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2019 Depth Chart: A Stupid Early Look

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It’s never too early (actually it totally is) to start dreaming about next season.

NCAA Football: Music City Bowl-Auburn vs Purdue Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

This is dumb. I am aware of that fact. But look folks, I have a family to feed and nothing gets dem #clicks like some good ole rosterbation. So despite Auburn not even having signed the rest of their 2019 class or NFL Draft decisions being finalized, I’m gonna take a stab at next year’s depth chart that I expect to be very wrong.

Judging by my mentions on Twitter the other day I want to make something clear, I am aware George Pickens exists. However, I am only including players that have actually signed with Auburn in this breakdown. I am also including those that have not yet declared for the NFL but might (Marlon Davidson specifically). So with that out of the way, let’s take a look at how the 2019 Auburn Tigers might look come August 31st.

Quarterback

  • #14 Malik Willis | 6’1” | 195 lbs | Junior --OR--
  • #13 Joey Gatewood | 6’5” | 237 lbs | rFreshman --OR--
  • #24 Cord Sandberg | 6’3” | 215 lbs | rFreshman --OR--
  • Bo Nix | 6’2” | 210 lbs | Freshman

#DECISION19 will no doubt dominate headlines this spring. I listed them all as ORs out of respect to the campaigns but you all know who I got winning this battle. However, I do think Malik Willis enters as the frontrunner and will be given every opportunity to win the job. I would not be surprised if Gus does like he did back in 2013 and allow QBs to go live so he can get a full picture of their skillsets, especially for guys like Gatewood and Willis. I look forward to “insiders” arguing over who in fact threw the interception and touchdown that day.

Running Back (4)

  • #9 Kam Martin | 5’10” | 193 lbs | Senior --OR--
  • #28 JaTarvious Whitlow | 6’0” | 216 lbs | rSophomore
  • #25 Shaun Shivers | 5’7” | 173 lbs | Sophomore
  • #32 Malik Miller | 5’11” | 216 lbs | rJunior
  • DJ Williams | 5’11” | 205 lbs | Freshman

It was another odd year for Kam Martin though I do believe injuries played a role in his declined usage during the season. He looked solid in the bowl game (now that he’s stopped trying to be Kerryon) and with Gus now in complete control of things I think you will see Martin become more involved in the rotation.

With that said, Boobee was obviously the star of the group in 2018 and Shaun Shivers flashed some serious potential. For the rich folks amongst us who subscribe The Athletic, the always great Justin Ferguson dove into this topic and unsurprisingly discovered Auburn’s offense was at it’s best with a RB rotation. We will see how that shakes out in 2019.

H-Back (3)

  • #47 John Samuel Shenker | 6’3” | 248 lbs | rSophomore --OR--
  • #29 Harold Joiner | 6’4” | 214 lbs | rFreshman
  • #99 Spencer Nigh | 6’0” | 269 lbs | Senior
  • Luke Deal | 6’5” | 245 lbs | Freshman

Chandler Cox leaves a huge void in this offense without a clear successor. I’ve meshed all the different type of athletes that could play the 3-back role in Gus’s offense at this spot. You got your tight end in John Samuel Shenker, jumbo athlete Harold Joiner, true fullback type in Spencer Nigh and a TE/FB combo in Deal.

It will be interesting to see how this position is used in 2019 and who is featured. My big fear is Auburn overspecializes again and all pass plays you see Shenker, run plays Nigh and gadget plays designed to get the ball to the 3, Joiner. The QB battle will dominate headlines this offseason but how Auburn fills Cox’s shoes might be just as important.

NCAA Football: Liberty at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Wide Receiver (9/Split End)

  • #18 Seth Williams | 6’3” | 210 lbs | Sophomore
  • #11 Shedrick Jackson | 6’0” | 204 lbs | Sophomore
  • #37 Kolbi Fuqua | 6’2” | 190 lbs | rFreshman

While I wasn’t completely surprised, I did expect Darius Slayton to return in 2019. His departure leaves a clear void in Auburn’s WR corps. Yes he was inconsistent in 2018 but over the past two seasons he’s put up 1200+ receiving yards and 10 TDs. He was the guy AU used to take the top off the defense. The good news is Auburn has a plethora of options to turn to.

I’m gonna guess this early that Auburn will elect to move Seth Williams to the 9 position which is typically the top producing wideout in Gus’s system. Williams put together an impressive freshman campaign and flashed some potential to be a HR threat on top of his work over the middle. I do think that if George Pickens signs, it’s more likely Williams stays at the 5 and Pickens takes over at the 9.

Also don’t sleep on Shedrick Jackson. He already earned snaps due to his blocking prowess in 2018 and I thought of all of Auburn’s signees in that 2018 class, he did the best at tracking the ball on downfield throws. Plus it’s important we hear how he’s related to Bo Jackson every single broadcast.

Wide Receiver (5/Big Slot)

  • #80 Sal Cannella | 6’5” | 232 lbs | Senior
  • #17 Marquis McClain | 6’2” | 217 lbs | rJunior
  • Tyler Fromm | 6’5” | 225 lbs | Freshman

It was a bit of a redemptive year for Salvatore Cannella after his sophomore campaign proved a disappointment due to a bunch of early drops. He quadrupled his receptions going from 3 to 12 in 2018 and put up 111 yards and 3 TDs. I expect his role to continue to grow in 2019.

Marquis McClain remains one of the biggest wildcards on the offensive side of the ball. He’s a freak athlete but came to Auburn very raw at the WR position. It’s not easy earning snaps with this group but if it’s ever going to happen then it probably has to be this offseason.

Wide Receiver (3/Slot)

  • #33 Will Hastings | 5’10” | 166 lbs | rSenior
  • Ja’Varrius Johnson | 5’9” | 170 lbs | Freshman

White Lightning returns in 2019 to break more ankles. He will be joined by another slippery stud in Ja’Varrius Johnson who I think the Tigers HAVE to find a way to get involved somehow next season. Whether that’s on special teams or specific packages, get that dude some touches. He’s electric with the football in his hands.

Wide Receiver (2/Flanker)

  • #12 Eli Stove | 6’0” | 185 lbs | rJunior --OR--
  • #5 Anthony Schwartz | 6’0” | 180 lbs | Sophomore
  • #19 Matthew Hill | 6’1” | 184 lbs | rFreshman
  • Jashawn Sheffield | 6’1” | 180 lbs | Freshman

Anthony Schwartz had 59 touches for 568 yards and 7 TDs in 2018. Not bad. But Eli Stove ain’t no slouch either. How Auburn gets them both involved in 2019 will be interesting to watch. I’m also curious to see if Matthew Hill carves out a role next season. I think he still might be a year away but he’s a kid that has the skills to do a little of everything in this offense.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Mississippi Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Left Tackle

  • #76 Prince Tega Wanogho | 6’7” | 307 lbs | rSenior
  • #66 Bailey Sharp | 6’5” | 307 lbs | rSenior
  • #72 Price Michael Sammons | 6’7” | 300 lbs | rJunior

We are still waiting on final word but the tea leaves appear to be reading Prince Tega’s return. That would obviously be huge for the Tigers as Nigerian native was Auburn’s best offensive lineman in 2018. He could play his way into a 1st or 2nd round selection with a strong 2019 campaign. Either way, Auburn REALLY needs to start preparing for life without Tega. Not really sure there is an SEC left tackle on the roster right now outside of Tega which is concerning...

Left Guard

  • #77 Marquel Harrell | 6’3” | 307 lbs | rSenior
  • #56 Tashawn Manning | 6’3” | 323 lbs | rSophomore
  • Keiondre Jones | 6’4” | 325 lbs | Freshman

It was an up and down year for Marquel Harrell who came into this past season as one of Auburn’s most experienced offensive lineman. I thought he played some of his best football to close out the year which gives me some hope for a strong senior campaign. The Tigers need the big man to be more consistent in 2019 and a more dominant presence in the interior.

Center

  • #54 Kaleb Kim | 6’4” | 300 lbs | rSenior --OR--
  • #52 Nick Brahms | 6’3” | 304 lbs | rSophomore
  • #50 Jalil Irvin | 6’2” | 296 lbs | rFreshman

I still have major concerns about this position moving forward. Neither Kim nor Brahms had a great year though the offensive line DID perform better with Kim up front. The problem with Kim is he is a very poor run blocker who struggles to consistently get movement at the point of attack. Even against that bad Purdue defense, he was the guy getting beat which resulted in some short runs. However, Brahms didn’t fair better in the run game and was far worse in pass pro. But Brahms has had two major leg injuries the past two seasons. If he can stay healthy and go through a year of strength training he might be able to win the spot back from Kim.

Don’t sleep on Irvin either. From a technical standpoint, he came out pretty advanced. For him it’s getting the strength to play in the SEC. This is a crucial position that must improve in 2019 if Auburn wants to have success again in the SEC. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers brought in a grad transfer at this spot.

Right Guard

  • #64 Mike Horton | 6’4” | 324 lbs | rSenior
  • #59 Brodarious Hamm | 6’5” | 325 lbs | rSophomore
  • #62 Kameron Stutts | 6’4” | 325 lbs | rFreshman

I don’t think any player was as disappointing in 2018 as Mike Horton. As one of Auburn’s veterans on the OL, it was thought that he would be one of its top performers. The opposite proved true. Horton was typically one of the biggest liabilities week in and week out. Now if the injury rumors are true then that might explain his drop in play but either way, he MUST do better in 2019. I think he will.

If he doesn’t improve, don’t sleep on Brodarious Hamm or Tashawn Manning. I’ve heard good things about both and they could push the Horton/Harrell pair for playing time this fall. I’m also high on Kameron Stutts but I suspect he’s still another year or two away from competing.

Right Tackle

  • #71 Jack Driscoll | 6’5” | 300 lbs | rSenior
  • #68 Austin Troxell | 6’6” | 305 lbs | rSophomore
  • #70 Calvin Ashley | 6’6” | 322 lbs | rSophomore
  • Justin Osborne | 6’4” | 305 lbs | Freshman

The UMass transfer proved huge for Auburn this past season and might have been the Tigers second best offensive lineman. He wasn’t dominant but he was also rarely the consistent source of frustration when it came to Auburn’s protection and run blocking struggles. Austin Troxell pushed him hard in fall camp and I suspect he will do the same this offseason as well. If Tega does declare then he could be in line for a starting spot in 2019.

The big wildcard is Calvin Ashley who has reportedly not been with the team since somewhere around the Mississippi State game but is expected back for spring ball. The former 5* hasn’t morphed in the Greg Robinson like force some had hoped and this offseason could prove crucial to his future. Hopefully whatever medical issues he’s dealing with are resolved and we can see the big man at full strength in a few months.


Defensive End

  • #3 Marlon Davidson | 6’3” | 278 lbs | Senior
  • #45 Caleb Johnson | 6’2” | 260 lbs | rFreshman --OR--
  • Jaren “Stone” Handy | 6’5” | 280 lbs | Freshman

I still think chances are high Davidson heads to the NFL as his plan has always been to be a 3 & out guy but might the recent Derrick Brown news change his mind? We will see. If he does comeback that would obviously be a huge boon for this defensive line. While he still hasn’t molded himself into an elite pass rusher, he’s an absolute force in the run game and blocked 3 kicks in 3 straight games as well.

If Davidson does leave I would expect Nick Coe to flip over to the strong side but assuming that doesn’t happen, keep an eye on incoming true freshman Jaren Handy. I expect him to eventually evolve into a true defensive tackle but early in his career he might be more effective on the outside.

NCAA Football: Music City Bowl-Auburn vs Purdue Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Tackle

  • #5 Derrick Brown | 6’5” | 325 lbs | Senior
  • #8 Coynis Miller Jr | 6’2” | 305 lbs | Sophomore

There was one man I had as a lock to declare and of course HE’S THE ONE COMING BACK, I’M SO DANG HAPPPPYYYYYY!!!! Brown deciding to return could make the difference in a few wins or losses next season, he’s that impactful. Brown was expected to be at worst a 2nd round pick but more than likely a 1st rounder. Instead, he will look to lead this defensive front one more time and hopefully put together a Nick Fairley like year that leads to a high draft pick.

His return also takes some pressure off rising sophomore Coynis Miller. I think Miller has a chance to be the next dominant interior presence on this DL but that jump might not happen until he’s a junior. He will definitely be a key piece in this rotation next season.

Defensive Tackle

  • #94 Tyrone Truesdell | 6’2” | 314 lbs | Junior
  • #44 Daquan Newkirk | 6’3” | 306 lbs | Junior
  • #92 Alec Jackson | 6’2” | 314 lbs | rSophomore

Auburn will miss not only Dontavius Russell in 2019 but Andrew Williams as well. Both were outstanding at holding strong at the point of attack and were hugely impactful players in their career. Now it’s time for the next wave to prove their worth. Tyrone Truesdell looked strong in his limited work this past season and has the strength to be that space eater that Russell has been for Auburn these past four seasons. Newkirk came on later in the season and is intriguing athlete in the interior. He can also slide out and play at end if needed.

Buck

  • #91 Nick Coe | 6’5” | 282 lbs | rJunior
  • #1 Big Kat Bryant | 6’5” | 253 lbs | Junior
  • #55 T.D. Moultry | 6’2” | 245 lbs | Junior --OR--
  • #37 Richard Jibunor | 6’3” | 215 lbs | rFreshman
  • Colby Wooden | 6’4” | 235 lbs | Freshman --OR--
  • Derick Hall | 6’4” | 225 lbs | Freshman

That’s a lot of names and obviously not all of these guys will end up at this spot. But it’s so early that it’s hard to really tease out who is playing where. I should probably list Big Kat at defensive end but he’s listed as a Buck on the roster and if Coe flips to DE to replace Davidson, I could see #1 earning the starting not.

However, with Coe out it was TD Moultry and Richard Jibunor who got most of the work at the Buck position against Purdue. It was a rough year for Moultry, specifically as a run defender but I thought he played his best game in the bowl game. Jibunor’s speed has jumped out in the limited snaps he’s had but despite redshirting he still produced 3 TFL with 2 being sacks. With all this talent, I fully expect SOMEONE to put up Jeff Holland/Carl Lawson like numbers off the edge next season.

Strong Side Linebacker

  • Owen Pappoe | 6’1” | 215 lbs | Freshman
  • #36 Josh Marsh | 6’2” | 217 lbs | rFreshman

So I am taking a bit of creative liberty here. Chandler Wooten manned the SAM spot this past season but with the addition of Pappoe and the health of Marsh, I think he slides to the WILL. Pappoe is nicknamed the “Freak” for good reason. While a bit undersized, he possesses elite athleticism that makes him a terror for offenses in the open field. I wouldn’t be surprised if Auburn broke out more 3 backer sets in 2019 given Pappoe’s ability to do so many different things at linebacker.

Middle Linebacker

  • #33 K.J. Britt | 6’0” | 228 lbs | Junior
  • #30 Michael Harris | 6’3” | 219 lbs | rFreshman

Sadly, the Deshaun Davis era has come to an end. Happily, there’s a clear exciting successor. KJ Britt was a highly coveted 4* recruit out of Oxford, AL a few years ago and will now step in Davis’s role as leader of this defense. While Britt is probably the superior athlete, what Davis provided from a leadership standpoint will be hard to duplicate. But I expect big things from #33 in 2019.

Weakside Linebacker

  • #31 Chandler Wooten | 6’2” | 231 lbs | Junior --OR--
  • #35 Zakoby McClain | 6’0” | 205 lbs | Sophomore

When Auburn went to 3 linebacker sets in 2018, Wooten was the guy that checked in at the SAM. However, with Owen Pappoe’s unique skillset, I think Wooten will transition over to the WILL in 2019. Auburn mostly uses two linebackers anyway with the SAM off the field in exchange for an extra DB in the Star. Heading into the spring, I think there’s a clear 3 LB rotation in Britt/Wooten/McClain. I also think McClain has a chance to be a star before he leavs but right now will have to outwork Wooten and Britt for snaps in 2019.

Star (Nickel)

  • #15 Jordyn Peters | 6’1” | 191 lbs | Junior --OR--
  • #6 Christian Tutt | 5’11” | 195 lbs | Sophomore
  • #16 Malcolm Askew | 5’11” | 192 lbs | rSophomore

Javaris Davis started the year at the Star but after some struggles by Noah Igbinoghene in SEC play, he slid back out to corner though he was back in this position in the bowl game. I am going to assume he starts out at CB given the lack of proven depth at that position and Peters/Tutt share snaps at this spot. I REALLY like Tutt’s upside at this position as I’m not sure he has the coverage skills to play outside. Wouldn’t be shocked to see freshmen Nehemiah Pritchett or Cam’Ron Kelly get a shot here too at some point.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Mississippi Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerback

  • #13 Javaris Davis | 5’10” | 187 lbs | rSenior
  • #14 Traivon Leonard | 6’0” | 196 lbs | Junior --OR--
  • Zion Puckett | 6’0” | 200 lbs | Freshman

Davis could still possibly declare for the NFL Draft but for now we will assume he’s coming back. He’s Auburn’s most versatile DB and arguably their best cover corner. Like I said above, he could slide inside and stay at the star but I think he’s more valuable on the outside. Don’t sleep on Zion Puckett. I think he has the makings of a 3 & out cornerback so if he can prove he’s ready as a true freshman that would free Davis to play the Star.

Free Safety

  • #20 Jeremiah Dinson | 6’0” | 195 lbs | rSenior
  • #21 Smoke Monday | 6’2” | 188 lbs | Sophomore
  • Nehemiah Pritchett | 6’0” | 180 lbs | Freshman

As the leader of Auburn’s secondary, Jeremiah Dinson put together a solid junior campaign. He’s taken over Tray Matthews’s role as the guy ensuring everyone is lined up in the right spot. While Smoke has the higher upside, I expect Dinson to continue to start at this position. But I am VERY excited about seeing another year of development from Monday.

Strong Safety

  • #24 Daniel Thomas | 5’11” | 208 lbs | Senior
  • #9 Jamien Sherwood | 6’2” | 207 lbs | Sophomore
  • Cam’Ron Kelly | 6’1” | 205 lbs | Freshman

Thomas was one of the biggest surprises for me this fall. I thought one of the talented freshman would unseat him but he shut me up fast with his performance against Washington. But of all of Auburn’s safeties, including Smoke who I love, I thought Sherwood demonstrated the most upside. He’s combination of size, speed and physicality is exciting.

Kelly will supposedly start out at CB but I think his future is either at safety or Star. But I’ve been wrong plenty of times before so it wouldn’t surprise me if he stayed on the outside. However, for the purposes of making this first depth chart balanced I have him here.

Cornerback

  • #4 Noah Igbinoghene | 5’11” | 196 lbs | Junior
  • #17 Roger McCreary | 6’0” | 179 lbs | Sophomore
  • #10 Devan Barrett | 6’0” | 196 lbs | Junior
  • Jaylin Simpson | 6’0” | 175 lbs | Freshman

What Noah Igbinoghene accomplished in 2018 is astounding. No he wasn’t perfect and he MUST get better at playing man coverage without resulting to grabbing but to go from a WR to a talented SEC DB in one offseason is just insane. It also means the upside is absolutely there for him to get even better. Would not surprise me if Iggy is getting NFL buzz by the end of 2019.

McCreary got a lot more action than I expected and even started playing some more meaningful snaps late into the year. He’s insanely fast but still learning the position. Devan Barrett is a bit of a wildcard. The former RB moved to DB during the season and supposedly has impressed. Is it good enough to see the field, we will see.


I plan to periodically post updates to this depth chart after National Signing Day, before/after spring practice and before/after fall camp. It will be interesting to see what assumptions made this far out prove right and which ones seem extremely dumb in hindsight.

Would love to hear some thoughts from ya’ll on how you see things shaking out in 2019.

War Eagle!