Auburn is only losing one player leaving early to the NFL draft this season. That is big news for next year's Auburn team.
Sammie Coates announced he was going pro back before the Outback Bowl, and I think we all expected Duke Williams to join him shortly thereafter. However, that turned out not to be the case, as we found out from Gus Malzahn's press conference for the Outback Bowl. Personally, I'm holding my breath until the 15th (last day to declare for the draft), but I feel pretty confident Duke sticks with that decision.
Other than Sammie and Duke, the only player exploring options of going early was OL Avery Young. Young was a redshirt sophomore this season - as Greg Robinson was last year when he left early. However, unlike Robinson, Young was not an obvious early 1st round choice. Young has been very versatile in his career playing both Guard and Tackle, so he can play anywhere he's needed.
Young told coaches he was staying before the Outback Bowl, but made it absolutely official earlier this week. Who knows what position he will play next season. I see LT: Coleman, LG: Young, C: Austin Golson, RG: Alex Kozan, RT: Braden Smith, personally. That's just off the top of my head, though.
Oh, then there's this:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>The great news about <a href="https://twitter.com/AveryYoung56">@AveryYoung56</a>'s return to Auburn? His fishing stories. Dude has wrangled some monsters.</p>— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) <a href="https://twitter.com/bmarcello/status/552616498636656640">January 7, 2015</a></blockquote>
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On the defensive side of the ball, Auburn's two starting linebackers were looking at going pro. Many were shaking their heads at this, as the linebacker play was not the most effective this season. I think Frost and McKinzy are talented, but they still need work to be ready for the professional game. Then there was the addition of Will Muschamp, who has a history with turning out great professional defensive players.
McKinzy was the first to announce his return on Monday, and this morning that was followed up by Kris Frost saying that he will stay. In that article by the official site, Frost cited Mushcamp as being one of his primary reasons for returning.
There are some talented players behind Frost and McKinzy - Tre Williams in particular - and more will be added with this signing class. Having these two return will be big for experience in the center of the defense, though. This is particularly true since Auburn will be going back to a more traditional 3-4 linebackers on the field on most plays rather than the two linebackers of Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 defense.
With all of this, Auburn comes out of the season pretty well in terms of losing early entrees. Sammie Coates is the only one. Keeping Duke Williams will be huge for next season, and there will be receivers who can step into the Sammie Coates role. I don't think we have any receivers that are as physically freakish like Sammie is, but we have players capable of playing the role.
Which returning player are you folks more excited to see coming back? Who do you think we may lose early next season? Sound off in the comments!