Depth Chart Breakdown: The Season Opener
Braden Smith opens the season as Auburn's starting right guard. (Photo: Auburn Athletics/Wade Rackley)
The 2017 season is a mere four days away, and Head Coach Gus Malzahn revealed how his team will line up against Georgia Southern on Saturday. With the depth charts' release, many questions were answered as to who will get a majority of the reps with the first team, or who will see significant time as a second-teamer.
Here is the breakdown:
Starter- Jarrett Stidham (6'3, 214, SO, Stephenville, Texas)
Stidham will take the first snap of the 2017 season for Auburn, 647 days since the last time he took a snap in an FBS-level game. Stidham started three games for Baylor in 2015, filling in for an injured Seth Russell. His third start however, would be his last. He suffered an injury to his ankle against previously unbeaten Oklahoma State on November 21, 2015. He elected to transfer to McLennan Community College, to fill his credits while looking for a new home. He chose Auburn. While he does not posses the experience that incumbent Sean White does, he can make the neccessary throws that could ultimately lead Auburn to a 10-win season.
Next in line- Sean White, Malik Willis
Starter- Kamryn Pettway (6'0, 235, JR, Prattville, Alabama) OR
Kerryon Johnson (6'0, 212, SO, Madison, Alabama)
This unit had it's own questions when it came to filling out the chart, but not in this light. Both backs return after suffering their fair share of injuries during the 2016 season, and are ready to lead the charge. The question, however, was who would be the third guy? Head Coach Gus Malzahn answered that question on Tuesday by saying that Kam Martin would be the next guy up.
Next in line- Kam Martin, Malik Miller, Devan Barrett
Starter- Chandler Cox (6'1, 239, JR, Apopka, Florida)
Cox returns as starter at the H-Back position. How will he be used this season in a new system under Chip Lindsey? We will have to find out. What we do know, is that the "Cox-Cat" formation is a thing of the past.
Next in line- Spencer Nigh, Keenan Sweeney
Darius Slayton (6'2, 190, SO, Norcross, Georgia)
Nate Craig-Myers (6'2, 213, SO, Dade City, Florida)
Eli Stove (6'0, 183, SO, Niceville, Florida)
Ryan Davis (5'9, 175, JR, St. Petersburg, Florida)
Will Hastings (5'10, 167, JR, Little Rock, Arkansas)
Kyle Davis (6'2, 213, SO, Lawrenceville, Georgia)
You notice one thing about the depth chart at wide receiver immediately. Youth. Four of the six possible starters at receiver are sophomores, while the other two are juniors. While that may stun fans, there is no need to worry. Slayton, Kyle Davis, Ryan Davis, and Eli Stove contributed heavily in 2016. Ryan Davis was second in receptions last season with 25 catches, while Slayton leads all returning starters with 292 yards a season ago. Will Hastings and Nate Craig-Myers are each expected to be heavy contributors this season. Also, watch out for Sal Canella, a tight end hybrid that could line up in different roles this season.
Next in line- Sal Canella, Marquis McClain, Noah Igbinoghene
Starter- Jalen Harris (6'4, 252, JR, Montgomery, Alabama)
This was a small surprise, considering the hype surrounding JUCO transfer Sal Cannella, and talks of him taking over the tight end position. We discovered during fall camp that Canella will be used more as a receiver, but could line up as a tight end in certain packages. Expect Harris to be more of a blocking tight end in this system.
Next in line- Tucker Brown
Starters- (from left tackle to right tackle)
Prince Tega Wanogho (6'7, 301, SO, Elmore, Alabama)
Mike Horton (6'4, 318, SO, Atlanta, Georgia)
Austin Golson (6'5, 312, SR, Prattville, Alabama)
Braden Smith (6'6, 303, SR, Olathe, Kansas)
Darius James (6'4, 324, SR, Killen, Texas)
Throughout fall camp, Malzahn and Lindsey would not speculate as to who would start the season opener on the offensive line. However, they did mention that eight players were in prime position to earn a spot, which is reassuring to fans, because eight people can step into their role at any given moment. The five players that were named starters were not all that surprising, but the surprise is that graduate transfers Casey Dunn (Jacksonville State) and Wilson Bell (Florida State) did not factor into the starting five. The addition of experience is key, also throwing freshman Calvin Ashley into the mix, and the backfield will be well protected this fall.
Next in line- (left tackler to right tackle)
Bailey Sharp, Marquel Harrell, Casey Dunn, Wilson Bell, Calvin Ashley
Starter- Jeff Holland (6'2, 249, JR, Jacksonville, Florida)
Here it is, the big question. How will Auburn fill the shoes of Carl Lawson? Lawson, who ended his career with 67 tackles, 24.5 per loss, was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. He made a lasting impact on the Auburn defense, and Jeff Holland has been named the guy to take over the Buck position this season. Holland returns after recording 13 tackles last season, 10 unassisted.
Next in line- Paul James III, T.D. Moultry
Dontavius Russell (6'3, 310, JR, Carrollton, Georgia)
Derrick Brown (6'5, 316, SO, Sugar Hill, Georgia)
These two recorded 40 tackles combined last season. A solid response to the question of "how will Auburn replace Montravius Adams on the defensive line?"
Next in line- Byron Cowart, Tyrone Truesdell, Andrew Williams
Starter- Marlon Davidson (6'3, 282, SO, Greenville, Alabama)
As a freshman, Davidson quickly contributed to a solid defensive line in 2016. The Greenville native made 38 tackles last season, with six of them going for a loss, with 2.5 sacks. Expect Davidson to have an even bigger season as a sophomore.
Next in line- Nick Coe, Markaviest "Big Kat" Bryant
Starters (From SAM to WILL)-
Darrell Williams (6'2, 244, JR, Hoover, Alabama)
Deshaun Davis (5'11, 246, JR, Prichard, Alabama)
Tre' Williams (6'2, 225, SR, Mobile, Alabama)
Another unit that returns all starters from a season ago. Davis and Tre' Williams were the second and third leading tacklers last season, recording 67 and 63 tackles respectively. Darrell Williams was not far behind them, as he notched 52 tackles, good enough for sixth on the team. Between the three, they were responsible for 13.5 tackles for loss last season.
Next in line (from SAM to WILL)- Richard McBryde, KJ Britt, Chandler Wooten, Montavius Atkinson
Javaris Davis (5'10, 186, SO, Jacksonville, Florida) OR
Jamel Dean (6'2, 215, SO, Cocoa, Florida)
Carlton Davis (6'1, 203, JR, Miami, Florida)
The Davis' combined for 83 tackles last season for the Tigers, contributing to a solid unit of defensive backs last season. With the addition of Greg Brown as defensive backs coach, expect to see more of the same. The big story, is Jamel Dean getting the chance for significant playing time. Dean suffered a knee injury last season, and has made necessary strides to recover, and fight for a starting job.
Next in line- John Broussard Jr, Travion Leonard
Starters- (Free to Strong)
Tray Matthews (6'1, 209, SR, Newnan, Georgia)
Stephen Roberts (5'11, 189, SR, Opelika, Alabama)
The leading tackler from a season ago returns for his final season at free safety, Tray Matthews. Matthews led Auburn with 76 tackles last season, picking up 43 on his own. Stephen Roberts finished fifth with 57.
Next in line- Nick Ruffin, Jeremiah Dinson, Daniel Thomas, Jason Smith)
Starter- Daniel Thomas (5'11, 203, SO, Montgomery, Alabama) OR
Jeremiah Dinson (6'0, 186, SO, Miami, Florida)
Daniel Thomas, who is remembered by picking off Alabama's Jalen Hurts twice in last season's Iron Bowl, returns to start at the nickel position. Last season, Rudy Ford picked up 57 tackles from that position. Jeremiah Dinson, much like Jamel Dean, has made impressive strides to return after suffering a scary knee and shoulder injury during the 2015 Texas A&M game.
Next in line- Jordyn Peters
Starter- Daniel Carlson (6'4, 223, SR, Colorado Springs, Colorado)
Third time is a charm, right? Daniel Carlson has finished second in Lou Groza Award voting for two straight seasons. In his career, Carlson is 69-83 and a perfect 141-141 in extra points. Expect the senior to continue breaking records.
Next in line- Anders Carlson, Sage Ledbetter
Starter- Ian Shannon (6'3, 222, SO, Marietta, Georgia)
Shannon takes over for Kevin Phillips, who averaged 41.6 yards per punt in two seasons as Auburn punter. Shannon appeared in five games during his redshirt freshman season, punting three times for an average of 30.7 yards.
Next in line- Aidan Marshall, Tyler Stovall
(Punt Returner)- Stephen Roberts
(Kick Returner)- Kerryon Johnson, Javaris Davis
(Long Snapper)- Ike Powell
(Holder)- Tyler Stovall
(Placekicker)- Daniel Carlson
Auburn faces Georgia Southern on Saturday at 6:30 inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.