Marlon Davidson has a spot in Auburn's starting lineup
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — It didn't take long for Marlon Davidson to live up to his recruiting hype.
The true freshman defensive end from Greenville, Ala., has jumped from being an 18-year-old player with potential to a starting assignment for Auburn in its season-opener against Clemson at 8 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Coach Gus Malzahn, living up to his promise to play young guys, unveiled a depth chart that has as many as 16 freshmen or sophomores who could be starters. He promised three more true freshman receivers and two more true freshman running backs will see playing time, too.
Senior defensive lineman Montravius Adams has seen them come and go, and says Davidson, the rookie, is impressive.
"It just shows the type of guy he is and how he always wanted to get better and win that starting job," Adams said.
Malzahn is playing Davidson at one end with pass-rushing Carl Lawson at the other end. They'll sandwich Adams and Dontavius Russell, who'll anchor the middle of the defensive line, at least before Auburn starts rotating the lineman.
Davidson enrolled in January and began his quick transition to college ball.
"He had a very good spring," Malzahn said. "He got here early, and anytime a freshman gets here early, they got a chance to show what they can do. He made an immediate impact in the spring that's carried over into fall camp. He's got an opportunity to start as a true freshman, which is rare up front."
Click here for the depth chart.
The depth chart is a bit tricky. There are 13 starting positions listed on offense. There are 12 on defense. Two positions on offense each have two potential starters. Same for defense. When you add it up, the offense has 15 potential starters: two freshmen, seven sophomores, two juniors and four seniors. The defense has 14 different players as potential starters: two freshmen, five sophomores, three juniors and four seniors.
The starting backfield? Redshirt sophomore Sean White at quarterback, sophomore Kerryon Johnson at running back and sophomore Chandler Cox at H-back.
The understudies are also young. True freshmen receivers Eli Stove, Nate Craig-Myers and Kyle Davis are all potential second-teamers.
"Once we saw fall camp, they're every bit of what we thought they were," Malzahn said. "We're going to play them. They're going to be out there the first game and it's just a matter of how quick they can become comfortable and confident. It's very exciting, the future at wide receiver, once those guys do get comfortable it's going to be a lot of fun."
Walk-on Will Hastings, a one-time kicker, is a potential starter at receiver. Freshmen running backs Kam Martin and Malik Miller, though not listed on the depth chart, will start off on special teams, but there's a plan to put them in the backfield as well, Malzahn said.
New season, new approach: 'I've been more hands-on,' says Auburn's Gus Malzahn in this video pic.twitter.com/shZLFirV5C
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Malzahn said he's ready to play his young and old players.
"Our players and our coaches have been waiting for this week for a long time," he said. "We're very excited about playing at home. I think that's going to be very important this first game."
Malzahn reiterated he'll do more coaching and act less like a CEO this season.
"I just kind of went back to my comfort zone of trying to be hands-on in practices and meetings and things like that," he said. "That has kind of been my approach since the spring. I have been more hands-on. That doesn't mean I don't have great confidence in our offensive coaches, because I do, and I've said that before. But that's what I enjoy doing."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine