Auburn Football: The 5 Strongest Positions on the Tigers' 2013 Roster
The Auburn program is heading into a new era with Gus Malzahn, and every position is still open as the team heads into summer workouts.
There are a number of talented position groups that will have heated battles finding starters this fall, and this is a look at the five best for the Tigers.
Defensive end is layered with talent and is bringing in bodies that are game ready in the latest recruiting class. Running back is also loaded, but a surprise position group lands high on the list.
No. 5: TE/H-back
In the Mix: Jay Prosch, Sr.; Brandon Fulse, Jr.; Ricky Parks, RsFr.; C.J. Uzomah, Jr.*
The tight end and H-back role are often interchanged in the Malzahn offense.
Jay Prosch came to Auburn to serve as the lead blocking back in the Scot Loeffler pro-style scheme, but he is now finding his role expanded under Malzahn. He will be a lead blocker, but there will also be passes thrown his way, and a lot more carries in his future.
Alongside Prosch will be Brandon Fulse. He is a rising junior who has earned his stripes behind Philip Lutzenkirchen over the past two years. He is a talented route-runner, but his blocking is his strength.
Ricky Parks is a rising star, and C.J. Uzomah will be utilized in specific passing situations from the tight end position. This is a stacked group of talented performers that will help the Tigers get the offense rolling early in the year.
Note: Uzomah is also set to earn snaps at receiver.
No. 4: Linebacker
In the Mix: Jake Holland, Sr.; Cassanova McKinzy, So.; Kris Frost, So.; LaDarius Owens, Jr.
Newcomers to Watch: Kenny Flowers, Jr.; Cameron Toney, Fr.
The linebacker position has struggled over the past two seasons with injuries and undersized players taking the field for the Tigers.
This year, the new 4-2-5 scheme will only call for two linebackers at a time and will stretch the ranks of the light but talented position group. Jake Holland is an incumbent starter as a rising senior, but Cass McKinzy and Kris Frost are two who could take over the starting positions.
Frost is a very talented instinctual player, and he showed a lot of leadership in the spring.
Don’t count out rising junior LaDarius Owens, who has spent two years on the defensive line. He is a big body and talented hitter who will bring a lot of pop to the middle of the defense.
Kenny Flowers is also a name to keep an eye on. He is a JUCO transfer who is game ready. Flowers is enrolled for summer classes.
No. 3: Running Back
In the Mix: Cameron Artis-Payne, Jr.*; Tre Mason, Jr.; Corey Grant, Jr.
Newcomers to Watch: Peyton Barber, Fr.; Jonathan Ford, Fr.
The Tigers are looking to lean on their running game this fall with a ton of questions surrounding the quarterbacks.
There is a lot of talent in the backfield, but the depth isn’t where it needs to be. Auburn has three scholarship backs that went through spring and two incoming freshmen for the summer.
Cameron Artis-Payne is a JUCO transfer who is every bit as good as advertised after having a huge spring. Tre Mason and Corey Grant are also expected to bring a lot of production.
Mason was the Tigers' 1,000-yard rusher last fall, and Grant is the heir apparent to the speed back role previously held by Onterio McCalebb. Also look for Grant in the short passing game.
Barber and Ford may be true freshmen, but one will be asked to carry some of the load this fall. Which one has yet to be determined.
Note: Artis-Payne is not listed as a newcomer after spending spring with the team.
No. 2: Star
In the Mix: Justin Garrett, Jr.; Robenson Therezie, Jr.
Newcomers to Watch: Mackenro Alexander, Fr.; Brandon King, Jr.; Khari Harding, Fr.
The “Star” position is a new position that comes with the Ellis Johnson 4-2-5 defense. It is a linebacker and safety hybrid that is expected to hit like a linebacker and cover the flats like a safety.
The Tigers found an all-star this spring in Justin Garrett. He gained a lot of recognition from the coaches as being the fiercest hitter on the field. Gus Malzahn told Joel A. Erickson of AL.com that "He's setting the tone for the defense. We need more guys playing like him."
A player who was once lost in the shuffle at linebacker, Garrett has the chance to be an All-SEC performer from the position.
Robenson Therezie is another head-hunter type who will fill the role this fall. He should receive ample snaps at the position as Auburn looks to keep the players fresh.
There are three newcomers at safety who could fill the role, but Mackenro Alexander and Brandon King are the most likely fits.
King played a similar role in JUCO, and Alexander played linebacker in high school.
No. 1: Defensive End
In the Mix: Dee Ford, Sr.; Craig Sanders, Sr.; Nosa Eguae, Sr.; Justin DeLaine, Jr.; Kenneth Carter, Sr.
Newcomers to Watch: Carl Lawson, Fr.; Elijah Daniel, Fr.
The defensive end position is the strongest group that the Tigers will field this fall.
There is a lot of senior leadership with Ford, Eguae and Sanders, and a lot of incoming impact talent with Lawson and Daniel.
Kenneth Carter shifted from defensive tackle to end this spring, and the transition will result in increased playing time for the senior.
Keymiya Harrell is another player who has high expectations, but injuries limited his spring.
With the level of experience and incoming talent, the ends will be the anchors for the defense. The Tigers need big plays early in the season to gain confidence defensively, and the defensive ends will be the group that gets it started.