Auburn News and Notes: 8/2/2017 Edition
True Freshman Malik Willis may see playing time this year for Auburn. (photo: Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics)
Auburn fall camp has begun on the Plains, and the university’s flagship program has garnered all of the attention, rightfully so. However, there is a lot going on elsewhere in the athletics department. Let’s take a look at some of the news and notes.
In Auburn softball news, Tannon Snow has been cleared to play. As reported late Monday night, the transfer from Washington has overcome the illness that kept her from participating in the regular season. Fans may recall that she was tabbed as a starter but was not in the lineup when the team took the field in Mexico to play (and beat) Oklahoma. In her place at first base was little known Kendall Veach, who did an admirable job of helping fans forget about Snow. Snow did her part by disappearing from the team and going back home. Other than reiterating that she would return, head coach Clint Myers never spoke on the subject at length.
While Snow is a decent player, her return is more important for what it means off the field: ensuring that her sister Taylon finds a home in Auburn. Taylon is among the elite incoming freshman and is expected to start at shortstop this coming season. One thing is for certain, Auburn’s 2018 lineup will be drastically different than the previous year. AL.com reported a probable lineup that would include the Snows starting, Tannon at first and Taylon at short, with Veach at third.
Auburn basketball is set to travel to Italy on August 6. The Tigers have been preparing very hard for the upcoming trip and will be playing four different international clubs. It’s the second international trip for Austin Wiley, though Wiley will not play in Italy after being diagnosed with a stress fracture. Chuma Okeke and Mustapha Heron have returned from injuries. Okeke returns to the court after coming home early from Team USA U19 tryouts due to a sprained ligament.
While those three are likely starters, it is the return of Horace Spencer from shoulder surgery that is really exciting. Spencer was a bit player in 2016 and an underwhelming center for much of the 2017 season before injury sidelined him, his return could pay big dividends.
Not only can Spencer spell the other centers without a massive dropoff, he could also become a surprise star as a big forward. As a starter at that spot, he would allow Danjel Purifoy to become a massive mismatch as a small forward. Head coach Bruce Pearl was practically beaming when talking about Spencer’s return.
“The fact that Horace is playing so well so early in his return, he’s active, you could sort of tell it’s his third season,” said Caoch Pearl. “It’s just great to have him back and see him flying around out there. He jumps out at me.”
Football news after the jump:
Football camp finally began Monday and, as a result, there is a lot to talk about and digest. It was no surprise that Carlito Gonzalez, a three star defensive back, didn’t qualify. Though many fans held out hopes that the talented freshman could shore up the defensive backfield, Gonzalez was a long shot from the beginning. The writing was on the wall when he was missing from Monday’s practice, not listed on the roster.
Later came the announcement that former QB/WR Jason Smith was working with the defensive backs. As reported earlier this week, Smith’s time as at receiver wasn’t expected to continue. Auburn also lost scout team member and career backup, Michael Sherwood. Although Sherwood may not have been able to be a game day starter, he spent four years at Auburn as a selfless teammate and will now transfer as a fifth-year player, immediately eligible to play for another school.
A lot has been made about Malik Willis playing with the rookie players. It was a strange sight to see the most uprising player coming out of spring practice standing on the sideline while Jarrett Stidham and Sean White split reps 50/50. Willis took over when the veterans left the facility and received 100% of offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey’s instruction. What does this mean?
I believe Jarrett Stidham will be Auburn’s starter and Sean White will be one of the best backups in the league. If Stidham goes down, I think White will still be the backup because I expect Malik Willis to be the real No. 2.
If Stidham is injured in a big game, Auburn won’t need a game manager. The Tigers will need a player to win the ball game. Willis has the ability to stretch defenses, and he is the perfect weapon to undermine the opposing defense’s preparation. Furthermore, if things go south for Auburn’s offense, Sean White won’t be the answer. Willis could be.
The most intriguing bit of news coming out of camp wasn’t really news. Auburn247.com featured a video showing coach Kodi Burns working his receivers in drills. It’s only one drill, it is early in camp, but you can’t help but notice specific players.
Who jumped out? Sal Cannella was the first through the drill, and he looked imposing. Eli Stove looked very smooth and fast. And Kyle Davis looked like he had the perfect combination of speed, power, and polish.
Until next time …