By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn will be leaning on its veteran receivers early in the season, says Rhett Lashlee. But you better keep an eye on a group of freshmen receivers who have already impressed.
Lashlee, Auburn's offensive coordinator, has plans for freshmen Eli Stove, Kyle Davis, Marquis McClain and Nate Craig-Myers, the four who made up one of the best recruiting classes of receivers in the nation.
"All those guys will get an opportunity," Lashlee said after Thursday's practice.
Auburn worked its young guys Thursday. Worked its quarterbacks, too. Neither Lashlee nor head coach Gus Malzahn indicated who the starting quarterback will be for the Sept. 3 opener against Clemson, offering only that Sean White, Jeremy Johnson and John Franklin III are all taking snaps.
Waiting for their passes are the freshmen receivers, and the veterans such as Marcus Davis, Tony Stevens, Jason Smith and Ryan Davis. Lashlee says he knows what he has in the veterans. The freshmen?
"Some guys, they get out there and it doesn't matter. It's like they've done it their whole life," Lashlee said. "Other guys, even though it's going to be fine, it's different. We hope those freshmen compete and contribute a lot the first game. We certainly have no problems giving them opportunities, but we're going to need the veteran guys. Those guys are going to have to carry some of the load, hopefully the whole year, but definitely, early on."
Stove has been talked up early for his work in scrimmages. But there's more to them than just catches.
"The physical assets they have, whether they're going against Carlton Davis or Javaris Davis, it doesn't matter. They go out and compete," Lashlee said. " There's not a lot fear in them, and they've all made plays. There are plenty of nuances and things they're learning to get better at, but physically they all seem ready. Mentally, I think they'll catch up, but they've also shown enough capacity that I think they can help us this year."
Davis was limited in the spring following shoulder surgery. Then he hurt his foot. Auburn expects him to be full go early next week.
The quarterback race, meanwhile, continued unabated Thursday.
“All three guys are still taking reps," Lashlee said. Then added, "I didn't give a level of where everybody is at."
White and Johnson combined to start every Auburn game last season. Franklin is the newcomer, fresh from junior college by way of Florida State, and trying to learn on the run.
"He's done a nice job keeping up with their pace," Lashlee said. "I just think the more time he gets for reps, the better chance he has of continuing to improve. I'm just trying to get him as many reps as possible.
"I know everybody gets all — I won’t say worked up — but everybody wants to know," Lashlee conceded. "We have only had two weeks of camp and there is really no rush. Those guys are continuing to work hard. We have put them in as many competitive situations as we can to get them as many reps as we can to get them as good as they can be, and also get all the information we can get."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine