Freshman Byron Cowart is on track to for early playing time for Auburn
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Will Muschamp predicted true freshman defensive end Byron Cowart will not only play in Auburn's season-opener, "he's going to play a lot."
"It doesn't matter first down, second down, third down. He's going to play in the game."
Cowart won't be the only true freshman who will get the call in Muschamp's new-look defense.
Auburn's defensive coordinator named eight rookies who could see action in Saturday's season-opener against Louisville, showing no fear in throwing his freshmen into the fray, and especially showing no fear in playing freshmen in the secondary. Muschamp said to look for Cowart at end, linebackers Jeff Holland and Darrell Williams; and defensive backs Carlton Davis, Jeremiah Dinson, Tim Irvin, Javaris Davis and Montavious Atkinson.
A couple of other new defensive faces, though with big-time college experience, will have a significant role. Michigan transfer Blake Countess and Georgia transfer Tray Matthews are vying for starting assignments.
Some the true defensive freshmen may be mostly special teams specialist early, and, overall, "I don't know the multiple of snaps right now" for the freshman, Muschamp said.
Muschamp said the freshmen have improved as Auburn has narrowed the game plan.
Muschamp was reluctant to name his starters, and showed a willingness to shake up things, by saying he hasn't decided his starting linebackers, though returnees Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy manned the positions last year.
"That decision won't be made until later in the week. Guys have to practice well. That's what we need to do," Muschamp said.
There was praise for defensive lineman Carl Lawson who has had a strong preseason practice.
"Carl is a special young man from the standpoint of his work ethic and his approach to the game," Muschamp said. "He's a guy that really enjoys the game of football. He's up in our offices all the time wanting to watch extra film, wanting to get extra tips. He's got a great motor, he studies the game.
"The thing that I like about him as much as anything is he's not a guy that's just a really good pass rusher. He does a nice job in the run game as well. He does a lot of things extremely well but his most gifted talent is his work ethic."
• Receiver Marcus Davis said he'll be returning punts this season. He's replacing the departed Quan Bray, who averaged 18.2 yards per return last season. Davis returned two punts last year for 31 yards.
• Muschamp said Holland "has been good. Jeff has some really natural pass rushing ability. We have to continue to work on some things in the early downs. He's a guy, situationally, that can help us."
Muschamp said Irvin has "continued to elevate his consistency."
"It has nothing to do with ability. It has to do with consistency down in and down out playing well, focusing in and locking in on what you're supposed to be doing. I've been very pleased that he continues to make some strides in that area."
• On practice in general, "I like our approach," Muschamp said. "The guys have worked hard. First game, new defense, communication and those sort of things… we have to continue to work through to make sure our players are ready to go."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twtter: Follow @AUGoldMine