AUBURN — Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has decided the speed and athleticism of Noah Igbinoghene isn’t doing the program much good on the bench.
The sophomore speedster will see a significant amount of time at cornerback as spring practices begin on Auburn’s campus. The Tigers head coach confirmed the move Thursday in his media conference before the program’s first spring workout.
“We really feel like he’s got a special talent,” Malzahn said. “We were very impressed with him last year in special teams and just want to make sure that he has the best chance of being on the field.”
As a true freshman last season, Igbinoghene caught six passes for 24 yards as a backup wide receiver and had 571 kick return yards. Igbinoghene had 174 yards on six kick returns in the loss to Central Florida in the Peach Bowl and had a 70-yard kickoff return against Ole Miss this past season. The former four-star prospect from Hewitt-Trussville High School is the son of a pair of Olympic track athletes but has yet to find a regular role on the field. Starting this spring, he’ll look to find that permanent position while working with new Auburn assistant coach Marcus Woodson at cornerback.
Malzahn laid out the plan for the 5-foot-11, 186-pound athlete as Auburn will have four practices before students are dismissed from campus for spring break.
“What we’re going to do is the first four practices, to be fair to him, is we’re going to let him get the fundamentals and foundation of corner and then me and him will get back together after the break and we’ll determine how much he does of both,” Malzahn said. “The good thing is he’s got a full year under his belt at wide receiver. We were very deep at wide receiver and we got everybody coming back and we recruited some guys. Just feel like from a coaches standpoint that he’s a very good football player. I think his upside is very high and we got to find a way to try and get him on the field.”
Auburn has brought every scholarship receiver back from when it ended the 2017 season and added four more wide receivers to its 2018 signing class, including early enrollee Shedrick Jackson.
Malzahn said Thursday there’s “no doubt” Igbinoghene could have a role on both sides of the line-of-scrimmage by the time preseason camp opens in August.
Igbinoghene placed seventh in the triple jump at the SEC Indoor Track & Field Championships last month with a measurement of 15.24m/50-0 and his spot in the individual event standings was the highest in the last 20 years by an Auburn freshman in triple jump.
The last player at Auburn that saw action in a college game on both offense and defense was Rudy Ford in 2013 when he had one tackle each as a defensive back against Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic but also had a total of 73 yards on six carries and a touchdown as a tailback.
“He’s very open to it,” Malzahn said Thursday about Igbinoghene playing both offense and defense. “If he does stick with the cornerback position, you’ll see him play two ways because he’s got the ability to put the ball in his hands with some things too.”