Auburn football: Ranking the 10 best freshmen over the past 5 seasons
With spring ball in the books, flowers aren’t the only thing blooming. The spring and summer months are also the prime stretch of time when the hopes of fans blossom over which exciting freshman may be the next big thing to propel the program to greatness.
Tank Bigsby did that for Auburn in 2020 as he looks to build off a sensational freshman debut under a new coaching staff in what will be Bryan Harsin’s freshman year in the SEC as head coach. While it’s no surprise who tops the list, these are the 1o best freshmen for Auburn over the past 5 seasons that someone in this year’s class will desperately need to replicate should the Tigers return to the top of the SEC West.
10. Eli Stove, WR (2016)
Stove’s Auburn career finally came to close this past season, but it all began 5 years ago in 2016, making 6 starts during his freshman season. Stove recorded 23 catches — the 6th-most ever by an Auburn freshman — for 224 yards, while also carrying the ball 11 times for 131 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came on a 78-yard run against Arkansas, which is the 3rd-longest rush by an Auburn freshman. Stove concluded his career with 136 receptions for 1,186 yards and 6 touchdowns.
9. D.J. Williams, RB (2019)
Perhaps lost in the shuffle at times as a backup running back, Williams’ 400 rushing yards as a true freshman are the rank 16th all-time among Auburn freshmen. The nephew of Edgerrin James finished his first season with 5 touchdowns and a season-long rush of 70 yards against LSU. After a strong freshman season, Williams was named to the 2020 Preseason Doak Walker Award Watch List.
8. Nick Coe, DL (2017)
Named to the 2017 SEC-All Freshmen Team, Coe finished his redshirt freshman year with 29 tackles, 4.5 for loss and 2 sacks. The defensive end was named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his play against Alabama in which he recorded 5 tackles and a sack.
Coe eventually learned to play every spot on the defensive line and spent time at linebacker as an upperclassman. He never finished with more tackles than he did his redshirt freshman year, but he did record 7 sacks as a sophomore. Coe declared for the NFL Draft after his junior year and signed with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent. He is currently a member of the Miami Dolphins.
7. Marlon Davidson, DL (2016)
Davidson started all 13 games on the defensive line for the Tigers en route to SEC All-Freshmen honors. The disruptive pass rusher recorded 38 tackles, including 6 for loss and 2.5 sacks. Davidson went on to start for 4 years at Auburn, culminating in 2019 when he earned Second Team All-American honors. Davidson was taken in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons.
6. Owen Pappoe, LB (2019)
Pappoe was the nation’s highest-rated outside linebacker prospect out of high school and went on to start every game as a true freshman. The linebacker made 49 stops with 3 for loss and 2 sacks. He had his best game against LSU in which he recorded a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss and 7 tackles. His play only elevated last season as a sophomore, when he finished second on the team with 93 tackles.
5. Anthony Schwartz, WR (2018)
The speedy freshman receiver scored 7 touchdowns in his first year, 5 through the air and 2 on the ground. Schwartz completed his freshman season with 27 receptions for 211 yards as well as 357 rushing yards on 22 carries. His 76-yard touchdown reception against Tennessee was the longest play of Auburn’s season, a precursor of Schwartz’ home-run hitting ability to come.
Schwartz finished his career this past season as Auburn 10th all-time leader in receptions (117) and 17th all-time leader in receiving yards (1,433). His 4.26 40 time at Auburn’s Pro Day was the fastest of any player in the country.
4. Seth Williams, WR (2018)
The jump-ball wizard that is Seth Williams made his presence known as a freshman, catching 26 passes for 534 yards and 5 touchdowns. Those numbers rank 4th, 3rd and 2nd all-time among Auburn freshman. Williams was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for his play against Texas A&M in which caught 2 11-yard TD catches from Jarrett Stidham in the victory, including the game-winner with 1:41 remaining.
Williams quickly emerged as the No. 1 target for his sophomore season with Bo Nix and declared for the NFL Draft at the conclusion of the 2020 season. Williams finished his career 4th all-time at Auburn with 2,124 receiving yards and 3rd all-time with 17 receiving touchdowns. The wideout made a catch in 24 consecutive games, starting with the final game of his freshman season.
3. JaTarvious Whitlow, RB (2018)
Whitlow was named to the SEC All-Freshmen team as a redshirt following his debut season with 787 yards on the ground, the third-most ever by an Auburn freshman. He scored 8 touchdown, including 2 through the air, and eclipsed 100 yards rushing three times in 2018. Against Ole Miss, Whitlow recorded 208 all-purpose yards, including 170 on the ground.
Whitlow returned for another strong season in 2019 but transferred to FCS-level Western Illinois, which went 1-5 this spring without Whitlow recording a carry.
2. Bo Nix, QB (2019)
As polarizing as Bo Nix is among Auburn fans, it’s easy to forget that he was the 2019 SEC Freshman of the Year. Nix was the first freshman quarterback to start for Auburn since 1946 and went on to complete 217-of-377 passes for 2,542 yards and 16 touchdowns, all Auburn freshman records. The dual-threat QB also added 313 yards and 7 scores on the ground. His 340 passing yards against Ole Miss were the 2nd-most by an Auburn freshman. Nix was twice named the SEC Freshman of the Week.
1. Tank Bigsby, RB (2020)
One of the few bright spots on Auburn’s offense in 2020, Bigsby was also named SEC Freshman of the Year and received SEC All-Freshman and All-Purpose honor. Bigsby rushed for 834 yards, the 2nd-most among all FBS freshmen, and averaged 122.4 all-purpose yards, good for 8th in the SEC. Injuries dampened the end of his season, but not before he could score 7 touchdowns and record 15 plays of at least 20 yards in length. He is PFF’s top returning running back in 2021.