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Auburn football: Freshman wide receivers Antonio Goodwin, Shaun Kitchens impress Tigers

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s coaches wanted to see how their freshmen would react to a game situation when the team scrimmaged for the first time Wednesday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Two freshmen receivers seized the moment.

Antonio Goodwin and Shaun Kitchens shined in the closed scrimmage, highlighting a strong day for the offense that featured several explosive plays.

“Just trying to find out who are some of the younger guys that can step up and help us,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “I thought both of those guys … showed up tonight.”

Goodwin, a 6-foot-1, 173 pounder from Atlanta, had two touchdowns and more than 100 yards receiving, running back Mario Fannin said.

“Most of the time, freshmen come in and are overwhelmed by everything, but he came in and he just tried to calm himself down and made some big plays,” Fannin said.

“The guy is phenomenal,” wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said. “He can go get the football. He’s not afraid.”

Kitchens, a 6-foot-3, 217-pounder from College Park, Ga., made a one-handed catch diving toward the sideline.

“It got the whole offense geeked up and jumping up and down,” Taylor said.

Kitchens also stood out as a blocker, de-cleating a player on a kick return, according to Taylor. That physical style has set the part-time receiver, part-time H-back apart in the early going.

“The guy is phenomenal athlete,” Taylor said. “I know this much: we’re going to be glad that we signed that one.”

Senior Kodi Burns also made several plays, a positive sign for an offense that needs its passing game to step up.

“We’re not going to line it up and run at anybody 80 plays in a row,” Taylor said. “We have to be able to back those safeties up and back them out of the box and make some plays. If they can put eight, nine guys in the box, it’s going to be a long season for us.”

Auburn rotated all of its quarterbacks, with redshirt freshman Clint Moseley getting a good number of reps. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn was not ready to list a pecking order behind frontrunner Cam Newton.

Although the offense had the upper hand, it wasn’t all good. While the Tigers minimized turnovers, Malzahn couldn’t look past penalties and missed assignments.

“I don’t think until you get those things corrected you can be too pleased,” Malzahn said.

Defensively, Chizik again praised freshman end Corey Lemonier, as well as tackle Jeffrey Whitaker.

Linebackers Craig Stevens and Josh Bynes said a trio of freshman defensive backs, safeties Demetruce McNeal and Ryan Smith and cornerback Jonathon Mincy, had a solid night.

Senior safety Zac Etheridge, who is easing back into full contact following last year’s serious neck injury, did not scrimmage.

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