn can help that program -- in Malzahn's own words -- get its edge back. Auburn plummeted to 3-9 last season and didn't win a game in the SEC, sending Gene Chizik packing and opening the door for Malzahn to return.

Even though Malzahn's an offensive guy, our number of the day revolves around the Tigers' defense: 2.

Of all the dubious numbers associated with the Tigers' forgettable season a year ago, it's hard to top their paltry two interceptions. That's right ... two. For perspective, all but two other teams in the SEC (everybody but Arkansas and Kentucky) had managed to intercept two passes by the third game. Auburn had two picks in 12 games, and the secondary was responsible for just one of those -- that one coming during mop-up time of a 51-7 rout of Alabama A&M. Backup safety Trent Fisher picked off a pass in the final minutes and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown. It goes without saying, but the Tigers simply didn't make a lot happen on defense last season. When's the last time an SEC team went the entire season and didn't have a cornerback intercept a single pass? That said, it wasn't just all on the secondary, either, and there are telltale signs that Auburn will be appreciably better across the board on defense this season under first-year coordinator Ellis Johnson. Much of that optimism centers around a secondary that should be more settled, more experienced and more equipped to take the ball away. Senior cornerback Chris Davis is healthy after battling a series of injuries the last few years and has everything it takes to be a premier corner in this league. He's exactly the kind of playmaker Johnson wants at cornerback. The same goes for versatile sophomore Josh Holsey, who earned a starting position at cornerback last season as a true freshman, but is lining up at safety right now with senior Demetruce McNeal sidelined while recovering from surgery due to a staph infection. Getting McNeal back will give Johnson even more flexibility in his 4-2-5 scheme because the Tigers would like to use Holsey in a couple of different spots. A healthy McNeal also gives the Tigers some quality depth. Junior Jonathon Mincy is the other starter at cornerback alongside Davis, while junior Jermaine Whitehead is back after starting 11 games at strong safety last season. As a group, the Tigers' secondary has a chance to be one of the most improved units in the league and is a lot more talented than the numbers from a year ago would suggest. In Wednesday's scrimmage, the defense had three interceptions, so the Tigers are already way ahead of last season's pace. Now, there's the business of creating those takeaways in games.