Over the last three seasons, only seven true freshmen have played for the Tigers including two, Andrew McCain and Zach Kutch in 2005, who ended up redshirting the following season.
Last year, tailback Ben Tate and defensive tackle Jermarcus Ricks received limited playing time as true freshmen. Both are now listed as second-team and should play a much bigger role in 2007.
Tuberville says getting most of the 2007 class enrolled in June and working under head strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall was a key. It's also no coincidence that the last time Tuberville and his staff brought in such a highly ranked class, No. 6 in 2002, they played seven true freshmen.
The 2007 class was ranked No. 7 nationally by Rivals.com.
"All of the (classes) have a different personality, but this (2007) group, I think, came in hungry," said Tuberville. "I think they were a little more in-tuned with what they were getting into."
McNeil, one of AU's most highly rated signees of the '07 class, began two-a-days as the second-team safety and never looked back. He should see playing against KSU as a backup safety, in the short yardage and goal line package, and on the punt return and kickoff coverage teams.
"I think we have a tremendous freshman class, a lot of people that can play off each other, and a lot of young talent," said McNeil. "We had a chance to be with coach Yox and getting trained and running and getting ready for camp. That's been a big advantage, plus we got six hours in the summer so it's a head start on classes."
McNeil, Ziemba, Byrum, Harris, Carter and Pugh all arrived in Auburn this summer. Slusher graduated high school early, enrolling at Auburn in January.
Only Slaughter, who arrived a week into training camp, didn't get a head start on his college career. But the No. 1-ranked prep receiver has some built-in advantages including tremendous raw ability and spending last season at Hargrave Military Academy.
"Chris is a natural. He does things easily," said Tuberville. "He's been here two weeks and will have two more weeks. He makes a lot of mistakes mentally, but he's gifted."
McNeil sees that as a good sign for this season and his future on the Plains.
"Overall, we have a young team, not just freshmen coming in, but we have redshirt freshmen that are also going to contribute heavily to the team," said McNeil. "I think we're going get better and better down the line."
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