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Is Calvin Ashley the answer to Auburn’s tackle issues?
Calvin Ashley. Is he the answer to our Tackle issues? (I know he’s listed at RT for the spring but still)
— Ben 3.0 (@B_Y_3) March 22, 2018
AUBURN, Ala. — Of all the newcomers Auburn fans are eager to see take the field and contribute during 2018, Calvin Ashley is arguably one of the most important.
Departures of Braden Smith, Austin Golson, Darius James and the somewhat limited experience of returners means Ashley could play a critical role. After dealing with injuries and getting his footing as a freshman, teammates believe Ashley can be a starter in the SEC. Yes, he even has the potential to be the solution to the tackle problems that plagued Auburn throughout last season.
“I think with Calvin, he has all the physical ability,” offensive guard Mike Horton said. “It’s just mental with him. I think that’s what he’s going to do this year and this spring I think that’s what he’s gotten better at.”
Ashley arrived on campus physically built for Division I football — maybe even a little too big. According to Horton, Ashley trimmed down, losing about 20 pounds and is ready to make the jump to full-time starter. On the roster, he’s listed at 6-foot-6, 350 pounds.
Even during his first year on the Plains, teammates saw the potential. After all, there was a reason Ashley was a 5-star prospect out of high school and a big get for the Tigers. Still, should fans be concerned that such a talented player couldn’t help much during his freshman season? No.
Auburn fans were spoiled with Smith and probably under appreciated Golson. Horton also stepped up and Marquell Harrell played well. Ashley did what a new guy is supposed to do.
“I mean, I don’t really know because I wasn’t into his head too much, but from me observing him I could see that he’s a great player but he wasn’t ready to take that next step yet,” Horton said about 2017. “He had like some injuries and stuff going on, but I think now he can definitely take that next step. He’s past that stage. He’s not there anymore.”
Those that were recruited by and are more familiar with offensive line coach J.B. Grimes think he and Ashley are a perfect match. Ashley has a short amount of time to transform into a dependable starter. Now that he’s under Grimes’ care and guidance, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be ready to take on SEC defensive fronts.
All of the Tigers’ returners — that includes a quarterback such as Jarrett Stidham, a talented group of receivers and an impressive group of running backs — won’t matter much if the offensive line is flimsy or full of weak links. Make no mistake, Ashley’s importance is apparent to everyone at Auburn. He’s not just a possible solution. He has to be the answer.
“With Coach Grimes, I think Coach Grimes will be a great coach for him because he’s really going to push him to that next level he needs to take to be a great player,” Horton said. “I think Calvin’s going to be great. He’s showed me a lot recently just now.
“You know, everybody has their freshman, you know, just coming in you don’t really know what to expect yet so you’re just kind of feeling around, but I think he’s ready to take that next step.”
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