Jason's Friday Mailbag: Miss. State Week

Answering your questions as the Auburn Tigers prepare to face Mississippi State in a huge SEC showdown in Starkville on Saturday.

TIGER45: What kind of gum does Gus like best?

Gus Malzahn, like myself, is a Dubble Bubble guy. He has been doing it since his high school days. It is definitely one of his superstitions.

Jello1: Any clue of why Justin Garrett disappeared from the defense last Saturday?

I think the emergence of Brandon King could make things even tougher for Justin Garrett moving forward. While they don’t play the same positions, Auburn could tweak the defense a little bit to get King more involved because of his tackling ability. I still don’t believe Justin Garrett has all of his mobility back after his injury early last fall.

justafanwde: The comfort level of Chad and Avery together again on the right side seemed to be a major difference maker for our OL. What seems to be the plan for the future on the OL?

That’s a good question. It’s not just the comfort level on the right side that made an impact, but also the left side as well. Don’t forget that Shon Coleman and Devonte Danzey played side-by-side last year on the second team. They got a lot of reps together, something that can’t be discounted. I could see J.B. Grimes sticking with last week’s line to see how they respond.

au3020: Jaylon Denson has gotten some playing time but not what he had last year prior to his injury. How far along is he to being at the level he was before his injury? How much of a chance we see him get an expanded role in the next few games? Also, how close is Carl Lawson getting to be able to practice, much less get on the field this season?

Denson wasn’t much of a downfield passing threat even before his injury. Because of that I think he’ll continue to be a role player in this offense. I am not sure who you can take reps away from at the moment to put him on the field. As for Lawson it’s still just wait and see. He’s able to do some running, but as far as his practice availability that remains to be seen.

DapperDanMan34: I believe that a huge part to our success on Saturday will be for both lines to get good push upfront. Offensively, they need to get the D-line on their heels and defensively they need to blow through the line and cause some disruption in the back field. Your thoughts Jason?

No question the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball is going to be huge. Defensively, it’s not so much about penetration as it is controlling running lanes. Auburn needs to avoid giving up third down scramble runs by Prescott. That is going to be huge. On offense the Tigers are going to need to spread the defense again, similar to last week against LSU, making the Bulldogs defend the width of the field to open up running lanes.

gmason73: I liked our aggressiveness against LSU QB Brandon Harris last week. Do we see more of the same against a more experienced Dak Prescott or are we more conservative and try to contain and cover?

I think it’s much tougher to play aggressively against a veteran mobile quarterback like Prescott. I expect to see more zone from the Auburn defensive backs with blitz packages mixed in. Keeping him in the pocket is a goal this week, make him beat you with his arm.

aunatchamps: With 20 commitments and the punter Ian possibly greyshirting, how many more commitments will we sign in this class and who are a couple that could commit next?

I think Auburn will sign somewhere between 24-26 guys in this year’s class. The goal is obviously to add a couple of defensive linemen and possibly a wide receiver and offensive lineman at a minimum. I think the next logical commitment could be from junior college defensive tackle Maurice Swain. He visited last week and has the Tigers as his leader.

ATLTiger07: With all the talk about cowbells and how loud Kansas St and Miss State stadiums are, what was the loudest road game/stadium that you've ever attended?

Florida may be the loudest true environment with just the fans, but Mississippi State is far and away the most distracting because of the cowbells. With them factored in it’s also the loudest. If they ring them during the play it becomes an overwhelming advantage. If they only ring them when they’re supposed to, then it’s not that big of a deal. LSU is loud, but it’s more about the environment there than the noise. Kansas State’s noise level compared to anything I have been covered in my 15 years.

howells: If we can force Prescott off of his passing spot is he the kind of guy that excels throwing out of the pocket or would he rather throw from the pocket and run between the tackles? I think all qbs dislike middle pressure and I hope we have the ability to do that with the dts and the scheme we have.

Prescott can throw on the run. It’s not a big deal for him to make plays outside the pocket. Because of that I think Auburn’s best bet is to try to keep him in the pocket and take away the run-pass option. That’s always the toughest thing for a defense when facing a mobile quarterback.

autigerman: I believe the kicking game will be a main factor in this game as in field position.Your thoughts on our kickers and punters play for this weekend? Can we keep Miss St. pinned deep in their end of the playing field?

I don’t have any doubts about Daniel Carlson the kicker, but the punting game is still a question mark in my mind for the Tigers. Carlson has done a solid job, but the lack of hang time is troublesome when you face an athletic team like Mississippi State and other teams still left on Auburn’s schedule. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them use Jimmy Hutchinson again in a pooch punt situation to try to allow Carlson a breather every now and again.

2015105TDAUBURN: What do you think is the biggest reason why our defense has improved compared to last year? Did you expect them to be playing this well at this point in the season?

The biggest reason for the change is that the defense is now in the second year of a system. Going from Ted Roof to Brian VanGorder to Ellis Johnson in three years makes for a tough transition for the players. Now they are confident in what they are doing and that allows them to play faster and without too much analyzing. When you can read and react quickly it makes playing defense much easier.

AUviewpoint: What are your plans for the bye week?

My plans for the bye week are to watch my nephew play for West Alabama on Thursday night. Then I’m going to enjoy a restful Saturday to watch some college football games. Kansas State at Oklahoma, Texas A&M at Alabama, Oklahoma State at TCU, Georgia at Arkansas, and Notre Dame at Florida State is a pretty good group of games to watch.

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