AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn fans won’t see running back Mike Blakely on the field this fall.
The Florida transfer’s NCAA appeal for immediate eligibility was denied, head coach Gene Chizik said Tuesday, meaning the freshman will have to sit out a year, per NCAA transfer rules. He’ll redshirt.
Blakely, a 5-foot-9, 206-pound back who got plenty of reps throughout August practice, will instead help the Tigers as part of the scout team.
“He’s going to have a great year this year helping us win,” Chizik said.
Blakely was a four-star recruit coming out of Manatee High in Bradenton, Fla., last winter, the No. 6 running back nationally according to Rivals.
He committed to Florida when Urban Meyer was the coach and signed with the school after Will Muschamp succeeded him. Blakely enrolled early but never practiced for Florida before deciding to transfer.
He got his outright release from the Gators in early May. He chose to attend Auburn, one of his top choices during the recruiting process, a few weeks later. The Tigers hoped Blakely would provide running back depth behind Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb.
“I would love to see him play obviously for a lot of reasons,” Chizik said. “He’s certainly talented enough to play now.”
A.J. Greene isn’t starting at right tackle, but he’s not complaining. The senior said he’s still feeling the effects of a leg injury he suffered last year against Clemson but sounded upbeat about the team’s future with redshirt freshman Chad Slade as the starter.
“I understood the coaches’ decision,” Greene said. “These guys are my brothers. I’m not going to ever have an upset attitude about what is going on. I’m a team player, I’ve very proud of Chad. I’ve seen him grow a lot.”
Greene came out of nowhere last August to win the starting right tackle job but broke his left tibia and dislocated his ankle against Clemson, keeping him out for the final 11 games.
He said he still has trouble pushing off on the ankle and knows he might not be the same player again. Still, he embraced his role as one of the team’s few veterans, even if he is a backup.
“I still play a big part,” he said. “The way they come out, the attitude. I can be that guy on the sidelines motivating everybody.”
Auburn has so many young defensive backs on the depth chart -- 10 of 13 are sophomores or younger -- that cornerback T’Sharvan Bell calls secondary “Puppyville.”
What does that make him?
“I’m a puppy too,” the junior said. “I’m a first time starter this year just like them, so when I look at you and you look at me, you’ve got to know that we’re in the same boat.”
Bell was encouraged by the youngsters’ progress, even if he knows growing pains are inevitable.
“Everybody gets beat,” he said. “It’s going to happen. It’s just how you respond. They’re going to do a good job responding and not tucking their tail once they get beaten and having a mental breakdown during the game.”
Looking for a game-breaker on offense? Look no further than wide receiver Trovon Reed. “Once he gets the ball, it can be a hitch and he can turn it into a 60-, 70-yard touchdown,” Bell said. Defensive end Dee Ford took freshman Angelo Blackson’s impersonation of him during Rookie Night festivities two weeks ago in stride. “My momma always told me, ‘You’re not doing nothing unless you have haters,’ he said with a laugh. “He got me good. I needed that. It was funny.”