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Dave Martin, Associated Press
Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier pitches the ball during their first day of NCAA fall practice Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011, in Auburn, Ala.

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn coach Gene Chizik isn't just offering the standard recruiting pitch when he touts the immediate and plentiful opportunities for playing time to prospects.

The defending national champions opened preseason camp Wednesday night with just 71 scholarship players — 14 fewer than the NCAA maximum. More than half of those going through camp are freshmen.

No wonder Chizik says the Tigers weren't after spectators. He says, "We recruit them to come in here and play."

And many of them surely will hit the field for the Sept. 3 opener against Utah State and beyond.

The numbers crunch goes beyond the early departures of stars Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, and the offseason dismissal of five players following arrests. Only seven players remain from the 2007 and 2008 signing classes combined.