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A Team on the Rise.

By on September 26th, 2013 in Football 21 Comments »

Tigers are once again back to work on the basics.

     War Eagle, everybody, and happy bye week! Auburn has no opponent this Saturday, and is spending this week on fundamentals. That, and trying to heal up numerous nicks and bruises. This has been a banged up football team this fall. Preseason depth chart starters Jeffery Whitaker, Craig Sanders, Dee Ford, and Justin Garrett have all missed at least one game due to injuries. That’s over a third of the defense that’s not playing. And folks wonder why Auburn is giving up 439 yards per game…

     It’s hard to believe, but Auburn is now a third of the way through the season. It seems like just yesterday fall camp was starting! How time flies. A third of the way through the season, Auburn is squarely in the middle of the league in most relevant statistics. That’s actually kind of deceiving. Many SEC members have played a cupcake or two thus far. Some teams such as Kentucky, Arkansas and Missouri have yet to play an SEC game. Auburn hasn’t had an easy game yet. They’ve played and beaten what appears to be a solid Washington State team, reigning Sun Belt champ Arkansas State, and a surprisingly solid Mississippi State team. Auburn has lost to a top ten SEC team on the road. That’s a pretty daunting slate for a new coach and a young team.

     So, how are these Tigers doing? I’m going to take a look today at each unit, and comment on the accomplishments of each.

     The defensive line is an area that has improved over last season, but still has a ways to go. One thing that has really helped the Auburn defense is that coach Garner is really doing a good job of rotating players, and keeping them fresh. Auburn has only allowed 7 points in the 4th quarter this season. Overall, the defensive line has generated 77 tackles, including 14 for a loss, and 32 quarterback hurries. The leader is LaDarius Owens, who has 15 total tackles, 2.5 for loss and 3 quarterback hurries. Second place goes to true freshman Montravious Adams, who has only 8 total tackles, but has 5 quarterback hurries. He’s made some noise while he’s been in the game.

     The linebacker corps has been everyone’s favorite whipping boy thus far this year. They’ve had a difficult time, but certain aspects are due to basically playing a nickel or dime defense most of the time. That puts only 2, or sometimes 1 linebacker on the field. Thus the numbers of tackles are less. The linebacking corps (I have NOT included the Star position in this.) have contributed 64 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, and 5 quarterback hurries. The leader is Cassanova McKinzy, who has 21 tackles, 2.5 for a loss, and 2 quarterback hurries. Typically McKinzy plays most of the snaps in a two linebacker defense, and comes out in Auburn’s dime package. Jake Holland and Kris Frost have rotated at the Mike spot. No other linebacker has played more than a handful of snaps.

     Auburn’s secondary has been the strength of the defense, although they’ve been tested. The secondary has made a whopping 132 tackles, 4.5 for a loss. They’ve had 4 interceptions, 19 pass breakups, and 4 quarterback hurries. Auburn’s leading tackler is Robensen Therezie, with 25. Jonathan Mincy leads the team with 6 pass breakups, but Chris Davis and Ryan White are right behind him with 5 each. Mincy is tied for the SEC lead in passes defended, with Cody Prewitt of Ole Miss.

     On special teams, Steven Clark has punted 19 times for a 43.5 yard average. That’s about 4 yards ahead of last year, but it only ranks him 8th in the SEC. There are a lot of strong legs in the conference! Of Clark’s punts, only one has been returned, for 10 yards. Clark has had 9 punts fair caught, 6 killed inside the 20, and 3 touchbacks.

     The Tigers have returned 10 punts for 70 yards. Quan Bray has 8 of those, for 49 yards. Bray has one muff, but recovered the fumble. And no Tiger has fielded one inside the ten yard line.

     On paper, Auburn is second in the league in kickoff returns, averaging 31.9 yards per return. It’s kind of a skewed number, I think. Auburn has 7 returns, 6 of them by Tre Mason for 190 yards. He broke one in the opener for 100 yards. Take that long one out, and Mason is only averaging 18 yards per return. He’s getting very little blocking help, and has brought several of them out of the end zone with no success.

     Cody Parkey has been a weapon for Auburn with his leg. He’s hit 7 of 8 field goal attempts, and all of his extra points, which has put him 4th in the league in scoring points. He has been good on kickoffs, kicking 15 of 22 kickoffs for touchbacks. Auburn is giving up 20.0 yards per kick return, which isn’t too bad.

     There are few numbers published regarding offensive line performance, but there are a few things that can be looked at. Auburn’s offensive line has really played well this season, and is a major reason Auburn has won 3 games. With last year’s line, Auburn would be 1-3 right now, with losses to Washington State and Mississippi State as well. Auburn has only given up 4 sacks all season, and Auburn opponents have just 18 total tackles for loss. Meanwhile, Auburn ranks 4th in the SEC in rushing offense with 232 yards per game, and they’ve done it without a consistent passing attack. The three teams ahead of Auburn are Missouri, Ole Miss and Arkansas, none of which has played a defense with a pulse this season. Well, maybe Rutgers. They shut Arkansas down pretty well last weekend.

     Of Auburn’s receiving corps, only Sammie Coates is among the SEC leaders. His ridiculous 27.8 yards per catch average leads the league. I think he’s earned the “deep threat” label. The rest of Auburn’s corps has been spotty. More than half of Auburn’s passes have been of the “quick screen” variety, and these typically only pick up 4-5 yards. Coates has 11 receptions, and the only other Tigers in double figures are Ricardo Louis with 11 catches, and Marcus Davis with 10. Where Auburn has been good-to-excellent in the receiving corps has been blocking. The Tigers will miss Jaylon Denson here, after the junior injured his knee against LSU. Many times Auburn would run with Denson, Brandon Fulse and C. J. Uzomah in the game. The formation would say “spread,” but it was really like having 3 tight ends in the game.

     Running back has been an Auburn strength, with the only negative being two lost fumbles. The three Auburn backs who’ve carried the ball are averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Lead blocking from H-back Jay Prosch has been pretty good, and blitz pickup has been good from the tailbacks. Tre Mason ranks 8th in the SEC in rushing yards, with 84.5 yards per game. It’s good to see a week of rest for Auburn back Corey Grant. He’s been hampered by an ankle injury the past week or so, and has been limited. He ranks 3rd in the SEC in yards per carry, gaining an amazing 9.2 yards per pop. This year’s Auburn team is averaging 232 yards rushing per game. At this point last year, Auburn was averaging just 153.

     Auburn’s Nick Marshall has had his ups and downs as Auburn’s new starting quarterback. He currently ranks 9th in the SEC with 202 passing yards per game, and he’s 13th in pass efficiency. The numbers are somewhat deceiving, though. Auburn has not played against a bad defense yet, and just about everyone else in the SEC has had at least one opponent like that. For the season, Marshall has hit 60 of 103 passes for 809 yards, with 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. That works out to a 58 percent completion percentage, at 7.8 yards per pass. Marshall has also run for 148 yards, and completed a 37 yard pass to himself. At this point last season, Auburn had completed just 48 of 90 passes for 579 yards, with 3 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.


  1. wpleagle wpleagle says:

    Acid, solid analysis as usual. You’re a great asset to TET!
    I think the stats pretty well reflect the team at this point. In a way, AU’s been “just good enough” to get by ASU and WSU plus the squeaker over the Maroons. I think the second half at LSU showed some real growing and possibly some chinks in the Purple Tigers’ armor. We need to do some healing this bye week and work on coming out of the gate faster with fewer mistakes.
    Gonna be an interesting weekend. Most of my Georgia buds are quaking about LSU coming to Sanford Stadium this weekend, and I think we’re all wondering if Ole Miss can hang in there with Bama.
    War Eagle.

  2. AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

    Thanks for the 1/3 season review Acid.

    We all knew that a Gus offense would score some points so what I was looking for with this year was an improved defense. I re watched the game last night and I was really pleased (after the first half hole we dug) at how the ‘D’ played the No.6 team in the country. Especially happy with the secondary. The D-Line could still use some improvement, but Garner is bringing them along nicely – Montravis Adams is something else to be playing like he does as a true freshman.

    Also, the blocking of the offensive line in the second half was great. ‘If’ we can continue to have success running between the tackles, I feel pretty good about the prospects moving forward.

  3. Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

    I’m excited to see this team grow again. Ole Miss will be tough–and I really hate saying that. But it’s true. Particularly if they beat Bama. Yup. I just said it. I’m not expecting more than 6 wins for us this season. That said, I want to see us fighting in every single game. I want overall improvement and adjustments when things are going south. So far, these guys are playing their hearts out and are improving week-by-week. Good stuff!

  4. DBAU81 says:

    I’ll bet that before the season every one of us would have taken a 3-1 start, with the one loss coming after putting up a fight against LSU on the road. I really think the Ole Miss game will be pivotal for the rest of our season. Win that one and we’re heading into October with a lot of momentum and confidence.

    Although the Rebels are obviously much improved, I’m not buying into them completely until they beat a good team. Their game with the Tahd this weekend is intriguing because I’m getting the feeling that all is not well in T-Town. (Did anybody see the video of McCarron’s post-game interview this past Saturday?) Regardless, it sure is fun to be excited about college football again.

  5. Orange Talon Orange Talon says:

    Unfortunately Acid, I think the actual statistics paint a little different picture.

    Our defense is ranked dead last (14th) in the SEC in passing yards against per game, and next to last (13th) in rushing yards against per game. Overall, our defense ranks next to last (13th) in the SEC in total yards against per game. I think this is a huge problem given the games on our horizon, hope I’m wrong.

    And your right, the linebackers are scrutinized the most, they should be, they are not very good right now, as was the case last year.

    We are fortunate that our offense has done much better ranking 2nd in the SEC in rushing yards gained per game, 8th in passing yards gained per game, 9th in overall yards gained per game, and 11th in points scored per game.

    I believe that defense wins games and championships, not a no huddle, hurry up offense, hope I’m wrong again.

    • restless6 says:

      I’m with you on the “defense wins championships” theory.

    • restless6 says:

      I just read your stats again. That is troubling.

      I wonder if the lack of execution on the offense is putting pressure on the defense?

      This seems like one of the Achilles heels of the Gus offense. The offense has its moments, but we will never be Oregon.

      I’m still a fan on the run-play action-defense strategy that Tubs had. I find great pleasure in watching Stanford nowadays.

      Until one of the HUNH fast break teams win a championship, I’m not sold on it.

      • DothanTiger DothanTiger says:

        One of the HUNH fast break teams did win a championship … Two of them:

        2010 National Champions – Auburn Tigers
        2010 SEC Champions – Auburn Tigers

        Lets see, who was there Offensive Coordinator? Oh yeah, Gus Malzahn

        We might never be Oregon BUT we sure BEAT Oregon for the NC!

      • sparkey sparkey says:

        That doesn’t make any damn sense. We won the 2010 running this offense. Let me guess, it was Cam Newton right? Tubs would’ve never gotten Cam to Auburn so that argument that doesn’t work either.

        • restless6 says:

          Find me another Cam and any offense can win. Without Cam, that 2010 team wouldn’t be champs.

          • sparkey sparkey says:

            Your argument holds no weight. Cam wouldn’t have come here without this offense.

          • Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

            Once again,Showing your true colors Bammer.

            Even though you spent all summer on this board trying to say positive things about Auburn so we will think your a real Auburn fan, your not fooling us. That reply about Cam is the party line for the Turds about our National Championship. “Auburn could have never won one without Cam.”

            Well anyone who is honest can see that argument is weak. That could be applied to most schools that have won a Championship. It’s like saying “Ga. couldn’t have won a NC without Hershel Walker or USC without Reggie Bush or Texas without Vince Young or Florida without Tim Tebow etc. Doesn’t hold water …… unless it’s a Bammer saying it.

            And why would we ever want to be Oregon? We already met them on the field and the best team won.

            You started this junk this year on Acid’s open game thread and was called out for it by another TET member for trying to stir up negative thoughts in the fan base. While all fans have the right to be negative, what you did last year and are starting to do again this year on an Auburn site stinks. Why don’t you go spew all the Bama propaganda on a crimson site where it will be welcome?

  6. restless6 says:

    Holds no weight?

    Sans Cam, how would the 2010 make out?

  7. GreenvilleAUfan GreenvilleAUfan says:

    I got to admit that I’ve been one to complain about the linebacking. Also got to admit I hadn’t considered that. “certain aspects are due to basically playing a nickel or dime defense most of the time.” Man I love reading your analysis Acid. Always pick something up from reading an Acid Reign article.