Veterans See Potential In Young Tigers

Reese Dismukes and Quan Bray talk about the young players who have caught their eye during bowl practices, including sophomore receiver Marcus Davis (pictured).

Auburn, Ala.--The first week of bowl practices when a team is still on its own campus is always a time for young players to be the center of attention with the coaching staff. Lost in the crowd in the weekly grind of game prep and correcting mistakes, little-used players are relegated to scout team duty or getting very few reps behind starters as a backup.

Last week players on both sides of the ball got a chance to step up for the Auburn Tigers before they started planning for Wisconsin and the Outback Bowl. With four seniors at defensive tackle who will be gone after the New Year’s Day game, the week was huge for the next wave of players at the position.

A guy who has seen his share of players across from him at defensive tackle, Auburn senior center Reese Dismukes, said he feels like the position is in good shape with guys like Dontavius Russell and Devaroe Lawrence coming on to play alongside Montravius Adams.

“Those guys have got bright futures ahead of them,” Dismukes said. “Dontavius and Devaroe, they're both big guys. Devaroe is more active, I'd say, but obviously both have a chance to be big-time guys. Especially this last week of bowl prep, I've really noticed they've picked their game up a little bit and are really playing hard and trying to get better and accepting that responsibility. I think it's going to pay off for them.”

Devaroe Lawrence

The secondary is another spot where Auburn will need players to step up with Jonathon Mincy and Jermaine Whitehead both gone following the bowl game. Coming on strong with his best football ahead of him, sophomore safety Johnathan Ford was singled out by Quan Bray for his work this week as were Stephen Roberts and Derrick Moncrief.

All three players were forced to learn on the run this season with Ford making a position move to start the year. Now Roberts has made a move back to cornerback, something that looks like it could pay off in a big way.

"I would say probably Stephen Roberts, from right down the street, from Opelika,” Bray said of someone who has picked up his game. “You know, at safety, Moncrief's going to do what he does back there. Those are some guys that I think next year, they're going to come out and make a lot of noise. They're grinding. I see them, I watch them grinding.”

On the other side of the ball one of the positions of need is at wide receiver. With Quan Bray playing his last game being a senior and Sammie Coates also playing for the final time in an Auburn uniform, the Tigers are going to need players to step up their game next season. Several have already started that process during bowl practices with Marcus Davis continuing to provide leadership on and off the field despite being just a sophomore.

Davis is just one of a group of young receivers who made strides during the first week of bowl prep. True freshman Myron Burton and sophomore Tony Stevens have also made some plays with more work in practice, but Bray said Davis is the guy he is ready to see more of when his time comes next season.

“Marcus Davis has been here and been playing,” Bray said. “They came in at the same time, but Marcus has a little experience playing in some games and made some big-time catches when we need it. As far as Tony and Myron, those guys haven't been thrown into that fire yet and I'm sure once their time comes they will be up to the task.

Tony Stevens

“Coach Malzahn, like last year, he always said he kind of reminds me of you when you first came in,” Bray said of Davis. “Sometimes I can see that because Marcus is always coming up to me and asking me questions. Marcus is a real smart guy and it shows on the field. He's not that big, but you don't have to be that big to make an impact on the field.”

Auburn is off this week for Christmas and will return to the practice field Dec. 27 in Tampa. The Tigers will face Wisconsin on New Year's Day at Raymond James Stadium with kickoff set for 11 a.m. CST.

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