Auburn Football: 7 True Freshmen Who Will Contribute in 2014
With two months left before the start of football season, the 2014 Auburn Tigers are finally at full strength.
According to AL.com's Wesley Sinor, all 24 signees from Auburn's latest recruiting class have academically qualified and enrolled on the Plains with this week's arrivals of defensive linemen DaVonte Lambert, Devaroe Lawrence and Justin Thornton.
Head coach Gus Malzahn and his staff let several fresh faces play important roles in 2013, including former National Defensive Lineman of the Week Carl Lawson and reliable wide receiver Marcus Davis.
Although they return most of their starters this season, the Tigers are sure to have a few early stars from the nation's No. 6 recruiting class, per 247Sports.
As summer workouts continue for the 2014 Tigers, let's take a look at seven true freshmen who will most likely contribute early and often for the defending SEC champions.
RB Racean "Roc" Thomas
The highest rated player in Auburn's 2014 class has already made an impact on the state of Alabama's recruiting dynamic.
This fall, 5-star running back Racean "Roc" Thomas will look to make an impact on the SEC.
Thomas was one of the nation's top running backs in the class of 2014 thanks to his impressive blend of explosiveness and tackle-breaking ability in the open field. He committed to Auburn before the first play of the 2013 season and stuck to his pledge even after a late charge from in-state rival Alabama.
"He could have gone anywhere, and he chose to not go anywhere and stay with us," Malzahn said on national signing day. "We really feel like he has the ability to come in immediately and make a huge impact."
Auburn already has a pair of seniors, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, who are expected to battle for starting running back. However, Thomas will get his chances, and the program's back of the future could be a difference-maker right now in Malzahn's multifaceted rushing attack.
WR Stanton Truitt
How do you immediately involve a high-powered offense already filled with veteran playmakers?
You make sure you can do a little bit of everything.
Stanton Truitt is listed as a wide receiver on Auburn's 2014 roster, but he has the athleticism and skills to play several different roles. He was a borderline 4-star/3-star out of high school after racking up tremendous statistics as a dual-threat quarterback and track star in Georgia.
“Stanton is fast," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. "He’s similar in size to Marcus Davis, so that slot position fits him well. But when you look at a lot of things we do with reverses and jet sweeps, I would think down the road those are things he might be a candidate for."
In addition to his top-level speed, Truitt also had the advantage of enrolling early and getting an entire set of spring practices with his new teammates. Whether it is in the passing, running or even the return game, look for him to have a chance to fly past defenses this fall.
DE Andrew Williams
Dee Ford's departure to the NFL has left a hole on Auburn's defensive line, particularly in the area of the pass rush.
Auburn has a pair of former blue-chip recruits who can fill his spot in Elijah Daniel and Carl Lawson, but both players are coming off springs that featured injury issues. The Tigers have not released an official word on Lawson's recent knee surgery, leaving his status up in the air for fall camp.
The defensive line at Auburn features a heavy amount of rotation, which could open up the door for an incoming pass-rusher such as Andrew Williams, a 4-star signing-day special from Georgia. Standing tall at 6'4" with a 4.7 40-yard dash, he has the makings of a future star in assistant coach Rodney Garner's defensive line.
"He is a very big, athletic guy that can run and rush the passer," Malzahn said shortly after Williams signed in February. "He is very physical, also a guy that can give us some depth early on."
Williams registered 28 sacks in his final two seasons of high school and is expected to be a constant threat for opposing quarterbacks in college. By enrolling earlier than Thornton and Auburn's junior college defensive linemen, he could have a head start on the deep competition across the front four.
LB Tre' Williams
Before stepping onto the field for his first college game, Tre' Williams has already made headlines in the state of Alabama.
Williams, a 5-star linebacker, associated Alabama head coach Nick Saban with the phrase "little man syndrome" during a radio interview last month. In another interview with AL.com's John Talty, he said Auburn "owned" the talent-rich Mobile area in the southwestern corner of the state.
This fall, he will hope to let his play do some more talking on an Auburn defense that is looking for quality depth at the linebacker position this season.
"[Defensive coordinator Ellis] Johnson was straight up with me," Williams told Talty. "He told me they have pretty good linebackers, but if I come in and play hard and learn the plays and stay out of trouble, he said I have a really good chance of starting or having a lot of playing time."
Williams was rated as the nation's No. 1 inside linebacker in the Top247 and earned a first-team All-USA selection from USA Today. Cassanova McKinzy is expected to have the middle linebacker job nailed down for the Tigers this season, but Williams could play a major role for the defense.
CBs Kalvaraz Bessent, Stephen Roberts and Nick Ruffin
The Tigers struggled with depth in the secondary last season, and their pass-defense statistics suffered as a result.
In order to combat those problems, Auburn signed five defensive backs this February, including a trio of 4-star cornerbacks: Kalvaraz Bessent, Stephen Roberts and Nick Ruffin. All three of these players could find early playing time in 2014 for a defense that is hoping to make more improvements across the board.
Bessent, a Georgia native known for his excellent ball skills, flipped his commitment from Alabama to Auburn last December. He has been placed on "probationary status" early in his Auburn career after a February arrest on drug charges that were later dropped; only time will tell if he will be able to play this fall.
Roberts also flipped from Alabama to Auburn last year. He was an Under Armour All-America selection from nearby Opelika High School, where his athleticism made him a lockdown defender against opposing wide receivers.
Standing just under 6'1", Ruffin is a bigger type of cornerback that Johnson and Auburn's defensive assistant coaches have been looking for in their physical 4-2-5 defense. He has been touted for his length and ball skills, which makes him a prime candidate for a spot in the Tigers' rotation this fall.
Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats taken from CFBStats.com. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com.
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