Most average fans know the names and potential of the majority of players on the teams they pull for on Saturday as well as those teams their team plays. Occasionally, there are players who arrive on rosters in unexpected ways. Sometimes, these players have the potential to make a huge impact.
The 2012 Auburn Tigers have several players hidden on the roster who could impact this season. These players are usually transfers and the occasional blossoming scout team player but can arrive by other unusual circumstances. The following are four relatively unknown players with the potential to have a huge impact for Auburn this season.
The first player on this list is nowhere near most fans’ collective radars. This young man was a highly regarded college football recruit for the 2009 national class. He was also drafted as a potential professional baseball player. As part of his contract, the professional baseball organization that drafted him agreed to pay for his secondary education if baseball did not work out.
Baseball did not work out, and Melvin Ray is currently attempting to complete all requirements to walk on at Auburn. He's a long-bodied receiver who has a very solid physical build. His speed range is better than the average SEC wide receiver.
Part of the conditions Ray had to meet required him to be sidelined for a full year. This makes him eligible to attempt full walk-on status this August.
After having a couple of extra years of heavy workouts, this is a young man who has a ton of potential in the new Auburn offensive scheme. After one year of strength and conditioning at Auburn, he still has four years of eligibility starting this season. Fans can expect to begin hearing his name regularly starting this fall.
Corey Grant is a former running back at Alabama who decided to transfer to Auburn. While he surely had his reasons for doing this, there was a clear benefit of his decision. While at Alabama, Grant was considered lacking the physical maturity to run inside. He possesses track-star speed but simply lacked the bulk to take the pounding an inside running back must endure in the SEC.
His decision to transfer to Auburn required him to sit out a season. Every indication is that he took full advantage of that year in the strength and conditioning program. He's rumored to be carrying over 200 pounds on his 5’11” frame this season.
Look for Corey Grant to have an immediate impact for Auburn in 2012. He has the build and explosiveness to take advantage of the blocking of the next player on this list.
Jay Prosch is one of the top blocking backs in the nation. He was the lead blocker who helped Illinois lead running back to over 1,600 yards in his freshman year. He was honored as an All-American for his efforts during his sophomore season.
The Auburn offense has been devoid of a true blocking back since the dismissal of Eric Smith prior to the 2011 season. At times, it was very obvious exactly how damaging Smith’s dismissal was for the 2011 Auburn offense.
Prosch is expected to play a very similar role at Auburn to that which he executed so well at Illinois over the last two seasons. Fans can expect to hear Prosch’s name called early and often in coach Scot Loeffler’s diverse pro-style offense this season.
Can these transfers and walk-ons be a difference maker for the new Auburn offense in 2012?
Mike Blakely was one of the top running back recruits in the nation for the 2011 class. He signed his LOI with Florida and almost immediately regretted this decision. Before attending any practice at Florida, he decided to transfer to Auburn. He was not granted a waiver of eligibility for the 2011 season by the NCAA.
These circumstances led to a forced redshirt year at Auburn. Blakely used that year to build better lower-body strength and prepare for the 2012 season. All indications are that his work paid dividends.
As is the case with all freshman running backs, Blakely needs improvement in the blocking and pass-protection area. He's a very strong inside running back with impressive upper-body strength and the lower-body strength and balance to break tackles regularly.
Blakely was extremely impressive as a runner during spring practice and will provide excellent depth at the running back position for the coming season. He's also a very capable receiver which only adds to his versatility.
For most teams, the occasional transfer or walk-on who develops beyond expectation is a singular event at best. For Auburn, in 2012, this group of transfers and walk-ons provides an entire rushing attack that would be the envy of most BCS-level programs.
Add to that the receiving abilities of Ray and Blakely and this group of off-the-radar players is very likely to make a very big contribution to Auburn’s new offensive scheme this year.