Dye-Gest: Newcomers Should Contribute

College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye writes about the Auburn Tigers in this edition of his Dye-Gest column.

Wide receiver Jason Smith (above) is looking to earn playing time in his first season with the Tigers.

It’s hard to believe we are less than three weeks away from Auburn’s first game of the college football season. In our area the excitement just builds up, up and up all the way until kickoff. While the coaches and players get excited about that just like fans do, they realize that there is still plenty of work needed before the Tigers will be ready to play Louisville on Sept. 5th.

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Both Auburn and Louisville had major scrimmages over the weekend. In Auburn’s case the coaches used the scrimmage to evaluate a lot of different players and either held out or gave limited practice time to some key players who are already established for the playing rotation.

As a coach when you do that it can be more challenging to get a true evaluation of the team, just like it is when the quarterbacks are off limits to contact in the preseason practices. For example, in a scrimmage situation the quarterback might be prevented more making a big play because the whistle blows when there is a defender near him. The other side of the equation is the defense doesn’t have a chance to make the big hit on a quarterback that could lead to a turnover. When the quarterback knows the defender isn’t allow to smash into him, there is a tendency to hold the ball to the last second to make a throw that he wouldn’t otherwise try.

The promising thing about Auburn’s scrimmages in the preseason, and going back to the spring, is that there have been kids playing hard on both sides of the ball trying to make plays. Because of that, and because I believe this team has enough offensive skilled players to make good things happen, this should be a fun group to watch.

I am looking forward to seeing Roc Thomas if Roc Thomas has a breakout season as a sophomore. He cetainly has big-play potential. Fellow sophomore running back Peyton Barber had a big play in Saturday’s scrimmage on a reception while another running back, Jovon Robinson, made a long touchdown run.

I am also looking forward to seeing if senior Ricardo Louis, who caught a long touchdown pass from Jeremy Johnson in the scrimmage, steps up and has his best season. He looks like a more confident and consistent player this year.

I am excited to see if newcomer Jason Smith will be ready to become a big-play threat for the Tigers. Like Louis did when he signed with Auburn, Smith is making a conversion from quarterback to wide receiver.

Now that fall classes have started the amount of practice time is reduced and the coaches will be steadily condense their list of players they will be preparing to play in the season opener. My expectation is there will be a good number of young ones in that group that will be in the game plan for opening day.

There will likely be other young players who were expecting or hoping to see early action and there will be some long faces when they figure out that isn’t going to be happening this fall.

For this year’s Auburn team I believe the young defensive players will have better chance of getting on the field and contributing because of the need to bolster the depth on that side of the ball. It is very important that the Tigers receive significant contributions from those guys for this team to have a chance to live up to high expectations many have for it.

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