Head coach Gus Malzahn announced on Monday that the 2016 edition of fall camp has come to a close for the Auburn football team. Malzahn said he was pleased with the recent progression and intensity of the team, which allowed him to let the players take the night off before the first day of classes on Tuesday.
Here is a look at what we learned from fall camp:
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There are still three quarterbacks "competing their guts off"
The close of camp left no answer to who will lead Auburn from the pocket, or a timetable on when that decision will be made. All three quarterbacks split reps evenly with the ones and twos in the first scrimmage of fall camp. Coaches saw good things from all three and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee explained that the three signal callers were making it a "tough decision." In the Tigers second scrimmage on Saturday, Jeremy Johnson was held out due to a minor hand injury, which allowed coaches to closely evaluate Sean White and John Franklin III. Malzahn said he needs a "100 percent feel" before he names a starter.
“I'm not ready to name a starter right now. Possibly in the near future that could happen but we're not ready right now as of the end of fall camp,” Malzahn said. “That's not a bad thing at all. As a matter of fact, it's a real positive thing that we've got a fierce competition going on. Our guys are battling. They're much improved from the spring, and that's exciting for me.”
While Malzahn may not be ready to name a starter, he says its "definitely the plan" for the race to be narrowed from three to two in the near future.
“Our quarterback has to be more of a runner this year, we’ve talked about that," Malzahn said. "I don’t care who it is."
Talented young defensive linemen will have a chance to play
Auburn's defensive line depth has what Malzahn believes is the best "since I've been here." Coming into fall camp, Tiger players and coaches knew that a combination of a Montravious Adams, Devroe Lawrence and a healthy Carl Lawson would be a dangerous. What they didn't know is the impression Auburn's newest linemen would them in fall camp. Freshman defensive tackles Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown have caught most of the attention, but veterans like Adams believe that freshman Antwaun Jackson Jr. will also make a splash early.
“He’s doing pretty good,” said Adams, a senior defensive tackle. “Really, his thing is kind of similar to mine and that’s just keep working on hands and pad level and just the little things of being a good defensive lineman.”
Adams also commented on the growth of defensive end Byron Cowart. Cowart, the number one overall recruit in the nation in 2015, expects to be at the top of the conference in production this season. After fall camp, Adams believes that the "sky is the limit" for the sophomore.
Daniel Thomas is turning heads
The Tiger suffered a blow in the second scrimmage of camp when they lost defensive back Jamel Dean to a knee injury. Dean, was competing for the starting job opposite Carlton Davis, and was expected to be a big part of the Tiger defense. While the loss of Dean is not good for Kevin Steele’s defense, it will not break it. Incoming freshman cornerback Daniel Thomas has had an incredible fall camp, and will not only make the active roster for the Clemson game, but has a very good chance to be in the defensive back rotation.
“We scrimmaged and he went into the stadium for the first time, and it was not too big for him,”said Kevin Steele after the first scrimmage. “I use that as an example, but it’s kind of what we’re looking for in those young guys that have not played a whole lot is that when they get into those situations, particularly over at the stadium, it’s not too big for him.”
A 100% healthy Tray Matthews will also be beneficial for the the Tiger defensive backs.
The Tiger offense will have two primary running backs
Even with the loss of the Tigers top three running backs from 2015, the Auburn running game looks to be in good shape after fall camp. Sophomore tailback Kerryon Johnson is projected to be the starter, while former h-back Kamryn Pettway will back Johnson up. Pettway played running back in high school, and was recruited as a running back. He also received the most carries in last Saturday’s scrimmage. The sophomore duo at tailback will lead incoming freshman running backs Kam Martin and Malik Miller, who will have an opportunity to provide depth at the positon.
Eli Stove and other young receivers will have a chance to play immediately
Tony Stevens and Marcus Davis have an unbelievable trio of freshman receivers to lead, and expect them to provide great depth. Eli Stove, Kyle Davis and Nate Craig-Meyers will have many opportunities to contribute immediately for Malzahn’s offense.
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee had this to say about Eli Stove.
“He’s done some really good things that says, ‘We need to keep working with this guy. He needs to be able to help us this year’ … He’s done enough that says, ‘Hey, he’s going to be ready to help us.’ In what capacity? I don’t know. But we’re going to keep pushing him, and he’s got a bright future.”
Stevens, a senior wideout, was seen on crutches at Auburn's fan day on Sunday, but Malzahn expects him to be off of the crutches and healthy for the opener. Malzahn also expects a banged up Kyle Davis to be healthy again 'soon.'
Sophomore linebacker Darrell Williams has also made strides in his second fall camp, and is grabbing the attention of his coaches and teammates. Williams will be lead by junior linebacker Tre' Williams, who has not practiced since August 6, but is 'close' to being healthy according to Malzahn.
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