AUBURN, Ala. -- It was a busy weekend on the Plains as the rest of Auburn’s highly regarded 2014 recruiting class arrived on campus, and it’s a group that’s more than capable of coming in and making early contributions for the Tigers.
“We’ve got some signees that we feel like are very talented that could be in the mix, and they’ll hit the ground running,” head coach Gus Malzahn said after A-Day.
This week, we’ll take a look at the summer enrollees who have the best chance to play early this fall, beginning with the offense.
RB Racean "Roc" Thomas: Auburn already has a crowded backfield with three capable running backs, but the staff believes Thomas will make an immediate impact because well, he’s just that good. As a senior, he rushed for 2,211 yards and 32 touchdowns, averaging an astounding 9.8 yards per carry. He was ranked No. 28 in the ESPN 300 and had his choice of where to go to school. Will he come in and take the starting job from day one? Probably not, but the opportunity is there. Either way, he’ll get his chances. He’s too good to keep off the field. They key this summer will be to learn the playbook, hit the weight room and get acclimated to the offense. If he wants to play early, he’ll need to gel with his fellow teammates.
TE-H Jakell Mitchell: If you don’t think the H-back position is an important piece to Malzahn’s offense, go back and look at what Jay Prosch provided for this team a year ago. He was vital to Auburn’s rushing game. Now he’s gone, and the Tigers are still searching for a replacement. That’s where Mitchell comes in. The 6-foot-3, 213-pound prospect might not be the highest ranked player in this class, but he’s an ideal fit at the H-back spot. From his scouting report: “A true TE-H who needs to add size, but plenty to like and a prospect a bit underrated in this TE class.” He missed his senior season with a torn ACL and his ability to contribute early will hinge on his health, but he says he’s 100 percent and ready to go.
OL Braden Smith: There’s not a stronger player in this class, and Smith might have the most impressive bench press on the whole team. He recently did two reps at 585 pounds. He played at or around 290 pounds as a senior, but his father says he was up to 305 when he arrived at Auburn over the weekend, which was a pleasant surprise to the coaches. The offensive line is one of the deeper positions on the team and it won’t be easy for Smith to crack the rotation, but his strength and versatility give him a chance. Auburn fans won’t like the comparison, but think Grant Hill at Alabama. The freshman offensive lineman never started, but he played all over for the Crimson Tide last year. Smith could have a similar impact in his first year.