Breaking down Auburn's depth chart
When Gus Malazhn released Auburn’s depth chart for the season-opener on Tuesday, it confirmed what we knew about most positions. There were some surprises though.
Notable players, a thought-to-be returning starter and an expected contributor, were missing completely. More than half a dozen freshman made the two deep roster. Three offensive spots don’t have a clear-cut starter.
NECK AND NECK
Cameron Artis-Payne OR Corey Grant – Running Back: The first time Malzahn addressed the media in fall camp he said he was “going to throw both of them out there and see what happens.” That has been the line since then. Tuesday Malzahn stressed that Grant can “run the whole offense and really improved in a lot of areas” as oppose to running to the edge and beating defenders with his speed. He is confident in Artis-Payne’s ability but made a point to say that the quality he showed last year was early in season.
C.J. Uzomah OR Brandon Fulse – Tight End/Halfback: Last year the tight end and the halfback position were listed as two different positions. The indication is that Fulse will line up primarily in the backfield, taking over for Jay Prosch. The main responsibility will be blocking but Fulse’s catching ability brings another dimension to the halfback spot. Uzomah could line up in the backfield but his strength is as a receiver along with blocking on the edge.
Ricardo Louis or Quan Bray – Wide Receiver: Receiver might be one of the deepest positions on the team. Had to be hard to differentiate between the two very similar receivers. Both Louis and Bray are apart of the special teams duties: Bray the No. 1 on punt returns and Louis No.2 on kick returns.
Robenson Therezie – Star/Hybrid: Gus Malzahn intimated Monday night during his weekly radio show that the senior from Miami, who lead the team in interceptions last season, wasn’t going to be in the mix. Malzahn said Justin Garrett is the main guy at the star/hybrid spot. Therezie has some sort of eligibility problem which was first reported by Ellis Johnson back on Aug. 16. The coaching staff has been tight lipped since the initial announcement. Tuesday Malzahn’s explaination was “we didn’t need to put him on there right now until it gets resolved.” It is an ironic situation. Therezie inherited the star/hybrid position last year because of a Garrett injury in fall camp. Freshman Nick Ruffin is listed behind Garrett.
Jimmy Hutchinson – Punter: We knew back on Aug. 16 that redshirt freshman Daniel Carlson won the punting job. There was an expectation though that Hutchinson, who also redshirted last year, would probably be part of the two deep. His 40-yard average with a long of 46 yards in the A-Day game wasn’t enough for special teams coach Scott Fountain. Fountain needed a sky kicker. True freshman Matthew Shiel clearly outworked Hutchinson in fall camp.
Matthew Shiel – Punter: Speaking of Shiel, his journey to the Plains is an intriguing one. A native of Australia, Shiel took first place among the top punters at Kohl’s National Scholarship Kicking Camp. He brings a Australian-type kicking style after years of playing both Australian football and rugby while attending high school in Doncaster, Australia. Special team coach Scott Fountain said earlier in camp that one reason they brought Shiel in was because of Aussie-style of kicking.
Nick Ruffin – Star/Hybrid: Clearly the coaching staff knew about Therezie’s eligibility issue much earlier than when Johnson announced it on Aug. 16. Ruffin moved from competing at the cornerback to star/hybrid the first week of camp. His challenge will be taking on bigger players. Ruffin stands 6-foot tall but is nearly 50 pounds lighter (174 pounds) than Garrett.
Braden Smith – Left Tackle: Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes has the confidence that Smith has the proper technique as well as ability to back-up sophomore Shon Coleman. Grimes, who said Smith is probably in the 99.9 percentile of freshman tackles in the country, needed Smith to pass one test in fall camp. Could Smith go out there and react properly when the ball is snapped. Grimes said it was his job to get Smith to know exactly what to do before the ball is snapped. After that it was on Smith to react properly. Obviously, Smith passed the test.
Stanton Truitt – Wide Receiver: Enrolling in January clearly made a difference for Truitt. He”ll line up behind sophomore Marcus Davis as a slot receiver. Truitt is a future poster boy for Auburn’s “Fast” motto. He is very quick with great hands. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee called him “tough, smart.” He made a big enough impression despite going through a portion of fall camp with a nagging hamstring injury.
Tre Williams – Weakside Linebacker: It started out as a free for all to find out the two deep behind Kris Frost and Cassanoza McKinzy. Williams stood head and shoulders above the other candidates with a wanting to learn. His physical ability jumped off the field during the first scrimmage, McKinzy talked him a “head hunter” and praised his ability to pick up the system quickly.
Stephen Roberts – Free Safety: A week into fall camp Ellis Johnson mentioned that safeties Markell Boston and Roberts impressed him but “weren’t ready to plays on Saturdays yet.” Roberts made improvement to earn a spot though. Johnson and safeties coach Charlie Harbison liked Roberts’ quickness and ability to go up and get the ball. He’ll be behind the quarterback of the defense Jermaine Whitehead. Roberts and Whitehead are both similar in stature, both at 5-food-11. Whitehead is 13 pounds heavier than Roberts but Roberts has put some weight on.
Ike Powell – Long Snapper: Props to Powell for walking on and being the back-up to senior Forrest Hill. 247 Sports rated Powell the No. 6 long snapper in the country and he was named the top snapper by Kohl’s Kicking Camp.