Jason's Friday Mailbag: LSU Week

It's mailbag time as Jason Caldwell answers your questions in advance of Auburn's game against LSU.

Senior Nick Marshall (above) will challenge LSU's defense on Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Eagle70: Who is your "pick to click" on offense and defense this week against the LSU Tigers?

My pick for offense is Nick Marshall. He had a pretty big second half against LSU last year and I think the Bengal Tigers are going to stack the line of scrimmage to try to take away Auburn’s running game. That should open big opportunities for the passing game. On defense I’ll go with Josh Holsey. I think Auburn can get a couple of mistakes from the freshman QB this week.

cAUmberlandTiger8: How big of a roll in the passing game will C.J. Uzomah have going forward?

That is a good question. I believe he will have his opportunities, but with the other weapons outside I don’t see him as a guy who catches a lot of passes. He will, however, come up with some big plays in my opinion.

AUTigermeat: What % would you give Frost and McKenzie of playing bulk snaps Saturday?

Right now I think that’s still up in the air. I believe both will be game-time decisions. I really think we’ll see a lot of Anthony Swain and Tre Williams even if one or both of the first-team linebackers are ready to go. I don't know a percentage on that, however.

pytiger: At what point in the season do you think Peyton Barber will get some meaningful carries?

At this point I’m just not sure it’s going to happen. Normally those things happen earlier in the season, but that hasn’t been the case so far this year with Cameron Artis-Payne getting the bulk of the work. I can’t see that changing unless he is injured.

ATLTiger07: Can you identify the guys who currently qualify for redshirts?

Right now the guys who quality as redshirts are Kalvaraz Bessent, Markell Boston, Myron Burton, DeShaun Davis, Chris Laye, Jakell Mitchell, Kamryn Pettway, Dontavius Russell, Justin Thornton, Joe Turner, Sean White and Andrew Williams.

alcar7: Assuming everyone is healthy and ready to go: what OL combination do you think gives us the best chance to do what we do?

I think it’s the one the coaching staff thought was the best combination to start the season. I really think it’s just a matter of finding a groove offensively.

givhandy: Can the corndogs stop our offense without a monsoon? Is our D is playing good enough to stop the lswho running game? Will Sammie be full speed this week?

I think LSU’s defense will be ultra-aggressive this week to try to take away Auburn’s running game. We’ll see if it works. As for Auburn’s defense, the strength has been against the run. If the linebackers can’t go that will be a trickier assignment. As for Sammie I think he’s ready to go and will be closer to full speed than he has been the past two weeks.

AUtigeritaville: Do you think Corey Grant is being utilized enough? All off season I heard about his strength and conditioning and adding weight, etc. but he still seems relegated to speed sweeps.

I think Corey is what he is. He’s a speed guy who has shown some power, but I just don’t think he is the answer running between the tackles. Maybe he will prove me wrong this week, but you’ve got to be able to make guys miss in the hole when playing in the SEC. I believe his big plays are coming in this offense once Marshall gets his running game untracked.

auhambone: Will Auburn use a different punter this week?

That remains to be seen. I do believe they’re still searching for an answer to that question. I would like to see Jimmy Hutchinson get a shot at this point. Auburn just needs to focus on hang time and sacrifice some distance. Consistency is the key and that isn’t happening right now.

nhill76: Do you get the feeling that Coach Garner isn't stressing out about the 15 DL class that much since AU leads for a lot of 2016 DL? Who do you think commits first between 2015 DL Maurice Swain and 2016 DL Julian Rochester?

I really believe Auburn has a shot to have a great 2016 defensive line class with Julian Rochester, Antwuan Jackson, etc. all liking the Tigers. I don’t think Rodney stresses about those guys anyway. He wants who he wants and doesn’t care about star rankings. That’s the case this year. He hasn’t offered 25 guys like most schools, just a few he likes and he’s continuing to work on them. As for commitments I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or both of Swain and Rochester do something soon.

AUviewpoint: Who takes more snaps at QB on Saturday....Jeremy Johnson or Anthony Jennings?

I don’t think we’ll see too much of Jennings in the game. I really feel like LSU is going to sink or swim with Brandon Harris. As for Jeremy Johnson, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t get at least a half-dozen snaps and maybe a few more.

Actman: Any chance we might see Braden Smith in a TE number - much like Shon Coleman was used last year?

I think the Braden Smith to TE movement will happen sometime this season, and it could be this week. He would give the Tigers another edge blocker in short yardage situations. That could be especially helpful near the goal line.

fredl: How do you rate the Top 4 teams in the SEC as of today?

That’s a tough question. I think Auburn, Alabama, Mississippi State and Texas A&M are my top four teams as of this Friday. We’ll have a much better feel for that after Saturday’s action.

tryn2: What do you suppose our OL starting line-up will look like and if we have another injury, who is the first guy off the bench...??

I’m still not sure whether we’ll see Patrick Miller at right tackle or if Avery Young will be back out there. It will probably a game-time decision on that. If Miller can’t go and there is another injury then either Robert Leff would probably be the next guy up at tackle. At guard it would be either Deon Mix or Will Adams.

bigplayer2404: Where do you see our strength in offense for 2014, the running game or the passing game? Do you think Gus will begin to shift to more of a pass to open up the run game trying to maximize the abilities of our WRs and TEs?

I think the strength of this team right now is with the wide receivers. Because of that I think you could see the Tigers throw it a little more to loosen things up for the running game, but this year's team will probably run the football more often than pass it.

Duke Williams and Auburn's wide receivers are a team strength

WSlay: If you were calling plays Saturday night, what would be your game plan on 1st down play calling?

I would still run it more than throw it, but I think you’ve got to test LSU on first down eight to 10 times on pass plays just to show them you’re willing to do it using a few slants over the middle, throws to the back and a couple of deep balls. That will keep the safeties and linebackers honest.

howells: Who do you have as Auburn's best player going into this week? What is Auburn's best unit as well?

I think Auburn’s best player right now on offense is probably Duke Williams or Reese Dismukes. Dismukes is always going to get a vote because of everything he does up front. Defensively, I think it’s Jonathon Mincy. Noboby is talking about him because nobody is challenging him. He’s playing well.

aunatchamps: Have you seen Carl Lawson working out? Is able to run yet or where is he in his rehab? Any predicted date to see him on the field soon?

I haven’t seen Carl working out, but he told me a few weeks ago that he was starting to do some things. I thought before the season we could see him by South Carolina. That’s three more weeks and would leave half the season for him to play. I’m not sure that will happen, but that was my guess then and there is no reason to change that at this time.

MelissaNGa: Does Gus have a pre-game ritual?

Gus certainly does have a pre-game ritual. If you watch when Auburn stretches he has to go around and touch every player on the shoulder or helmet before they are done. It’s something he’s done since his high school days and he continues it at Auburn.

autigerman: Whats the real problem with Kenny Flowers? Does he just not get it?

Flowers had a strong spring when Auburn was without most of its linebackers, but he just hasn’t been able to make a move this fall. I think it mostly has to do with consistency. If an older player is going to be inconsistent then Ellis Johnson will go with the young guy.

settindown: Do you think that our offense is weakened by not having a Fullback like Prosch? Are Fulse and Uzomah effectively making up for the loss of Prosch?

This offense worked well in 2010 without a true fullback and can be fine with Fulse and Uzomah this season. It just takes the coaches a little while to figure out what those guys do best in the blocking game and tweak the offense accordingly. They did the same things last year with Prosch, who had some struggles early in the season before steadily improving.

justafanwde: If Danzey starts will Chad & Avery man the right side?

If Devonte Danzey is playing for the Tigers this week he will be a left guard. Slade would be back on the right side. That’s correct.

cycletiger36: Will we attack the middle of the field with short and intermediate passes vs. LSU?

I think it all depends on how well Auburn is running the football. The more the Tigers run the ball, the more defenders LSU will have to put in the box. That means one-on-one coverage and some chances to throw the ball deep.

Augtiger: How does the overall team chemistry and desire to win for this team compare to last year's team?

I think the team chemistry is fine and this team wants to win. I’m still waiting on someone else to step up on offense and be a leader. Nick Marshall and Reese Dismukes have done it. Somebody else has to take up that role as well.

AUEngr10: How does Auburn counter the constant Safety/OLB outside blitzes we have seen for the past 2 weeks? Will Gus let Marshall air it out down the middle?

I think Auburn needs to make Marshall a true running threat again. I believe the Tigers have tried to keep him healthy for this stretch run by taking away much of his running options. We saw last year he was banged up for much of the middle of the year, something I believe the coaching staff has been trying to avoid this year. With an SEC West opponent coming to Jordan-Hare on Saturday it istTime to turn him loose.

TexasTiger02: What game last year did Prosch start blocking well? Do you think Fulse will start blocking better? Do you think Gus has been running a vanilla/basic offense so far? What are the strengths of the LSU defense?

It was the Ole Miss game before Auburn’s offense really hit its stride last season. Some of that was due to Prosch figuring out how to block better on the edge, and that coincided with Marshall’s improvement in the zone read. I think the same things are ahead for this offense and Fulse. As for the offense I do think the Tigers kept things a little closer to the vest to this point with their play-calling. If that’s the case then it will probably change beginning this week. As for the LSU defense, the strength is with the speed on the edge of the defense and in the secondary.

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