Catching up, quickly, with some of the developments and quotes coming out of Auburn practice since Saturday’s opener. Reporting comes courtesy of Andy Bitter, Jay Tate, Andrew Gribble, and Charles Goldberg. You know the drill by now:
— We know what we expected to know at this point about Craig Stevens’ suspension/disappearance, which is to say: nothing. Not what he’s done to get into Chizik’s doghouse, not how long he’ll be gone, not even whether his sudden lack of presence on Twitter (aside from his statement that he’d be back soon) was staff-inflicted. The Chiznick has never been forthcoming in the least about his disciplinary actions, and probably even less so when–as there is now–there’s a tiny bit of competitive advantage to be gained from not telling Auburn’s opponents if they’ll be facing one of our best defensive players or not. In most cases I wish Chizik was a little more open with information, but here, I rather like that the fort is still closed to outsiders.
The guess here at WBE (in line with what we’ve heard) is that Stevens misses this week’s game but returns for Clemson. We’ll see.
— Luper’s take on Mario Fannin’s night was interesting, as he confirmed that Fannin sat out some time because of his fumble but added that he would have gone back in at tailback if the game had been close. So, as you might think, one fumble doesn’t have him necessarily looking up at Dyer and McCalebb in the pecking order.
Unfortunately, Luper either didn’t answer or wasn’t asked the more pressing question: why did Fannin only get two first-half carries to begin with? I’m expecting Fannin to return to his place as the starting tailback and designated No. 1 this week, after hearing Luper verify he got pulled primarily because the game lapsed into garbage time. Maybe after restricting to zone read to mostly Newton/McCalebb last week, Malzahn wants Newton/Fannin to be a wrinkle this week. But it also won’t be a surprise at this point to see Dyer usurp him for good. The first-half carry distribution against MSU will be very interesting.
— Chizik on the defense: “We have to be much better.” I think that about sums it up. Sometimes coaches are upset with things that aren’t really worth anyone else getting upset about–Malzahn’s response to penalties in a scrimmage dominated by the offense, for instance–but in this case, I think the fact that Chizik wants a “much better” defense means it’s all right for the rest of us to want a “much better” defense as well. (That said, are people honestly saying Ted Roof ought to be fired? Already? That’s madness.)
— In case you were wondering about whether Auburn had taken the opportunity to start Mississippi State preparation during fall camp, Chizik confirmed they had. Which in turn makes me wonder if they prepared for Arkansas St. much at all. If Chizik’s willing to admit they did, in fact, look ahead a little bit … doesn’t that mean that the truth could be that they looked ahead a lot?
— More on that same theme and the change in scheme from Week 1 to Week 2, from Roof:
“They didn’t do everything the first week, just like we didn’t,” Roof said.
So, yes, it’s safe to assume there are lots of wrinkles on both sides of the ball we have yet to see.
— Good news on the injury front: Trovon Reed should make his debut this week. Unfortunately, I think it’s outweighed by the bad news: Chris Davis is “day-by-day” and probably can’t be counted on to recover by Thursday.
Sooooo … who’s the fourth corner? Davis is out; Mincy is sharing a doghouse with Stevens; Anthony Morgan and Ryan White have been on the scout team and Morgan’s been moonlighting on offense. State’s a spread team that will probably flirt with four- and five-wide sets; a dimeback isn’t a position that can just get blown off.
But I doubt Morgan or White will see any action, so the likely solution is likely to just move Etheridge or Savage down to corner and bring in McNeil–who Thigpen had a surprising amount of praise for in the aftermath–to play safety.
— I thought Shoemaker could have gotten a little more distance on his punts. But the coaches are saying he did a good job by skying them into fair catches. I guess they’re still not all that confident in the coverage unit just yet.
— Cody Parkey will continue to handle kickoff duty, even though he averaged 10 fewer yards per kickoff than Byrum against Arkansas St. So, um, why? Is Byrum hurt? Are we worried about him getting hurt? This doesn’t make any sense.
— Man, I am definitely hoping for “200 percent improvement” from the safeties. We’re holding you to that, Coach Thigpen.
— Chizik said Eltoro Freeman was “OK,” which is coachspeak for “we didn’t think he was all that great.” Bad matchup for The Toro, though, with all that passing; he was asked to fly out into the flat a lot. Hopefully MSU will be more up his alley.
— Lastly, congrats to Cam Newton on being the SEC’s offensive Player of the Week. But holy hell: no one at Auburn has been the conference’s OPOTW since 2006? Sad, sad, sad.
Photo by Van Emst.