Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler sidled up to quarterback Jonathan Wallace, before either man even reached the Tigers’ locker room following a 42-7 victory Saturday vs. New Mexico State, a 1-8 WAC bottom-feeder.
Loeffler made it perfectly clear: Georgia was coming, and coming for Wallace.
“It’s the first thing I said to him walking off the field — I’ve had the opportunity to play these guys twice, and they’re super athletic, super fast,” said Loeffler, who was part of a couple World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party as Florida’s quarterbacks coach.
“There’s probably six to eight NFL players on that defense,” Loeffler continued. “They close quickly. I really made an emphasis how important it is to make a decision and get the ball out of your hand because those throw windows will close quite differently than they did last Saturday.”
Loeffler worked with Wallace regarding his interception, an underthrown ball into double coverage looking for senior receiver Emory Blake on a fly route. Wallace also overthrew Sammie Coates on another attempt for the end zone.
“There were five mistakes in the passing game that he had in the first half, all of which are correctable,” Loeffler said. “He’ll learn from those mistakes … two of which probably had opportunities to score. It was really refreshing to watch a guy that struggled in the first half, be able to rebound and play a very good second half.”
The challenge isn’t daunting Wallace, a Central-Phenix City product who has consistently been lauded for his poise under pressure. He’ll face multiple kinds of pressure Saturday — the national spotlight, and relentless pass-rushers in red and black.
“From what I think about Georgia, they are going to come for me and I’m going to have to make some plays Saturday,” Wallace said. “That’s just what it’s going to come down to. Of course, we’re going to be able to run the ball some, but it’s really going to come down to whether or not I can make the plays that need to be made.”
The Montgomery Advertiser reported Wednesday evening that Auburn hired a private security firm to conduct curfew checks on players.
The practice began shortly after center Reese Dismukes was arrested for public intoxication nine days before the season opener.
The Tigers stay in a Montgomery hotel on Friday nights preceding home football games. But according to the Advertiser, a university paying servants to enforce curfews “might be unprecedented.”
The Advertiser wrote that some players have since deleted tweets complaining about the bed checks.
“We always do what’s in the best interests of our team,” head coach Gene Chizik said when asked about the subject Wednesday night. “We have a curfew check and we have to employ people to help us with some of the kids off-campus.
“Other than that, I’m not going into details with any of that. I’ve got one focus, and that’s Georgia.”
Defensive backs coach Willie Martinez downplayed the personal significance of Georgia’s game. He was on Mark Richt’s staff for nine years, including defensive coordinator from 2005-09.
“Right now, I’ve been preparing for the game. You just focus on trying to defend their offense, which is quite a task itself,” Martinez said. “Around game time, seeing some of those players I had the opportunity to recruit and coach, it will be a special feeling.”
Martinez is still very familiar with many of Georgia’s veteran players, including quarterback Aaron Murray.
“Being around Aaron and the recruitment of Aaron, he comes from a great high school program, highly competitive,” Martinez said. “Sometimes you wish you didn’t know all those things, because he’s been outstanding.
“To see them develop to the players they are right now, it’s frustrating on the other end of it, but obviously they’ve done a great job.”
Up in the air
Linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen said Jake Holland, who has started all but one game at middle linebacker this year, did not engage in full practices this week, which could open the door for freshman Cassanova McKinzy to start against Georgia.
“This is his type of football game,” Thigpen said. “It’s typical, SEC football. They’re going to pound it. Football at its best.”
McKinzy had 12 tackles in his one start, at Vanderbilt. Holland’s season high is 11 takedowns.