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Welcome to Big Boy Football

By on September 1st, 2015 in Football 5 Comments »

Freshman DE Byron Cowart will start against Louisville, Saturday.

With just a few days away from the kickoff of the 2015 Auburn football season, the Auburn Tigers have released their depth chart for the first game. Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, let it be known that at least eight true freshmen will step on the field of play for him on the defensive side of the ball in Sunday’s Press Conference. Guys like Byron Cowart, Jeremiah Denson, Tim Irvinand Carlton Davis , who just a year ago were playing on a high school field in front of maybe two or three thousand, are now preparing to play in front of seventy thousand plus in the Georgia Dome, Saturday at 2:30 CST.

Others like Jeff Holland, Darrell Williams, Montavius Atkinson, and Javaris Davis have all been given the green light by coach Muschamp to get ready to play big boy football this season.

In addition, eight true or redshirt freshman are listed on the first two-deep roster on offense. The true freshmen are: Chandler Cox, Jalen Harris, and Stanton Truitt for a total of 13 freshmen tabbed to play in the Dome. Compare that with last year’s opening game against Arkansas where only FIVE freshmen were listed on either offensive or defensive sides of the ball in Auburn’s depth chart! So it’s clear that things have changed a little bit.

A friend and I were discussing the start of this season, and he made mention of how it says a lot about a team’s struggle when you have to start a lot of freshmen. Really? I know many believe when a coach resorts to playing freshman players, that it’s a sign of a weak football program that lacks the talent and leadership of upper classmen. Is that a fair assessment in this day of college football we now live in? I don’t think so.

College football players are leaving earlier nowadays for the proverbial “greener grass” on the other side (the NFL). Three years is becoming the norm for talented players who are making names for themselves on the field. Thanks to 24-hour sports networks, social media, and every game being televised, the world of college football has changed. It doesn’t take two years to learn of a player now. It can happen through recruiting websites before they even play their first game – and the news spreads like wildfire. Three stars, four stars, five stars is now how we label them, fair or not. Some live up to the billing, a lot don’t.

It is evident that college football coaches are no longer worried about throwing first-year players into the fire and giving them immediate playing time. Ask Georgia about playing Nick Chubb last year or LSU if it worked out for them with their beast of a running back (Leonard Fournette). They seemed to handle the commotion okay.  The thinking of most coaches now is, “If the player has shown he can handle the workload and has the talent, then give him a shot.”  Muschamp has made it clear that he firmly believes in that philosophy.

High school football is morphing closer and closer into college football. At a time when I lived in Texas, I saw high school teams that I honestly believed could have beaten some FBS teams. Alabama and Georgia high school football is a hotbed for recruiting unbelievable talent. The transition gap is slowly getting smaller from high school ball to college ball. But, there is still a gap. Don’t doubt it. Maybe not so much in the physical aspect as in the psyche of the athlete. The mental aspect of college football is a game in itself. 

This Saturday, those freshmen will fight a battle of the mind. The overwhelming adrenaline, the struggle to stay focused, hit your marks, pick yourself up when it goes wrong. That is big boy football, and those freshmen players in the game will have to adapt quickly while their freshman comrades on the sidelines adapt at a more reasonable pace. Can they handle it? Time will tell. 

Coach Muschamp must believe they, can or he wouldn’t be calling out their names to the press. Head coach Gus Malzahn believes it. He has always said a player is on the field because “they’ve earned it”. He has said before, “We’ve put the ball down and given everybody an opportunity, and those guys have earned the right to be there…we think all of them that are in the two-deep are talented enough and MENTALLY tough enough”. There it is, “mentally”. 

We forget sometimes that these are 18- and 19-year-old boys out there. Heck, they just got their driving license a couple of years ago. But they are playing big boy football right now, and Malzahn and Muschamp believe they are ready and have what it takes to get the job done. Oh, they will make mistakes, and they will no doubt be better in November than they are in September, but if they can overcome the mental aspects of their surroundings Saturday, we may see some boys transform into Auburn football men!

So before we start the wringing of the hands and the biting of the nails to the quick, thinking that our season is in peril and in the hands of freshmen, let’s just wait and trust coaches Malzahn and Muschamp in their decision to play true freshmen right off the bat. Let’s support these boys as they begin a magnificent adventure into the world of Auburn football. And maybe, just maybe, it may end up being a great decision that leads to championship football – I’m counting on it!

War Eagle!

5 Comments

  1. AtkinsonTiger AtkinsonTiger says:

    That 13 is just the ones on the two deep roster as I understand it. and as you mentioned there will be even more freshmen playing during the season. And to think the media at SEC Media Days picked Auburn to win the SEC? AU already will have a difficult time trying to do that since the SEC west is known as the toughest division in CFB but now the Tigers will try to do it with over half the positions filled with freshmen. – Scary!

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Maybe little scary but they have great coaching and they should be alright. Besides the experience they gain this year should be good for the team for the next couple of years.

  2. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    No doubt these freshmen will have to grow up quick for Auburn to have a good season. And with 2 outstanding freshman H-Backs in Pettaway and Cox, to block, I believe the running game will take off.

    On that note, I would love to see Thomas be able to be the top back but I’m just not sure he can handle the pounding. But if he should get banged up we might see Barber or Robinson get a chance and we may just wind up with a one – two punch like when Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown played together. Had Cadillac not got injured, Ronnie may never have got a chance to prove what he could do.

  3. sparkey sparkey says:

    I don’t understand why people are unaware of how we could have a running back by committee of three really good players. That would be the most devastating attack we could do. We really need to use those guys. We have three really good maybe even a couple great running backs. We should use them. I’m so sick of hearing about Roc Thomas and his fumble against Alabama. Nick Marshall is the one that made the mistake of throwing a swing pass backwards. Roc unfairly ate that blame completely. Nick was a senior. Roc Thomas was a true-freshman and playing in the Iron Bowl for the first time. He had an excuse. Nick, on the other hand, he did not.

  4. holdattiger holdattiger says:

    Very true article. Freshman almost have to play now, as fast as they leave.