"It's big in terms of leadership," Chizik said. "It's big in terms of how productive he has been. I think his game over the last three weeks has improved, no question about it. But the level of leadership that he gives, that's probably one of the bigger hits we're going to take on the deal."
Bell was Auburn's fifth-leading tackler this season with 45 stops and tied for the lead with two interceptions. Without him the job as a starter will go to either redshirt freshman Jonathon Mincy or true freshman Jermaine Whitehead or Robenson Therezie. This season Whitehead has 23 tackles and an interception. Mincy has and Therezie both have 15 tackles each.
T'Sharvan Bell makes a tackle against Georgia
It's a big blow to a defense that is already struggling, coming off a disappointing loss at Georgia where it gave up 304 yards rushing and 224 yards passing in the loss. Chizik said one of the things the Tigers must do a better job of is playing physical up front and getting off blocks.
"I just feel like that yesterday's game on the front seven we definitely got out-physicaled as the game went on," Chizik said. "I thought early in the game we held up and we were trying to play downhill and physical, but as the game wore on I thought we got worn down and we did not win the line of scrimmage. I thought that was very evident when you can't stop the run. We've got to go back and get some good work these next couple of weeks of keeping our pad levels down and getting off blocks and seeing the football and linebackers escaping and fitting right. I think all of the above matter. As the game went on we did not play run defense like we wanted to."
Offensively things weren't much better as the Tigers couldn't sustain drives and couldn't run the football. For the game Auburn ran for just 51 yards and 25 carries and was sacked five times. The Tigers haven't gone a game this season without allowing a sack and have given up 26 total for 167 yards in losses. Chizik said that's just one of the problems on offense at the moment with the other being too much focus on Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen in the passing game.
"There is no question we can do a better job of trying to get some of the younger guys involved and spreading the ball around a little bit," Chizik said. "Right now arguably you would say that Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen are the guys that are getting most of the catches. We've got to be able to spread that out some, there is no question about it. That's definitely going to be something we're going to look at this week. We've got some very young and talented guys that we believe can make some plays out there. We've got to put them in position to have more opportunities."
Looking at the numbers this season Blake leads the Auburn team with 30 catches for 505 yards and five touchdowns. Behind him are running back Onterio McCalebb with 26 grabs and Lutzenkirchen with 19 catches. After that Trovon Reed's 15 catches are next with Travante Stallworth fifth with 13 receptions. In the last two games Auburn's wide receivers other than Blake have caught just three passes and Chizik said there are several reasons for that.
"Within the structure of every play you have reads that go from this one to this one to this one," Chizik said. "That combined with the fact that on some routes some of the younger guys aren't even on the field, it's really a little of both. They could be the second primary receiver on a call and it always goes to the first or they could be the first primary receiver if it's some kind of short perimeter passing game where it is a deliberate throw out there. We've done that too. Some we've had success on and some we've dropped. It's really a little of both."
Auburn will need plenty of work this week no matter the opponent, but the good news is that I-AA Samford is the opponent. It should be a game the Tigers win easily, but Chizik said they can't take that attitude with anyone at any time.
"If you saw us play yesterday, we're not supposed to beat anybody," Chizik said. "We're going back to work so we can make sure we win game seven. It's that simple. That's what we've got to focus on. We've got to focus on getting better and improving on the things we weren't good at, to give ourselves a chance to win this game."