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Gus Malzahn encouraged by play of Auburn freshmen
Sept. 21, 2015

Tim Irvin is among the 10 true freshmen who have played this season

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. Auburn freshmen are getting an education in big-time college football in a hurry this season. 

The Tigers have played 10 true freshmen and five redshirt freshmen, and seven other players have seen their first Auburn action through the first three games. Their next opportunity is against Mississippi State at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"The young guys we're putting on the field are competing, and they're not overwhelmed," coach Gus Malzahn said on Auburn's Tiger Talk radio show Monday night. "They're inexperienced, they're making some mistakes, but they're fighting. That's good for the future because you see how many young guys we've got. We're going to need to count on them. I really like them as a whole group."

Malzahn said the play of his young players was "probably the most encouraging thing" from Saturday's loss at LSU.

"We've got some young guys who do have the talent, all they need is the experience, and they're getting it right now," he said.

The 10 true freshmen who have played are Johnson, Montravious Atkinson, Byron Cowart, Chandler Cox, Carlton Davis, Jeremiah Dinson, Jeff Holland, Tim Irvin, Darrell Williams and Jalen Harris. The five redshirt freshmen who have played are Deshaun Davis, Kamryn Pettway, Dontavius Russell, Josh Shockley and Andrew Williams.

Malzahn also said...

• Last weekend's game didn't sit well with his players.

"I could see disappointment. That's a good thing because we need to rebound."

Malzahn said in Sunday's practice "they had a good spirit about them, a good attitude, and they understand where we're at. They understand we need to get better, and they're ready to do that.

"When you go through adverse times, you find out exactly who's all in. That's something good moving forward. Our guys have been a close group, and now we're going through a little adversity, so we'll find out our true character. I really expect us to come together and get better.

• Malzahn said freshman running back Kerryon Johnson is "going to be a phenomenal player."

"He's very talented. He has receivers' hands and running back skills. He's going to gives us a lot of flexibility. Really, probably his greatest strength is he's such a great competitor. He's a fiery guy. He has a chance to be really good."

Malzahn also said he's good with his other running backs in Peyton Barber, Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson.

"The positives are we got four guys. They're all a little bit different, so that gives us flexibility."

• On the return of injured defensive lineman Carl Lawson: "We're hoping in the next day or two we'll have more clarity... we definitely need him back."

• On receiver Melvin Ray: "It's always good when good things happen to guys like Melvin Ray."

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



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