Saturday, June 30, 2012

Getting to Know the Freshmen: Offense

Here is an overview of the incoming freshman from the 2012 signing class.  I've included their star rating and position ranking from the three major recruiting services (Rivals, Scout & ESPN) as well as their current height and weight and a rundown of their recruitment and my opinion of their impact on the team this year and down the road.  Also, I have included a link to their high school highlights on YouTube.


Zeke Pike                            6-5 | 225              Dixie Heights, KY
Rivals:   ***        #16 Quarterback
Scout:   ****     #16 Quarterback
ESPN:    ***        #38 Quarterback
Rundown:           Pike’s prep career was a bit of a roller coaster ride.  He played at a small school with very little to no football success in its history.  With a very limited supporting cast around him, his talent didn’t always shine through on the field.  There is no doubting his physical abilities, though.  Despite being the size of a defensive end, Pike has surprising mobility and isn’t afraid to take it down and get it done with his legs.  That’s not to say his arm is a liability.  Blessed with great arm strength, Pike was the subject of rave reviews at the annual Elite 11 QB camp, specifically from George Whitfield, Jr., the same QB coach who trained Cam Newton prior to the 2011 draft.  Perhaps Pike’s greatest strength is his natural leadership abilities.  Fellow recruits naturally gravitated to Pike during the recruiting process and Pike embraced the role of lead recruiter after committing to Auburn.  Pike will need to refine his throwing mechanics and decision making and also has some off field maturity issues to deal with but he has a ceiling that reminds many of Ben Roethlisberger.  NOTE: Pike is currently back home in Kentucky due to disciplinary issues.  It is uncertain if he will be welcomed back onto the team in the future.

Jonathan Wallace            6-2 | 205              Phenix City, AL
Rivals:   ***        #25 Quarterback
Scout:   ***        #69 Quarterback
ESPN:    ***        #63 Quarterback
Rundown:           Wallace was much more lightly recruited compared to Pike.  Having previously been committed to Southern Miss and Central Florida, Wallace didn’t receive his offer from Auburn until National Signing Day and switched his commitment instantly.  A pure dual-threat QB, Wallace starred at nearby Central High School in Phenix City.  Though his best attribute is his athleticism, his skills as a passer should not be overlooked.  His knowledge of the game and versatility make him a valuable asset for this team but he should not be overlooked as a potential starter at quarterback down the road.  In a recent speaking event, coach Tommy Thigpen mentioned Wallace as one of the hardest working players on the team, which is a rare attribute for a freshman, saying Wallace uses almost all of his free time studying film at the athletic complex.

Running Back

Jovon Robinson                                6-1 | 220              Memphis, TN
Rivals:   ****     #10 Running Back
Scout:   ****     #22 Running Back
ESPN:    ****     #20 Running Back
Rundown:           A powerful, bruising back, Robinson is just what Auburn’s current stable of backs is missing.  Robinson was selected as an Army All-American after a stellar senior season and chose Auburn over offers from Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Penn State, Tennessee and others.  While he runs with great power, what makes him a special back is how he blends that power with impressive speed and agility.  He has been clocked sub 4.5 in the 40 yard dash and his cut back and burst through the line of scrimmage is a perfect fit for the more pro-style offense Auburn is transitioning to.  If you are looking for NFL comparisons, his stature and the attitude with which he runs will remind many of Adrian Peterson, perhaps without Peterson’s top end speed.

Wide Receiver

JaQuay Williams              6-3 | 200              Tyrone, GA
Rivals:   ****     #14 Wide Receiver
Scout:   ****     #16 Wide Receiver
ESPN:    ****     #26 Wide Receiver
Rundown:           If Auburn’s wide receiving corps has been missing a big play threat, than Williams could be the answer.  Williams has great size and leaping ability and loves to go up and make the catch in traffic.  He is the type of receiver that can become a quarterback’s best friend when they throw up a Hail Mary.  Despite committing to Auburn in early June last year, Williams continued to flirt with the in-state Bulldogs, especially after the departure of former Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn but, in the end Williams stuck with his original commitment and signed with the Tigers.  Williams is facing some qualifying issues, but if he gets in school, I would expect him to make an immediate impact as a true freshman.

Ricardo Louis                     6-2 | 200              Miami Beach, FL
Rivals:   ****     #27 Wide Receiver
Scout:   ****     #29 Wide Receiver
ESPN:    ****     #5 Athlete
Rundown:           Louis is possibly the best athlete in this recruiting class.  He played quarterback the majority of the time for his high school team simply because him having the ball in his had on every offensive snap gave them their best chance to win.  He is extremely dangerous with his run after catch ability and, while that usually describes a smaller, shiftier receiver, Louis his terrific size and strength for a receiver.  Due to not playing at his projected collegiate position in High School, Louis’ recruitment didn’t pick up until later in his senior year.  When Auburn was in transition with their offensive coordinators, Louis briefly flirted with FSU, even flipping his commitment to the Seminoles.  But, in the end Louis switched back to the Tigers and signed with Auburn.  Louis should play immediately as a freshman and have a terrific career on the Plains.

Tight End

Ricky Parks                         6-3 | 230              Hogansville, GA
Rivals:   ****     #2 Tight End
Scout:   ****     #5 Tight End
ESPN:    ****     #8 Athlete
Rundown:           Parks chose Auburn over offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, and Southern Cal.  While he is ranked as one of the top tight ends in the country, Parks played mostly quarterback for his high school team and that experience will make him a versatile weapon for Auburn.  Parks will likely be moved around on offense and be used as a traditional tight end, at H-Back and also as a lead blocking fullback.  With his versatility and experience playing quarterback, Parks could also be the centerpiece of a trick play or two during his career.  With Auburn having solid depth at the traditional tight end spot, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Parks redshirt, but if his athleticism can be used on special teams or to help us at all on offense, you can be sure the Auburn coaches will put him to use.
Darrion Hutcherson        6-7 | 245              Dadeville, AL
Rivals:   ***        #20 Tight End
Scout:   ***        #14 Tight End
ESPN:    ***        #31 Tight End
Rundown:           Hutcherson is a jumbo tight end prospect reminiscent of former Georgia tight end Leonard Pope but perhaps more athletic.  In High School Hutcherson played both defensive end and tight end, but he projects on the offensive side of the ball in college.  At 6’7” he definitely has the frame to carry more weight and early in his career his contributions will likely be as an extra blocker until he can develop his route running and receiving skills better.  Hutcherson is currently taking extra classes over the summer to earn qualifying status and will hopefully report to Auburn in August.

Offensive Line

Avery Young                      6-5 | 290              Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Rivals:   ****     #9 Offensive Tackle
Scout:   *****   #5 Offensive Tackle
ESPN:    ****     #8 Offensive Tackle
Rundown:           Young slightly surprised the Auburn coaching staff when he chose Auburn over Florida, Georgia, Miami (FL) and Southern Cal on National Signing Day.  One of Auburn’s top tackle targets, Young has the size and talent to compete for a starting spot immediately upon his arrival this summer.  Miller and Callahan have a head start having participated in spring ball, but neither have Young’s raw talent.  The Under Armour All-American is extremely light on his feet for a player his size and is a natural left tackle.  He may have to start out on the right side to find the field sooner, but if he doesn’t win that starting job, I’d expect him to settle in as Robinson’s heir apparent.

Jordan Diamond               6-6 | 290              Chicago, IL
Rivals:   ****     #28 Offensive Tackle
Scout:   *****   #8 Offensive Tackle
ESPN:    ****     #10 Offensive Tackle
Rundown:           Two days after National Signing Day Diamond pledged his commitment to Auburn over offers from almost every major program in the country.  While his size could allow him to play tackle, the depth chart is fairly stacked there with Greg Robinson locking down one spot for the next 3 years at least and Avery Young, Patrick Miller, Shane Callahan, and Shon Coleman all talented players competing to fill the rest of the spots.  Diamond has the versatility to slide inside to guard and could find a spot in the playing rotation as a true freshman.

Patrick Miller                    6-7 | 260              West Palm Beach, FL
Rivals:   ****     #24 Offensive Tackle
Scout:   ****     #30 Offensive Tackle
ESPN:    ****     #23 Offensive Tackle
Rundown:           One of the most intriguing recruiting stories of the years, Miller was set to be a Tiger but a last minute change sent him to Auburn instead of Baton Rouge.  After choosing LSU over Auburn in a close decision, Miller had his bags packed to head to LSU until Les Miles informed him they no longer would have room for him to be on scholarship as an early enrollee (that spot would later open back up, but that is another story) and would have to wait until fall for his scholarship to take effect.  That was enough for Miller to call up the Auburn coaches and reroute his trip to the Loveliest Village.  Miller impressed the coaches this spring and even earned the start during the A-Day game.  When everyone is healthy it is unlikely Miller will be starting but it seems very likely that he has already earned a spot in the playing rotation for this fall.

Shane Callahan                 6-6 | 280              Parker, CO
Rivals:   ****     #22 Offensive Tackle
Scout:   ****     #33 Offensive Tackle
ESPN:    ****     #28 Offensive Tackle
Rundown:           Callahan pulled the trigger to commit to Auburn at the end of May, making him one of the earlier commitments in the 2012 class.  The Auburn staff saw something in Callahan sooner than most but, a solid senior season opened others’ eyes and earned him an invitation to the prestigious Army All-American game.  Callahan has great size for a tackle and enrolled early to get a head start on his college career.  That additional experience gives him a great chance to contribute as a freshman despite.

Alex Kozan                         6-4 | 295              Castle Rock, CO
Rivals:   ****     #12 Offensive Guard
Scout:   ***        #16 Offensive Guard
ESPN:    ****     #23 Offensive Guard
Rundown:           Kozan is the only true interior player that Auburn took in this class.  One of the last players to make their decisions, Kozan picked Auburn over offers from Arkansas, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma and other top programs across the country nearly a month after signing day.  With the ability to play either guard or center, I believe Kozan will get his first shot in the middle to earn the spot behind sophomore Reese Dismukes.  Kozan has the size to contribute immediately and if he can grasp the offense he will have a good chance to make it into the playing rotation.  If he doesn’t make the playing rotation than a redshirt year to add a year between he and Dismukes and other interior lineman would be beneficial.

Robert Leff                         6-6 | 265              Fairhope, AL
Rivals:   ***        #70 Offensive Tackle
Scout:   ***        #43 Offensive Guard
ESPN:    ***        #132 Offensive Tackle
Rundown:           Auburn took their commitment from Leff sooner than most expected.  Leff flipped from Southern Miss after receiving a firm offer from Auburn in December.  With an ideal frame for a tackle and solid fundamentals, Leff should be a solid contributor later in his career.  Coach Grimes will have some work to do as he does with almost any freshman, but what Leff will need the most is some time in the weight program to fill out his frame.  Expect him to redshirt his first year on the Plains.

Will Adams                        6-6 | 275              Tyrone, GA
Rivals:   ***        NR Offensive Tackle
Scout:   ***        #88 Offensive Tackle
ESPN:    **           #174 Offensive Tackle
Rundown:           Adams had an interesting recruitment.  He committed to Georgia Tech toward the end of July last year and appeared solid to the Jackets through the fall.  Auburn stayed in contact with Adams and it paid off in the end as they were able to flip Adams when a spot opened up.  Adams is a smart player with the size to contribute at either guard or tackle down the road in his career.  I would expect Adams to redshirt his first year to add strength and adjust to the speed of the college game.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Welcome to Auburn Football Blog

Welcome to my new blog covering all things Auburn football. I will cover everything from team insight, game previews and reviews, recruiting news and overviews, as well as some SEC and national football coverage and my weekly gambling picks. Thank you for visiting and I look forward to becoming your #1 stop for all things Auburn Football.