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Big stats, big blockers part of Auburn's signing class
Feb. 5, 2015

Auburn's Gus Malzahn, left, and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee found reason to smile on Signing Day 2015

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala.  Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was thinking of the future, and the here and now, when he signed his 13 offensive players Wednesday that covered the gamut of positions and talents.

Auburn signed five offensive linemen, two tailbacks, a fullback, two quarterbacks, a tight end and two wide receivers. Included in that list is Mr. Football in Alabama for the third straight year, this time in running back Kerryon Johnson; the No. 1 junior college player in the nation in running back Jovon Robinson; and wide receiver help in Darius Slayton and Ryan Davis.

Six of Auburn's eight early enrollees play offense and they'll get a jump on Malzahn's offense in spring practice.

"We needed a few wide receivers and then we needed some O-line depth, so I felt very good about that," Malzahn said.

Robinson is one of the high-profile players in the signing class. Johnson comes in big stats and the possibility of adding Wildcat quarterback to his duties. Quarterback Tyler Queen passed for 89 touchdowns and 8,500 yards in his high school career. And versatile Jason Smith is a quarterback who was named the MVP in an all-star game playing wide receiver.

Five players who don't have fancy stats are the offensive linemen. But Malzahn says they do have the talent to succeed in his fast-paced offense with line coach J.B. Grimes teaching them how.

"The old days of just getting a big guy that can't move, they're about done," Malzahn said. "All these guys can move. They're athletic. Coach Grimes is very excited about this group and few of them are here early. It's always good for offensive linemen to get that extra strength and conditioning in, so we're very excited about this group."

They are 6-foot-3, 295-pound Marquel Harrell, 6-4, 310 Mike Horton, 6-4, 285 Kaleb Kim, 6-5 Tyler Carr (his story is here) and 6-5, 285 Bailey Sharp (and his story is here).

"They're high-character guys. They're big and athletic," Malzahn said.

Auburn signed two wide receivers in Slayton and Davis, important signees because "we lost a few guys right there, especially with Sammie Coates leaving early," Malzahn said.

"Darius Slayton is a big, long guy that can really run. He attacks the ball."

And he liked Davis, a high school quarterback that fits in the mold of other quarterbacks who became receivers for Malzahn, such as Quan Bray, Darvin Adams and Kodi Burns.

"There's a lot of guys that have transitioned well in our offense."

Then there's Robinson (his story is here). He set JUCO records by rushing for 2,387 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2013. He rushed for 3,198 yards and 43 touchdowns in his two-year career at Georgia Military College. He's an early enrollee, so early, in fact, he went through early part of bowl practice with running backs coach Tim Horton.

"The fact that he’ll have a spring under his belt to get with Coach Horton, develop that relationship between a coach and a player, and the blocking scheme up front" is important, Malzahn said. "He's s got a real chance to be a special player. He’s a real physical guy. He’s got all the attributes to be a very good running back."

Johnson won Mr. Football at Madison Academy in Alabama after rushing for 1,659 yards and 25 touchdowns. He scored six touchdowns in the Class 3A title game.

"He's going to play running back, but he's very good at the Wildcat," Malzahn said. "The last guy I saw with his skill-set that can do what he can do is Darren McFadden. So he's got the ability to run the read-zone back there. 

"We're really expecting him to have a chance to play right off the bat and really, not just play. He has a chance to really help."

Smith passed for more than 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns in the last two seasons in high school and junior college. In between, he was named the MVP of all-star game playing wide receiver. (His story is here).

"We're going to start out and he's going to have a chance to play quarterback. That's what we recruited him (to play) out of high school. Same plan," Malzahn said. "But he is athletic enough that if it didn't work out he could play some other positions. We're very excited about Jason and we think he's got a chance to be a real special player."

Chandler Cox, the fullback/H-back of the class, says he's ready for the blue-collar job of blocking. (He said so in this story, saying Auburn says he could be cut from the same cloth as former fullback Jay Prosch.)

Malzahn said Cox's versatility  he rushed for 21 touchdowns and passed for 15 more  gives him an edge.

"We give that position a lot of flexibility," Malzahn said. "You saw that with Jay Prosch and the impact he made just in one year. Chandler’s a very tough, physical guy that can really block. He's got wide receiver-type hands, his high school coach played him at running back, played him at quarterback, so he can run the football. 

"He’s old school. You turn on his highlight film and the way he blocks, he runs through people. He’ll fit very well in Auburn-type football."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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