Friday ITAT Mailbag: Mixing It Up

Talking football, basketball and baseball in this edition of the ITAT Mailbag.

Cinmeon Bowers (above) is leading the Southeastern Conference in rebounding for Coach Bruce Pearl's Auburn basketball team.

tinye: Any reason why we don't see Reed and Bowers in the lineup at the same time other than Reed is not ready? Lack of size and defense is killing us. I think it would help Cimmeon by letting him play his natural 4 position.

I think it’s something Bruce Pearl has been wanting to do more of this season, but Reed just hasn’t progressed fast enough to make it happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some of that down the stretch, but I don’t think it will be more than a few minutes, if at all.

wDavE: One of the things Ellis Johnson complained about after his dismissal (Heard this through common friends that he has and I have) was that the defense never got to practice against traditional type offense since we don't run them. Did you see witness like this and if you did Will Muschamp and Gus work out something?

I don’t think it’s as much about working against a traditional offense as it is having as much full speed work against the offense as he would have liked. It’s not something Gus Malzahn does much of during the season, but they get work in the preseason and during bye weeks. It’s not something most coaches do a lot of these days, even in the NFL.

AUkarm: Who will be the starting backfields for the blue and white for aday ?

It is way too early to tell how they will be divided up when they get on the field for the game. I think you will see Jeremy Johnson on one team and Sean White on the other. As for the running backs they will be split as well. No telling which guys will be on each team. I could see Kamryn Pettway on one side and Chandler Cox on the other as well.

Actman: Who are our "true" DTs going into spring? I count - not DE's that may play inside - four? Adams, Swain, Lawrence, Russell. Please tell me I am wrong?

That is the entire group of guys who were recruited as defensive tackles. I think Davonte Lambert ends up there once he gets back healthy and possibly Elijah Daniel as well. If things work out the Tigers should have enough depth there by the time they get to August.

alcar7: With the switch to Muschamp and 3 LB's, who do you see at the different LB positions? Cass staying Mike, etc?

That is yet to be determined. I could really see Cassanova McKinzy fitting in the outside linebacker spot that can be used as a pass rusher as well. He’s physical and does a good job of getting to the quarterback. I think Kris Frost will be in the middle with Tre Williams on the weak side. Anthony Swain is a wildcard in my opinion. He could make a run at one of the spots as well.

rosebud: Has a decision been made about Tahj Deen playing out the rest of the season based on his latest injury?

No decision yet. We should find out more on his availability sometime before Saturday’s game at Georgia.

auhambone: Will the AU baseball team be able to compete with the SEC top tier this season and what are their chances to make post season?

I think it’s going to be tough to challenge teams like Vanderbilt, LSU, South Carolina and Florida this year. As for making the postseason it’s always a possibility when you play in the SEC, but with the toughest conference schedule I have ever seen it’s an uphill battle in my estimation.

ATLtiger07: Who are some of the players you think are poised to make the biggest leap with spring practice?

There are several guys I’m anxious to see in the spring like Stephen Roberts, Jordan Diamond, Braden Smith, Devaroe Lawrence, Raashed Kennion and Tony Stevens. At corner I think Roberts can become a very good player. Finally healthy, Diamond could be a factor on the offensive line. With a year under his belt I want to see how much Smith has improved his pass sets. Lawrence and Kennion have the ability to both become impact guys this season as does Stevens. This spring will be huge for the junior WR to make some noise.

tryn2: Who will play the part of Sammie this year...??? Who will play the part of TE this year...??? Who will be our rush end opposite Lawson this year...??? What will the pecking order at RB be after the Spring Game...???

I think Ricardo Louis can be a very good replacement for Sammie Coates. I believe he could have a monster season. As for the tight end Chris Laye is the classic blocking tight end, but Chandler Cox and Kamryn Pettway give you two hybrid types at those spots. As for the rush end opposite Lawson, it’s going to be tough to keep Byron Cowart off the field IMO. As for the pecking order at running back I have no idea. We may not know that until week three or four next year.

gtwstock: OK, 12 of the 14 teams get into the SEC Tournament in Hoover. Which do you think is more likely? Auburn baseball makes it to Hoover. Auburn Softball makes it to the WCWS in Oklahoma City. And how close is your decision?

That’s a tough call. In baseball the Tigers only have to finish better than Missouri and Kentucky or Georgia to make it to Hoover so I think that’s a possibility. I do think the softball team has a legit shot at making the WCWS. I’m still not sure the softball team has enough pitching so I’ll take baseball in a very close one.

KillenTime: Any chance Jonathan Ford returns to the offensive side of the ball? Would love to see him on the jet sweep.

I don’t see Ford making another move unless it’s back to cornerback. With Ricardo Louis in that role along with Stanton Truitt and Kerryon Johnson coming in, I think the Tigers are in good shape running the speed sweep.

samtiger: Who are some 2016 and 2017 basketball prospects that Auburn has a legitimate shot at signing? Also, could you see Pearl adding a transfer Big Man for next season?

The most obvious kid is Austin Wiley from Spain Park. He averaged 19 points and 14 rebounds per game as a sophomore this season and the Tigers have a legit shot at him. He would be an instant difference maker if he winds up on the Plains. As for next season they want to add at least one more big guy. They would like that to be commitment Horace Spencer, but if he winds up elsewhere they’ll try to find another big man for sure.

tunicatiger: Non pitcher, who will be the mvp on the baseball team? Non juco transfer, who will be the most improved player from last year's team? How hard does Camp throw and do you predict he will finish the year as the closer? Over/under on team home runs, stolen bases and one run games?

My MVP candidate who is not a pitcher is Anfernee Grier. I think he’s going to have a really good season in center field. The most improved player from last year’s team for me will be Blake Logan behind the plate with outfielder Sam Gillikin right there. Justin Camp is probably upper 80s and should fit in well as the closer. The biggest question is can they get to him enough? As for the total home runs I will go with 16, stolen bases a total of 95. I have no clue about one-run games. Let’s say 17.

settindown: What will be our base defense? Personnel wise we seem to fit 3-4 scheme better than 4-3 IMHO.

I think Auburn will use both the 4-3 and 3-4. It will probably still be a 4-3 base defense in theory, but I think you will be the term “multiple” a great deal from the Tigers.

settindown: With the lack of experience at TE/H-back and a more traditional pocket QB expected to start, do you believe we run more 4 wide sets than we have the last Two years?

I think there’s a chance Auburn uses more four-wide sets next season, but I really think we’ll see Kamryn Pettway and Chandler Cox on the field together at times. That would allow the running game to look similar to the last few seasons.

auroy: What is your confidence level that Pearl will be able to sign Horace Spencer in the late signing period. In my opinion, he is the biggest factor in AU being able to take another step forward next season.

I think Auburn still feels good about signing Spencer at the moment. The more big numbers he puts up the tougher it’s going to get, but no question the Tigers are keeping the talk going because he plays very early next season.

WSlay: Will S Golloway be the AU baseball coach 1 year from now?

Seeing that this is just year two for him at Auburn, I think it would take something strange for him to not be back in 2016.

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