AUBURN – Coach Tommy Thigpen came to Auburn last year with big plans for his safeties, but what he really needed were crutches, a neck brace and lots of aspirin.
Injuries wiped out his starters.
“Last season,” Thigpen says, “was a debacle.”
Thigpen has welcomed all the injured players back, plus a few freshmen, and he says now he has real competition for starting assignments.
“Now, you’ve got numbers. You’re two deep at positions, and you’ve got young guys trying to compete for jobs.”
Thigpen didn’t have that last season, not even at the start, after losing Mike McNeil and Aairon Savage to season-ending injuries. Zac Etheridge went down before the season was done.
Things were so uncertain last season that rookie Daren Bates, who wasn’t even on campus when fall practice began, ended up starting all 13 games at free safety; and Demond Washington, a cornerback, was moved to safety after Etheridge suffered a neck injury.
Bates and Washington, who started the final four games at safety last year, aren’t even safeties this season. Bates was moved to linebacker and Washington is back at cornerback.