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Auburn football: Tigers welcome 25 newcomers

AUBURN, Ala. — Speaking to reporters only hours before taking the field for his first official college practice, Auburn freshman wide receiver Trovon Reed admitted to being anxious.

Not that there was much he could do about it.

“I’m nervous, but it’s too late to get nervous,” he said. “You’ve got to be ready. … This is the time I have to step up.”

The Tigers welcomed 25 newcomers to the team — 24 freshmen and junior college transfer Joel Bonomolo — during their first practice Wednesday, a two-hour workout in shorts and helmets on the fields behind the athletics complex. The veterans worked on the fields first, with the newcomers doing conditioning drills at the John H. Watson Fieldhouse. The groups switched for the second half, which head coach Gene Chizik did last year and plans to continue in the next week.

“When you start with 100 guys, sometimes those guys get lost in the shuffle,” Chizik said. “So this is our kind of way to be able to give them a better look.”

Chizik hopes to get the new class up to speed quickly. He said two weeks ago that because of the team’s ongoing depth concerns, he expects the newcomers to contribute this season.

Most of the freshmen got a head start this summer by attending voluntary workouts run by strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall. Players refer to it as being “Yoxercized,” their grueling introduction to college football.

“Yoxercized … whoo!” freshman defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker said. “That’s all I’m going to say about that one. But we worked pretty hard. I felt good about the summer workouts.”

The three freshmen chosen to speak to reporters Wednesday — Reed, Whitaker and linebacker LaDarius Owens — embraced the pressure to get on the field immediately.

“It’s pressure that I like, pressure to get better, help you grow up quicker,” Owens said. “Not so much sit back and relax and wait your turn. It’s like you have to get ready, prepare, be more serious about it, catch on quicker, take time to study and listen and pay attention.”

Reed and Whitaker didn’t want to say they are ready for action until they could prove it on the field.

“Mentally, I think I am. Physically, I think I am,” said Reed, who played quarterback his final three years at Thibodaux (La.) High but will play receiver at Auburn. “You won’t know until game time. If you freeze up on game day, that’s it.”

Whitaker is withholding judgment for a while.

“I’m the type of player that I’ve got to see that once I get in pads,” Whitaker said. “Right now, we’re in shorts. Everybody looks good right now. You separate the men from the boys once you put on full pads. Can I play? I’m trying to find out.”

The adjustments go beyond the football field, such as attending a college class versus one in high school.

“My first day, I was waiting for the bell to ring,” Reed said. “When I saw everyone walk up and get out and was like, ‘Where they going?’ It was a big adjustment for me.”

But since arriving, Reed’s opinion of the campus has only gone up.

“Auburn is not what I expected; it’s better than what I expected,” he said. “I done saw things that I didn’t see during recruiting that I really like about Auburn.”

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