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Notes from the Beat, 9/29

Enjoying the final days of sweet September.

It’s an important week on the practice field for Auburn, with South Carolina and the rest of the October gauntlet just days away, and there’s been a lot of news coming out of the athletic complex. We’ll quickly get through all the best notes and quotes from the last few days, but not before you thank your local beat writers — David Morrison, Andy Bitter, Charles Goldberg, and Jay G. Tate — for their excellent reporting. Let’s get to it.

– Wednesday night’s discussion was all about the opponent. As game day begins to creep in, the focus of post-practice interviews became more and more geared toward South Carolina — and the coaching staff had a whole lot of praise for the Gamecocks. It began, as you might imagine, with All-Universe, seventeen-star prospect Marcus Lattimore. Phillip Lolley put it simply: “He’s the very best I’ve seen in this league thus far. Period. End of story.” He continued, “There’s guys that are fast, guys that are quick, guys that are bulldozers. He’s all the above. He can do it all.”

Tommy Thigpen went as far as to anoint Lattimore as “probably a Heisman Trophy winner.” But South Carolina’s offense doesn’t begin and end with Lattimore, and neither did Thigpen’s praise. On top of Lattimore, Thig says South Carolina boasts “a first-round draft choice at wide receiver and an experienced line that is really physical.”

– That first-round draft choice is, obviously, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. It appears that Auburn will try to contain him to same way they’ve gone up against the Randall Cobbs, Julio Joneses, and AJ Greens recently, and that’s by throwing a committee of defenders at him and mixing things up on him. Coach Lolley: “Every tool you have in your tool chest you better use. You’re going to have to play him off. You’re going to have to press him. You’re going to have to mix it. And you’re going to have to have help from someone else every now and then.”

But focusing entirely on Jeffery is going to cause problems as well. As Lolley continued, “They know that too, and they know that if you spend all your time trying to cover him it just leaves one less guy in the box to stop Lattimore. So pick your poison.”

Not only is the Auburn secondary going to be throwing different bodies at Alshon Jeffery, but the entire defense is planning on rotating to keep themselves fresh. Tommy Thigpen said, “We’ve got to keep fresh guys in there and play all five of my guys in the back end, even if it’s young guys like Erique and Ikeem and Ryan Smith. We need to just get a rotation because when this guy carries it 35-40 times, if fatigue gets in the way, he’s a guy who can run through you and run over guys.”

– While the coaches had all kinds of praise for the South Carolina offense and the riddles they present, the media got to speak to the players on Tuesday night, and at least one of them thinks he has a solution to the Alshon Jeffery problem, and that’s cornerback Ryan White. “From what I’ve seen, he can’t get off press. So that’s what we’re coming in with. We’ve got to put our hands on him and different people on him. That’s how we plan on slowing him down.”

To sum it up, what do you think of the upcoming game, Ryan? “If we shut those two down — Alshon and Marcus — we’re going to come out with the W.”

Well, at least somebody will be playing to win on Saturday.

– Trovon Reed is going to miss this game (and possibly more?), meaning Quan Bray will be moving in to fill his shoes at both his wide-out spot and as a punt returner. Jay Boulware is especially confident in throwing Bray into the fire, specifically at the punt returner position. “We wouldn’t put him back there if we weren’t [confident]. There are going to be some growing pains, whether they come this week or three weeks down the road, but I feel very confident in him being back there.”

Trooper Taylor had plenty to say about Quan as well: “The kid loves football. He’s a great kid. He understands football. I’m looking forward in seeing what he’ll do.” Needless to say, we wish it would’ve come from something other than an injury to Trovon Reed, but we’re all happy to see Quan get his opportunity, and I think we’re all excited to see what he can do from his receiver spot and in places besides the Wildcat — and we’ll especially be happy to see him out there on the field doing what he loves.

In other injury news, Chris Davis will travel to Columbia but will be a game-time decision, after missing last week’s FAU game with an ankle injury. Said Gene Chizik, “Right now, it’s going to be up to game time to be honest with you. He’s run around a little bit out there, but there’s still a lot of work to go before he can be able to perform.” Phillip Lolley says the medical staff isn’t going to let him play until he’s “100 percent”: “I don’t want him out there guarding those receivers unless he is… We’re trying to make sure he can cut on his ankle, make sure he can 360 on it, and every move he’s going to have to make to be able to guard these guys.”

Meanwhile, when asked about guard John Sullen’s status, Jeff Grimes said that that’s a question for Chizik. That’s never a good sign.

However, in good news, Philip Lutzenkirchen is expected to be back in full strength and starting this Saturday.

– Finally, in non-football news, new associate athletic director Paul Parker has resigned from Auburn. I think it’s safe to assume that this might have something do with the violations found at Georgia Tech earlier this summer — which took place while Parker was their compliance director.

Photo via Todd Van Emst.

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