Rhett Lashlee (above) is seen on the sidelines in Auburn's 26-10 victory at Texas A&M.
Auburn, Ala.--Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said after Wednesday evening’s football practice that injured quarterback Sean White is making progress and noted that he is impressed with the Georgia defense the Tigers will face on Saturday.
White, who started five consecutive games prior to being held out on Saturday night vs. Texas A&M due to knee and foot problems, has been able to practice some this week, according to Lashlee.
“He is looking better,” said Lashlee, who is also White’s position coach. “He has practiced yesterday and today some, which is a lot more than he has done the last two weeks, so he is definitely, steadily improving.
“He has gotten some quality reps,” Lashlee added. “We are trying to be smart with him, but he is getting better. That has been a positive sign.”
Jeremy Johnson got the start at quarterback in Auburn’s 26-10 victory at Texas A&M and could be back in the lineup again vs. Georgia. The decision on who will start at QB will be made later in the week, head coach Gus Malzahn said on Wednesday. Johnson started Auburn’s first three games of the season, but struggled and lost the assignment to White.
Malzahn said after the game at College Station that Lashlee took a larger role in the play-calling vs. Texas A&M. Lashlee down-played his role following Wednesday’s two-hour practice.
“A big part of it was the same,” Lashlee said. “We game-planned the same. We kind of do it together on the sidelines the same. Just things sometimes went a little different just the way the dynamics work. We still did it the same we were just maybe in different positions on the sideline.”
When Auburn has the football Lashlee normally is around 10 yards farther away the Auburn line of scrimmage than Malzahn, who is normally the primary play caller. For the A&M game the coaches changed positions on the sidelines as the Tigers posted season highs for rushing yardage (311) and total offense (443 yards) vs. the Aggies.
Asked if that felt good after the offense had struggled much of the season, Lashlee said, “Well, it’s rewarding that our kids got a hard-fought win against a really good team in a hostile environment. There were definitely things we could have done better, but we probably played a more complete game from start to finish.
“We had, I think it was our third series, a third and two or three that we didn’t convert and then our fourth series we didn’t convert.
“After that, with the exception of running the clocks out each half, we were able to move the ball and get points and keep our defense off the field,” Lashlee said. “We would like to have seven more than three (points), but again overall the tempo was better and our kids just played better and they get all the credit for that.”
The 2014 Auburn offense was strong against almost everybody it played, but the notable exception was in a 34-7 loss at Georgia. “They just stuffed us,” pointed out Lashlee, who said for whatever reason the Tigers didn’t look “ready to play” vs. the Bulldogs.
“The first drive we went down and scored and really didn't do anything well after that,” he recalls. “They get a lot of credit for just outplaying us. It wasn't a complicated plan by them, they just executed it very well. We had some dropped balls. We weren't very good on third down. We had two or three penalties on two or three key third downs that we converted that cost us the conversion. We got behind the eight ball at their place, and it just snow-balled on us.”
Lashlee said the Auburn offense will be tested again this year by the Bulldogs. “They have a great defensive staff. They do a great job. This is, in my opinion, the best defense we have played this year. It’s not even close. Statistically, it proves that, giving up 18 points a game. A couple of games they haven't even given up touchdowns. They do a good job.
“I think they're a better defense this year than last year,” Lashlee added. “They have got some youth, but they have some talented young guys playing. It's a great challenge for our guys. It's a great challenge just because it's Auburn-Georgia. We need to play well in front of our home fans.”
Lashlee said the Tigers worked on specific situations they may encounter on Saturday vs. the Bulldogs in the renewal of Auburn’s oldest rivalry and noted he liked the workout.
When Auburn needs to throw the ball vs. Georgia, a player who could be a factor for the Tigers is Tony Stevens. He has seven catches for 120 yards in seven games this season after seeing his playing time increase dramatically since Duke Williams was dismissed from the team.
Tony Stevens is a six-foot-four junior receiver.
“Tony has done a really good job stepping up,” Lashlee said. “Part of it is getting the opportunity and we are the most of it. He has made some big catches and we're going to need him to make more big catches. We needed him to come on, and he has.
“Jason (Smith) is, obviously, getting better each week and feeling more comfortable playing that position, moving around,” Lashlee said. “Marcus Davis is stepping up. Melvin (Ray) has been steady. We have had a lot of guys step up, and that's good.
“To be honest with you, when you can just spread the ball where it needs to go and not necessarily worry about feeing the ball to one specific guy, you can just run the offense and trust that whoever it is is going to make plays. It always runs smoother that way anyways.”
Stevens said the offense took a step forward in Auburn’s 26-10 victory at Texas A&M.
“This is how it is supposed to look when everything is clicking,” the junior wide receiver said. “We got the running backs running the ball, you got the line protecting, you got the defense doing turnovers and the special teams doing its job. It was a complete team.”
Stevens noted he is excited about becoming a bigger part of the offense in recent games. “When my number is called I have got to make a play,” he said. “It is the same for me and everyone else on the team.”
Sophomore center Austin Golson said it felt “awesome” to get a road win over Texas A&M and rush for more than 300 yards in the process. “That is the first time this year, I think,” he said of AU’s big rushing numbers.
“Coach said he was going to put it on our back and that is what we did,” Golson said of the offensive line’s play. “We found a way to get yards and our backs ran their butts off and broke plenty of tackles. I am very proud of the way our offense ran the ball.”
Sophomore defensive end Carl Lawson said the victory at College Station excited the Tigers. “It was a great defensive win, it was a great team win,” he said while adding, “We need to build on this. We need to get better. I need to get better and the rest of the team is going to get better.”
Carl Lawson has played back-to-back games for the Tigers since returning from a game one injury.
Lawson, who is from Milton High School in Alpharetta Ga., said he is looking forward to playing the Georgia Bulldogs, but noted he looks forward to every opportunity to play. “I want to win every game,” he said. “One game doesn’t set apart from the others. Every game is special to me because I want to win.”
In other news and notes:
*Saturday’s contest, which will kick off shortly after 11 a.m., will be televised on CBS with Carter Blackburn doing the play-by-play and Aaron Taylor the analyst. Jenny Dell is the sideline reporter.
*The Auburn Network radio coverage is available on channel 81 on both Sirius and XM. Rod Bramblett will do the play-by-play with Stan White the analyst and Quentin Riggins will be the sideline reporter. Andy Burcham does the locker room reports and Paul Ellen is the studio host.
*Westwood One will also carry the game on a national radio network with Brandon Gaudin calling the action and Derek Rackley the analyst.
*The Tigers and Bulldogs have just one common opponent. UGA won at home 27-3 last Saturday vs. Kentucky, a team Auburn defeated 30-27 in a road game on Oct. 15th. The series between the Tigers and Bulldogs, which began in 1892, is the SEC’s oldest and the record is tied at 55-55-8. Georgia has a record of 15-11-2 in games played on the Auburn campus.
*Sophomore Daniel Carlson goes into Saturday’s game with a streak of 12 consecutive made field goals and 83 consecutive makes on PAT kicks. Carlson was 57-57 on PAT kicks last season.
Carlson is 18-21 on field goals this season and ranks number two nationally in made field goals per game at 2.0. Carlson, who handles kickoffs, is having a strong season with that part of his game. The Tigers lead the nation in fewest kickoff returns allowed with 10.