Key freshmen to influence Auburn offense

Who’s next? That’s the question asked by so many college football fans this time of year. Who’s the next star going to be? For some fans, they’re more excited to see the incoming freshmen for the first time rather than the players who are already on campus.

It’s no different at Auburn, where Gus Malzahn and his staff signed a top-10 recruiting class this past February in their first full year together. Now it’s time to take the field, and Malzahn believes a handful of newcomers, true freshmen included, could play when the Tigers open the season at home against Arkansas.

Over the weekend, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee echoed Malzahn’s thoughts and praised the incoming freshmen.

“Overall, we’re very pleased with our freshman class on the offensive side of the ball,” Lashlee said. “I feel like all those guys are what we thought they were or maybe even more.”

Here’s a look at five freshmen on offense who either impressed during fall camp or have a chance to play this season.

Note: This is true freshmen only, which is why junior college transfer D'haquille Williams isn’t on the list.

RB Racean Thomas: Thomas was the highest-ranked recruit in Auburn’s 2014 class, and despite a crowded backfield, he has the best chance to play early. Thomas, who arrived in the summer, impressed the coaches during camp and should only get better as the year goes on. Fellow freshman running back Kamryn Pettway also had a good camp, but Thomas is the name to know. Don’t be surprised if he’s the lead back by the end of the season.

OT Braden Smith: Lashlee refers to him as the Hulk; Reese Dismukes thinks he looks more like Ivan Drago from "Rocky IV." Regardless of what you call him, Smith is a physical specimen. He might be one of the strongest players on the team, and he’s just a freshman. He’s currently taking reps behind Shon Coleman at left tackle, but he can play anywhere and provides a safety valve for the Tigers up front.

HB Jakell Mitchell: It’s been little more than a year since Mitchell tore his ACL, forcing him to miss his senior high school season, but you wouldn’t know it based on his performance in fall camp. He’s blown away the coaches with his athleticism, and though he still needs to add weight, he gives Auburn a different look at the H-back position.

WR Stanton Truitt: Unlike the other freshmen on this list, Truitt had the luxury of arriving in January and going through spring practice. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he plays a position in which Auburn is loaded. However, there’s a good chance the 5-foot-9, 175-pound dynamo still will find his way onto the field, possibly as a return man.

QB Sean White: Is White going to play this year? The coaches sure hope not. They want to redshirt him, if possible. So why is he on this list? Simple: He was one of the top freshman performers in fall camp and did enough that Malzahn named him the No. 3 quarterback behind Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson. White clearly has a bright future.