Monday, June 8, 2009

Anticipated Debuts

Yesterday afternoon I made my way over to Turner Field to watch prized prospect Tommy Hanson's Major League debut.

The Braves won 8-7 with three eighth-inning runs and five RBIs from Chipper Jones.

Though Hanson looked sharp at times -- he retired the first 10 batters he faced -- a trio of two-run home runs marred his first outing.

Hanson's debut made me think about which new players fans are most anxious to see.

Here's a rundown:

7) Dontae Aycock, RB -- The four-star tailback might have created Onterio McCalebb-like buzz had he arrived on campus this spring. Instead he'll enter the fall needing a strong first few weeks to make an impact as a true freshman. Coaches seem likely to try Aycock in the Wildcat formation.

6) Nick Fairley, DT -- Auburn needs depth at defensive tackle. Fortunately for the Tigers, Fairley, a junior college transfer, should be able to come in and play immediately. Since Fairley didn't have the grades for early enrollment, he will need to catch defensive line coach Tracy Rocker's eye early in the process.

5) Emory Blake, WR -- One of two Signing Day surprises, Blake gave Auburn fans something to cheer when he selected the Tigers over Texas Tech and Colorado. The incoming freshman certainly has the pedigree since his father is former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake. Receivers coach Trooper Taylor has made no secret of the fact that freshmen will get opportunities to win starting jobs. Blake should certainly be in the mix.

4) Onterio McCalebb, RB -- All spring, McCalebb proved to be the home-run threat Auburn's offense has lacked in recent years. McCalebb might still need some work on fundamentals at the college level, but his speed makes him an immediate game-changer. Look for the Tigers to get the ball into his hands in a variety of ways as a true freshman.

3) Tyrik Rollison, QB -- Honestly Rollison should be at the bottom of this list. However, I'm doing this list based on which players I think fans will be most eager to see. Based on two factors, I think Rollison deserves this spot: 1) Fans always look for the next great thing at the position (see: Burns, Kodi) and 2) The position is unsettled and neither Burns nor Caudle has done anything to solidify the position. As an incoming freshman, Rollison is well behind the pair in the quarterback competition. The only way I see Rollison playing a significant role in the offense is if Auburn suffers an abysmal season and runs through quarterbacks. He could, however, play a smaller role with a limited playbook.

2) Eltoro Freeman, LB -- This JUCO linebacker moves quickly and apparently hits hard. He is exactly the type of weak-side player defensive coordinator Ted Roof needs for his defense to succeed. Freeman's speed and aggressiveness make him a good fit. Now he just needs to prove he can make the reads quickly and accurately and take good angles to the football. The sophomore should make an immediate impact at Auburn.

1) DeAngelo "Voodoo" Benton, WR -- Another surprise signing in February, Benton earns his nickname from the voodoo magic he performs on opposing defenses. Benton enters with full eligibility as a true freshman. A former top receiver in the country, Taylor said he recruited Benton in 2007 when he was a high school senior. Benton didn't play football last year, instead settling his academic situation. However, Taylor and the entire Auburn message board community has astronomical expectations for Voodoo.

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