Upon Further Review: May The Schwartz Be With You
The fastest man in college football caught his first touchdown pass against Alabama State (photo: Todd Van Ernst/USA TODAY)
First, if you don’t get the reference in the title of this article, we can’t be friends anymore.
Last week, 13 of Auburn’s freshmen played against one of the best teams in America. Many of them accumulated not only meaningful plays but etched their names in the record books with real contributions. Seth Williams opened the game against Washington with an impressive catch and run. He added another catch later in the game and tallied 37 total yards. JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow and John Shenker also added a catch apiece to make a total of three freshmen making grabs for the Auburn Tigers. It was great to see such young players making meaningful contributions.
Thus far, Auburn freshman have seven of the 34 total completions in the first two games.
Anthony Schwartz didn’t show up in the stats against Washington and while the game against Alabama State wasn’t exactly meaningful, it doesn’t mean that his contributions were any less valuable. Schwartz blasted by the ASU secondary as Jarrett Stidham loaded up and dropped a dime on the young freshman who made his first trip into the end zone as an Auburn Tiger. Schwartz comes to Auburn by way of American Heritage in Fort Lauderdale. 247Sports rated him as the 30th best receiver in the nation and 28th best player in the state of Florida. He was the 163rd best overall player in the nation leaving high school.
Although he doesn’t have the elite size that seems to dominate the SEC these days, his speed is undeniable. Checking in at 6′ 0″ and 170 pounds, he is one of the fastest players in the country, and while superlatives such as that get thrown around a lot, he has backed them up in competition. He finished second in the Under 20 World Games in the 100-meter dash, and although he didn’t have to run 100 meters to score Saturday, it was clear just how fast he is in the open field. He led all Auburn receivers with 67 yards and a touchdown on his three catches.
Young Schwartz wasn’t done quite yet. After setting up the buck sweep and never using it against Washington, Auburn gave Schwartz a chance, and he took one to the house on a 23-yard scamper. He finished with 50 yards rushing on his three attempts. His speed and vision were excellent but not nearly as good as both the play calling and execution of the play. The call was excellent, the hole was established and Schwartz waltzed into the end zone.
Of course, it left some fans wondering why Schwartz wasn’t in the game for this play against Washington, why it wasn’t used against the Huskies, and why was it used against a lesser opponent with LSU on the horizon. Schwartz made the most of the opportunity but, the question remains: will he be the man when it matters? Eli Stove is set to return to the role he in which he has flourished since becoming a Tiger. Most importantly for Schwartz is he did enough in the passing game to keep defenses honest, something that Stove hasn’t quite done.
Stove and fellow receiver Will Hastings are coming back from ACL surgery. Both were cleared fully last week, but Stove didn’t play this past weekend. Hastings, however, was seen streaking down the field on an overthrown pass. He wasn’t seen again for the rest of the game. In the modern age of redshirts, it left fans wondering why Hastings would have his potential redshirt burned for one play against Alabama State. One potential answer may be that he is set to play a key piece in a win against LSU this coming weekend, and the coaching staff had to see what Hastings had. If this is the case, it was a fine use of the Hastings, and I think he would agree. Only time will tell.
Wondering if Chip Lindsey is running the offense?
Auburn running backs have 11 of the 34 catches thus far this year. Auburn backs had 26 in 2016. There were 53 balls caught by the backs last season under Lindsey. Auburn is on pace for even more this year and when the going gets tough against the heart of the SEC, that number will skyrocket. Don’t be surprised if running backs account for 75 or more receptions this season, a staple of a Lindsey offense.
Auburn fans were able to see the backup quarterbacks get action this past weekend.
Malik Willis showed some great promise as a true freshman last season, but his first 2017 play could not have gone worse. Well, it could have resulted in a touchdown instead of a safety, but it was still ugly.
Backed way up due to another youthful mistake that allowed a punt to bounce inside the ten-yard line, Willis decided to keep the ball instead of handing it off on the first play from scrimmage. The defensive end had already read the play and had a bead on Willis. The QB was dropped for a safety, and it wasn’t even close. Willis wasn’t effective in the slightest, completing one of his two passes for three total yards while adding just two yards on three carries. It’s strange to see a player who was electric in limited time last season look so lost. And it wasn’t just this game; he was lost in the spring game as well.
Cord Sandberg, on the other hand, looked anything but lost. While Alabama State was beaten soundly and looked to have given up, Sandberg completed his only pass for 22 yards and stretched defenses with his legs with three rushes for 35 yards. The 24-year-old freshman may quickly end up being the backup trigger man.
Auburn rolled up big-time rushing yards on Alabama State, but the offense didn’t look all that polished, especially early on. I suspect that much of that could be because the coaches didn’t have a real game plan for Alabama State and were working on the plan for LSU. Stidham had a modest day aside from the long play to Schwartz. I guess that’s a good thing. Stidham will have every opportunity to impress people around the nation, specifically those that vote on the Heisman in November. He doesn’t need to pad stats in September.