A Surprising Top Ten Finish!
Who will make an impact in 2014?
(Photo by Acid Reign.)
War Eagle, everybody! It’s the day after signing day, and aren’t we relieved that recruiting season has ended? Much like the numbness after a successful root canal, we’re glad it’s all over, for the rest of the year! For us Auburn Tigers, there is much to celebrate. Honestly, some folks thought Auburn would do well this year to finish in the top twenty. This coaching staff evidently put the full court press on as a magical season unfolded.
As always, we are left after signing day wondering who’ll contribute, and who’ll wash out. Immediate contribution by a true freshman is unlikely, unless a position has an immediate, glaring need. For the 2015 Auburn Tigers, the secondary is that spot, where 3 seniors who made major contributions on a thin unit are gone. This year’s class of 23 has 5 early enrollees who are already in school at Auburn, and you’d think that those guys would have a better chance of early playing time, having gone through winter and summer conditioning, and spring drills.
After the jump, we’ll break this class down by position, and how likely early playing time might be.
Dontavius Russell, Devaroe Lawrence
Defensive tackle will be a tough place for any recruit to break in at Auburn, in 2014. Auburn returns a half dozen or so veteran players that have game experience and have been a factor. The only significant loss is starter Nosa Eguae. With guys like Gabe Wright, Angelo Blackson, Montravius Adams, Ben Bradley, and Jeffrey Whitaker on the squad, playing time for a newcomer is unlikely. Russell has the size at 300 pounds, and was offered by virtually major SEC school. Lawrence has JUCO experience, but is a bit undersized.
Justin Thornton, DaVonte Lambert, Raashed Kennion
Auburn suffered some losses to graduation at end, and there’s definitely a better chance for playing time here. The Tigers again will be looking for pass rushers with Dee Ford and Craig Stevens gone. LaDarius Owens, Carl Lawson, and Elijah Daniel are the top returning guys, but more are needed. Thornton and Kennion are both a bit on the small side, but lighting quick rush-ends. Lambert is more of a big-body run stopper. All may contribute.
Tre’ Williams, De’Shaun Davis
Auburn looked pretty woeful early in the 2013 at linebacker, but improved as the season progressed. Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy will likely start next season, with Anthony Swain and JaViere Mitchell first off the bench. Ordinarily, I’d say it would be impossible for a newcomer to break into this lineup, but Williams is a legit five-star, and might be the most talented linebacker on campus next fall.
Auburn returns Robensen Therezie, and possibly Justin Garrett at this spot. There are several “athletes” among Auburn signees who eventually might wind up at this position, but this is a key spot on defense, and generally has been manned by veteran playmakers in previous Ellis Johnson defenses.
Nick Ruffin, Kalvaraz Bessent, Stephen Roberts
Auburn returns starter Jonathan Mincy, and key backup Jonathan Jones, and little experience behind that. All three signees are six feet tall, and can run. I think all three might have a chance to play, as cornerback is less difficult mentally than most defensive positions.
Jermaine Whitehead is a sure-fire starter this year, and Joshua Holsey likely will be, depending on his recovery from knee surgery. Auburn has other safeties on the roster such as Trent Fisher, who has played, but it’s hard to overlook Moncrief at 6′ 3” and 226 pounds. He has ridiculous closing speed. He could also end up at the star position.
Stanton Truitt, Myron Burton, Markell Boston
Truitt and Burton were high school wide receivers, while Boston was a safety. It is going to be interesting to see where these guys wind up. Generally, when a player is labeled an “athlete,” it means that they are likely in for a development year or two.
Xavier Dampeer, Braden Smith
Even with the loss of Greg Robinson early to the NFL draft, Auburn returns an experienced and deep line, led by Reese Dismukes, 3-year starter Chad Slade, Patrick Kozan, Avery Young, and Patrick Miller. There is depth beyond that. Dampeer is in school now, and could emerge this year as the backup center to Dismukes.
Auburn returns a wealth of experience at wide receiver, with starters Sammie Coates and Ricardo Louis. Behind those two are Trovon Reed, Quan Bray, Tony Stevens, Marcus Davis, Melvin Ray, and there’s former starter Jaylon Denson coming off knee surgery. Williams still might be a major factor. If there was a weakness to Auburn’s receiver corps, it was in the hands. The unit was plagued by dropped balls early in the season, and Williams is said to have hands of glue, as well as size, speed and athleticism.
Chris Laye, Jakell Mitchell
This is a position that never has enough good players, it seems. The loss of Jay Prosch will be big, but Auburn returns tight ends C. J. Uzomah and Brandon Fulse. Depth at H-back last season was provided by Gage Batten, who returns. Also, Ricky Parks is returning as a walk-on. Parks was running 2nd team at H-back when he was dismissed from the team. He’ll likely be a factor. Chris Laye is already enrolled, and has a real chance to break into the playing rotation as a true freshman. Mitchell is listed at only 217 pounds, and likely has some growing to do.
Roc Thomas, Kamryn Pettway
Auburn loses Heisman finalist Tre Mason, but dangerous backs Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant return. Peyton Barber was the scout team MVP last fall. Still, the Tigers added two more. Thomas is believed by many to be the best running back prospect in the nation this year. He’s likely to see the field, I think.
For the first time in recent memory, Auburn has two guys returning here that I’m excited about; Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson. Jonathan Wallace is also back to provide depth. While White is one of the top passers in the nation, he’ll likely redshirt next fall.