Auburn, Ala.--Coming off a bruising 35-17 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks, the No. 8 Auburn Tigers had a short Sunday workout that lasted just 20 minutes, focusing on correcting mistakes and trying to begin preparation for the Tennessee Volunteers.
On defense the first order of business is to get healthy. Losing key players such as Dee Ford, Anthony Swain, Carl Lawson, Chris Davis and Jonathon Mincy all at some point during Saturday's game, defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said the good news is that he doesn't expect anybody to be out of this week's game and that's a start.
The most interesting of the group is Swain. Going down on the field after being "rolled up on the sidelines" according to Johnson, Swain has been accused by many of faking an injury. His position coach said on Sunday that the sophomore linebacker was on the practice field, but was slowed.
"He was a little sore," Johnson said of Swain. "He's like about eight of them, they're strained, sprained, bruised. Dee's bruised knees, Anthony bruised knee.
"Knock on wood, I wish y'all would quit asking about injuries. About the first time we got through a game and not had somebody that won't play next week."
Despite the injuries the Auburn defense again performed well in the most important statistic and that is allowing points. The Tigers gave up just 17 points with seven of those coming on a 13-yard drive following a long kickoff return. One of the players that helped that scoring defense was redshirt freshman linebacker Javiie Mitchell. Playing only in goal line situations, Mitchell made stops on both third and fourth down and Johnson said both were impressive.
"Boy, he made two great plays down there," Johnson said. "The first one especially. He came over the top. If he didn't hit that running back, I don't know if he wouldn't have squirted into the end zone. The second one he fitted up on him and he was the primary tackler on that one, too. Our front did a really good job of creating some penetration. Kris (Frost) did a good job taking on the lead, but Javiie made two really good tackles there.
Another player that has stepped it up for the defense is senior defensive lineman Nosa Eguae. A starter at defensive tackle the last five games, Eguae also played some defensive end against the Razorbacks. Even though he's undersized to play inside and is fighting an uphill battle, Johnson noted that he is consistent and that's what they are looking for.
"Technique-wise he's very good," Johnson said. "Assignment-wise, he's always there where he's supposed to be. He just was playing and performing and getting a little better production, so he earned that starting spot. He's played very solid for us."
Offensively, the story for Auburn was having Nick Marshall as the starting quarterback after very limited practice time last week. Even though he wasn't called on to put the ball in his hands because of how the game unfolded and very few offensive plays for the Tigers, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said it was another step in the right direction for the junior.
""Nick was tough," Lashlee said. "Nick is a tough kid. I expected him to be able to give it a go. He didn't get a lot of reps last week at practice so there was some concern there, but he did a good job. Obviously we didn't throw the ball very much, but the game was a weird game kind of for us. The first half we weren't out there much and never really got much rhythm, and yet we're still ahead. When we had to make the throws we did.
"The big one to Sammie (Coates) was big. I thought what he did well was lead the team, manage the team. He made runs when he needed to. We didn't turn the ball over. Overall I was really pleased with him. Not getting any reps Tuesday, Wednesday and limited on Thursday, to go out and play the way he did and lead the guys, I thought that was a good job."
Young Still Holding On
With the offense rolling along there doesn't appear to be a change coming at right tackle anytime soon according to Lashlee. Redshirt freshman Avery Young took over at the position for sophomore Patrick Miller for the Western Carolina game and has held down that spot each of the last four weeks and Auburn's offense has put together four very good games in response.
"Avery has started and we've been playing well," Lashlee said. "Now Pat is back. We feel perfectly fine with Pat in there. At the same time, we've been playing pretty well with Avery in there. That could be a little bit of a week-to-week deal. I don't see us changing a whole lot going forward."
Moving On Up
Auburn jumped into the Top 10 of the latest BCS standings, the first time that high for the Tigers since 2010. Auburn checks in at #9 in the BCS just ahead of Oklahoma and right behind SEC Eastern Division leader Missouri. Auburn is ranked seventh in the in the Associated Press Poll, ninth in the Harris Poll and 10th in the coaches poll. Here are the latest BCS Standings:
1. Alabama (8-0) .9797
2. Florida State (8-0) .9525
3. Oregon (8-0) .9435
4. Ohio State (9-0) .8720
5. Stanford (7-1) .7930
6. Baylor (7-0) .7745
7. Clemson (8-1) .7277
8. Missouri (8-1) .6890
9. Auburn (8-1) .6686
10. Oklahoma (7-1) .6084
11. Miami, Fla. (7-1) .5246
12. South Carolina (7-2) .5111
13. LSU (7-2) .4525
14. Oklahoma State (7-1) .4395
15. Texas A&M (7-2) .4365
16. Fresno State (8-0) .3675
17. Michigan State (8-1) .3394
18. Northern Illinois (9-0) .3169
19. UCLA (6-2) .2904
20. Louisville (7-1) .2510
21. Central Florida (6-1) .2151
22. Arizona State (6-2) .1770
23. Notre Dame (7-2) .1662
24. Wisconsin (6-2) .1288
25. Texas Tech (7-2) .0986