ITAT A-Day Primer: Players To Watch

We look at some of the players and positions to watch in Saturday's A-Day Game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Dontavius Russell (above) has had a big spring for the Tigers at defensive tackle and is a player to keep an eye on Saturday

Mark Murphy’s Thoughts:

5 Players To Watch
Austin Golson--In addition to playing for a new team the transfer from Ole Miss is making a strong push to start at a new position. Xavier Dampeer, who Golson is battling for a starting role, has shown he is a solid center. If Golson is a better choice at the position the Tigers should be in good shape at the spot despite having to replace All-American Reese Dismukes.

Jeremy Johnson--With his talent and two years in the offensive system as an understudy, the big quarterback should be ready to be the leader of the offense, something that needs to be apparent in a spring football game. If the junior struggles on Saturday that will be a real disappointment.

Jeremy Johnson has been solid this spring, but Saturday is a big day for him to show he can take it to the next level

Tray Matthews--The hard-hitting safety had to redshirt last year as a transfer from Georgia. He has the type of talent with an aggressive and physical style of play that should fit in nicely with Will Muschamp’s defense.

Jovon Robinson--The junior college All-American running back has a nice package of size (6-0, 230), speed and moves, attributes that make him a serious contender in the competition with Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber to take over the No. 1 running back role vacated by 2014 senior Cameron Artis-Payne.

Jovon Robinson will be fired up to show what he can do on Saturday

Tre Williams--The former St. Paul’s star from Mobile did some good things in limited playing time as a true freshman. This spring he is pushing senior Kris Frost for first string status at the middle linebacker position.

Most Important Position: Defense

The linebacker play hasn’t been a strength in recent years, which is a major reason why the Tigers haven’t been as productive on that side of the ball as they needed to be. If Muschamp can boost the performance level of those players it will give the defense as a whole a chance to be improved this fall.

Most Important Position:
Offense
Gus Malzahn builds his game plans around the quarterback’s strengths so as long as he is the head coach the QB will be vitally important to the offense’s success.

Breakout Performer: Defense

Defensive tackle Dontavius Russell has stepped up this spring and is making a push for a starting assignment as a redshirt freshman.

Breakout Performer: Offense
Marcus Davis was an immediate contributor as a freshman wide receiver, but had a quiet sophomore season. Look for him to become a bigger part of the offense this fall.

It's finally Marcus Davis' time to shine and he's had a good spring so far

Jason Caldwell’s Thoughts:

5 Players To Watch
Jeremy Johnson--Jeremy Johnson is going to be Auburn’s starting quarterback next fall unless something out of the ordinary happens, but it’s still important to come out and show that he’s the leader of the offense. Like most guys in his position Johnson isn’t likely to get a ton of work on Saturday, but guiding the offense smoothly would be a good start towards 2015.

Tray Matthews--With Auburn looking to be more physical on defense this season a player who can deliver that is Matthews. Hungry after sitting out last season while redshirting, the former Georgia safety is living up to the hype so far and that’s important for a defense looking to get tougher at all levels.

Tray Matthews is looking to take advantage of his second chance

Kamryn Pettway--Auburn’s running back was still very good last season, but there was definitely something missing from the fullback/H-Back spot. Pettway is a player that has all the tools to make it a team strength once again along with true freshman Chandler Cox. Seeing Pettway do his thing on Saturday would be a big step forward for the running game.

Maurice Swain--When you bring in a junior college player the expectations are that he’s going to help right away, and that’s exactly the case for Swain. With Auburn’s need for defensive tackle help he needs to show that he can consistently play behind his pads and get a push in the middle for the Tigers.

Roc Thomas--It’s hard to imagine a quieter spring for a five-star running back than the one Thomas is having. Without much talk about him I think he’s due to have a big impact at some point on Saturday even with his touches expected to be limited because of sharing time with two other backs.

Roc Thomas has gained 10 pounds since last season

Most Important Position: Defense

This one is a no-brainer to me. I have already mentioned Swain at defensive tackle and that’s the spot where the Tigers must get better off last year. With Montravius Adams the only experienced player there Auburn’s interior defensive line needs to show the ability to disrupt plays as well as cut off running lanes between the tackles.

Most Important Position: Offense

While quarterback would seem to be the spot here, for me it’s at center. Replacing four-year starter Reese Dismukes leaves a huge hole in the middle for Coach J.B. Grimes and it’s up to either Austin Golson or Xavier Dampeer to get the job done. With rain expected it could be a big test for both on Saturday.

Saturday could be a very important day for Austin Golson

Breakout Performer: Defense

Talking about defensive tackles, Dontavius Russell has been the star of the spring up front with his consistent play for the Tigers. Now it’s time to show that in a game situation. If Russell can deliver on Saturday what he has delivered this spring it would definitely change things in a big way for Auburn’s defense heading into the fall.

Breakout Performer: Offense

I have been waiting for two years to see Jason Smith at wide receiver in Auburn’s offense. While I thought he could play quarterback for the Tigers, there was no question in my mind he could be a game-changer at wide receiver. Saturday we’ll get to see that for the first time and I think we’ll get to see it often.

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