Photo by Jason Caldwell

Jason Caldwell's Friday Auburn Mailbag Column

Jason Caldwell of Inside the Auburn Tigers answers Auburn football and basketball questions in this edition of his Friday Mailbag column.

Rudy Ford (above) and the Auburn defense will take on the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Saniflush: What is your opinion on the targeting reversal?

I thought it was a terrible call personally. Jeremiah Dinson was the definition of defenseless player and if he had been a wide receiver or quarterback the call would not have been changed in my opinion.


adam36830: Do you honestly believe that Rhett was calling most of the play against A&M?  Do you think that we will continue to see this aggressive style of play calling continue?  If Sean is running well during warm ups on Saturday, how do you expect him to be used in the offense? Thanks!

Lashlee was absolutely calling some of the plays last Saturday night. They changed the way they did things and had Lashlee at the line of scrimmage with Malzahn behind the play where Lashlee normall stands. I think it’s in Rhett’s nature to be a little more aggressive so we’ll see how things go. As for White I could see him have a small role if needed, but I believe Jeremy Johnson is still the guy that’s getting the most practice reps and therefore the guy who will start although it is encouraging that White is making progress physically.


AWBE1: Assuming AU makes a bowl, and based on these bowl projections, rank in order 1-3, what would be your 3 preferred top bowl destinations? If necessary, please add any bowls that you think may have AU on their radar that are not on this list.

My top three bowl destinations based on possibilities for Auburn right now would be Gator Bowl (Taxslayer), Music City and Houston. I think all three of those would be good along with Belk Bowl in Charlotte.


gtwstock: I'm assuming that Dinson was just playing nickel because I've not seen Jones or C. Davis come off the field vs. Texas A&M.   So, do we just get more snaps for Irvin, or do we risk playing Rudy Ford some in the nickel role while playing Ruffin and Roberts more at Safety, especially since Matthews is supposed to be back this week?   What's the critical skill in coverage vs. UGA - matching up more vs. TE or having deep skill coverage ability vs. their speed WR's?

I think Rudy is definitely a guy you could see more of at the nickel, especially because of his tackling ability with teams like Georgia and Alabama still on the schedule. With Blake Countess, Ruffin and Roberts all capable at safety too it gives you some flexibility. As for matching up against Georgia it’s important to keep Malcolm Mitchell from beating you.


TIGER45: Jason, Is this a huge recruiting weekend or is the staff wanting to put more emphasis on it Iron bowl weekend?

It should be another good recruiting week, but with still two more home games I expect each of the following two weekends to be good for the Tigers. No question the Iron Bowl is the feature weekend. Playing at 11 a.m. makes it tougher this week to have a monster group.


wtbtiger: Where you surprised how JJ played last week? Who do you think his go to guy will be this week against a very aggressive defense?

I wasn’t surprised because Johnson has the ability to be a really, really good quarterback. Now I can’t say I saw it coming either based on what we had seen from him this year, but no question he’s capable of getting it done. As for his go-to receiver I think Melvin Ray is a guy he feels really comfortable with.


aunatchamps: Between Avery Young and Shon Coleman who do you think is a better pro prospect? If one or both declare for the draft, who do you think is our starting 5 OL next Fall?

I like Young’s versatility and I think he will end up being a guard in the NFL for a long time. Coleman has gotten a lot better this season and I could see him as a good right tackle in the pros. I think Texas transfer Darius James has a chance to be the right tackle if it’s open as does Mike Horton. The Tigers have still got Robert Leff and I think Bailey Sharp is going to be a good player also. If they lose both guys I could see Auburn going after a juco however.

Jason Caldwell

 Avery Young is a redshirt junior for the Tigers.

ATLtiger07: Can Auburn hoops go .500 in conference play this year, and do you think a postseason tourney is in this team's future?

I think they can be right around .500 this year, but the league is going to be better than it has been in a long time in my opinion. The key for me is going to be how healthy the Tigers can stay. If the key players can stay on the court they’ll have a chance to compete with just about anybody and that’s all you can ask in season two under Bruce Pearl with so much transition on the roster. If they do that they’ll have a great chance to play in the postseason.


powerofdixieland: Will a conservative passing attack like the one we saw against MSU and Texas AM be enough to beat Georgia?

I think it can be, but it all depends on how well the Tigers can run it. I don’t think this Georgia defensive front is as good as the groups they’ve had the last few years so Auburn should be able to run the ball. If the Tigers can throw for 150, avoid turnovers and convert on a big play or two that should be enough.


autigerman: Can we keep both these great but young tailbacks #1 Sony Michel and #4 Keith Marshall under 100 yds Saturday? Both combined......we really need to win the kicking game this week end,could be a factor.

I don’t know if Auburn can keep them under 100 yards, but I do believe the Tigers can keep the duo in check well enough to get a win. Avoiding the big play on the ground is the key. If the Bulldogs have to grind it out then the quarterbacks will have to make plays and that’s what you want if you’re Auburn.


freebird1: Jason, give me your opinion of both sides of the line, from start of the season to now.

On offense I think the group has consistently gotten better with each game Austin Golson has gotten under his belt at center. That just makes a huge difference because now that he’s becoming more comfortable it helps the line come together. On defense the group is much different with Carl Lawson out there. His presence allows the interior guys to have one-on-one situations and make more plays. With Devaroe Lawrence and DaVonte Lambert coming on it has allowed them to show improvement.


givhandy: Any ideas who Butch Thompson fills in for his remaining staff? Are we "man enough" to control the line of scrimmage against the mutts?

Thompson has already hired his two full-time assistants so all that is left is a volunteer assistant. He would prefer to hire someone who has a pitching background so we’ll see if that’s the route he goes. As for the line of scrimmage I like Auburn’s chances up front this week.


wcvet: What is the favorite UGA game you have attended?   How do you explain UGA's dominance in this series while RIcht has been at UGA?

Probably my favorite game was the 1988 game at Jordan-Hare Stadium when Smokey Hodge blasted Tim Worley. A great game that saw Brian Smith make some huge plays on defense, too. As for Georgia’s domination it has a lot to do with its consistency while Auburn has been up and down at times. That has helped out and frankly Auburn has laid a few eggs against the Bulldogs as well.


tryn2: Georgia has a (touted) defense that is good against the run. How will Gus and/or Rhett call the game to minimize the ugaly run defense...???

If you look at Georgia’s run defense overall the numbers are good, allowing just 131.4 yards per game on the ground, but when you look a little closer the picture is a little different. Against the physical running teams they’ve played this year they’ve allowed 174 to South Carolina, 189 to Alabama, 207 to Tennessee and 258 to Florida. I think you line up and show your physicality.


jimbo15: Did you have a sense in recent years that we just wouldn't show up for UGA?  In particular last year was abysmal as was 2006 & 2007 and 2011.  --not even gonna mention 2012 :) Any sense (for whatever that may be worth) that this game will be different?

It’s just hard to tell sometimes because guys always prepare for the game wanting to win, but no question the loss to Texas A&M last season took its toll on the Tigers the next week in Athens. As for the others we get to see glimpses of the team, but no way to know how a team will respond until the ball is kicked off.


bghayes: What can the staff do to improve the hands, routes and perimeter blocking of the WRs? It has improved some, but still lacking. Tackling by the D is coming along, it appears, but I would like your opinion.

The only thing you can do is continue to work on it. They focus on catching the ball every day in practice and also work on blocking. It’s just a matter of concentration at times and sometimes it’s almost trying too hard as a receiver. The softest hands are always the best at catching. If you’re tense and grab at the ball it’s not going to end well. No question the tackling is much better and should continue to improve under Will Muschamp.


AUBones: Given injuries and the unexpected early game struggles at QB, I think this season has the makings to be viewed as a great coaching job by Malzahn & co. given the curve balls they were thrown.  Not to mention the improvement and not collapse in recent weeks. Do you agree?

I don’t think I could ever go as far as great with so many “could have been” games this season. Just a few plays here or there and this team could be 8-1. Much of that may not be their fault, but red zone problems have to at least partially fall on coaches. That being said if this team wins out and goes 8-4 it would be an impressive turnaround.


howells: Will we finish in the top 10 in recruiting? What about a top 10, or better, DL class? How many DL would we have to sign for you to consider the class what we needed and maybe even how many at dt, de/buck?

I think this group has a great chance to finish as a Top 10 class when the dust settles. The defensive line should be rated very highly considering there will probably be eight or nine guys in the class up front with three true defensive tackles a must.


aupops: Jason, thinking that you may have seen J Smith at QB in HS, do you think he would have been a good choice to use him in the zone read offense of the past few years? I'm not asking would he have been better than JJ or SW, just independent of the other 2 guys we have there now, could he have been a successful QB in this offense?

I saw Jason Smith a whole lot in high school as a quarterback and no question he’s got the talent to be a good player running the zone read, but it’s about more than just talent sometimes. Right now I think the coaches feel like Smith is more capable of helping this offense as a wide receiver.

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