Sean White (above) is a redshirt freshman quarterback for the Tigers.
Auburn, Ala.--Rhett Lashlee said he is looking for Sean White to step up his performance level in his second college start when the Tigers take on San Jose State on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn’s offensive coordinator made the comment on Wednesday night after the Tigers practiced for two hours both outdoors and indoors preparing for their visitors from the West Coast.
“He has done fine this week,” Lashlee said of White, the redshirt freshman who made his college debut in a 17-9 loss last Saturday vs. Mississippi State.
“He competed hard,” the coach said. “He did a lot of things right as far as making the right reads, going the right places with the ball. He took some shots in the pocket and delivered the ball on time.
“He did some good things that he can build on for a first start but, obviously, he will be the first to tell you, we have got to win,” said Lashlee, who is also Auburn’s quarterback coach. “That is what we are going try to pick up this week.”
White replaced Jeremy Johnson, the starter in games one through three at quarterback. “I am proud of how he is handling it right now,” Lashlee said of Johnson being demoted to a backup role. “It is not easy. It is harder than people think for a young man. He is doing a really good job. His teammates are helping him and supporting him.”
Commenting on the running back situation, Lashlee said that sophomore running back Roc Thomas, who left the game early last week after hurting his ankle, will be ready to play vs. San Jose State. “He is good,” the coach said. “He hasn’t missed a beat.”
Roc Thomas (above) opened the season as a starter and is currently a backup running back.
Asked if he is concerned that Thomas has been sidelined multiple times with injuries, Lashlee said, “We have been curious about his durability will be and so far he has continued to play, but until he can go for a stretch without getting nicked up that is a question.”
Freshman Kerryon Johnson gave the offense a spark in the first half vs. Mississippi State, but didn’t get that opportunity after intermission with Peyton Barber getting most of the playing time.
“Peyton was running the ball really well there for a good clip,” Lashlee said. “Right now he is the guy who is proven from a ball security standpoint and just a toughness standpoint. He can carry that load. That is not to say that Kerryon couldn’t.”
Commenting on Johnson, last year’s Alabama Mr. Football, Lashlee said, “Mentally, he is picking everything up. We gain more and more confidence with him every week. He is explosive. He made some really good plays and he is going to continue to be a big part of what we do.”
The other newcomer in the running back mix, junior college transfer Jovon Robinson, has been running fourth team and has seen very limited playing time. Asked if Robinson’s ankle injury is a factor in that, Lashlee said, “A large part. He definitely can get involved. We have been playing the guys who have been earning it in practice and obviously been the healthiest.”
The Tigers practiced for two hours on Wednesday and finished up indoors when there was lightning in the area.
“We were outside for part of it,” Lashlee said of practice. “You need to be outside in the rain sometimes because everyone knows you could play in it at some point, but we have a great indoor facility here so that helps.”
The coach said the offense is working to improve in numerous areas. “We have to generate some explosive plays, regardless of what they are doing,” he said of how defenses are trying to prevent Auburn from throwing deep passes.
The coach added, “There is no question we have to do a better job than we have been of making people defend the whole field.”
Against Mississippi State penalties were one of the factors that kept the Tigers from scoring any touchdowns. “We have had more negative plays than we need to have and not enough explosives,” Lashlee said.
In other news and notes:
*Gus Malzahn said on Wednesday that linebacker Tre Williams, who hurt his knee last Saturday, is “day-to-day” on his status for returning to game action this week. Previously, Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp said he the sophomore would be ready for action this week.
*Malzahn said there is a possibility that junior cornerback T.J. Davis could see his first action of the season. He was injured the first week of spring drills and had knee surgery.
*Senior wide receiver Ricardo Louis extended his streak last week with one pass reception, but was not full speed to nagging injuries, according to Malzahn. Louis has at least one catch in 23 consecutive contests.
*The Tigers will be looking to extend several streaks on Saturday. One is a streak of 23 consecutive victories in Homecoming contests. Auburn’s all-time record is 76-8-4 for Homecoming games.
*The Tigers also have won 27 consecutive non-conference games played at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
*With four games in the book, Lashlee was asked for his assessment of the offensive line’s play. “They have been okay,” he said. “We have not been dominant. We have ran the ball decent, not great.
“In the last two games specifically as a group, and that is not just the line, collectively we have got to protect passer better,” he said. “That goes from the line to the backs to the quarterback--that is everybody.”
*Auburn has a 5-3 record vs. teams from the state of California and is 1-0 vs. San Jose State, which lost 59-13 last season at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Spartans play in the Mountain West Conference, a league that is 0-4 in games vs. the Tigers with Utah State (42-38 in 2011), Wyoming (35-21 in 2000) and Fresno State (62-0) also losing vs. Auburn.
*Saturday’s game will be televised on the SEC Network with kickoff shortly after 3 p.m. CDT. Dave Neal will do the play-by-play with Matt Stinchcomb as the analyst and Kayce Smith as the sideline reporter.
*The Auburn Network radio coverage featuring Rod Bramblett, Stan White, Quentin Riggins and Andy Burcham is available on Sirius 83 and XM 190.