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5 freshmen with most to gain

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5 Auburn freshmen with the most to gain during Peach Bowl practices | Football

Josh Vitale

Auburn resumes practicing for the Peach Bowl on Friday, but its preparations for the Jan. 1 game against UCF at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta won’t begin for another three or four days.

First, head coach Gus Malzahn said, the Tigers will use some of their nine bowl practices — six in Auburn before Christmas, three more in Atlanta after — to look ahead to 2018.

Specifically, at some freshmen who might be on track to receive bigger roles in their second seasons on campus.

“We’ll do some scrimmage-type things, put them in some competition-type scenarios and really give them a little extra head start,” Malzahn said. “My experience is, this time of year in bowl practice, you see guys raise their level, especially if they’re redshirts because they see, ‘Hey, I’m competing now.’ So we’re really looking forward to watching those guys as a staff.”

Below are the five freshmen who could have the most to gain during these practices. You will notice that there are a number of names missing from this list, most notably quarterback Malik Willis and defensive linemen T.D. Moultry and Big Kat Bryant.

This is not to say that those players won’t make an impact in 2018, but rather that they have less to gain than some of their counterparts — Willis will remain the backup quarterback if starter Jarrett Stidham returns for his redshirt junior season (indications are that he will), and Moultry and Bryant will more than likely serve in the same roles on a defensive line that could return its top five players.

These are the freshmen who could be in line for the biggest increases in playing time:

 

CALVIN ASHLEY — OT

 

No position on Auburn’s roster will get hit harder by graduation than the offensive line, which will lose four of the seven players who started games in 2017 in seniors Braden Smith, Austin Golson, Casey Dunn and Darius James. Three more starters — left tackle Prince Tega Wanogho, guards Mike Horton and Marquel Harrell — do return, but the Tigers will need to fill at least two vacancies in 2018. That could pave the way for Ashley, a five-star signee in the Class of 2017 who has drawn comparisons to Greg Robinson, to start as a redshirt freshman.

 

DEVAN BARRETT — RB

 

Auburn has seemed reluctant to hand the ball off to anyone not named Kerryon Johnson or Kamryn Pettway this season, but with Pettway already ruled out for the Peach Bowl with a fractured shoulder blade and Johnson still getting over the shoulder injury that limited him during the SEC Championship, Barrett could get some extra looks in practice. The 6-foot, 185-pound back recorded only 22 touches and 111 yards in his debut season, but he could work his way into a bigger role next year if one (or both) of Pettway or Johnson leave for the NFL.

 

K.J. BRITT — LB

 

Auburn returns a ton of talent and experience at linebacker in Deshaun Davis, Darrell Williams, Montavious Atkinson and Richard McBryde, but will be losing one big piece of that group in senior Tre’ Williams, who recorded 46 tackles despite missing three full games and parts of some others. Britt played mostly on special teams as a rookie this season, but he seems to fit the mold of a player who could help replace Williams after recording 124 tackles as a senior at Oxford High a year ago.

 

ANDERS CARLSON — PK

 

Replacing a placekicker of Daniel Carlson’s caliber is no small task, but the fact that Auburn will be keeping the job in the family could make the transition a little easier. Anders Carlson was the nation’s top-rated kicker coming out of high school in 2017 after hitting 13 of 23 field goals as a senior at the Classical Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and has spent a redshirt year learning the ropes from his older brother. The starting role is his to lose.

 

JORDYN PETERS — DB

 

Peters saw his playing time increase throughout the season, and with Jeremiah Dinson and Javaris Davis both dealing with nagging injuries in November, he eventually became a staple in Auburn’s nickel and dime packages. Next year, though, he could be a starter — the Tigers will graduate all three of their top safeties in Tray Matthews, Stephen Roberts and Nick Ruffin, and Peters appears to be one of the top candidates to start at one of those spots along with Daniel Thomas after recording 16 tackles, two pass breakups and a sack this season.

Josh Vitale is the Auburn beat writer for the Opelika-Auburn News. You can follow him on Twitter at @AUBlog. To reach him by email, click here.

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In terms of talent and need at a position, Ashley is one of(if not the main) most important players on next years team. He's not practicing with the team yet, but I would put Smoke Monday in the discussion as well.

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Got a feeling Barrett will be more of the Corey grant role with his speed and size. Peters will improve greatly just needs to add a little weight. Hope Ashley gets his weight in check and steps up. Just didn’t feel that big about Britt being a major player next year with the talent ahead of him but hope I’m wrong. Would love for Carlson to be a duplicate of his brother.

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Out of the 5 named Ashley is the one that has to be ready to play if we are going to have a good season. If he doesn't take one of the tackle spots, I don't know who will. After him the next one would be Peters, he got some important playing time and he will probably be one we will have to count on next season. The others may play but may not be needed as bad. I'm planning on Carlson takin  right over for his brother, even the name on the jersey will be the same.

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Great news about NickBrahms. Was an awful break he suffered before his senior season. 

 

Edited by aufan57
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Not a Freshman but the Other Prince could also be big next year. With a year of Practice for both Princes and Ashley also we could actually have 3 solid OT's next year.

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