BY AARON BRENNER | email@example.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.”
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.
“STAR” JUSTIN GARRETT
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