What can Auburn expect to get out of Keldric Faulk as a true freshman?
Few players have made as much spring noise as the crown jewel of the 2023 class. But turning that into production won't be easy.
JACK Keldric Faulk (Austin Perryman/Auburn Athletics)
No one should be surprised that the hype train is already rolling for Keldric Faulk.
After all, Faulk was Auburn’s top signee in the 2023 recruiting class — a top-75 recruit and top-10 defensive lineman nationally who flipped from Florida State on National Signing Day. At No. 74 overall, the Tigers’ highest-rated pickup out of high school since Tank Bigsby in the 2020 class.
For a new staff led by Hugh Freeze, Faulk was exactly the type of big-name swing that Auburn needed to launch its new era.
“Keldric Faulk,” Freeze said on National Signing Day in December. “Man, what a battle. Probably spent more time on this one than any. Just loved this kid.”
When it came to being an instant-impact signee, Faulk pretty much hit for the cycle before he even arrived on campus.
His recruiting ranking spoke for itself. He was the subject of a high-profile recruiting battle. He was going to enroll early and go through spring practices. And he was also going to play a position of great need, as the Tigers lost top pass-rushers Derick Hall, Colby Wooden and Eku Leota all to the NFL this offseason.
Then Faulk opened spring ball on the Plains listed at a monstrous 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds.
“He's just a young kid right now, but he's what they're supposed to look like,” Freeze said earlier this month.
On the practice field, Faulk turned heads with his imposing power and athletic gifts. During a recent practice, he hit a blocking sled so hard that he turned it completely sideways.
“He's special,” defensive lineman Jeffrey M’ba said last week. “He's special. I watch him. The way he plays, he plays hard. He gives everything he's got every single time. I don't even think he's lost one 1-on-1. … That tells you how good he is.
“He's not afraid to line up against anybody. All he thinks about is being great. Being around a kid like this is cool.”
Auburn coaches aren’t exactly hiding it: Faulk will play as a true freshman. His talent is too great, and the Tigers need all the help they can get at a new pass-rushing Jack linebacker spot that is starting virtually from scratch.
“I think he's going to be a phenomenal player, and I think he's going to have to play early,” Freeze said. “He's a great kid to coach and a prized recruit for us in that first class.”
But, as defensive coordinator Ron Roberts — who is essentially Faulk’s position coach, as he’s in charge of the Jacks — said Tuesday afternoon, the staff will “try not to have the expectation too high on him” in his first season of college football.
And that’s important, because it’s usually tough for a true freshman to carry an SEC-level pass rush right away.