Auburn Fall Camp: Three Bounce-Back Players
By Dan Harralson
The college football world is well aware of Auburn football after the remarkable season the Tigers had in 2013. A season removed from an Iron Bowl upset that led to an SEC championship and then to a national championship game appearance which had Auburn just 1:19 from controlling its own unthinkable destiny, the Tigers must fast forward to 2014.
As the Auburn offense continues to gain all of the attention, there are three players who may be unrecognized going into fall camp. They have endured injuries, as well as larger-than-life obsticules in preperation for the upcoming season. Klell Lawrence of AU Tiger Bloggin' and I examined the 2014 Auburn team in coming away with three players who may not be household names throughout the conference as of now, but will definitely make noise on the football field this fall.
Jeff Whitaker, Defensive Line
Whitaker is a fifth-year senior who has seen it all, from a BCS national championship in 2010 to the horrendous nightmare of 2012. Whitaker will be a key player on the Auburn defense, one year removed after a preseason knee injury cost him the 2013 campaign.
A Communications major, Whitaker has shown good interviewing skills with a segment produced by AUHD where he has interviewed players in an informal setting with a lighter atmosphere. He is a humorous and lively host, as he showed in an interview with the late Philip Lutzenkirchen.
When Whitaker straps it on and steps onto the field, however, he changes into a defensive lineman who plays with a touch of controlled anger. If he can remain healthy, he will get plenty of playing time and be an enormous piece to the puzzle for Auburn.
Justin Garrett, Linebacker
Garrett has been injured in two of his seasons at Auburn. Garrett missed the first two games last season with a left foot sprain and then broke his foot prior to the Ole Miss game.
This time around, he seems to be in much better health. A much more strict offseason program and renewed confidence in his body has Garrett poised to be better in 2014. Garrett was the MVP in the 2013 Auburn spring game, which helps at the linebacker position because there is no more critical position on the Auburn defense as far as depth. Garrett will receive his chances to showcase his skills as a hybrid safety and run-stopper. That spells 'linebacker' to this old guy.
Shon Coleman, Offensive Line
Unlike Garrett and Whitaker, Coleman wasn't injured last season, but it's his story that can't be told enough. He fought cancer at a very young age, and so far, he looks healthy. He was the very best in his class out of high school at the tackle position and has a great attitude on top of tremendous athletic ability. Even though the NCAA cleared him to play last spring, it didn't look as though he had been completely recovered from the effects of his chemotherapy and other treatments. This season, look for Coleman to stand out at left tackle.