AUBURN, Ala. — For the first time since last November, the Auburn Tigers are back in action at Jordan Hare-Stadium.
Auburn took the field for pregame warm-ups at Pat Dye Field ahead of its highly anticipated matchup against No. 2 Clemson, and a couple of early questions about the squad came into focus.
The Tigers are now back in the locker room, but here are the main takeaways from their early preparations on the field for Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback Deshaun Watson and the defending ACC champions:
Lineup tweaks at receiver and linebacker
Auburn had quite a few instances of “or” in its first official depth chart on Tuesday. On Saturday night, some of those became clearer, especially at the question-filled positions of receiver and linebacker.
At wide receiver, Auburn announced Marcus Davis, Ryan Davis and Darius Slayton would start. Stanton Truitt or Will Hastings were listed as potential starters at a fourth receiver spot, but Auburn will roll with three to begin tonight’s contest. The 6-foot-2 Slayton brings size to that corps, as the two Davises are listed at 5-foot-9.
The biggest change came at linebacker, where Deshaun Davis, Tre Williams and Darrell Williams receiving the starting nods. Deshaun Davis and Tre’ Williams were listed Tuesday as co-starters at middle linebacker with Darrell Williams taking strong-side linebacker duties.
It appears one of them will slide over to an outside linebacker spot that was projected Tuesday to go either to Montavious Atkinson or Illinois transfer T.J. Neal. Deshaun Davis and Darrell Williams will notch their first career starts Saturday night.
Rotation at quarterback behind Sean White
Auburn didn’t announce who would be the official No. 2 behind sophomore quarterback Sean White between Jeremy Johnson and John Franklin III.
However, in passing skeleton and team drills before the game, the order went White, Johnson and Franklin. Read into that what you will, Auburn fans — there still is a great chance both Johnson and Franklin play in packages tonight behind White.
Additional note: White’s throws had some real zip on them in warm-ups.
No news on the nickel
Johnathan “Rudy” Ford and Tray Matthews were announced as the starters at safety, like they were in Tuesday’s revealed depth chart. Ford also is the starter at nickel, so the Tigers didn’t reveal what will happen at free safety when Ford is the fifth defensive back.
Right now, the backup behind Ford at free safety is junior Nick Ruffin. Joshua Holsey is the backup at nickel back.
Additional depth filled out on the return units
Early in warm-ups, Auburn gave a glimpse at the additional depth behind the two-deep at special teams.
Kerryon Johnson, Ford, Kam Martin, Jason Smith, Stanton Truitt and Kyle Davis practiced returning kickoffs. Johnson and Ford are the returning starters at the position, while Martin and Truitt are the second-teamers. True freshman Davis is back on special teams after his recovery from a preseason injury.
Punt return duties in warm-ups went to starter Marcus Davis, backup Ryan Davis and cornerback Javaris Davis. Javaris Davis is not listed on the two-deep at the position, but several Auburn players have called him one of the fastest players on the team heading into the 2016 season.
Two Auburn legends in the building
Before Auburn took the field for pregame warmups, Tiger fans got a look at two of the greatest to ever suit up for the program on Pat Dye Field.
Former Heisman Trophy winners Cam Newton and Bo Jackson met at midfield and shared an embrace. Newton, the defending NFL MVP, is on the sidelines wearing Jackson’s Auburn jersey along with a unique hat and some eye-opening shoes.
Unfortunately for Auburn fans worried about the Tiger backfield in 2016, neither Newton nor Jackson are eligible to play tonight against the defending national runner-up.