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April 14, 2013

TALK OF THE TOWN: Take note of five Tigers turning heads with one week left in spring

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com


AUBURN, Ala. – The winds of change have blown across the Plains since the day of head coach Gus Malzahn’s hiring.

With a new day comes new faces, new contributors who might have been patiently waiting their turn or old standbys reinventing themselves as this coaching staff pinpoints who they’ll rely upon to officially relegate the misery of 3-9 to ancient history.

Take a look at five Auburn Tigers who have been consistently lauded for their efforts this spring. Coincidentally, they’re all entering their junior season:


Old dog: One of those guys who gets into games (25 in two years) but rarely gets named (one catch, 12 yards.)

New tricks: The tallest of the current crop of receivers at 6-foot-3, Denson looks like one of those multi-tool players who could catch the ball some and be a force as a downfield lead blocker.

Don’t take our word for it: “I think Jaylon Denson’s been extremely consistent for us … he’s not only making plays with the ball, he’s doing what he’s supposed to do when he’s not getting the ball.”
- Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee

Fall forecast: Watch out when the incoming freshmen arrive. Good thing for Denson and his understaffed mates, they’re getting overloaded with practice reps


Old dog: Although he played well last year, the argument can be made the 2011 all-SEC freshman teamer lit the fuse for Auburn’s implosion by getting suspended for public intoxication the week before the 2012 opener.

New tricks: Ask pretty much anybody who the offensive leaders are, and Dismukes’ name keeps coming up. In his one interview this spring, he seemed contrite with a chip on his shoulder.

Don’t take our word for it: “I’ve seen him grow up. He’s not that same Reese. He’s a good person now. He’s got his mind right. He’s mentally, physically tough. He’s one of the leaders out there.”
- OL Chad Slade

“Reese has been solid … We say it’s a new day – everything in the past, I don’t care. From what I know right now, that’s a guy I can trust.”
- Lashlee

Fall forecast: His starting spot is unquestionable. We’ll see if he truly takes command when times are tough.


Old dog: Nobody thought much of the fourth-stringer last year, mopping up just nine carries – all in blowouts of New Mexico State and Alabama A&M.

New tricks: Because Tre Mason’s been hurt all spring, Grant’s learning curve has accelerated, and he punctuated his presence with two long TD runs in Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage.

Don’t take our word for it: “Ah, yeah, Corey had a couple of breaks. You really got to see his speed out there. He’s really fast, very explosive, makes explosive cuts and things like that. Corey’s a really good guy. He’s a really good running back for us, and just looking forward to seeing him more.”
- QB Jonathan Wallace

Fall forecast: Mason won’t relinquish his starting spot easily upon regaining his health, but maybe Grant transforms himself into a mini-Onterio McCalebb.

Photo by Todd Van Emst


Old dog: Disappointed by lack of playing time, Garrett wasn’t able to overcome the likes of Jonathan Evans – who wasn’t a three-down ‘backer – or Anthony Swain on the depth chart.

New tricks: Square peg, meet square hole. Ellis Johnson’s 4-2-5 system with a “star” hybrid player who has a linebacker’s size and safety’s speed is perfect for Garrett.

Don’t take our word for it: “I just think he found a position that really works for him. With his body type and his speed, he really is going to help that star position. Mentally, it’s encouraging for us and him.”
- LB Jake Holland

Fall forecast: Nobody’s been praised more than Garrett. If he hits as hard as offensive players say he does, he’ll be a household name by Labor Day.


Old dog: Those who read the message boards know Therezie was long-rumored to be considering a transfer from Auburn University. Other than a cameo against LSU, he was a non-factor.

New tricks: Therezie wishes he had the football more often, and he’s certainly getting an opportunity as a returner. With JaViere Mitchell sidelined with a concussion, Therezie’s currently backing up Garrett.

Don’t take our word for it: “He seems more comfortable up near the line of scrimmage … he’s a speed player. He’s a contact player. You like to have a 6-1, 215-pound Star, but right now he fits it perfect and I’ve really been tickled to death with his progress.”
- Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson

Fall forecast: The best players find a way to get on the field. If Therezie keeps his mind right, he’ll make an impact somehow, someway.


The best of the rest of the breakouts and newsmakers:

WR Quan Bray, jr. – Like Dismukes, refocused following 2012 adversity

DE Kenneth Carter, sr. – Making the move outside from tackle

OL Jordan Diamond, fr. – Still battling with Alex Kozan for starting guard

LB Kris Frost, so. – Tantalizing talent might be harvested soon

TE Brandon Fulse, jr. – Known for his blocking, showing some solid hands


  1. Ok… the part about Corey Grant maybe being a “mini Onterio McCallebb” made me laugh. You can’t get a much smaller back than Onterio McCallebb.. Grant is in fact bigger. Just thought it was funny!

    Comment by Aubiester — April 14, 2013 @ 9:35 am

  2. Excited to see what grant can do in the malzahn offense…cant wait to see the freshman come in and push these guys in the fall…with the talent coming in,it can only make them better…hope when the new qbs get here that 1 of them takes the job…my bet is on Jeremy taking it if it can be taken…of course he is the only one I’ve seen play live ball,but he impressed me with his decision making,arm,awareness and pulling ot down and running it when he needed to..just want 1 of them to separate themselves though..please

    Comment by richy4au — April 15, 2013 @ 10:26 pm

  3. I am excited to see what Grant can do in this spread style, up paced offense. He certainly will replace the electricity that Ontario McCalebb brought to the offense. As a whole the offense should be better running this kind of attack, they hopefully won’t be as stagnant and bad this year. Also excited about the “Star” Justin Garrett. Been hearing great things about him all spring and can see him becoming a leader and the defensive playmaker for an Auburn defense that definitely needs it.

    Comment by Preston Anderson — April 16, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

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