Sept. 10, 2013
Running back Corey Grant and star Robenson Therezie were the big stories in a season-opening 31-24 victory over Washington State and continued to thrive in a 38-9 victory over Arkansas State. But they weren't alone.
Seven juniors and seniors of whom not much was expected a month ago have taken advantage of opportunities offered by a new coaching staff and emerged as contributors or even starters. They'll be called on again when the Tigers play Mississippi State on Saturday in their Southeastern Conference opener at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Here they are:
Corey Grant, JR., RB
This season: Grant rushed nine times for 146 yards and a touchdown against Washington State. He rushed for 40 yards on seven carries and scored a touchdown against Arkansas State. For the season, he has 16 carries for 186 yards and two touchdowns. That's seven more carries and 151 yards more than he had all of last season.
The past: Grant, a 4-star recruit from Opelika High School, signed with Alabama in 2010. He transferred to Auburn and sat out the 2011 season as required by NCAA rules. A two-time 6A 100-meter dash champion, Grant had an outstanding spring practice in 2012. But when the season started, he was all but forgotten. He got just nine carries, those coming against New Mexico State and Alabama A&M.
Robenson Therezie, JR., STAR
This season: Therezie, in the lineup because of an injury to Justin Garrett, intercepted two passes, including a crucial one in the end zone, and was in on seven tackles in the season-opener. He was named Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week. Against Arkansas State, he was in on four tackles, including one for a loss.
The past: Therezie, a 4-star recruit from Jackson High School in Miami, was in on 23 tackles and did not intercept a pass in his first two seasons. So unhappy was he last season that he moved to running back for a time. He did not start a game in his first two seasons.
3. LaDarius Owens, JR., DE
This season: Owens moved from linebacker to defensive end during preseason camp and had the most productive game of his career against Arkansas State, making eight tackles, including two for losses, and getting a sack. He got his first career start in the opener and was in on two tackles.
The past: A 4-star recruit out of Jess Lanier High School in Bessemer, Owens signed in 2010 as a linebacker. He redshirted in 2010 and moved to defensive end shortly before the 2011 season. He moved back to linebacker last spring and back to defensive end early in preseason camp. He was in on 20 total tackles his first two seasons.
Craig Sanders, SR., DE
This season: Sanders got the first start of his career in the season-opener. He had four tackles and half a sack against Arkansas State and two tackles against Washington State.
The past: A 4-start recruit from Ariton in 2010, Sanders played in 35 games his first three seasons, but it was mostly on special teams. He was in on 23 total tackles in first three seasons.
Justin DeLaine, JR., DE
This season: Delaine got the first significant playing time of his career against Arkansas State and had two tackles and a tackle for loss.
The past: A 3-star recruit out of Linden, Delaine made two tackles in 2011 and did not get into a game last season.
Ryan Smith, SR., S
This season: Though he has not started either of the first two games, defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson says Smith essentially is a starter. He had one tackle against Arkansas State and seven against Washington State.
The past: After starting the first game of last season, Smith played in just three more games. A 3-star recruit out of Cordova in 2010, he made one of the biggest plays of the 2011 season when he stopped Mississippi State quarterback Chris Relf inches short of the goal line, but his playing time waned as the season went on.
7. Ryan White, SR., CB
This season: White had five tackles and broke up a pass against Arkansas State. He had one tackle against Washington State.
The past: A 3-star signee from Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, White started the first game of last season. After that, he was mostly relegated to holding for kicks and playing on special teams. He was mostly a special teams player in previous season and was in on 25 total tackles.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: