Consider camp the proving ground.
For each of Auburn’s football players, the practice field is always where coaches are impressed and playing time is earned — but for the team’s two newest Tigers, the window of opportunity is small and only getting smaller.
Graduate transfers and summer arrivals Zach Farrar and Jay Jay Wilson have less than a month to prove their mettle before Auburn’s season opener with Oregon kicks off Aug. 31.
Farrar is a wide receiver transfer from Youngstown State, who originally signed with Oklahoma. Wilson is a tight end, coming to Auburn from Arizona State, where he played both tight end and linebacker.
Both hope to make an instant impact for the team as ready-made contributors with plenty of playing experience — but this camp is key.
They were both targeted as coaches watched closely during Auburn’s first scrimmage of the fall last Thursday, Malzahn said, and will be targeted again when the team goes back into the stadium for a second scrimmage next Wednesday.
They both carry themselves like veterans, Malzahn has said. But to make their way on that field against Oregon, they both need to prove themselves in practice.
“We got good information on both of them,” Malzahn said Thursday, just off the field after that scrimmage. “I don’t think Jay Jay got quite as many opportunities as I was hoping, but sometimes you call a play and they give you a certain look,” he said of the defense across the way. “But we were thinking with him.
“And Zach, I gave him a couple of opportunities, too. So we’ll continue to do that. Matter of fact, next scrimmage, both those guys will be targeted some, too, to see what they can do in the first game.”
Veteran receivers Eli Stove and Will Hastings, who’ve both proven plenty and are both working back from respective ACL surgeries in the spring of 2018, were both limited in the Thursday scrimmage, Malzahn said, in part to give Farrar and other more unknown commodities some evaluation time while also working to keep Stove and Hastings from straining.
Auburn receiver Anthony Schwartz also had surgery on his hand last Monday after injuring it Sunday, and his status for the Oregon game is uncertain.
“Trying to get some depth with not knowing the status with Anthony for the first game,” Malzahn said, of putting Stove and Hastings aside in the scrimmage. “Just trying to give some guys some chances. Zach Farrar was a guy we wanted to learn about, and I think he did some good things.”
He also mentioned Shedrick Jackson, Marquis McClain and Sal Cannella.
“Those guys, we really wanted to give them really good opportunities to make some plays and do some things and that’s going to be really important moving forward,” he said.
Farrar is listed at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. He caught 20 receptions for 307 yards last year at Youngstown State. He is classified as a junior with two years of eligibility left to play out on the Plains.
Wilson is a graduate senior, with one season of eligibility left. He played both tight end and linebacker during a long career at Arizona State, but is working to make an instant impact as a pass-catcher at tight end at Auburn. He’s working with John Samuel Shenker and others at tight end and H-Back.
Farrar first signed with Oklahoma, before transferring to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and then Youngstown State. He played high school football for Texas powerhouse Southlake Carroll.