Auburn Wraps Up Fall Camp, Lashlee Discusses Freshmen


Jan 2, 2014; Newport Beach, CA, USA; Auburn Tigers offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee at the 2014 BCS National Championship press conference at Newport Beach Marriott. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The fall camp portion of the 2014 Auburn football season is now over. Following Sunday’s practice, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee met with the media for around 20 minutes to discuss a wide range of topics relating to the Tigers and the 20 days of practice Auburn has had to this point. You can view the press conference here.

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Among the first things Lashlee mentioned, which is of course good news for Tigers fans, is that the team suffered no major injuries during practice itself. From there, the offensive coordinator fielded many questions about the youngest players on the field.

Lashlee said he is “very pleased with our freshman class on the offensive side of the ball,” and why wouldn’t he be? There are at least a handful of players that can help the Tigers put points on the scoreboard this season.

But, among the most discussed players on Sunday was a true freshman that may not see the field in 2014. The quarterback’s coach praised Sean White for his physical tools, as well as his ability to come into the mix with three veterans quarterbacks on the roster and to compete with them immediately.

“He had to play catch up and go at their speed,” Lashlee said. And the results have been impressive. According to Lashlee, White is more athletic than many would think – he has the ability to extend a play, and has “great anticipation.”

“He’s not ready to play tomorrow, but he’s been very impressive not only throwing the ball, but mentally from a maturity standpoint as a freshman he’s handled a lot of things,” Lashlee said. “It’s kind of one of those deals where you can travel (White) if Nick and Jeremy stay healthy and are playing well. You would love to not waste a (redshirt) year for him to come in at the end of a game to hand the ball off.”

The coach said that if the Tigers were in a situation where they had a big lead in a game and wanted a third-string quarterback to get some reps, they would probably turn to junior Jonathan Wallace instead. When asked by a reporter why make a big deal out of White being the third team quarterback if the hope was to not have him play, Lashlee gave some insight into the thinking of the coaching staff.

Jan 2, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Team Highlight running back Racean Thomas (8) runs with the ball during the second half at Tropicana Field. Team Highlight defeated the Team Nitro 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

“You’ve got to prepare your team, and Sean has got to prepare,” the offensive coordinator said. “He’s going to take a third-team-type reps, which isn’t a lot in a game week, but there are still times when you take those. He needs to know. Jonathan needs to know. The team needs to know where we stand. We’ve got to have a plan going in. He’s going to take reps and prepare to be the guy in that spot. We feel like he’s earned that right.”

Of course, White hasn’t been the only true freshman to catch the eye of the coaching staff. Lashlee has also been impressed with tight end Jakell Mitchell.

“He needs to put on some weight to be an every-down player at the spot we play him in our league, but he’s even more athletic than I thought he would be,” Lashlee said. “Coming off an injury where he didn’t play for a year, that has been a really pleasant surprise.”

Mitchell is listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, which is quite slim for a tight end. However, he still packs a punch – and courage, according to Lashlee.

“He’s what, 215 pounds? And he’ll hit the biggest guy on our team in the mouth as hard as he can and not back down,” Lashlee said. “He’s very athletic, can really fly and really good in space.”

The coach mentioned that Mitchell, much like every freshman, needs to get a better handle on the mental aspect of the game, but he has come a lot way since the first week of camp.

“Now, at the end of camp, I think he’s got a chance to help us,” Lashlee said. “In what role and capacity that will be will depend on injuries and what not, he’s definitely somebody in the mix.”

Offensive lineman Braden Smith, who Lashlee calls “The Hulk,” is physically ready to help the Tigers this year. Lashlee said Smith “can really move and bend for a big guy.” Smith has worked only at tackle at Auburn, but played guard in high school. Lashlee said that Smith could play either position, but the plan is to put him at a spot, and as a freshman, hopefully not move him. So far, that spot has been left tackle.

“I think Braden Smith will help us,” Lashlee said. “He’s not starting right now but he’s going to be in our two-deep. There’s no secret there and I think he’s probably on some (special) teams.”

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  • Another true freshman that could make an impact is Roc Thomas, who is an “all-around back,” according to Lashlee, but may not physically ready to be an every down back yet.

    “He’s like any freshman, he’s not going to be as physically fit now as he will be in year or two years,” Lashlee said. “So is he physically ready to carry it like Tre (Mason) did 30 times in a game? Well, no.” Luckily for the Tigers, Thomas won’t need to play every down.

    The team has Monday off as school starts on the Auburn campus. Then, the focus will turn to Arkansas on Tuesday as the Tigers prepare to host the Razorbacks on August 30. Therefore, we probably won’t hear much more about these true freshmen for a while as the coaches work to prepare the players that will be counted on for the bulk of the playing time.

    And that’s a good thing. It means we’re almost to game week.