Corrections are the Name of the Game This Week
Sizing up the team
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody! It’s hard to believe we are just a little over one week from Auburn’s annual A-Day game. Auburn finally concluded its first scrimmage last weekend and looks at working on corrections this week. There will be another scrimmage this Saturday, followed by A-Day a week later.
By all accounts, the offense has a lot to work on. This isn’t surprising as a mostly new offensive line must be coached up, receivers have been in and out of the rotation, new running backs must be found, and starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham is coming off surgery on his left shoulder and has not participated in skeleton drills or practice.
Auburn does not give out scrimmage numbers, but a few things can be inferred from the numbers that did come out. I suppose the most disappointing thing is 5 turnovers, 4 of them being interceptions. Supposedly, it was mostly a running drill with only 20–25 passes. Getting intercepted 4 times in 40 attempts isn’t good. In only 25 attempts, 4 interceptions will not win an SEC game. This is from the backup quarterbacks, and Malik Willis is a true sophomore and Joey Gatewood is an early-enrollee freshman. Considering that they are going against a deep and talented defense, I suppose some growing pains are inevitable.
Most of the actual news out of the running game was a 70-yard touchdown run by JaTarvious Whitlow. I’ve seen a few stills of this run, and that’s definitely a 2nd and 3rd team secondary trying to chase him down. Again stretching meager numbers, the scrimmage was said to be 75–80 percent running plays. From the passing numbers, we can infer that there were about 75 rushing attempts. I’m told only a couple of plays went longer than 10 yards, and most were squashed in short order. I’m guessing a lot of that is on a very disruptive defensive line that has at least 10 players that can play SEC-caliber football.
In the 100-play scrimmage, the offense scored just twice. One was the Whitlow run, and the other was a short fade pass on the goal line, caught for a TD by Sal Cannella.
One of my biggest worries on defense this off-season has been the secondary, but I’m hearing encouraging things. Of course, the wide receiver corps has been a MASH unit this spring, plus the secondary is going against fairly green quarterbacks. Latest injury news is that receiver Will Hastings is out with a knee injury.
At cornerback, Auburn appears to be set to go with veterans Javaris Davis and Jamel Dean as starters. Where it gets interesting is the top two backups. Right now, converted receiver Noah Igbinoghene seems to be holding the 2nd spot on the field side, and freshman Christian Tutt is ahead on the boundary side.
In the secondary, veterans Daniel Thomas and Jeremiah Dinson hold the top safety spots. Having Dinson back there is a great plus as he can do everything from stopping the run to covering the most dangerous receivers the SEC has to offer. That gives Auburn great versatility. Nickel is an open question. Auburn has rotated about a half dozen guys there. Jordyn Peters may end up starting there, but right now he’s still recovering from a knee injury and is limited.
A bit of a look at special teams reveals that races at punter and punt returner continue while the featured kickoff players are pretty much set. Noah Igbinoghene will be the primary return man, and word is that he has been dangerous with the ball in his hands this spring. We also are pretty certain that Anders Carlson will make his debut as Auburn’s starting kicker on A-Day. Carlson has been very accurate in practice thus far. At punter, Aiden Marshall and Ian Shannon are duking it out but will likely face serious competition this fall when Australian rules punter Arryn Siposs arrives.
We will get a bit more of the big picture after the March 31 scrimmage. You’d expect the offense to bounce back and get a little more done, but I’m not sure it will happen this soon. The defense is just so much farther ahead and more experienced. We may end up watching one of those A-Day games that ends in a 10–7 score unless the coaches really hamstring the defenses.