Freshman Initiation: Tigers Prepare For Allen

Auburn is preparing to face freshman QB Kyle Allen for Texas A&M.

Auburn, Ala.--For the second time this season the Auburn Tigers (7-1, 4-1) will be facing a true freshman quarterback making his first road start when Kyle Allen and the Texas A&M Aggies (6-3, 2-3) roll into Jordan-Hare Stadium this weekend looking to turn around their season.

The first time that happened Auburn dealt Brandon Harris fits in his first-ever start for the LSU Tigers, but Allen already has one start under his belt after leading the Aggies to a win over Louisiana-Monroe last weekend. While it wasn’t a great performance for the number one quarterback prospect in last year’s recruiting class, completing just 13-28 passes for 106 yards and one touchdown with one interception, Allen has some experience to fall back on as hits the road as the starter.

However, getting some experience is just part of the equation when trying to develop a young quarterback, said Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin. Learning how to use what he sees and also tell the coaches is another part of playing the position and it’s the biggest thing the coach wants to see from his freshman signal-caller this week.

“I think there’s a balance between what you ultimately want to do and what that young man can handle,” Sumlin said. “I think the hard part for first-time quarterbacks and really young players in particular, not necessarily first-time starters if they’re older, but for young players, it’s about them communicating what they’re comfortable with and what they’re not. I think they’re always trying to please you and feel like whatever the game plan is they can handle.

“I think it’s important in that relationship that, particularly with young quarterbacks, they have the ability and the courage to speak up at the end of the week and say, ‘Hey, I’m not seeing this the right way or I don’t feel comfortable doing that.’ I think that eliminates some uneasiness and creates some confidence in the game plan.

"The hard part in that is having the relationship with a really young quarterback that he’s not trying to just please you or show that he’s unafraid, but having him being honest with what he can and can’t do so that you can eliminate things he’s uncomfortable with.”

In its first opportunity to face a freshman starter on the road for the first time the Auburn defense passed with flying colors in the win over LSU. Putting the clamps on Harris and the Bengal Tigers, Auburn allowed just 280 yards of total offense and limited the visitors to just 8-24 passing for 142 yards.

That was an LSU offense that remained true to what it has always done with Les Miles, running the football and mixing in the play-action pass. This week could be a different story as the high-flying Texas A&M offense from the past two seasons, and from early this year, was replaced by a conservative approach last week in the win over Louisiana-Monroe. Because of that Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said the approach for the Tigers will be to prepare for every possibility.

“It’ll sort of be a guessing game,” Johnson said. “I don’t know whether they’ll try to be cautious or not. It’s certainly not in their philosophy to do that. We’re going to prepare for the regular Texas A&M to come in here throwing it around.

"They've got a very good offensive line," he said. "Their receivers may be the most talented. They’re young. They’re not as old, as experienced as that crowd last year, but I know the young man’s got great talent and can throw the ball anywhere on the field.

“It’s just a matter of them protecting him and him reading the coverages and those things," Johnson said. "The last ball game they played a lot of heavy sets, two tight ends and things of that nature, but the team they were playing was a big blitz team--a lot of zero blitzes and fire zones and stuff--and it could have been they wanted to just clean it up for him, a lot of max protection, two-man routes, very different. We’re going to have to split some time on it, we’re going to have to spend time on both, make sure we prepare for both.”

The Tigers and Aggies will kick off at 2:30 p.m. CST on Saturday at soldout Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised on CBS.

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