Auburn Football: 5 Players to Watch in Auburn's Spring Game
Auburn fans have been waiting for this week since the clock hit all zeroes at the BCS National Championship Game in January.
It's finally a game week on the Plains.
Although the Auburn Tigers will be going at each other instead of an SEC opponent, the annual A-Day Game this Saturday will give fans their first chance at seeing their defending SEC champions on the field since their close loss to Florida State in Pasadena.
Of course, Auburn's players are just as excited about getting back to Jordan-Hare Stadium for a game this weekend. With spring camp officially wrapping up at A-Day's final whistle, Saturday's spring game will give the Tigers one final chance to impress their coaches as well as their fans heading into the long summer months.
As we get ready for the Tigers' spring finale this Saturday, here are five players you should keep your eyes on at A-Day.
Nick Marshall, QB
With Gus Malzahn saying as early as last December that the Tigers would have more offensive balance in 2014, all eyes will be on returning starting quarterback Nick Marshall on Saturday.
Marshall is something of a luxury for Auburn and Gus Malzahn. Brandon Cox was the last quarterback to start consecutive season openers for the Tigers (2005, 2006 and 2007), and Malzahn has never had a returning quarterback in his collegiate coaching career.
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee wants Marshall to complete at least 65 percent of his passes in 2014, a regular-season mark only four Auburn quarterbacks have reached all-time. The former junior college star showed he could make outstanding plays with the read-option attack last season, and now the coaching staff wants him to be more of a weapon throwing the ball.
Although much was made of Marshall getting extra practices this spring, something he did not get in his first year on the Plains, Malzahn said the quarterback has had a workload in the last few days. Marshall's coaches and teammates said the quarterback is not injured but has already shown a lot of progression this offseason.
"Our goal was all of our foundation plays that he feels comfortable with his drops and his eyes and his progression, and I think he’s getting closer," Malzahn said last Saturday. "He’s very coachable. He takes coaching extremely well and it’s just a matter of programming. I think he’s come a long way."
D'haquille Williams, WR
One of Marshall's top targets in a more balanced offense this season could be D'haquille Williams, the nation's No. 1 junior college recruit from the 2014 class.
Auburn already has some returning talents out wide in Sammie Coates, Georgia game hero Ricardo Louis and Tony Stevens, but Coates was the only consistent threat at receiver for Auburn in its run to the SEC Championship. Williams could step in and be the Tigers' No. 2 receiver from the season opener after what his teammates have described as a strong spring for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product.
"[Williams] has come in and is doing a great job," Coates said. "He’s making big plays. He’s helping a lot of us out. He has come in and is being a leader and making plays. He’s helping the team a whole lot.”
Lashlee raved about Williams' "God-given abilities" as a receiver, and tight end C.J. Uzomah simply described him as a "freak." The 6'2" Louisiana native has been described as an all-around target for quarterbacks, but his ability to attack the ball against the coverage is what sets him apart from other receivers on Auburn's campus.
Look for Williams to have a few balls thrown his way at A-Day for his first action in front of the orange and blue faithful.
Montravius Adams, DT
After a successful true freshman season at defensive tackle for Auburn, Montravius Adams could see time at a new spot on the defense at his first A-Day.
Adams and fellow defensive tackle Gabe Wright have played reps at defensive end for Auburn this spring as the unit goes through some depth issues due to injuries. With senior LaDarius Owens out for the entire camp with a foot injury and sophomore Elijah Daniel missing a few practices with a groin injury, the former blue-chip defensive line recruit has gotten a chance to show his coaches what he can do off the edge.
While the 306-pound Adams is not expected to make a permanent move to defensive end this season, he could make an impact at A-Day and impress everybody at Jordan-Hare with his versatility.
“I can do anything, anything I put my mind to,” Adams said earlier this spring. “God blessed me with a lot of athletic ability. I can do whatever I want to do.”
Whether he contributes at end in Auburn's regular defensive front or the all-tackle "Rhino" package, keep an eye on where and how Adams contributes in his first spring game on the Plains.
Kris Frost, LB
Unlike Adams, Kris Frost has made a permanent move this spring, and he is ready to have a breakout season in 2014.
Frost was originally recruited as an outside linebacker, but he rotated with the departed Jake Holland at middle linebacker last season. Frost only made one start in the middle of Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 defense, but he finished with the fifth-most tackles on Auburn's roster.
Fans will remember his important third-down tackle of Johnny Manziel late in the Tigers' upset of Texas A&M in College Station. Frost will get more of an opportunity to show off his athleticism this season as he has switched with returning starter Cassanova McKinzy to play weak-side linebacker in 2014.
"It’s a relief," Frost said about his position change. "It’s easy for me to get focused on what I need to do and all my priorities and knowing what I need to get better at."
With Auburn's defense reloading at several positions this season, Frost's experience could be a massive boost for the Tigers this season. Look for Frost to fly all over Pat Dye Field in pursuit, coverage and run-stopping against the high-powered offense this Saturday.
Derrick Moncrief, S
Derrick Moncrief arrived on the Plains alongside Williams as highly rated junior college transfers who could make an instant impact on the Tigers' depth chart.
Moncrief has already worked his way into the Tigers' first-team rotation after his first few practices at Auburn. In Auburn's two scrimmages of spring camp, he recorded a pair of monster hits and pulled down an interception at boundary safety.
The Auburn secondary is still being worked out after losing several key players, including Iron Bowl legend Chris Davis, but several of Moncrief's teammates could see the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star playing early and often in 2014.
"He could definitely be a starter in this defense, but I'll let the coaches work that out," fellow safety Jermaine Whitehead said. "I think we've got some shuffling around to do, and he's going to make us make some decisions and help us as a football team."
Like his teammate Williams, Moncrief will be on full display for the first time this Saturday inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. As a bigger safety for what was an undersized unit last season, keep an eye out for how Moncrief adapts to Auburn's defensive scheme in his first live action in front of fans.
Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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