Published August 18, 2012 - 12:23pm
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During the 2011 football season, the Auburn Tigers saw 15 of its 24 freshmen signees receive playing time. Some saw the field because coaches felt they were ready, while others played out of necessity.
According to Rivals.com, the Tigers signed the tenth ranked class in the nation in 2012, consisting of 21 players. Two players, quarterback Zeke Pike and running back Jovon Robinson, are no longer with the team. Pike was originally arrested, then suspended and now at Louisville, and the latest casualty is Robinson who was ruled ineligible by NCAA after his high school guidance counselor changed his grade. Two others, receiver JaQuay Williams and tight end Darrion Hutcherson, are still awaiting word on whether their academic duties have been fulfilled.
With 17 qualified players (true freshmen) from this class left on what is still considered a young team, expect to see a majority get plenty of action, similarly to last year’s class. We’ll start with offense.
Offensive line was a priority for Gene Chizik and his staff, and with signing seven linemen, Chizik hopes to bridge a gap that has developed in the roster in the recent seasons. Here’s a look at a few that should see substantial time, if not start:
Alex Kozan, OL – The 6’4”, 295lb guard has received praise from coaches and worked his way up the depth chart in what looks to have resulted in a starting position on the right side. Kozan, who signed in late February, has seen his stock rise daily, and according to the Montgomery Advertiser, has the maturity and team-first attitude needed to compete against the top defensive fronts in the country:
“We (the freshmen) just said we’re going to go out to compete, and at the end of the day — whether it’s young guys, old guys — we want the best players to play,” Kozan said. “We want Auburn to win. It’s not so much about us. It’s about the team and making sure that we’re putting out best product on the field.”
The Castle Rock, Co. native signed late with Auburn, and if playing time factored into his decision, he seems to have made the right choice.
Avery Young, OL – Young, at 6’6”, 295lbs, has been battling for a starting spot at right tackle with sophomore Chad Slade throughout fall practice. With Slade battling injuries, Young was getting ample reps with the first team. But with Slade regaining health, it looks as though Young will be the number two man at that spot. As is the norm in the SEC, however, the number two can become the man in the blink of an eye.
Here’s a look at the Palm Beach Gardens standout, as well as Kozan, in a recent interview from Al.com.
Also of note from this offensive line group: 4-star Jordan Diamond, 4-star Shane Callahan and 4-star Patrick Miller could factor into the mix, too.
A team can never have enough players at the skill positions, and Auburn may have found itself three that will contribute instantly:
Jonathan Wallace, QB – Wallace, from Central High School in Phenix City, Al., was courted late in the recruiting process by the Tigers, but his signing may prove more critical, and strategic, than anyone could have imagined. Prior to Zeke Pike’s somewhat predictable exit, Wallace seemed on his way to a redshirt. But even before Pike’s dismissal, Wallace was one of the few players that offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has been willing to praise:
“At times, Jonathan looks much more older and mature than an 18-year-old kid just coming out of high school,” Loeffler said. “Then at times, he reverts to the freshman he is. He’s young, and, at times, there are some things out there that are extremely positive, and sometimes he reverts to 18 years old, which is understandable.
“I really like him, though. He’s got tremendous ‘it’ factor, he’s a winner. He’s going to help Auburn.”
Wallace has looked good throughout fall practice, and this has some murmuring about how long it will be before he surpasses everyone on the depth chart. Throw junior Clint Mosley’s arm troubles into the mix, and Wallace could be the de facto backup QB, and everybody loves the backup QB.
Ricardo Louis, WR – The, 6’2” receiver from Miami Beach brings a physicality that should mesh well with offensive Loeffler’s new pro-style attack. With the questions surrounding other big-name receiver signee Williams, Louis will need to be available, as well as effective. Whether on special teams or rotating in at a wideout role, the 210-pound Under Amour All-American should be more than capable of holding his own. YouTube says so.
Ricky Parks, TE – The Hogansville, Ga. native is vying for time at a tight end position that has proven and experienced depth. With fan favorite Phillip Lutzenkirchen and sophomores Brandon Fulse and C.J Uzomah ahead of him, the 6’3’, 250-pound Parks could be destined for special teams in his first year. He possesses the ball skills, athleticism, and size that special teams coaches love, and should help an already strong Auburn unit.
Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has stated repeatedly that he will put the best eleven players on the field, and true freshmen are no exception. The Tigers only signed seven defensive players last February, but coaches and fans are hoping for quality over quantity.
Joshua Holsey, DB – Another Under Amour All-American, Holsey was also a track star for Creekside High School in Fairburn, Ga. At just 5’9”, the cornerback will have to rely on his speed and quickness if he is to see playing time in the secondary. Running a 4.4 forty yard dash, Holsey already possesses the closing speed that is crucial for a cornerback in the SEC. The 188-pound defensive back finds himself in rare company with a select few that have received high marks from VanGorder. And with the coordinator’s reluctance, or inability, to single many veterans out for good play, Holsey could get into the rotation, and his speed would be nothing but an asset on special teams.
Jonathan Jones, DB – Like Holsey, Jones could easily be one of the fastest members on the Auburn squad. He may also be the most improved player in this freshman class. Rated a 3-star out of Carrolton High School in Carrolton, Ga., Jones has received that all-too-elusive praise from VanGorder in recent days. The AJC called Jones the fastest player in the state of Georgia last year.
Javier Mitchell, LB – After enrolling early, the 6’2”, 210-pound linebacker was not able to participate in contact drills in the spring following off season shoulder surgery. Now healthy and practicing, the Leeds High School standout could win playing time in a unit that is considered thin, at best. The former 4-star recruit has the size that VanGorder is looking for in a linebacker, and should get even bigger as he grows into his frame.
Cassanova McKinzy, LB – Another VanGorder-sized linebacker, the 243lb Woodlawn High School (Birmingham) star should be in the mix with Mitchell. With a name like Cassanova, and light-hearted dislike for seemingly annual opponent Clemson, McKinzy could prove a fan favorite before his time at Auburn is done. Speaking of Clemson, and staying true to his name, the young linebacker is a lover of Chick-fil-A.
A college football season is fluid, and with injuries, position changes, and pure ability, any of these freshmen could find themselves in the middle of the fire that is the SEC.