Auburn has compiled some solid recruiting classes in recent years, but unfortunately, many of the Tigers' top prospects haven't panned out. Just a couple months after his hiring, Gus Malzahn did a nice job in a limited amount of time on the recruiting trail and hauled in a top-15 class. Among the new Tigers are a few who have the makings to be future stars.
The Tigers signed three five-star incoming freshmen in February, according to 247Sports, and added four more four-star prospects. Spread across several positions, all seven players should be have the chance to become stud in the SEC over the next four years. But who will stand out in his first season on the Plains? A sound argument could be made for each.
Montravius Adams, DT, five-star
To put it mildly, Adams' signing was a pleasant surprise. It set off celebrations in Auburn and just as much crying from other fan bases hoping to acquire the defensive tackle. In fact, since the dawn of such in-depth recruiting ratings and analysis, Adams is the highest-ranked prospect Auburn has ever signed. Yes, he's a pretty big deal. We've already seen Adams in uniform, and with any luck, he'll live up to his new number.
The DT is listed at 6'4 and 305 pounds, which makes him just a bit smaller than Jeffery Whitaker, a senior and Auburn's biggest player at the position. So obviously, Adams already has the size to get on the field. Add in the facts that he is immensely talented, ranked No. 2 at his position by 247, and that the Tigers' interior linemen have struggled over the last two years, and it wouldn't be a surprise at all to see Adams as a regular in the rotation by season's end.
Carl Lawson, DE, five-star
Ah, Carl Lawson, an Auburn recruiting hero. Lawson committed to Auburn early in the 2013 cycle, and despite a 3-9 season and coaching overhaul, he kept his word and signed on Feb. 6. Lawson sticking to his pledge is seen as a big reason why Auburn's class not only didn't fall apart, but actually grew stronger on Signing Day.
The Tigers are a little better at defensive end than at tackle, but once you get past Dee Ford, there isn't a proven player in the bunch. Like Adams, Lawson has great size for his position (6'2, 258), and also like Adams, Lawson looks menacing in uniform. Considering his number and impressive build, we should probably start calling Lawson "Takeo Jr." or "Lil Takeo." Although when it's all said and done, Auburn fans will likely compare future Tigers to the new No. 55. And as the similarities to Adams continue, Lawson too should be a regular on the field by the end of 2013. In fact, he may lock down a starting role opposite ford at some point during the season.
Elijah Daniel, DE, five-star
While not receiving as much hype as Adams or Lawson, which is pretty amazing for a five-star prospect, Daniel has all the attributes to have a great career and make an impact during his true freshman campaign. Standing 6'2 and weighing in at 264 pounds he shares the kind of impressive size Lawson brings to the end of the line, and just maybe the freshman duo will signal a shift toward recruiting bigger ends, as opposed to the smaller players we've seen recently -- Nosa Eguae is the only Tiger outweighing Lawson and Daniel at the position. Daniel probably won't be able to move ahead of Ford or Lawson, but barring an injury or other unforeseen event, he'll get his share of snaps.
Tony Stevens, WR, four-star
Of all the incoming freshmen on Auburn's roster, Stevens may be in the best position to break out early, simply because of the position he plays. The Tigers have exactly zero proven commodities at wide receiver, which is the second-biggest question mark behind the quarterback race. At 6'4, Stevens is the tallest receiver on the roster, and with his speed -- he runs a reported 4.43-second 40-yard dash -- he is exactly what you want in a deep threat. Stevens is absolutely a candidate to get on the field when Auburn wants to stretch the field or throw the jump ball to the end zone.
Jeremy Johnson, QB, four-star
While Stevens could get playing time because of the position he plays, Johnson will likely be limited for the same reason. With three other quarterbacks competing for the starting job, it's hard to see a true freshman winning the race. We've previously said Johnson is Auburn's quarterback of the future if all goes according to plan, but barring a disaster, he's not going to be the quarterback of 2013. That being said, if Nick Marshall underachieves and Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace fail to show improvement, all those plans could change.
Johnathan Ford, RB, four-star
Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne will get the vast majority of snaps at running back. That's the biggest certainty Auburn has this year. However, the Tigers will need someone to step up and fill Onterio McCalebb's shoes, taking over the speed back role in Malzahn's offense. Junior Corey Grant is the favorite to play the part of McCalebb, but don't count out Ford. He has plenty of speed (4.5-second 40) and even has similar size to Squirrel (6'0, 186 pounds), not that it's necessarily a good thing. Beating out Grant, who is even faster with a rumored 4.3 40, won't be easy, but Ford has the talent to push for playing time.
Cameron Toney, LB, four-star
Toney is another player who committed to Auburn early in the process and stuck with the Tigers during their trials and tribulations. Linebacker has been a position of concern for the Tigers, but Toney still may find it difficult to work his way into the rotation. Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy, both sophomores, are the favorites to hold the starting jobs -- remember, just two LBs are normally on the field in Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 -- and senior Jake Holland and JUCO transfer Kenny Flowers should be next in line. Toney battled injuries during his final high school season, and even with Auburn's linebacking corps relatively small, he's still one of the smaller guys in the group (6'1, 236). If the linebacker production continues to disappoint, Toney could get his shot, but he has to get through several players ahead of him first.
What do you think? Which true freshman will stand out in 2013. Will it be one of these players, or will someone come out of nowhere and surprise everyone? Let us know in the comments and vote in our poll.
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