Sean White’s strength is throwing the football and is something that should come with more playing time, but Gus Malzahn had to be pleased with what White did on the ground in the loss to Mississippi State. Showing the toughness to pick up some key yards and take on contact, White definitely impressed his teammates and that’s something that goes a long way in the locker room and on the practice field.
I think Jeremy Johnson deserves some credit as well for the way he handled things on Saturday. He was up and talking to guys on the sidelines, something that should help him when and if his opportunity arises again. At this point, however, I think White is the answer for the Tigers and with San Jose State this weekend and a bye week to follow it’s a great opportunity to let him build on his first start.
Let’s Get Physical
I completely understand the plan from Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee to not take too many chances with White in his first career playing experience. I think it’s actually something that could help this team develop the kind of toughness needed to win in the Southeastern Conference. Former Tiger star linebacker Quentin Riggins reminded me this week that the same thing happened in 1989 following an early loss to Tennessee in Knoxville and a later loss at Florida State.
Deciding to get back to the basics, Coach Pat Dye and the Tigers ran the ball almost exclusively in a 14-0 win over the Bulldogs to set the tone for the rest of the season. The next week quarterback Reggie Slack hit Shayne Wasden for the winning touchdown to beat Florida, setting Auburn up for a strong finish and a 10-2 record.
I’m not saying this year’s team is going to follow the lead of the 1989 group that was headed for its fourth SEC Championship in a row, but something can be said for getting back to the basics. It produced a better showing on both sides of the ball for Auburn on Saturday and now the Tigers have to build on that starting Saturday against San Jose State.
Carl Lawson isn’t playing for the Tigers on defens,e but it’s not stopping him from making an impact on this team. Saturday he was busy on the sidelines helping Lance Thompson coach the Buck position and giving advice to Raashed Kennion and Jeff Holland. That’s a huge thing for Lawson to do and shows his teammates just how important winning is to him even if he can’t play himself.
Another player that stepped up his game from a leadership standpoint on Saturday was White. It’s always important for the quarterback to take on that role and I have been told the redshirt freshman was talking to everyone before the game. Just doing those little things and making an effort to keep everyone involved is a big part of what playing the position is all about.
The Future Is Now
While Peyton Barber has done a great job becoming Auburn’s go-to back there is no question that Auburn needs to continue to get Kerryon Johnson involved in the offense this season. An instinctive player who just has a knack for making the first man miss, Johnson is fearless and that means the moment isn’t too big for him.
On defense while the secondary guys and Byron Cowart have gotten much of the attention the player who could become the most important for the Tigers down the stretch is "buck" Jeff Holland. An explosive athlete that is physical at the point of attack, Holland could be one of the answers for Auburn’s struggles rushing the passer.