Freshmen Expected To Make Impact For Tigers

Auburn has true freshmen expected to play a role for the Tigers in the season opener on Saturday night against Washington State.

Auburn, Ala.--When Auburn coach Gus Malzahn released the first depth chart for the 2013 preseason on Wednesday there were very few surprises for the Tigers' season opener against Washington State. One thing that is apparent, however, is that Malzahn and his staff are prepared to play many of their incoming freshmen against the Cougars.

That is particularly the case on defense where ends Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel as well as tackle Montravius Adams are all listed as co-second team players for Coach Rodney Garner. With Auburn having injury issues on the front four without Dee Ford available due to a knee injury and having several players miss time in preseason camp because of injuries, Malzahn said it gave the youngsters a chance to get valuable practice time and in return they're ready to get some minutes Saturday night.

"Those young guys are extremely talented they've shown flashes of being very good," Malzahn said. "It's just a matter of those young guys being consistent and being able to play play-in and play-out."

Elijah Daniel was a standout high school performer at Avon High in Indiana.

Also in the mix on defense is Kamryn Melton from Dothan. A long-time Auburn commitment before signing with the Tigers, Melton has impressed coach Melvin Smith with his play in the preseason. Because of an injury to projected backup Jonathan Jones, Melton has now been forced into the number two position behind Jonathon Mincy.

Offensively, the name to remember is wide receiver Marcus Davis. Not as highly-rated as many of his teammates because he played quarterback in high school, Davis didn't waste any time impressing his coaches and teammates with his play in camp. Backing up Ricardo Louis at one of the wide receiver spots, Malzahn said he's expecting big things from Davis down the road.

"Marcus, of course he was a high school quarterback, he's got a real good feel for the game," Malzahn said. "He's a very good competitor and he's made some explosive plays in fall camp and he's got a chance to be a very good football player."

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Senior cornerback Chris Davis moved ahead of Quan Bray as the No. 1 punt returner for the season opener. A dynamic athlete with the football in his hands, Davis is one of the most valuable players on the roster this season. The fact that he will be facing an offense designed to throw the ball on almost every play will make for a very busy opening night for Davis.

"He's a playmaker, there is no doubt," Malzahn said. "He's got a lot of confidence. He's been the most consistent guy catching the football. When he has made some interceptions in the spring and in fall camp he usually does something positive with them. We felt like it was good to give him a chance to show what he could do."

Junior LaDarius Owens has worked his way into playing time at defensive end following yet another stint at linebacker in spring training. A potentially explosive pass rusher, Owens did some good things in his limited game action last season and should be a good matchup for Auburn against a pass-happy Washington State offense. He goes into the opener listed No. 1 on the depth chart ahead of senior Kenneth Carter.

"He played linebacker the first fall camp," Malzahn said. "I believe when we lost Dee, the fact that he had some experience up front and just felt like trying to figure out a way to put our best players on the field and that was part of it. He's got a very high motor and he rushes the passer adequately."

Montravius Adams has arrived ready to play for the Tigers this season as he's already worked his way into a backup role with Jabrian Niles behind Angelo Blackson at defensive tackle. The freshman has earned a vote of confidence by the Auburn staff with Ben Bradley currently third-team behind Jeffrey Whitaker and Gabe Wright. Banged up for much of the last week with a leg injury, Whitaker could be slowed and that would allow Bradley to step into that role if needed.

Auburn's offense is one built on versatility and that shows on the depth chart. Tight ends Brandon Fulse and C.J. Uzomah are both listed at the position, but also at wide receiver. Uzomah is listed as a co-starter at wide receiver with Sammie Coates while Fulse backs up Jaylon Denson. Malzahn noted that Uzomah is a player they will use in many different roles this season.

"Yeah, he's very versatile and gives us a lot of flexibility in our offense," the head coach said. "I know when I was here before he was a freshman and actually a receiver, and now he's starting to play with his hand down. He's really starting to improve his blocking and gives us a lot of flexibility."

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