AUBURN, Ala. — Braden Smith remembers experiencing what Calvin Ashley currently is going through as a true freshman offensive tackle for Auburn football.
The senior from Olathe, Kan., knows how hard it is to make the adjustment from highly touted high school prospect to a potential player on a college line in just a few months.
“When I first came in as a freshman my head was spinning most of the time,” Smith said at SEC Media Days. “It’s something that comes with time and reps in camp, just like anybody.”
According to Smith, the former 5-star recruit has quickly picked up the Auburn offense during summer workouts.
“He’s gotten a head start, I feel like,” Smith said. “He’s really taken it upon himself to learn the system.”
That fast start for Ashley has come with eye-popping size. He arrived at Auburn at a massive 350 pounds, a figure that was listed next to his name on the preseason roster. Only graduate transfer guard Wilson Bell was heavier.
“He’s definitely got the size,” Smith said with a grin. “I don’t think I’ve seen anyone as big as him coming in.”
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said that number has gone down since Ashley arrived at Auburn in May. Ashley has lost some weight, and Malzahn doesn’t think it’ll be a problem for him this fall.
“I think he’s lost something like 20, 21 pounds since he’s been here,” Malzahn said. “He’s a big guy, though. You think back at Greg Robinson, we talked about losing to 305. He was a big guy, and Calvin‘s the same way. He’s in a good spot for a freshman.”
Malzahn has repeatedly referenced Robinson when talking about Ashley. Robinson, a former No. 2 overall NFL draft pick, was a dominant left tackle for the Tigers in 2013. Coaches think Ashley could reach those heights at Auburn.
But making an instant impact as a freshman tackle is tough, especially on the left side of the line. That blind-side responsibility usually falls on the shoulders of veteran linemen, and Auburn has a returning starter there in Darius James.
That doesn’t mean Ashley will be an automatic redshirt in 2017. Malzahn’s new “big guy” on campus will get a chance to carve out some playing time when camp opens next Monday.
“I’m not going to say he’ll get first-team reps, but he’s a talented young man,” Malzahn said. “We’ll give him a good look early in fall camp.”