Jason's Friday Mailbag: Louisiana Tech Week

Talking Tigers as Auburn prepares to face Louisiana Tech on Homecoming at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

wcvet: Is this the most speed we have had in the secondary since CTT was the coach?

This is a fast group, no doubt about it. When you consider Jonathon Mincy and Jonathan Jones outside and Johnathan Ford at safety it’s a good start for the speed aspect. Trovon Reed can run pretty well as can several of the true freshmen. The 2010 group had good overall speed with Demond Washington a burner, but it wasn’t as deep with fast guys as this group.

TIGER45: Will we be entertaining many recruits this weekend, or do you think we are expecting more in for the LSU game?

It should be a much slower weekend in terms of big-time prospects with LSU coming up next week. That should be a huge prospect weekend with as many as eight official visitors possible next Saturday.

HillCountryTiger: What do you think the defensive end rotation will look like by November and do you think we will be good enough there?

This team should be improved at defensive end by the end of the season because of the rotation that Rodney Garner uses up front. I really like what I have seen from Davonte Lambert and he should only get better. I’m still waiting for LaDarius Owens to break out and the same for Elijah Daniel. Both of those guys will be in the mix as will Raashed Kennion. I still believe Carl Lawson will be on the field by the end of the year, but that’s just my gut feeling.

Jello1: The offensive struggles against Kansas State were due to: A) A perfect gameplan by the Wildcats. B) Lack of execution by the Tigers. C) Poor play calling by the Tigers. D) All of the above.

I think it was a little bit of everything. Kansas State definitely had a great plan, which was to run blitz on first down and try to put Auburn in passing situations. Auburn has shown in the past the ability to run with eight or nine guys in the box, but sooner or later you’ve got to throw the ball on first down consistently to prove to teams you are willing to do that. I think that is what Auburn needs to do more of.

hoochtiger: In your opinion will Jermaine Whitehead ever play for Auburn again?

That’s a tough one. I really think it’s 50/50 right now. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back on the practice field beginning next week, but at this point that’s just a guess on my part.

DyeHardFan: What is your level of access to the team, the coaches and practice compared to years past?

Things haven’t been the same since late in the Tommy Tuberville era as far as access goes at Auburn, and college football in general. We get the opportunity to talk with players during the week as well as both coordinators. I think that’s a big plus and gives us a good pulse of the team compared to just talking with Coach Gus Malzahn.

givhandy: Your thoughts on the game plan this week.. %run vs %pass?

Even though I believe Auburn needs to spend some quality time throwing the football, my guess is we’ll see a good bit more running than passing. I think 70 plays would be about 45/25 run-to-pass.

howells: How many throws for Nick this week?

I could see Nick Marshall getting 15-18 throws this week. I would love to see him throw it 20-25 times in the first half and really get into a rhythm, but I don’t see that happening.

auac92: Why do we continue to try to run the ball when the percentages against the defensive alignment is to throw the ball?

Malzahn wants to be physical running the football and with the success the Tigers have had on the ground it’s just natural to keep calling the run. I think for this team to get to the next level offensively it has got to turn Nick Marshall loose on early downs more often.

Irontiger: Who have become the leaders on this team. Some guys we all expected but who are the young guys that have stepped up?

The guy who has stepped up in a big way is junior linebacker Kris Frost. He has really become a more vocal player for the Tigers on defense and is definitely one of the leaders for this team. Marcus Davis is another young player who has some strong leadership qualities.

Kris Frost

HoustonTiger: Do y'all walk or drive to Jordan Hare stadium from the ITAT command center on gameday?

It kind of depends on the game time and how much traffic. Normally I will go drive over early and get to the stadium. Mark and Guy Rhodes come over a little later and will sometimes walk from the office. Following the game I’ll get done first and pick them back up when everyone is finished. Usually takes us about three hours to get postgame done.

tigerinwake: Jason..How much freedom do you think Nick Marshall has right now on his zone read play? In other words how much is truly at his discretion to read vs predetermined keep/handoff call? Followup- whatever your answer is, how does that compare to Nick Marshall 2013 season?

It’s really hard to tell, but from the naked eye it looks like more runs are called gives or keeps than what we saw last season. The coaches seem pleased with his decision-making so far so that leads me to believe they’ve been holding back some of the true zone-read for later in the season. I may be wrong, but early in the season it sure doesn’t look like the same reads he was making last year. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting used to different blocking by different players.

ATLTiger07: If you had to pick today, who is your Heisman and who are your final four?

I would probably put Marcus Mariota as my Heisman winner. I think he’s the best player in college football right now. As for my final four that’s a really tough one. I don’t think Florida State will lose twice so I have them in there. The same with Oklahoma. Not sure they will get beat twice in the Big 12. I am not sure who will survive out of the Pac 12, but I’m inclined to think it will be Oregon if the Ducks can stay healty up front. As for the fourth I’ll go with the Auburn/Alabama winner. Each team may drop one along the way because of the league, but I don’t see a second loss.

carnellisanescalade: Do you think this OL lineup will remain the entire season, or could you see changes being made to the starting lineup?

Unless the line play really falls off I don’t see a change up front. With that being said, if the line play does struggle the first guy off the bench would be Devonte Danzey, I believe. He’s had a good preseason and fall camp so far at guard.

gtwstock: Do you think it's a good idea to play Russell at DT instead of Whitaker so that he has experience going into next season?

I really think Dontavius Russell should be getting some reps for that very reason. He’s going to be called on to play a big role next season so getting some experience would be important for him. The good news for the Tigers is they will have Montravius Adams back and so far Devaroe Lawrence has looked pretty good. I also think Lambert will move inside to tackle before next season. That gives you three pretty athletic guys, but they’ll need Russell for sure.

tigerwwb: Last week Kansas pressed on the run and short routes. If other teams do that it looks like the middle slants are open and longer patterns with good pass protection. I hope we have worked on catching the ball better the first half. Last week would have been a little different had the receptions been made.

They work on the passing game and catching passes every day in practice. I’m not sure what happened last week other than it was an off-night in terms of concentration. I think Coach Dameyune Craig probably got their attention this week.

seahud: Do you see Braden Smith getting more or less reps per game as the season progresses?

You had Brandon Smith, but I’m assuming you meant Braden. I don’t see him getting a ton of reps unless the Tigers can build some second half leads. It’s just not normal for second-team offensive linemen to get into the game unless there is an injury or it is late in a game that has been decided.

bptiger: Other than luck, what does this team need to do to find itself in the final four?

I think the biggest thing is to improve each week. That was the key last season and the goal this year as well. The defense has taken that to heart, now it’s time for the offense to pick up the slack.

Actman: Redshirt or playing time? We lose have 5 seniors on DL. What is your feeling about giving some of younger DL some playing time (instead of redshirting) such Lawrence, Russell, Williams, etc.?

Devaroe Lawrence has already played this season and will probably get a little more action as the season progresses. I mentioned earlier that I would like to see Dontavius Russell go ahead and get some experience to get ready for next season, and he’s good enough to help also. As for the other guys they’re not as ready so the redshirt year will be better for them.

upfront: Will the TE's factor in the receiving game this '14 season?

Auburn tried to target C.J. Uzomah at least twice last week at Kansas State, but he was grabbed and held on one (without penalty). He’s going to get his chances to make plays, but I don’t see him being a huge part of the offense because of the other weapons outside.

eagle805: Why are we not throwing short passes (quick outs, swing passes, etc.) early in the game to get NM in an early rhythm before we go for the home run.

Auburn threw short several times early against Kansas State, but unfortunately when you’re mostly throwing on second and third down it makes it tough to employ the short passing game. Throw it early and often, both short and long, and I think it would open up the entire offense.

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