One of the players that will likely be in the mix for much more playing time this weekend is sophomore walk-on Ikeem Means from Wetumpka. A former high school wide receiver, Means made a name for himself on special teams last season and has continued that to the defense in 2010. The fourth safety all season, Means will now be number three in Savage's absence and he said he's just ready to show what he can do.
"I'm deeply sorry to see that and having to back him up," Means said. "I just hope to not exactly fill his shoes, but to improve and I know my playing time will probably increase a little bit. I'm just deeply sorry for the incident that happened to Aairon.
"It's big because you would probably go in not thinking you were going to play when Aairon was here," Means added. "Now that he's not you have to pay attention more and do extra stuff, the stuff he used to do like watch extra film. You have to fill those shoes."
Playing in a reserve role last week against Arkansas, Means saw some action when the Tigers went to six defensive backs. Getting his feet wet against top competition was a big step for him and he said now he's ready to take it to another level this weekend.
"It felt good to be out there in a big game," Means said. "It's way higher than Arkansas State in my opinion. The intensity and level just has to go up as the competition does."
With such little depth Means will be on the field this weekend in some capacity and coach Gene Chizik said they've seen a lot out of the walk-on.
"Ikeem is a young man that loves football and he's really been here for the better part of two years now," Chizik said. "He was a high school wide receiver athlete and moved over to defensive back with us, and he has really improved in his game just in terms of learning it from a defensive standpoint. He loves football and he's going to get a chance to play some Saturday and I'm sure he's going to be excited about it, but we have a lot of confidence that he'll be able to do what we ask him to do within the defense."
Part of a defense that is allowing 24.4 points and 266.1 yards through the air per game, Means said last weekend's game was a particularly tough one to swallow. Allowing over 400 yards passing in a 65-43 win, the Tigers couldn't get off the field in the first three quarters before bowing up and getting three turnovers to put the game away in the fourth. Means said the defense has to play that way for an entire 60 minutes and not just the fourth quarter.
"It's really frustrating as a defense to look at it and be in that position as a secondary," Means said. "It's like they are picking on you because they are completing the balls on you. As a defense the secondary has to step up this week."
The last two years Auburn's defense has been the weak point of the team, a far cry from much of the last 30 years of football on the Plain. It's something that has become a sore spot for the players and Means said they're determined to do something about it.
"You hear a lot of things about how with our defense it's basically the secondary that's making us weak," Means said. "We're just really fed up with hearing all that talk on ESPN saying we're the weak link. We're just going to try to come in and improve as a whole."