Jason Caldwell

Jason Caldwell's Friday Auburn Mailbag Column

Jason Caldwell answers question about Auburn sports in this edition of his Friday Mailbag column.

AUpoker: Well there should be some good ones this week, but I'm going off the grid. What surprised you the most about the committee's 1st rankings of the season?

Nothing really surprised me a whole lot with the first rankings of the year. I figured Alabama would get overrated based on what it has accomplished this season and that happened. Baylor and TCU have plenty of chances to impress the committee in the coming weeks and if one runs the table they’ll get in this season IMO.

 

howells: What has been the most improved unit on the team through the season? What is the best unit on the team outside of kicking?

I think the unit that has improved the most is at running back. Peyton Barber stepped in and did a great job of carrying the load for an offense that had very little going positive until he became the go-to guy. Throw in Kerryon Johnson’s play, Roc Thomas catching the ball out of the backfield and Jovon Robinson’s play last week and the group has played pretty well considering the circumstances.

As for the best unit on the team I think it has been the offensive line. While they have been far from perfect, I think the struggles at quarterback and sometimes unimaginative play-calling has made it tough for them to get the job done against eight and nine-man fronts. They have still managed to do some good things and I believe they will only get better.

 

ATLtiger07: Interested to get your take on the job openings. Which would be the most appealing to you if you were a head coach?

That’s a tough one. I would probably say Miami. I know all about the lack of support and facilities, but you could never leave Dade-Broward County and recruit a very good team every year. The right guy in that program is instantly a winner and with the struggles they have had it’s less pressure than being at USC.

 

AuburnNinja: How far do you think Cam and that defense can take the Panthers this season?

They are definitely a playoff team and could be a team that gets a bye before all is said and done. They are built for the playoffs because of the running game and defense, but they’ve got to squeeze every ounce out of the passing game to have a chance to make it to the NFC Championship Game.

 

gtwstock: Is Jonathan Wallace the backup QB this week vs. A&M?

Gus Malzahn said on Tuesday that Wallace is getting some reps at quarterback and also still continuing to get work as a wide receiver. It still looks like Jeremy Johnson would be the No. 2 guy.

 

accau: Has Sean White participated in all of the practices this week???? Do you anticipate attracting any more JUCO student-athletes?   Ifso, what positions??

Sean is definitely beat up, but I don’t think it’s any worse than it was last week. I believe he’s practiced all week, but I’m sure they’ve taken it easy with him. As for the junior college guys the best bet would be on the defensive line with a guy like Paul James a major target.

 

givhandy: Can anyone begin to explain JJ's performance this year?

I can’t, not even close. Jeremy Johnson has the talent to be a really good quarterback, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. We have seen him in action and perform really well in games before so you know it’s there, but for whatever reason he couldn’t take his game from backup to starter.

 

wtbtiger: Why our players having so many dropped passes this year? Why do we seem to not get much separation on our pass routes?

Good question on why so many dropped passes and I don’t know why it’s the case other than sometimes the harder you try to make a play the tougher it becomes. No question in my mind that was the case at Arkansas and things just mushroomed. Last week Melvin Ray had a big drop, but we found out after the same his shoulder was hurt. As for getting separation on routes I think much of that has to do with when plays are called. On early downs Auburn has hit passes with guys really open, but when you throw the ball mainly on third and long it’s tough to get guys running free.

 

tigerpi: Could you update us on Tyler Queens progress. And do you expect him to participate in Spring practices

Tyler is doing really well. He’s been out of his elbow brace for over a month after having surgery. He says the timetable for him to be back is before spring practice, but my guess is they will hold him out of contact just to make sure.

 

AUTD2: Who would you say is the MVP so far this season?

I would probably go with Daniel Carlson at the moment. I’m not sure anybody on this Auburn team has had as much impact as he has this season. Even though he had a couple of early misses, one because of a dropped hold, Carlson has been a huge weapon for the Tigers kicking field goals as well as on kickoffs.

 

m5guy: Do you think we will be able to establish a running game and keep the ball away from Murray who could kill us with his feet (and arm)? This seems like the best chance for us to win to me - your thoughts?

I don’t see any reason why Auburn shouldn’t run the ball very successfully against the Aggies. Five times this season they have allowed at least 230 yards rushing with South Carolina going for 253 and four touchdowns a week ago. If Auburn can’t run it this week the Tigers are going to have real issues down the road.

 

TIGER45: Jason, do you recall the ACT people ever holding up a player's eligibility for this long a time? Is this unusual and is there a time limit on how long before someone has to give Purifoy a ruling?

It is really unusual to be in November with no announcement yet on whether a true freshman has eligibility or not.

 

AugTiger: Gus said when he first came to Auburn as an OC that he wanted to recruit the athletes that would allow him to keep the same players on the field and go fast. He has some versatile athletes now on offense but most plays are still a fire drill of personnel changes. Is this his new norm now?

The constant substituting is slowing the offense dramatically and also is like a beacon for opposing defenses to hone in on certain plays based on personnel. I am not sure why they can’t get at least a few plays out of the same 11 before substituting.

 

aunatchamps: With John Franklin's commitment, are we done at QB recruiting? Do you think he is better than Jerod Evans and Riley Ferguson if we were going the juco route?

I think Auburn is done at quarterback for this class unless something changes with the current roster. As for Franklin comparing him to other guys I haven’t seen enough of them to break it down, but he’s a really good runner and that’s something we have seen work in this offense. It seems to me it’s the safest pick to bring a guy in with his athleticism.

 

Autigeritaville: If Jeremy Johnson came to you for advice on switching to another position, where would you suggest he'd go that'd give him the best chance to see playing time?

I think I would probably suggest a hybrid tight end/big wide receiver. He knows the offense from a quarterback standpoint so it should be something that would be an easier transition. With his hands and athleticism I think he could be an interesting guy to watch there.

 

JMurph4AU: With the commitment of John Franklin, do you believe we are going to go back to the hurry up-mobile qb-offense that we have gotten away from?

I think that remains to be seen in spring practice. If he’s a guy who gives them a look similar to what Nick Marshall brought to the offense I think it’s going to be hard for them to turn that down based on past history.

 

Tiger82: How are aTm's special teams? We seem so close to breaking one, maybe this will be the week?

Punt return may be the chance this week. The Aggies are allowing around 10 yards per return this year so Marcus Davis could have some opportunities. Now returning the ball Christian Kirk is as good as anyone in the country. Going to be huge for Auburn to limit his chances. Also, the Aggies have a good field goal kicker and a strong punter.

 

KillenTime: I'm very impressed with Kerryon Johnson as a freshman RB. Do you think he could be our next Tre Mason type every down back? How do you think he compares to freshman RBs of the past? I see potential greatness - am I wrong?

I think Kerryon is a stud and have since I first saw him in the ninth grade. He’s only going to get bigger and stronger so I like his chances of being a really good back for the Tigers. I don't know that I see him as a 30-plus carries per game type of guy, but I think 15-20 touches a game and his play on special teams is the route is on at Auburn. He reminds me some of Carnell Williams because of his natural ability to find the hole and get positive yards.


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