Auburn Football: Week 2 Fall Camp Stock Report

Monday, August 17, 2015

Auburn Football: Week 2 Fall Camp Stock Report

The midway point of August is here, meaning the Auburn Tigers are about halfway through their fall camp preparations for the 2015 season and the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic against Louisville in the Georgia Dome.

Week 1 of fall camp featured a dominant performance by the Tigers defense and the biggest story of the preseason so far—a few absences from practice for Auburn's top wide receiver.

The second week of fall camp was marked by more separation at several key position battles during the upcoming season and a big-time response from Auburn's offense. 

As the Tigers start classes Monday and prepare for their third week of fall camp, let's recap the highlights of Week 2 on the Plains:


Offense answers back in second scrimmage

In last Monday's scrimmage, the first of fall camp for the Tigers, the defense had what Gus Malzahn called its best performance during his time as a head coach. Auburn's offense didn't score a single touchdown during its first visit of the fall to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

But the offense got its revenge on Saturday in the second scrimmage of camp.

"The emphasis was a little more throwing than it was [during Monday's scrimmage]," Malzahn said Saturday, per James Crepea of "I think it was more close today. I think there was some good things on defense and I think the offense came out and executed and performed better."

The Tigers' emphasis on throwing was more than just "a little."

According to Crepea, "close to 65-70 percent" of Auburn's 100 plays in the scrimmage were passes, and the two biggest plays of the day came on quarterback Jeremy Johnson's connections with Ricardo Louis for a long touchdown and Peyton Barber on a wheel route.

The high percentage of passes in Saturday's scrimmage could be a signal of things to come for Auburn with an established pocket presence like Johnson. As Auburn blogger War Room Eagle noted on Twitter, Malzahn's offense has its roots in a pass-first scheme:

While Johnson and the passing attack featured prominently in the scrimmage, star wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams did not.

Malzahn said Williams did not practice with the first team, as he said following Williams' reinstatement to the team last Thursday. Williams left the scrimmage early after he "tweaked" his ankle.

"We took him out," Malzahn said, per Tom Green of the Opelika-Auburn News. "He was out there. He got to play some."


Some early separation at running back

Last week, Malzahn said there weren't any favorites in the running back battle between JUCO transfer Jovon Robinson, true sophomore Roc Thomas, redshirt sophomore Peyton Barber and true freshman Kerryon Johnson.

But when Auburn's position coaches met with reporters for their only availability of the fall, running backs coach Tim Horton provided a surprising look at the current running back depth chart.

"Right now I would say that Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber have earned the right to play and so they're both going to play," Horton told Brandon Marcello of "Now, who is going to be in there first, I couldn't tell you to be honest. I don't know that's really important, but both of those guys have earned that right and they'll both play."

The biggest shocker in that list is Robinson, who has fallen from the projected favorite to win the starting job to now the No. 3 running back on the roster. 

"He had the worst start of those four initially, but he's starting to come on," Horton said. "I'm real pleased with the group and I think ultimately it'll be one of the strengths of our team."

Thomas continues to receive the highest praise of any Tigers running back during fall camp, and he's the perceived favorite right now among the contenders.

Coaches have raved about his willingness to do more north-south running, which was a criticism of his style last season.

"Roc has probably been the most consistent and the steadiest," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said last week, per Green. "I think I may have said this last time, but I’ve just been really pleased with his toughness, his ability to pass protect, his ability to get north-south and really, hey, if it’s 3rd-and-1 to 2, really hammer it in there.

"And then when there’s chances for those electric plays, do that. He’s been very steady."


Freshman focus

In addition to Kerryon Johnson, several of Auburn's top defensive freshmen are continuing to make major strides in fall camp and fight for coveted playing time during the regular season.

The spotlight is shining the brightest on 5-star defensive end Byron Cowart, who was one of the best players in the country for the class of 2015.

Defensive line coach Rodney Garner told Marcello the heavily hyped Cowart struggled at first due to the overwhelming workload placed on him, but he's still in line to play this fall for the Tigers.

"Oh, yeah, he's going to contribute," Garner said. "We have him on an accelerated plan. He's going to help us and he's going to be a really good player."

One of the brightest young stars on the defense is 4-star linebacker Jeff Holland. Defensive tackle Montravius Adams said Holland had a stronger start to fall camp and looks like a natural for the Tigers.

"[Defensive coordinator Will] Muschamp cusses and fusses at Jeff like every day, but Jeff always goes 110 percent," Adams told Marcello. "That's going to keep him out there playing."

Elsewhere, the true freshman cornerback trio of Jeremiah Dinson, Carlton Davis and Javaris Davis has stood out to Muschamp early in spring practice.

The Tigers will need their contributions for depth this season, especially after the offseason's large volume of transfers from the secondary.

"The young secondary guys … are all guys that have exhibited the ability to play on the edges in the Southeastern Conference," Muschamp said last Tuesday, per Green. "I’m very pleased with that."


Quick hits

- Special teams coordinator Scott Fountain told Wesley Sinor of that Johnathan "Rudy" Ford, Ricardo Louis and Thomas are the top three candidates at kick returner.

- Horton also told Marcello that junior wide receiver Marcus Davis was the No. 1 man at punt returner at this point in fall camp.

- According to Green, Lashlee said true freshman tight end Jalen Harris is impressing during his first practices with Auburn and is now up to around 260 pounds.

- Sophomore pass-rushing star Carl Lawson sat out Saturday's scrimmage, but there's a chance it was only a precautionary measure in Lawson's return from an ACL injury that cost him the entire 2014 season.

- One of the most interesting soundbites from the media's time with Auburn's position coaches was outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson saying he hasn't talked to former boss Nick Saban since his departure from Alabama this offseason.


Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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