AUBURN, Ala. — When media members watched Auburn kick and punt returns during football practice Wednesday, some usual suspects trotted out to the outdoor practice field.
Stephen Roberts and Ryan Davis highlighted the punt returners. Eli Stove and Javaris Davis worked on kickoffs, but they were joined by a newcomer — true freshman wide receiver Noah Igbinoghene.
While most freshmen stayed with their position groups and observed drills during the 20-minute viewing window, Igbinoghene got work at a position where he could contribute in 2017.
“The first thing you notice about Noah is he’s extremely fast,” said junior running back Kerryon Johnson,another potential kick returner. “Just from seeing him, I’d probably put him in top 10 on the team in terms of speed.”
On a team with experienced speedsters, Igbinoghene (pronounced Ig-bin-og-in-ee) has elite quickness. Both of his parents are former track stars from Nigeria, and his mother, Faith, was a two-time Olympian with a bronze medal in the 4 x 100 relay.
At Hewitt-Trussville (Ala.) High School, Igbinoghene won six state high school track and field titles. He’ll be a member of the track team at Auburn, as he was second in the nation in the triple jump as a high school senior.
That athleticism was apparent from the start. But Igbinoghene’s skills as a wide receiver have made him jump out to coaches and teammates in his first week of football practices at Auburn.
“I think Noah has done a really nice job at wideout, and I’ve noticed him,” offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey said Wednesday. “He can really run, which we knew, but his ball skills have been really impressive.”
Igbinoghene recorded 1,700 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns during his senior season at Hewitt-Trussville. He proved with the Huskies he was more than just a straight line threat at wide receiver, and Johnson sees that potential in him at Auburn.
“He’s fast, but he’s not just a go-ball, post, deep-post kind of guy,” Johnson said. “I think he really wants to learn how to run routes.”
Igbinoghene will have to make an impression to get playing time at wideout, as the Tigers returned four of their top five receivers from a season ago. Nate Craig-Myers, John Franklin III and Marquis McClain are also competing for reps out wide in 2017.
But what Igbinoghene has shown in the first three practices of fall camp has convinced at least one veteran he can contribute as a true freshman.
“The experience and the strength will come with it,” Johnson said. “Figuring out college DBs, SEC, all that grabbing and physical play comes with it. But for now, I think he’s done very good. … He’s come a long way just from what I’ve seen. I work with him as much as other receivers do.
“He definitely has a chance.”