Jason's Friday Mailbag: Georgia Game Week

Answering your questions as the Tigers prepare to face Georgia in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.

AugTiger:Is there any hope for the defense to make major improvement at this point in the season or can we expect to see more of the same for the rest of the year?

I still think there is hope for the defense, but for me it’s all about the return of Jermaine Whitehead. He can bring stability to the safety position, which has been a big problem the last month of the season.

In the end the ultimate improvement will be up front, a place Auburn continues to underperform. Getting more production from the line is a must for the defense to take steps forward and that means guys like Montravius Adams and Angelo Blackson need to make plays in the backfield this week.

howells: What is our biggest need in recruiting and how are we looking there?

I think the biggest need for Auburn in this class remains in a pass rushing defensive end. Even with Carl Lawson back and full speed next season the Tigers will be depending on Raashed Kennion and Justin Thornton to handle that role in 2015. D'Andre Walker remains the guy that fits the bill for what the Tigers need in this class. He is an explosive pass rusher and is teammates with Montavious Atkinson, which could help Auburn get him on board.

jimbo15: Any concern that the 'air is out of our sails' with not as much riding on this game? At least to the point that we no longer control our own destiny? What is your overall sense of our attitude heading into Athens?

I don't see a lot of reason for concern about the Tigers being ready for this game. There is still plenty to play for this season, especially when you’re playing one of your biggest rivals. I think the attitude is pretty good this week. I’ll be surprised if the Tigers aren’t very determined on Saturday.

mattree: Jason I expected Gabe Wright to make more of an impact this year. What do you think has been the reason he has not had more of a breakout, consistent season?

The lack of production from Gabe Wright has been one of the biggest surprises for me this season. He entered the season is the best shape of his career, but at 285 or so he may have been better served to stay at defensive end. He seemed to be more active playing outside earlier this season, something I wouldn’t be surprised to see against either Georgia or Alabama.

aunatchamps: Which team benefits the most from the extremely cold weather on Saturday night?

I really don’t think it will have a big impact on either team this weekend. The wind is much tougher to deal with than temperatures in the 30’s. If it gets into the teens then it’s a totally different story, but the weather on Saturday night shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

eagle70: What plan do you think we will use to stop Gurley from catching swing passes out of the backfield?

I think this is a huge game for Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost. It’s up to the linebackers to be able to cover the flats so they’ll have to get the job done. It will also be a key for Robenson Therezie. He needs to have a big game for the Tigers and that means making plays in the open field on the edge of the defense.

24baldeagle: Georgia loves to throw over the middle, do you think we will quit taking chances with linebacker blitzs?

The need for a pass rush has forced the Tigers to blitz much more the last month, but it hasn’t produced much more in the way of pressure on the quarterback. I think it’s going to be tougher to blitz this weekend unless Auburn can play better defense on first and second down. Forcing Georgia into third and long situations is a must and that would allow the opportunity to blitz from different areas, not just from the linebackers.

colliem: I noticed on at least one 3rd and long against AtM, we rushed 3 guys...that's it! AtM converted very easily. Why would you rush 3 on a 3rd and long? We seem to be MUCH better on pass defense when we put lots of pressure on the opposing QB. Where's the blitz?

You’ve got to try to mix it up so I don’t have a problem rushing three every once in a while. The lack of pressure has been an obvious problem this year and even with the blitz Auburn hasn’t gotten to the quarterback that much. Because of that I think playing straight up more may be the way to go for the Tigers.

Rick4AU: While everyone has been piling on CEJ this week, I've seen little mention of Coach Cheese when discussing frustrations. It's clear to see our Secondary has been struggling of late. What portion/percent of the blame do you feel should be placed on Cheese for the Whitehead issue as well as the safeties looking to be so out of place at times?

I think the struggles in the secondary have a lot to do with the lack of experience at the safety position. Rudy Ford is in his first year at the position and Derrick Moncrief is a junior college transfer. Throw in Josh Holsey, who missed much of the last year with an injury and spent the preseason at cornerback, and it’s not a shock the Tigers had problems at safety the last four weeks. As for placing the blame it’s an impossible thing for me to do, but Whitehead was suspended for a reason. That’s one thing we know for sure.

accau: How does a coach go about coaching to eliminate offensive errors such as interceptions, fumbles and penalties???

It’s all about repetition--you work and do things over and over until it becomes second nature. You emphasize correcting mistakes and work on them.

CB4AUBURN: Two part question. In the past, games at UGA used to be fun and enjoyable, win or lose. Why has that changed so drastically in recent years. Ever since the "soilder-boy" game my UGA game experiences have been awful. Also, what is the "best" way to leave Athens after a game? I don't think there is a correct answer.

No question in my mind that things changed that night. The atmosphere created one of hostility and it hasn’t changed since then. Nobody that witnessed that game or the way fans and players acted that night will ever think the same of Georgia. It’s a shame, too, because it used to be my favorite game of the season. As for the best way to leave Athens after a game I can’t help you there. We’re usually three hours or so after the game before we’re done. It’s pretty clear at that time.

rileyb: What do you believe will be Ellis' gameplan in slowing down the uga offense? Do you think Gurley's return could be a distraction and inhibit the continuity they've built since his suspension?

I look for Auburn to play a similar style to the one we saw against Arkansas early in the year. The first order of the business is to stop the run because if you can’t do that then it opens up the entire offense for Georgia. I don’t think Gurley will be a distraction, but I do think it could make the offense a little different when he’s back out there. Sometimes it can make a team look to the star to get the job done instead of everyone pulling their own weight.

AUviewpoint: If you we're in charge of planning a expansion and/or renovation of Jordan-Hare Stadium, what would you do....also assuming you had to justify the budget?

This is a question I have thought a lot about in the last few years. The first thing I would do is take about the top 25 rows off of the top of the North end zone. That would allow the room to put luxury suites on each end, which would create the extra income you need. Between the suites I would have several banquet-type rooms with bar area for gamedays. They could also be used for parties throughout the year, wedding receptions, etc. That’s more income available as well.

I would build a parking garage that connects to that end of the stadium. I would also have connecting gates to Jordan-Hare Stadium so people parking can go from car to suites without going outside in case of bad weather, etc. You could also add jumbotrons on both sides of the new deck so fans on the other end of the stadium have access to replays, etc.

gmason73: Given how well our defense has played against more traditional offenses this year and struggled against spread offenses, do you thing Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 isn't a good fit against spread offenses? As a follow up, since that is what he has installed, could there be some thought on making the Star position rotational based on the opponent? In other words, play better pass defenders at that position against spread offenses.

The defense is designed to work better against the spread because of the hybrid player in the star role. What is crazy is that Robenson Therezie should be the perfect fit in the role because of his defensive back background, but he has really struggled this season in coverage. By putting Nick Ruffin at the position they are already allowing for a different type player there in the future, but we’ve seen this season that no defense works without pressure from the front four. If you can’t get to the quarterback without blitzing then you’re in trouble.

JV2007: Do you think J Johnson will play anymore this season besides the Samford game? Why has Corey Grant not played (run) that much since the Miss St game?

I’m not expecting to see a whole lot of Jeremy Johnson against either Georgia or Alabama, but I’m not ruling out seeing him for a special play here or there. As for Corey Grant, Ricardo Louis has really taken on that role for the offense this season and is doing a good job. Corey is doing a good job as a blocker strangely enough and that is more of his role right now. I still think he will make a big play somewhere down the road and it may be this week.

HoustonTiger: How is Reese Dismukes doing? That last turnover had to really tear him up inside.

Reese is doing fine. I expect he will be the same determined player we’ve seen the last four years when he hits the field this weekend

ATLtiger07: Where does the Miracle at Jordan Hare rank in terms of favorite plays in the history of this series? Any others come close?

For me there’s nothing that is even a close second. I would probably say Devin Aromashodu’s fumble in Athens was one to remember as was Smokey Hodge’s hit on Tim Worley. That play was one I probably watched a thousand times when I was still in high school.

wcvet: Which players have the potential on defense to step up and be a differencemaker before the end of the season?

The guy I’m still expecting to make some plays is LaDarius Owens. He is starting to get more consistent push off the edge and I think he’s going to get to the quarterback sometime soon. The same is true of Elijah Daniel. He’s getting closer and that would be huge for the defense against Georgia and Alabama.

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