Upon Further Review: Let Youth be Served and More
Auburn wide receiver Seth Williams (18) was one of 13 freshman to play in the Tigers opener (photo:A.J.Reynolds/AbelI Images)
Auburn has recruited as well or better than any team in America not named Alabama. Yet, across college football, freshman phenoms pop up every single year. The likes of players like Julio Jones, Marcus Lattimore, Leonard Fournette, Jadeveon Clowney, and Jalen Hurts have not walked into Jordan-Hare for the Tigers.
In fact, in our recollections, only Mike Dyer came to mind as a freshman that really made an impact, and even then, he was kept under 20 carries for a quarter of the season. Sure, Gus Malzahn has given some opportunities to freshmen in the past, but they’ve been far and few between and certainly not to huge numbers.
Let youth be served.
On Saturday, 13 freshmen played for Auburn. Not one. Not three. Thirteen. And they didn’t do it in a tune-up game inside Jordan-Hare. They did it in Atlanta on the biggest stage of college football against a Washington team that is the front runner to win the Pac-12 title.
On the other side, I commented last week that Auburn wasn’t nearly as motivated to win the game because it was one Auburn could afford to lose. The real reason I said that was that Auburn had a lot of questions, many that pertained to freshmen, and Malzahn has long been known to tinker. Tinker he did, and yet, the Tigers still won. The freshmen made some real impacts. You can find a list of all of them and what they did in this Al.com article.
I would be remiss for not talking about a few of them. Arryn Siposs didn’t come to Auburn to be a backup punter. This isn’t an 18-year-old kid from Opelika. This is a 25-year-old man who came from halfway around the world to be the Tigers’ punter. He had to be discouraged not to get the start. However, after Aidan Marshall’s one attempt went 30 yards, Siposs came in and upped that average by 13.5 yards and likely winning the job.
More after the jump:
Anders Carlson didn’t get the career start he expected. That began as Auburn scored on a Stidham-to-Cannella pass and Malzahn attempted to go for two instead of kicking. Carlson had a busy day otherwise, going 3 of 5 on field goal attempts, including a long of 53 yards. He missed two from 33 and 54 yards. All five of his kickoffs went for touchbacks, picking up right where big brother left off.
Smoke Monday had the game-ending sack that ended any chance Washington had to make a comeback. It will be tough to beat that for a first tackle of the year.
Seth Williams caught everything in fall camp, which means he caught a lot of publicity. The 6′ 3″ receiver scored in his first Auburn scrimmage and was called “nearly unguardable.” He showed up on the field early for Auburn Saturday, pulling in his two looks for 37 yards. And Auburn faced what many believe is the best tandem of corners in the nation. No receiver really stood out for Auburn, mostly because Stidham did a fine job of hitting nine different players. Yet, looking at those stats, the freshman sits just below Darius Slayton and Nate Craig-Myers. It’s possible Gus Malzahn could never put Williams back on the field, but I doubt it.
Clearly the big name was JaTarvious, “Boobee,” Whitlow. While Kam Martin outperformed him in terms of touches, yards, and yards per attempt, it was Whitlow who got the ball with the game on the line. He scored the game-sealing touchdown on a 3rd and long from the 10-yard line. And he did it the way a running back should do it. His run was reminiscent of Ronnie Brown when he ran over a safety to score.
What this team will ultimately be offensively remains to be seen.
Some of that will be the maturation of the team. Some of it will be coaching. Some of it is that fact that Washington’s defense is pretty dang good. Not many teams have held a Gus Malzahn offense to 3.3 yards per carry. To be sure, the offensive line had a tough test against Washington, but it still has a lot of growing up to do, and it better do it quickly since LSU is coming to town in two weeks.
Kam Martin didn’t fumble, and although he had some good runs between the tackles, he never looked comfortable. As soon as he made it to the line of scrimmage, he seemed to bundle up to prepare for the hit rather than delivering it as Whitlow did. What Martin is that may get overlooked is that he is the perfect piece to a Chip Lindsey offense: the ball catcher. Martin had five catches for 32 yards, and those are the plays that will make this offense great.
While utilizing Martin was terrific, it was the use of Chandler Cox that was the best surprise. Cox’s five-reception effort went for a team-leading 52 yards.
Auburn’s offense looked unstoppable at times against one of the best defenses in college football, and that offense was a Chip Lindsey offense, although there were moments when it felt as if Malzahn was in charge of the offense. There were other moments when it felt as if Lindsey was calling the plays. There were even series where it felt as if both were involved. While the development and maturation of the players on the field is paramount, the maturation of the offensive play calling is just as important.
Auburn stretched the field with receivers, kept the defense honest with draws and early-down running plays, but it was the slants from the outside guys and the balls being caught by Auburn backs that looked impossible to stop. It seemed as if Auburn had an extra man on the field. To be honest, that is what great coaching looks like. Lindsey was reading the defense and making the defense reactionary.
Defensively, Auburn is exactly what everyone thought it would be.
Sure, Washington quickly adjusted and looked like it had the answer for the Tiger offense in the second and third quarters, but just as we said in the podcast, eventually Auburn’s depth along the line wore Washington down.
The defensive line started out red hot and ended that way. Nick Coe was named Defensive Lineman of the Week, but it was middle linebacker Darrell Williams that earned the Defensive Player of the Week honors. William’s pass breakup of what looked to be a certain touchdown was crucial. What I loved more than his play was the stern talking to he gave his defensive backs, who misread the play.
Make sure to check out this week’s podcast. We welcome your questions and comments.