Auburn’s first scrimmage this fall camp is today and with game day only 23 days away, it’s a big one. Players only have a small amount of time in the fall to prove they deserve meaningful snaps and often times the scrimmages are when the guys begin to separate themselves. It’s obviously important for every single player on the roster but I wanted to highlight a few guys that I think specifically need to have a big day today.
It’s now or never for the former 4* prospect out of Hoschton, GA. Gus Malzahn has said repeatedly he wants to get the offensive line set as quickly as possible. I imagine today’s scrimmage will go a long way in determining those starting five.
Kim entered fall camp as the #1 center but now faces some stiff competition from Mike Horton. Auburn’s decision to move Calvin Ashley inside has allowed the staff to experiment with Horton at center. Horton is a lock to start somewhere this fall but where is still being worked out. A strong showing today might convince the staff to keep Horton at right guard.
I feel pretty confident in saying one of Kaleb Kim and Calvin Ashley will start this fall. I also feel confident saying both won’t. Somebody is going to lose their spot to Mike Horton.
Ashley’s move inside isn’t all the surprising. The big man is an outstanding run blocker but had some questions as a pass protector, especially against quicker ends. In the Under Armor All-America Game two years ago he moved inside and was one of the top performers that week. For Ashley the key is consistency. There’s no denying he’s got the talent but he’s got to prove to the staff and his teammates he will bring it every single snap.
Noticing a theme here?
I probably could have listed Jack Driscoll here too but even though Driscoll is currently the #2 right tackle, I think he’s the favorite to win the starting job. But Troxell has been proving me wrong all offseason. I did not expect the Madison Academy alum to bounce back so quickly from some major leg injuries the past few seasons and beat out Calvin Ashley for the right tackle spot this past spring. He faces a new challenger, one with real FBS experience but Troxell isn’t gonna give up his spot without a fight. I don’t think this position battle will be decided after this scrimmage but a strong showing from Trox today could change that.
Hey look! Someone’s that not an offensive lineman!
Auburn has a ton of experience returning in their front 7 including three senior linebackers. That trio will understandably and rightfully play the majority of the snaps at linebacker. With Auburn only fielding 2 backers on the field at time for the most part, three is probably good enough for a rotation. But I imagine Travis Williams wouldn’t mind having four again, specifically someone to rotate in behind Deshaun Davis at the MIKE.
Richard McBryde was only ranked 27 spots behind Darrell Williams in the 2015 class but he hasn’t had near the impact Williams has had the past two seasons. As a redshirt junior, McBryde’s window of opportunity is quickly shrinking. He’s facing stiff competition from sophomores KJ Britt and Chandler Wooten for playing time in 2018 and Travis Williams just keeps adding more talent to that room each signing class. Now would be a good time for the Troy, AL to break through and earn a spot in the rotation.
Matthew Hill & Christian Tutt
Make no mistake, Matthew Hill and Christian Tutt are going to see the field in 2018. Both were highly ranked blue chippers in the 2018 signing class and both have received rave reviews from coaches and teammates alike early in their careers. But both have a chance to carve out a major role for Auburn’s team in 2018 at punt returner.
Ryan Davis is the favorite heading into camp but both Hill and Tutt were elite return men in high school. Gus Malzahn has said they will go live on punt returns today to let these guys show what they got. While Gus says he’s ok with cutting back some of Davis’s offensive workload if he’s the best option at punt returner, I gotta think he wouldn’t mind having someone other than his leading receiver back there this season. But I also imagine trusting such an important role to a true freshman is probably equally as scary. It sure sounds like both will get a chance to prove they are worthy of that sort of trust today.
Finally, there’s Malik Willis. Look, there’s not much of a backup QB competition this fall. Joey Gatewood is an elite athlete still learning the QB position while Cord Sandberg is trying to remember what it’s like to be hit. If something were to happen to Stidham (DEAR GOD PLEASE NO) then Willis will undoubtedly be the first man off the bench, I highly doubt anything about today will change that fact.
But for those three the QB competition that will more than likely ensue in 2019 has started now. There are many people, myself included, who believe Auburn’s best QB on the roster next season isn’t on campus yet in Bo Nix. Willis reportedly had a rough spring and while nothing he does today or this fall will win or lose him the job next season, a strong showing this fall camp could put him in a position of strength heading into next spring. You know Gus Malzahn doesn’t wanna start a true freshman vs Oregon next season so he will give Willis every chance to prove he’s the guy. That starts today.