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A Surprising Top Ten Finish!

By on February 6th, 2014 in Football 19 Comments »
Impact 2014

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.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE
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.

DEFENSIVE END
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.

LINEBACKER
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.

STAR

     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.

CORNERBACK
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.

SAFETY
Derrick Moncrief

     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.

ATHLETE
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.

OFFENSIVE LINE
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.

WIDE RECEIVER
D’haquille Williams

     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.

TIGHT END/H-BACK
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.

RUNNING BACK
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.

QUARTERBACK
Sean White

     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.

19 Comments

  1. KungFuPanda9 KungFuPanda9 says:

    I am most concerned about receivers on offense for next year. I agree with your previous assessment that Marshall was not as bad a passer as many think him to be. Half of those incomplete passes were the fault of receivers’ lack of effort and/or weak hand skills.

    If Marshall had had a receiver like Darvin Adams last year, his completion percentage would have been significantly higher.

    Our current receivers need to make an effort to get to the ball even if it is less than optimally thrown. That is their job, to make catches. Johnny Football had Evans to help make completions when he threw numerous Hail Mary desperation type throws when scrambling for his life. We need somebody to step it up and help make plays to take some of the heat off our QB and the running game.

    The loss of Tre Mason is not going to be “business as usual” to replace him. Tre was deceptively good. He was in fact one of the best running backs to ever don an Auburn uniform. We will, therefore, need to improve our air game to pick up the slack on the ground.

    Defense poses a number of interesting personnel puzzles, but I wish Therezie had some help at Star.

    • sparkey sparkey says:

      I can’t disagree with you much more strongly that I do right now. Deceptively good? There was one guy on TET for the past few years saying Mason would be incredible at Auburn. I don’t think you realize how good Peyton Barber, CAP, and Corey Grant will be together as a trio along with the athleticism of Kevin Marshall.

      Somehow on the receivers, you failed to mention Sammie Coates. You do realize where he ranked in the SEC at yards per catch right? The truth is Coates is almost always open but Marshall is 50/50 on the deep ball. The receiving core will be fine. D’quahille Williams is the real deal. I imagine he’ll be here one season. We’d be lucky to have him two. He is that good. Louis will fix his dropsies problem this season too. And when he does you had best look out because our offense is going to be better this coming season. Believe it or not, it’s more stacked as a whole for 2014 than it was for 2013.

      I think you’ll be surprised with Moncrief he’s a really good player. He’s not great, but he’s very good. He will do well at the Star I bet. Believe it or not, I think I biggest weakness coming is the defensive line. We lose some really stellar seniors there. Also, we’re still not where we need to be with our linebackers. That probably won’t happen for another couple seasons either.

      Evans not coming here was huge. That was killer. It was more important to keep him away from Auburn for Bama than it was to get him. He was a perfect fit for us. But, Saban has taken every single five star recruit he’s had so far and made them a first round draft pick. So yes, stars do matter people are lying to themselves if they think there is no difference. There’s a major difference in top four and five star kids to two and three star kids.

      The offense will be better than you seem to think. It has a returning quarterback. Doesn’t that have to count for something?

      • KoolBell KoolBell says:

        Go back and look at the Juniior seasons of Rashaan Evans and DeShaun Davis. Davis is every bit as good as Evans. We didn’t win that battle, but it sure as hell aint gonna hurt us either.

  2. AUcideng42 AUcideng42 says:

    Thanks for the break down AR!

    Outside of Cornerback (where we REALLY need some newcomers to step up) the depth looks pretty good across the team! I like the addition of D. Williams to add some oomph to WR…we have a lot of depth at that position, but I was disappointed at how few guys stepped up as dependable pass catchers last year (really only Coates).

    One question I had about one of your comments (and maybe I’m reading too much into what you said):
    “Star…possibly Justin Garrett at this spot”
    Is there concern about Garrett due to his injury last year? The fact he is a more linebacker-built “Star” who is only a Soph and was the offseason MVP returning was one of the reasons that I wasn’t too concerned about missing on Evans this year. Or are you just implying that Therezie may have the starting spot locked down?

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..Garrett has had a lot of injury problems. He looks good when he can play, but I have to worry. Therezie now is an experienced SEC player, something Garrett isn’t.

  3. AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

    Great breakdown Acid,

    I like the fact that the 2014 recruiting roster was balanced between offensive, defensive recruits, And those players who might contribute right away as well as those that will help with depth. A class that was wisely put together by Coach Malzahn and crew.

  4. GreenvilleAUfan GreenvilleAUfan says:

    Really enjoyed the read. Your column is always the highlight of the week. I think that several of these guys will see the playing field in 2014. Of course one of them will not be Sean White. But ain’t it great that he’ll be there after Nick and JJ are through playing. I believe Gus was right yesterday when he said, “We’ve got a lot of guys coming back and when you add that to this group coming in, the future is very bright.”
    War Eagle!

  5. NoVaFan34 says:

    I’m personally more bullish on the WR corps. Yeah, there’s been some drops, but no Obomanu-level botches. They’ve actually been pretty clutch with the game on the line – think of the Miss State and A&M games, and the go-ahead drive late in the NC.

    Very happy to hear about the bigger size CBs coming in. Tall receivers were murder last year.

    • sparkey sparkey says:

      I disagree it’s a surprise. Why would you think Gus would recruit any less than a top ten every single season? He’s got a great staff for recruiting here as well. I’m not sure why it’s not expected. Make no mistake, 2015 will be top 3. Just wait and see it’ll be there.

      Also, one thing that many of the recruiting sites don’t measure is JUCO transfers. Guess who ranked number one in JUCO recruiting? Yep, you guessed it being Auburn! That’s huge. You’ll see guys making a difference immediately in 2014 and it really adds depth to this team that will be key. Again, my major concern is the defensive line. That will go from a faithful strength to a question mark this season. The talent is there for certain with three five stars going into their second season and the nation’s second rated player coming out of high school as well. Will it step up is the question?

      Garret will be solid if not well beyond solid. He is good. Very good. He just got that danged injury so early and it took a toll. Dee Ford had a problem staying healthy too before he finally broke out this season. People seem to think that never happened but he had his bouts with injury.

      Lastly, I think we have the best Strength and Conditioning Coach in the country now. Thank God we moved on from the guy who kept getting us torn ACL after torn MCL. I’m sorry but somebody who doesn’t practice the bench press at all when it is a combine exercise is too far behind the times and he’s hurting his players. Now our S&C Coach has these kids ready. I think he was the unsung hero last season. Remember how many games we won in the final minutes. We’d just get stronger and stronger.

    • sparkey sparkey says:

      Sorry my long comment was meant as a response to Acid not you and I apologize. Also, I don’t want to come across as an ass to Acid. I’m not trying to be mean or argumentative. I just don’t know why you wouldn’t expect the best from Gus at this point. All he has done is build a great program everywhere he has gone. Why would he not get a great recruiting class at Auburn. This will be his lowest class in my view too. From here on out, Auburn will be a perennial top five if not top three recruiting class. It only gets better with Gus from here.

      • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

        …..I think I, and other observers thought that Auburn was too dependent on getting the big signees on signing day. Had we lost another one of the big three, we’d have been out of the top ten. Lose all three, you’re down around 20. Not that I thought it was likely… It also can be said that this staff has only been promoting Auburn for one year, while certain other nearby schools have been visiting schools a kids whole high school career. I just didn’t think “top 5″ was realistic, this early in Gus’ tenure.

        • sparkey sparkey says:

          Okay we just see it differently. Do you not expect Gus to finish in the top five from here on out like I do? With his offense, we’re an automatic top ten and with the guys we have recruiting on defense, we should be a perennial top five in my estimation. Then again, that’s not really worth anything. I think Gus knows how to bring in top talent to Auburn.

  6. Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

    There’s a lot to be excited about! What a great class. I’m stoked about the added defenders, and very excited about the new O-line members. Good stuff.

    War Eagle!

  7. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    Good read Acid. I have said before and still maintain that Roc Thomas will push to be the starter by KState. Cap is as good as he is going to get but Roc is better right now and will get even better after a season. Bookmark this comment so you can say I was deranged or Kreskin like.

  8. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    ….CAP will go through his second camp, and this is basically his shot at proving he’s an NFL back. He was a standout worker last spring, and I think we’ve not seen his ceiling, yet. CAP is the presumed starter next fall, but I think the race will be wide open. Roc’s challenge will be learning the protections, meshing with the QB, that sort of thing.

  9. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    No one breaks it down better than Acid. I was looking for some upgrades on defense and I think we got them especially with Tre Williams at Line backer. But the most intriguing player in this class for me is Derrick Moncrief. I think he could be a game changer on defense. It’s not just coach speak when Gus says “The future is bright.” With Marshall, JJ, Sean, Roc Thomas, Tre Williams, and this whole class, the future has to be a good.

  10. Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

    There is no excuse for any Auburn coaching staff to recruit less than top 10 recruiting class.

  11. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    Unlike bama Auburn doesn’t wilt at the first sign of bad luck. Trust me, if this had happened the other way i am convinced they would be calls fors resignations from Saban; at least a vote of no confidence.

    Personally, i wouldn’t want a kid who didn’t want to be at Auburn. Life is too short.

    WDE