Auburn, Ala.--Heading into Auburn's football game vs. Texas A&M the Tigers were expecting a major challenge from the Aggies’ talented true freshman quarterback Kyler Murray and his impressive receivers.
Although it was just his second college start, Murray’s quick feet combined with a receiving corps that includes Christian Kirk, Speedy Noil, Josh Reynolds and Ricky Seals-Jones was expected to provide a major test for Auburn’s secondary, which had to play without injured starting safety Tray Matthews. That quartet of receivers had combined had 134 catches for 1,824 yards and 12 touchdowns.
With Matthews out with an ankle injury, Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp replaced him with a committee of players looking for an opportunity to impress in sophomores Nick Ruffin and Stephen Roberts along with freshman Tim Irvin.
“We really rotated those three guys with Blake Countess throughout the entire game and I thought we got good production from them,” Muschamp said. “We weren't hurt by anything in those situations.
“There were some things from a communication standpoint we need to do a better job of adjusting out some formations, but when you are still a young player those things are expected. We have just got to coach through those situations, but are very pleased.”
The starter in place of Matthews vs. Texas A&M was Ruffin, who finished the game with six tackles and two passes deflected. Ruffin also started in the Jacksonville State game this season and on the year has 18 tackles. Muschamp said he was pleased with his performance, noting, “I thought he played solid football, I really do.”
Another plus in the secondary was the play of Opelika native Roberts, who contributed three tackles and a pass deflection in his first significant playing time for the defense this season.
“I'm very pleased with their performance,” Muschamp said of Roberts and Ruffin. “They really stepped up and made some nice plays and certainly are capable of that and doing better. I'm very pleased with both guys.”
A freshman whose impressive performance came as no surprise to anyone, especially Muschamp, was cornerback Carlton Davis. He picked up his third interception of the season against A&M on a one-on-one matchup in the end zone with wideout Damion Ratley and showed his continued improvement.
“What a great play on the post route,” remarked Muschamp. “It was a well-thrown ball. It was a 50-50 ball against a really good player. There is nothing really surprising us any more. He is a very good football player. He does a nice job.”
The Tigers return to action with an 11 a.m. home game on Saturday vs. Georgia, which will be televised on CBS from Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Matthews, who transferred to Auburn from Georgia where he played vs. the Tigers in 2013 before redshirting last year at AU, should be able to return to action vs.the Bulldogs. “I think he'll be fine this week,” said Muschamp, who said based what he has seen from Matthews in practice this the safety will be back in action on Saturday.