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.
According to my source in the athletic department, Byrum is being held out on kickoffs in games such as Arkansas State because why wear his leg out when we’re confident that we’ll win? In big, close game situations, Byrum will indeed be our kickoff man.
I was shocked when I read we hadn’t had an offensive POTW since 2006 too (and not a QB since Campbell, which is not shocking at all). Hopefully this will be the first of many.
That almost makes sense, Josh. But two issues:
1. I thought the Tate quote made it sound like Parkey would continue to be the kickoff guy going forward. MSU is going to be tough enough (easily) that even one kick from Parkey with the game in doubt Thursday could be a huge mistake. But it sounded to me like he was going to get it.
2. Just using Parkey in “game over” situations burns his redshirt. Is Byrum really so fragile he can’t handle both, even though lots and lots and lots of kickers do?
Not disagreeing with what you’re reporting, just wondering.
Not to step on your reporting from before the Arky State game, or doubt you– but am I just wishful dreaming that Fosicks cranking up Twitter in earnest again, and saying “i’ll be back very soon”- -doesn’t mean this week?
Come on, say it’s this week.
But I agree, not telling MSU anything ahead of time is fine by me.
Lastly, did you see Tate’s post of a quote from Mullen? Something to the effect of “doesn’t matter if they get other folks back, they can’t change what they do on defense in less than a week- -it doesn’t change what we are going to do”. Yes, context and tone of voice would be helpful, but when I first read it– I thought- -“Why you cocky little man! I can’t wait for Roof and the boys to stuff you, Iron Bowl style.”
Curious on other takes though.
I was encouraged by the new blitz scheme. Chizik got our young guys in early and it’s going to pay big dividends. Carter and Whittaker impressed. I even saw Harris Gaston in the game in the second quarter (even though they drove the field that drive). I think our defense can still be very good but we need Craig Stephens back. We have to be able to stop the run first and we did that this past game. We can do it this one too. They won’t be playing Memphis this week. War Eagle
Alex P in Smyrna G says
I can’t help but believe that part of our soft pass D was by design. Re-watching the TV broadcast confirmed my view from the stands — that we were conceding the short routs quite a bit. We would play the receiver(s) on one side of the field tight and give 8-12 yards of cushion on the other. That way the DBs had a good idea of where the ball would go, and keep it in front of them. It’s like they played Prevent D the whole game.
I tend to agree with you. And in the second half, it appeared that we started moving the LB out in the flat to be a little closer to that receiver- -and things really bogged down for Arky State (except when we gave them a short field with Demond’s fumble).
Probably not a healthy exercise to compare Arky State with Memphis, but from the sounds of it- -we got the tougher opening “test”. Hears hoping we come out on thurs and blow their doors off early.
Joe Blow says
“Which in turn makes me wonder if they prepared for Arkansas St. much at all.”
I’m not sure how much they could have prepared defensively for Arkansas State. They had a new OC (Chizik even mentioned this before heading to the locker room at half). His previous job, aside from a one month stint at San Jose State, was with Lambuth University. Something tells me there isn’t much video out there for Lambuth, which sounds more like a car than a University to me for some reason.
Van P in Illinois says
Hey, Joe, don’t be knockin’ Lambuth! My uncle is a prof there. They added football a few years ago, about the same time they changed their name from Lambuth College to University. Because all the cool colleges were doing it. It’s in Jackson, TN.
Joe Blow says
I wasn’t really knocking. “Ford Lambuth” just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?
WDEwg, that quote’s a little less gracious than you might expect, but it’s probably the truth–the Stevens-to-Freeman downgrade might change a few playcalls here or there, but neither side is going to change their entire game plan because of it … particularly MSU, who doesn’t know if Stevens will play or not.
I don’tthink there’s any question that Auburn’s defense was playing very soft in the first half, very vanilla throughout, and will play a substantially better game tomorrow. That still doesn’t mean it’ll be good enough, though. We’ll have to see.