AUBURN, Ala. — Freshman Devan Barrett isn’t listed as one of Auburn’s top two running backs, and Gus Malzahn said earlier this week he wasn’t the No. 3 option, either.
But Malzahn had high praise for Barrett on the Thursday night edition of the Tiger Talk radio show, his final media appearance before Auburn’s season opener against Georgia Southern on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network).
Malzahn said both sophomore running back Kam Martin — who he said was the No. 3 back Tuesday — and redshirt freshman Malik Miller did well in the preseason. However, the newcomer got singled out by the coach Thursday night.
“Kam Martin has had a good fall camp, and Malik has, too,” Malzahn said. “Both of those guys are veteran guys. Then the young one [Barrett] — he’s got a different gear than the others. He just needs experience. I think he’s going to be an outstanding player.”
In his Tuesday news conference, Malzahn said Barrett was “talented” and that “he could be very specific on some of the things” he does when he gets in the game.
Barrett has a solid chance to play on offense against Georgia Southern on Saturday, and Malzahn’s comments make it seem like he could fit into certain packages and situations. Barrett was praised for his speed, natural receiving ability and a willingness to be physical in pass protection during his first camp.
Earlier this month, Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey said Barrett was one of four true freshmen who could contribute for his unit.
“He’s getting a really hard look as a running back,” Lindsey said.
Malzahn said Thursday evening Barrett will “get chances” to return kickoffs this Saturday with fellow freshman Noah Igbinoghene and sophomore receiver Eli Stove. Auburn is slated to start junior running back Kerryon Johnson and sophomore cornerback Javaris Davis at kick returner.
Offensively, Malzahn feels confident Barrett could plug into the offense in place of Johnson, Miller, Martin or returning starter Kamryn Pettway and not miss a single beat.
“I think we feel pretty comfortable about putting any of those guys in the game and being able to execute the offense,” Malzahn said. “That’s always a plus.”