Every Monday and Thursday, Plainsman sports staffers Zach Tantillo and Nathan King will analyze an Auburn football player who has a chance to make a sizable impact on the team next season.
Today’s Fortune Teller focuses on Noah Igbinoghene, a sophomore dual-position athlete who received rave reviews from his coaches and teammates in the spring.
If an athlete were to play two sports, break 20-plus-year-old records in one and play two positions in the other at a school known for success in both, it would be considered a noteworthy career, likely spanning four or five years.
Noah Igbinoghene did it in one.
Igbinoghene, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound wide receiver, defensive back, kick returner and track star, excelled in Year 1 on The Plains in every facet, which came to the surprise of none.
Igbinoghene’s parents, Faith and Festus, were both Olympic track stars; his speed and athleticism is in his blood.
Freshman @Noah_Igbo9 places seventh in the triple jump with a leap of 15.24m/50-0! It's the best performance by an AU freshman in the event at SECs in the last two decades! #WarEagle | #SECITF18 pic.twitter.com/xoUp601sSz— Auburn Track & Field (@AuburnTFXC) February 26, 2018
In his first season with Auburn track and field, Igbinoghene didn’t skip a beat from his high school days, achieving the best performance in the SEC indoors for an Auburn freshman in the last two decades in his second appearance of the spring.
In football, Igbinoghene was tabbed a wide receiver his freshman year after signing with the Tigers as a cornerback. The speedster from Trussville, Alabama, contributed primarily in the return game, fielding 24 kicks for 571 yards, including a 174-yard performance against UCF in the Peach Bowl. His 23.6 yards per return ranked sixth in the conference.
"We really feel like he's got special talent," head coach Gus Malzahn said in spring practice. "We were very impressed with him last year in special teams, we want to make sure he has the best chance of being on the field."
Offensively however, Igbinoghene caught just six passes and racked up only 35 yards from scrimmage in 14 games played in a crowded receiving corps.
That receivers room didn’t lose any major players at the end of 2017, resulting in Malzahn’s decision to revert Igbinoghene back to his original position on the defense.
"We're very deep at wide receiver," Malzahn said. "From a coach’s standpoint, his upside is very high. We've got to find a way to get him on the field."
The swap was made, and Igbinoghene thrived, receiving starting reps at corner in most practices. The sophomore still saw time at receiver, especially with the slew of injuries that axed the group in the spring.
At the end of spring ball, defensive backs coach Marcus Woodson said if the season began today, Igbinoghene would be the starter, alongside veterans Jamel Dean and Javaris Davis.
“By bringing Noah to defense, the way he progressed this spring exceeded a lot of people’s expectations,” Woodson told Rivals.com. “He left out of the spring as a starter and he’s a natural corner. He’s got a huge upside. He’s got all the tools you want. He can play this game a long time at the corner position.”
Igbinoghene must continue to work in the summer and fall camps to retain his starting role, with upstart youngsters Christian Tutt, Jamien Sherwood, Smoke Monday, John Broussard Jr., Jordyn Peters, Kolbi Fuqua and Roger McCreary rounding out the secondary lineup. But as a player with only eight months of legitimate receiver experience under his belt versus a career as a corner, Igbinoghene should hear his name called with the starting 11.
His striking quickness and natural softness of hands will be needed immediately, as Auburn’s secondary will be tested early with Washington’s Jake Browning, one of the top returning QBs for 2018. Igbinoghene has ample depth around him at the kick return slot, but there’s no reason the sophomore shouldn’t be the one taking the pigskin out of the endzone following the year’s first “War Eagle! Hey!”
Igbinoghene won’t be an All-American defensive back like his predecessor and current Tampa Bay Buccanneer Carlton Davis, but the iron man athlete's new full-time position should carry success. As one of Auburn’s fastest players, Igbinoghene’s skills covering downfield threats will be present and necessary, and he should be the most dangerous man to take it to the house if he can haul in an interception.