Auburn, Ala.--Coming off a disappointing loss to LSU last Saturday in Baton Rouge, Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn said one of the positives for him was the way his young guys competed and performed in a tough environment at Tiger Stadium. With many of those players expected to see their roles increase between now and the end of the season Malzahn said he saw some good things from them.
“Really what stands out to me is the young guys we’re putting on the field are competing,” Malzahn said. “They are competing. They’re not overwhelmed. They are inexperienced and making some mistakes, but they are fighting.
“That’s good for the future because you see how many young guys we’ve got. We’re going to need to count on them and those guys are going to have to improve. I really like them as a whole group.”
The young guy that made perhaps the biggest impact on Saturday was running back Kerryon Johnson. Running the ball, catching passes and returning kicks for a total of 129 all-purpose yards, last year’s Mr. Football in Alabama showed what he’s capable of against LSU. Now it may be time to see his role increase said his head coach.
“He’s very talented,” Malzahn said. “He’s got receiver hands and running back skills. He’s going to give us a lot of flexibility. He would have played earlier but he had the hamstring early in fall camp. He’s getting back to being healthy.
“Really, probably his greatest strength is he’s such a great competitor,” he added. “He almost popped the kickoff return and he gets up and hits the ground. He’s that type, he’s a fiery guy. He’s got a chance to be really good.”
With fellow freshman Chandler Cox seeing significant time on offense with Johnson and guys like Byron Cowart, Jeff Holland, Tim Irvin, Carlton Davis and Jeremiah Dinson all playing a significant role on defense Malzahn said he believes things will only get better the more and more experience that group guys this season.
“That was probably the most encouraging thing I could say for the day,” Malzahn said of their play at LSU. “We’ve got some young guys that do have the talent it takes and all they need is experience.
“They are getting it right now, they are getting real experience,” he added. “That will be how we will improve each game.”
Tiger Ticket Notes:
Auburn sophomore Carl Lawson missed his second consecutive game last weekend after injuring his hip against LSU. Malzahn said at the moment there is nothing new on him, but they are hoping to get some word on him later this week.
"We're hoping in the next day or two that we'll have a little more clarity on that situation," Malzahn said. "Obviously he's an impact player, I think everybody can see the difference the first half against Louisville. We definitely need him back."
When asked about the difficulty it seems that Jeremy Johnson is having picking up the plays from the sidelines Malzahn said he doesn't think that's an issue at all.
"I don't think as far as the play, getting the play and the information. I don't think that that's the issue. It's really, I think more after the play gets started."
One of the keys to having a successful season for any team is dealing with adversity, something Auburn is going through in a big way at the moment. Malzahn said it's something he's ready to see from his team after the loss at LSU and he believes they will answer the bell.
"When you go through adverse times you find out exactly who's all in," Malzahn said. "That's something good moving forward. Our guys have really been a close group and now we're going through a little adversity. We're going to find out exactly our true character and I really expect us to come together and get better."