Auburn Football: Inside Kalvaraz Bessent's Long & Winding Journey to The Plains

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Auburn Football: Inside Kalvaraz Bessent's Long & Winding Journey to The Plains
247Sports
Kalvaraz Bessent

On Feb. 5, Kalvaraz Bessent faxed his national letter of intent to Auburn, officially committing his future plans to the Tigers.

The St. Mary's, Georgia, native was originally a commitment to in-state rival Alabama. But a few days after visiting the Plains the weekend of the 2013 Iron Bowl, he flipped his commitment from the losers of that instant classic to the winners.

Bessent, an Under Armour All-American who was rated as the No. 10 cornerback in the country, provided an immediate boost to Auburn's recruiting class.

Despite their run to the BCS National Championship Game, the Tigers allowed an average of 257.7 yards through the air in 2013—the second-worst pass defense in the SEC.

Auburn coaches saw Bessent as a player who could help turn around the secondary from day one.

"[Defensive backs coach Melvin Smith] identified [Bessent] as one of the best corners early on," head coach Gus Malzahn said on signing day. "We feel we have a guy that can help us immediately. He’s got very good ball skills and is a good cover guy."

However, just two days after Malzahn praised the incoming cornerback's potential, Bessent's future with the program was in jeopardy.

On the night of Feb. 7, Bessent was one of four people arrested and charged with two felony counts of marijuana possession following a traffic stop in nearby Nassau County, Florida.

According to AL.com's Brandon Marcello, police found more than 202 grams of marijuana, a digital scale and a .45-caliber handgun in the front passenger seat where Bessent was sitting. No one in the vehicle claimed ownership of the marijuana or the handgun.

The serious charges threatened Bessent's college football career before it even began.

"Here your son signs on a Wednesday to attend a major university on scholarship to go play football, then on Friday night, this happens," Timothy Bessent, Kalvaraz's father, told the Opelika-Auburn News' Alex Byington. "Of course it was a shock, the whole week of the whole ordeal, with the media exposure and everything, it was somewhat discouraging, embarrassing."

However, one week after the arrest, all charges were dropped against Bessent after the state attorney's office could not connect him to the marijuana.

A few weeks after the charges were dropped, Malzahn confirmed Bessent would join his fellow members of the 2014 signing class for summer enrollment and workouts on the Plains.

"Kalvaraz will be coming in," Malzahn said. "He will be on a probationary status when he gets here, but he will be coming in with the other signees."

According to Timothy Bessent's interview with Byington, Malzahn "didn’t lay out any specific parameters to his son’s 'probationary status' outside of doing what’s expected of him at practice and in the classroom."

Welton Coffey, Bessent's former head coach at Camden County High School, said the Auburn coaching staff were patient throughout the entire process.

"Coach Gus Malzahn handled the situation with great tact, integrity, wisdom and fairness," Coffey said. "It was an experience that we hope all young student athletes can learn from. We are glad that when all the details came out, that the charges were dropped against Kal."

247Sports

Coffey declined to go into details about Bessent's arrest, which he said was a "very trying time for [Bessent], his family and the Camden County football program."

Bessent attended Auburn's A-Day Game in April and arrived on campus in May to begin training for the upcoming season.

If he is allowed to play under his probationary status, the talented cornerback could see several opportunities to play early and often for the Tigers.

With the departure of Iron Bowl hero Chris Davis, the Tigers have one returning starter—Jonathon Mincy, who is dealing with a recent drug arrest of his own—and a host of reserves with a small amount of first-team experience.

Standing at 6'0", he represents part of defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's movement toward a bigger secondary.

Auburn Defensive Back Classes, 2010-2015
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015*
Average Height 5'11" 6'0 1/2" 5'11" 6'0 1/2" 6'1 1/3" 6'1"
Average Weight 186 185 177 195 193 195

247Sports (2015 based on current commitments)

Taller wide receivers such as Texas A&M's Mike Evans and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin were constant threats against the Tigers last season, prompting a change in the way Auburn recruits its secondary

"If you look at this group...they have length," Malzahn said about Bessent and his fellow Auburn newcomers at defensive back. "They can run. They are good tacklers. They have very good ball skills. They will give us some versatility."

As part of that taller 2015 group of defensive backs, Bessent already has one advantage over Auburn's shorter veterans at the position.

247Sports

According to his high school coach, another one of Bessent's advantages on the football field is something else that you cannot teach.

"Kalvaraz has got really good hips," Coffey said. "It's God-given. When you combine those with some good speed and ball skills like he has, that's what makes you a talented cornerback at this level."

Mincy's arrest and versatile defensive back Joshua Holsey's return from a season-ending injury have put the Tigers' cornerback rotation up for grabs.

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Newcomers and veterans at the position will continue their battle for playing time in fall camp as the team sets sights on the 2014 season.

"Bessent has excellent upside at corner," 247Sports' J.C. Shurburtt said (subscription required). "I can see him contributing his first year and contending for All-Conference honors by 2015."

Although things looked bleak for a week in early February, Bessent still has the opportunity to make that type of early impact.

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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