After the release of the depth chart for Auburn football Tuesday afternoon, head coach Gus Malzahn suggests that he might move away from releasing future roster information.
The initial backlash to the released depth chart stemmed from intrigue surrounding former No. 1 recruit Byron Cowart, who was placed below fellow junior Dontavius Russell at defensive tackle.
“You want to put out the guys that are going to be playing,” Malzahn said. “That kind of goes back to me saying this depth chart deal -- creating a bunch of stuff that really doesn’t need to be brought up. All those guys are going to play.
“Everybody will get a chance to see. It kind of goes back to why you don’t want a depth chart.”
Malzahn had praise for his team’s true freshmen, who subsequently filled in 14 slots of the depth chart. Even some underclassmen, like left tackle Prince Tega Wanogho and left guard Mike Horton, have been placed ahead of fifth-year seniors.
“We said all along there’s going to be some of these true freshmen that are going to be able to play,” Malzahn said, “and there will be quite a few that we will have on special teams… they have impressed us so far.”
Freshmen Devan Barrett and Noah Igbinoghene will share the third kick-returner position, with Igbinoghene also being listed as the No. 2 flanker wide receiver.
“Both of them are explosive,” Malzahn said. “Both of them have big play ability. We’re excited to see those guys do it… I think both of those guys got a chance to be pretty good back there.”
Additionally, not a single senior is listed for the defensive line. Redshirt freshman Nick Coe shares the No. 2 slot at defensive end with true freshman Big Kat Bryant, both playing under sophomore Marlon Davidson.
“[Nick Coe] is an outside guy who can also play inside,” Malzahn said. “I think if he keeps progressing and getting experience, he has a chance to be a very good football player.”
Sophomore Sal Cannella, initially recruited as a three-star tight end, created some intrigue while listed as the No. 2 big slot receiver. He shares the position with redshirt freshman Marquis McClain, junior Jalen Harris maintaining the starting role at tight end.
“He is one of those guys that can be moved around,” Malzahn said. “He has wide receiver skills. He does a lot of the dirty work. You will see him play tight end and [halfback] as well.”
Both Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway share the No. 1 position at running back, and Malzahn did not define either as a starter or a backup.
“They’re two of the better running backs in our league, and they are the two guys we are going to go with,” he said.
As for the third running back, Malzahn suggests that Kam Martin, who played in five games last season with 320 total rushing yards, will “probably be the next guy that is in.” Freshman Devan Barrett and sophomore Malik Miller will add depth at the position, Malzahn said, but the pair will require more experience before being handed more snaps.
Malzahn stood firm regarding the inexperience of his team, with the roster being led by several underclassmen and players with a limited number of games played. Georgia State, he says, will be a test to their abilities shown in practice.
“Any time you’ve got inexperienced guys with true freshmen, you are going to learn a lot about them in the first game," Malzahn said."Those older guys have shown those younger guys exactly the expectation and what it takes, but each team is different and you always learn about your team.
“I’m going to be looking for to the 2017 Auburn Tigers' first game and there will be some things to learn.”