Gene Chizik and his staff—notably Curtis Luper and Trooper Taylor—have re-energized recruiting at Auburn since 2009. The commitments for the 2012 class brought a lot excitement to Tiger fans, and now those commitments are on the team and on campus. The question is no longer who will sign, but who will deliver and turn potential into reality.
This slideshow will highlight four freshmen to keep an eye on during the August practices.
Who will get the coaches' attention? Who will show signs of contributing in the future, and who will show they are ready to play now?
Why should we watch out for Gimel President? The defensive end positions are expected to be capably filled by Corey Lemonier and Nosa Eguae (Lemonier had 47 tackles and Eguaue 38 last season, respectively), and will likely be backed up by Dee Ford and Craig Sanders. Ford missed most of last season due to injury, but appeared in 13 games in 2010. Sanders played in every game last season.
The reason to watch out for President is because of the impression he has already made on his teammates. When Lemonier was asked about freshman defensive players who stood out in the summer, he said this about President:
“He’s really come along; he’s relentless; he’s tough; he’ll do all the dirty work. We’re not in pads, and he tries to go full speed . . . and the offensive linemen get mad . . .” (via Matt Scalici of al.com)
Patrick Miller enrolled early and performed well enough in spring practice to earn a starting position in each of Auburn’s three spring scrimmages. It certainly appears that Miller got off to a strong start.
“He’s a kid that really, really tries hard. It means a lot to him. He’s got a great amount of desire and passion for the game. I really believe he’s going to be a really good player for us. I’m just not sure when, yet.” -Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes (via Joel Erickson of War Eagle Extra)
The question for Miller is whether he will carry momentum from the spring into the fall. It will be interesting to see what Grimes says about him a month from now.
Remember Cassanova McKinzy—the recruit who chose Auburn over Clemson on account of his love for Chick-fil-A? (McKinzy clarified that comment later.) Hopefully, he will eventually make headlines for his prowess on the field, rather than in the food court.
McKinzy is a freshman to watch because there will be so much competition at his position. It will be very impressive if he can stand out among players like Daren Bates (who made 104 tackles in 2011), Jake Holland, Jonathon Evans and redshirt freshman Kris Frost, whom Gene Chizik recently said could challenge for playing time this season.
In 2011, Auburn's second-leading receiver was a running back (Onterio McCalebb). The Tigers are looking for someone to step up alongside Emory Blake and make some catches (the receiving corp may be the most likely place to actually see true freshmen play for Auburn this season).
One such freshman who will be looking to get onto the field is Ricardo Louis.
Tre Mason praised Louis’ performance in summer workouts:
“He’s really quick, really fast off the ball. He’s got great hands, his awareness is great. Yesterday or the day before, he caught a pass on the sideline, and it was almost impossible to keep your feet in, and he did.” (via Joel Erickson of War Eagle Extra)
Will the coaches be as convinced of Louis' skills as Mason is? If so, he could be making an early impact in Auburn's passing attack.