AUBURN, Ala. — After missing three weeks with a hand injury, wide receiver DeAngelo Benton participated in Auburn’s practice Wednesday.
The sophomore from Bastrop, La., had a cast on his right hand until recently, the result of a pass that jammed his fingers.
Fellow wideout Darvin Adams said Benton broke a bone in his hand.
“The month that he had off set him back some, but he’ll work really hard to come back and he’s going to do whatever he has to do to help our team,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “He came out today with a really good attitude and did whatever we asked him to do.”
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Benton was working behind Adams at one of the outside receiver spots prior to the injury.
Auburn’s coaches plan to slowly get Benton back in the fold, meaning his availability for the opener against Arkansas State game is unclear.
“We’re not throwing that many balls at him in practice right now,” Chizik said. “It’s going to be kind of getting back into the process, as you imagine it would be.”
Benton had six catches for 88 yards last season, all against Furman, a Football Championship Subdivision school.
On the list
Senior running back Mario Fannin was one of six SEC players named to the watch list for the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation’s top running back.
Other SEC candidates for the award are Alabama’s Mark Ingram, Florida’s Jeff Demps, Arkansas’ Dennis Johnson, Kentucky’s Derrick Locke and LSU’s Richard Murphy.
“I consider it a blessing to be on that list of nominees,” Fannin said. “You just have to thank your O-line and coaching staff. They’re the reason you really got there on that list.”
Fannin, who was named the team’s starter this year after playing H-back last season, ran for 296 yards on 34 carries last year, an 8.4-yard average. He was also second on the team with 42 catches for 413 yards and three touchdowns.
Fannin could reach 1,000 career yards in rushing, receiving and returns this year. He enters the season with 971 career rushing yards, 812 receiving yards and 944 return yards.
Safeties coach Tommy Thigpen said he hasn’t determined which two safeties will start in the opener. He has plenty of candidates, the most likely to start being Zac Etheridge, Aairon Savage and Mike McNeil.
“We’re going to let those guys compete the next two weeks,” he said. “The best man will win.”
Etheridge and Ikeem Means are at strong safety, while Savage and McNeil are at free safety. Drew Cole is the fifth option, although it sounds like all five will play.
“As the season goes on, you’d like to have a nice little rotation to give guys a breather and not run them down,” Thigpen said.
“The more guys we can play, the better off we’ll be in the long run.”
Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen has dealt with a right shoulder injury recently. The sophomore had a wrap on it Tuesday during practice.
“It’s new in that it’s happened in college,” he said. “It happened a few times in high school. We’re just trying to keep it safe.”
Lutzenkirchen, who replaces Tommy Trott in the lineup, has done some work as an H-back, fullback and slot receiver this August, but his primary focus has been to work as a classic, hand-on-the-ground tight end.
He had five catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns last year.
Still no news
Auburn still has not announced a starting right tackle or backup quarterback.
“We’re getting closer,” Chizik said. “You are tired of hearing that, aren’t you? But we really are.”