AU freshmen include plenty of DBs

Published 12:41 am Sunday, August 3, 2008

AUBURN – Harry Adams was on campus all of two days before Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville asked him if he would move to defensive back.

“I have no problem with it,” the high school receiver said.

Neither did DeRon Furr, who converted from quarterback to safety after the spring. For freshmen looking for quick playing time for the Tigers this fall, DB might be the place to be on a team with few pressing needs.

There was an abundance of candidates among the group of 18 signees and nine invited walk-ons who officially reported Friday afternoon, the eve of the first practice of fall camp.

Four other signees enrolled in January while defensive lineman Andre Wadley, who was hospitalized for undisclosed reasons after a summer workout, did not report Friday.

Counting Furr, who participated in spring practice as a quarterback, there were eight defensive backs among the group of newcomers.

The Tigers open preseason practice Saturday morning in preparation for the Aug. 30 opener against Louisiana-Monroe.

The biggest needs lie in secondary depth, where Eric Brock, Patrick Lee and Jonathan Wilhite have departed.

The group didn’t include two key signees from junior colleges, quarterback Chris Todd and defensive end Raven Gray. Both enrolled in time for spring practice, though Gray didn’t participate because he was recovering from knee surgery.

Linebacker Da’Shaun Barnes also participated in the spring.

The coaches had broached the subject of moving to cornerback shortly before Adams arrived in Auburn on June 8. He played the position “a couple of times” at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“Nobody caught a ball on me,” Adams said.

Receiver Phillip Pierre-Louis said he jumped at the chance to play in Auburn’s newly implemented spread offense, which he said takes advantage of his speed and ability to make defenders miss in the open field.

“I knew in high school that if I played in the spread offense, that would be the best offense for my abilities,” Pierre-Louis said. “When I found out that Auburn was going to turn to the spread offense, I was extremely happy. That was one of the biggest reasons why I committed to Auburn.”

The only offensive line signee, Jermaine Johnson, and four other signees are attending prep school or junior college after failing to qualify. Running back Reggie Hunt has not been cleared to play by the NCAA.

The rest of the freshmen were dealing with the jitters of getting ready for their first college practice.

“There’s got to be a little nervousness,” running back Eric Smith said. “Anybody who says they’re not nervous must not love football. I’m a little nervous right now, getting ready to step on the field for the first time in college.”