"We felt like it was a position that we had a little bit of depth right now," Lashlee said. "We love Rudy (Ford's nickname). "He's going to be a really good player. We feel like his future is very bright. He was slated to play on a lot of teams so we were going to find a way to get him into the mix, but at the end of the day we've got to win and do what is best for the team.
"I know he came to us and said ‘Coach, I want to help the team win and win now'. Right now that's what is best for our football team. He's a big-time athlete, so to be able to be young and come in and prove yourself on offense and go right over and us think he's got a chance to help us on defense, I think says a lot about his character as a person, his toughness and his ability."
With Ford making the move the Tigers have two true freshmen at the position with Kamryn Melton having a solid start to preseason practice. Senior Ryan White and redshirt freshman T.J. Davis also provide some depth at the spot behind starters Chris Davis and Jonathon Mincy. While he's got plenty of learning to do to be able to help on defense, Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said Ford has some talent.
"He's over there It's going to take him a little while to learn it," Johnson said. "He looks really good physically. He's got all the skills."
Ford becomes the second player from the Auburn backfield to make the move to the secondary joining former quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who is now at safety. With Demetruce McNeal no longer on the roster following his dismissal over the weekend, it has made Josh Holsey a full-time safety once again and put the pressure on the reserves to step up their game. That list includes Frazier even though he has only played defense for five practices since high school.
"You know we moved Kiehl and he's coming along," Johnson said. "Mentally he's one of the quickest guys we got, he's picked up the scheme, talking, making some checks those young JUCO guys and freshmen guys weren't making for two weeks. He's going to be okay in time. Fundamentals and technique and pulling the trigger, seeing and reacting to things right now, he's sort of in slow motion but it's coming along for him. Once he gets comfortable back there, I think he'll play quite a bit for us."
Kiehl Frazier wearing his new number 25 at safety
Currently Jermaine Whitehead and Holsey are holding down the starting spots at the two safety positions for the Tigers with Ryan Smith behind Whitehead. The backup for Holsey is a bigger question as Frazier is in the mix along with newcomers such as Brandon King and Khari Harding along with holdover Trent Fisher.
"Ryan right now is more game-ready than Kiehl," Johnson said. "Ryan probably would start on our dime package at one of the deep safeties when we move Holsey up to Dime. Has had a good two, three practices, been working a lot of that package the last three days and he really has done a good job.
"It depends on how much progress he makes between now and then whether we would put Ryan Smith in and move Whitehead over or would we play Kiehl. We'll have to make a determination at game time: how ready is he? We got some guys that can double-learn. Whitehead and Holsey are really bright kids. They won't have any problem learning two positions. We'll just have to see how the repetitions come out."