The story of the week on the Auburn defensive side of the ball has been the return of linebacker Tray Blackmon. The Parade All-American and top prep linebacker in the country was suspended over the summer because of an alcohol related incident. The suspension was viewed by many as over the top and too much time for the crime.
My guess is the extra games (six total) was a result of not just the incident but the fact that the coaches had to read about it in the paper. Ouch! Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville has cleared Blackmon to play this week against Florida.
With that all behind him now the question is, what does Blackmon bring to the linebacking corp? Prior to being benched, he had earned the starting job at weak-side linebacker. It’s a position that is now being fought over with Merrill Johnson. His return has caused Karibi Dede to move back to middle linebacker, a position that was held by Johnson through the first six games.
Tuberville has clearly stated that Blackmon will see playing time Saturday night. But what kind of game shape will he be in? Does he have a firm grasp on the defensive schemes? He certainly should since he’s continued to practice with the team throughout the suspension.
Let’s not forget that while he’s incredibly talented and gifted, he’s still a redshirt freshman. Expect him to make mistakes. The question is whether the upside is worth the risk. After watching last Saturday’s game, I think the answer is easy. Yes.