The first summer session of classes began on Thursday. Included in the group are prospects who are expected to have an excellent chance to earn playing time this fall for the 2010 national champions, who must replace 23 seniors as well as key juniors such as Cameron Newton, Nick Fairley and Darvin Adams, who are trying to make NFL rosters.
"There is a great opportunity awaiting for all of the incoming freshmen," said Chizik, who added he has absolutely no reservations about playing freshmen if they prove to the coaching staff they are ready to help the team.
Kiehl Frazier from Shiloh Christian School in Springdale, Ark., a player who Gene Chizik and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn both say will have a chance to compete for the spot vacated by Heisman Trophy winner Cameron Newton.
Recruited by colleges from sea to shining sea, Frazier was named USA Today's National Offensive Player of the Year as a senior after leading his team to a state championship while passing for 3,817 yards and 48 touchdowns and rushing for 1,164 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Under Armour All-American was MVP of his team's state championship games as a sophomore, junior and senior while leading Shiloh Christian to the Class 4A state title each year. "It is going to be fun to be part of the Auburn program," Frazier said.
Josh Floyd, the coach at Shiloh Christian, said the Tigers are getting a talented quarterback. "He has got a big arm and can make every throw you need him to," the coach said. "He stays calm in the pocket and doesn't get rattled."
Floyd added, "Kiehl is such a great kid. He is very laid back and humble despite all the accolades and attention surrounding him. He is a hard worker who does well in the classroom. We are excited for the opportunity he has in front of him, but we will certainly miss him a lot."
The Tigers have a major need for help at defensive tackle and Jabrian Niles and Gabe Wright are among the group that started classes on Thursday. Niles is from Davidson High in Mobile and Wright is from Carver High in Columbus, Ga. The Tigers must replace their top three defensive tackles from the 2010 team, Fairley and seniors Zach Clayton and Mike Blanc.
Wide receiver is also a major need for the 2011 Tigers, who had just five scholarship players at those spots in spring training. One of the two wide receiver signees, Sammie Coates of Leroy High, is officially enrolled at AU. He rejoins high school teammate Moseley. Jaylon Denson of Hoover is expected to arrive at Auburn in June.
Sammie Coates was a big-play threat for state champion Leroy High.
Chizik said that the Tigers will be looking for help in the secondary from the incoming freshmen. One of the more highly-regarded members of the class, safety Erique Florence, is on campus now, making the short move down I-85 from Valley where he was a four-star prospect.
Erique Florence played quarterback as a senior, but will return to safety, his natural position.
The Tigers also signed highly-regarded four-star cornerback prospect Jermaine Whitehead from Elzy High in Greenwood, Miss. The class valedictorian got a head start on college on Thursday.
Two other four-star prospects who started classes on Thursday are offensive wide receiver/outside linebacker Kris Frost from Butler High in Matthews, N.C., and offensive tackle Greg Robinson from Thibodaux, La. Chizik said the coaches have not decided what position Frost will play this season.
One of the most versatile players in the signee class, Quan Bray, is rated a four-star running back by Scout.com. He played quarterback as a senior at Troup County High School and can also return punts and kickoffs, play defensive back and he is an outstanding receiver.
Chris Landrum (right) is shown in action in his team's state championship game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in December.
A couple of in-state standouts, two-way star Chris Landrum from state champion Sweet Water High and Devaunte Sigler from B.C. Rain in Mobile, also started their college experience on Thursday. Landrum is expected to line up at middle linebacker. Sigler mostly played outside linebacker in high school, but is expected to line up at defensive end for the Tigers.
Previously, cornerback Jonathan Rose from Leeds, center Reese Dismukes from Spanish Fort and offensive guard Thomas O'Reilly from Pope High in Marietta, Ga., enrolled at Auburn in January. They were able to participate in winter workouts and spring drills.