Auburn has used a base defense sparingly to this point – favoring the 4-2-5 formation to stunt the passing game – but defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder mandated Tuesday that a 4-3 look is the gameplan against LSU’s straight-up offense.
“This is a totally different game in respect to offensive schemes,” VanGorder said. “We’ll bring some guys along. They’ve got to be ready to play in this type of game, but definitely a lot more base personnel.”
Freshman Cassanova McKinzy saw action on goal-line sets against Louisiana-Monroe, perhaps as a dress rehearsal for this Saturday night’s showdown with the Tigers. Jon Evans, currently listed as the sam linebacker, and his backup Justin Garrett could see their playing time increase as well.
“We’d like to get at least another safety involved as we move forward,” VanGorder said. “And we’ve got young corners that are competing and doing better.”
VanGorder continues to display aggravation at the rate at which the defense has slowly progressed. Auburn ranks 12th in the SEC in scoring defense and 13th in total yards allowed.
“I guess my biggest surprise so far in three games has been our tackling and some play-making at times,” VanGorder said. “We’ve just got to keep encouraging players to make plays. We have to avoid missed opportunities … We’ve got to play more physical. We have to keep emphasizing that. This will be a great challenge for us on Saturday night.”
Getting off the field on third down is another point of emphasis – Auburn’s 11th in the league in that category.
“We’ve got to win third down, and you go back to the Clemson game, I’m going to guess it’s somewhere around 90 plays (it was 87),” VanGorder said. “It’s too many plays. It’s too many plays. We’re just not going to be a great functioning defense, especially when you’re trying to build depth at a lot of positions. Same thing this last weekend, 89 plays. Those two games, we failed in third down. That’s just not good.”
Defensive back Erique Florence and linebacker Kris Frost are behind in the pecking order.
2) VanGorder did have a chuckle over that awkward moment when he celebrated rather wildly for a first-down stop.
In the second quarter against ULM, Auburn defensive end Dee Ford deflected Kolton Browning’s pass, and the fiery VanGorder began hooting and hollering with his defense as it began leaving the field. While the officials on Auburn’s sideline had indicated the play was 4th-and-short, the opposite-side refs had signaled a first down.
“That’s what the side judge said it was. The head linesman from the other side told him it was a first down,” VanGorder said. “But our sideline, they marked him short. So I don’t know how that transpired. But our guy had it a yard short. All of a sudden, it was a first down.”
Auburn was assessed a sideline warning and no penalty.
3) Quarterback Kiehl Frazier isn’t surprised he has chemistry with freshman receiver Sammie Coates. As a third-string QB in 2011, Frazier had a chance to bond with the then-redshirt.
“He was the first guy I really started throwing it to,” Frazier said. “Last year, all the other guys were really going with Barrett (Trotter) and Clint (Moseley). Since Sammie redshirted, I was throwing to him in practice so I have a lot of chemistry with him.”
4) Meanwhile, Frazier’s top targets, receiver Emory Blake and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, combined for three catches and 40 yards Saturday. Getting the seniors re-involved in the passing game could help Auburn, if it falls into place.
“If we are able to spread the ball around to different people, then obviously the more people aren’t going to be able to – if they choose to – double one or double the other,” head coach Gene Chizik said. “They won’t continue to be able to have the luxury to do that as long as other guys are being productive.”
Added Lutzenkirchen, “With more people making plays like Quan (Bray) and Sammie, hopefully other teams are going to have to stop keying as much on me and Emory. If we’re open, we’re open, but for obvious reasons if we’re not there, he’s just got to get it to someone else.”
5) Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler was pleased with the running game’s effectiveness Saturday, but not the way Auburn finished.
“Anytime you run for 255 yards in any football game, I think that’s a very encouraging factor,” Loeffler said. “Obviously the negatives are the turnovers and the penalty that we had on (Coates’ first) touchdown. That game had no business going down into overtime – we should have taken the lead right after the fumble occurred and put the game away.”
6) Hey, Arkansas media! Lighten up, wouldn’t you? Just because the team looks like it should consider FCS relegation for the rest of the season doesn’t mean you should be down in the dumps!
C’mon! Do what John L. Smith tells you to do! SMILE!
Maybe what the Razorbacks need is this woman in the media room. She’d bring up the mood. (Oh, yes … she’s baaaaaaack.)
7) LSU junior Alfred Blue will miss Saturday’s game after suffering a knee injury against Idaho, meaning sophomore Kenny Hilliard is the expected lead back.