Photo by Jason Caldwell

Jason Caldwell's Friday Auburn Mailbag Column

Jason Caldwell of Inside the Auburn Tigers/ answers questions about Auburn sports.

hoochtiger: Jason, what has big the biggest surprise for you so far this season both good and bad?

The bad is easy, the play of Jeremy Johnson. Based on what I had seen from him in the past I thought the offense was going to be at least as good as last season’s because of the way he could throw the football. I definitely didn’t expect Johnson to play the way he has this year.

As for the good it would have to be Carlton Davis. I thought he would have a chance to play early, but I had no idea he would be as good as he’s been as a true freshman.


Tiger82: What's our situation at center?

Right now I believe we will see Devonte Danzey at center this weekend to allow Austin Golson a chance to get closer to full speed. I wouldn’t rule out Golson playing though because he was moving around pretty well earlier in the week. I think he could be an emergency guy this week.


TIGER45: Jason, what is the the one thing that you would like to see a LOT of improvement in on the offensive side of the ball (excepting the obvious of course, the qb play) before next football season?

To me it’s the wide receivers. The group hasn’t shown much in the way of improvement in the last two years and that has been a big hindrance on the offense in my opinion. While the quarterbacks haven’t helped, games like Arkansas show just how important they can be when they don’t play well.


eagle70: How does our baseball recruits who have signed rank nationally?

I think the group is going to be a solid one by the time they are done in the spring. With several guys expected to come on board in April they could wind up with a pretty big class.


AugTiger: What are the things you think needs to happen before next season for Auburn to get back in contention for a SEC championship?

The first thing that needs to happen is to find out exactly what they want to do on offense and stick with it. That starts at quarterback because the staff needs to decide to either go forward with a dual-threat quarterback or with a more pro-style guy. It seems to me they are stuck in the middle at the moment and that just doesn’t work. It’s all or nothing at the moment in my mind and they have to decide which fork in the road to take.


AUtigeritaville: Give me a song that sums up the entire 2015 Football season  

I tried to tell people for two years that Nick Marshall was a much better quarterback and leader of the offense than people gave him credit for. This one sums it up perfectly:


wtbtiger: Do you think CM will give up play calling in the future and bring in an OC that has the same offensive philosophy and let him run the offense?

I wouldn’t be surprised to see another offensive coordinator with the same philosophy brought in at some point because Lashlee is a guy who will likely look to blaze his own path sometime soon. As for letting someone run the offense they may have a lot of responsibility, but I just can’t see Gus turning the offense over completely.


howells: I want to ask you the one Mark asked us in Thursday questions for the board. Who do you want to see get a bunch of snaps and I would even add a bunch of production this weekend? Do you think we will throw more than 25 passes? Should we?

There are several guys on defense, including Byron Cowart and Jeff Holland especially, who would really benefit from more playing time. I think both of those guys need to get a bunch of snaps just to get a true feel for what it’s like to be a major part of the defense. It wouldn’t hurt to get Darrell Williams and Montavious Atkinson some work as well since both have played on special teams. They need to get a feel for the defense in a game situation. As for throwing 25 passes I don't think there is set number, but the Tigers don't need to just run the football on Saturday. In my opinion they need to find some confidence in the passing game this weekend before the Iron Bowl.


Dewsweeper: It seems for Malzahn's offense to click on all cylinders he needs a true dual threat QB.  Do you agree and if so, is that QB on campus or do we have to recruit one?

I never thought that before until this season. I do think that a solid quarterback in this offense can make it work just fine as we have seen from Sean White at times this year, but based on what we’ve seen this season a true dual-threat quarterback is a guy who can cover up for other problems on offense. I still believe you don’t have to have a dynamic runner, but you’ve got to have someone that can at least get you out of problems.


wtbtiger: What is your opinion as to why Cowart is not getting a lot of snaps? Is it his work ethic or is there physically wrong with him?

I think right now the Tigers have older guys who are playing better. With no room for error on defense right now it has really kept them from being able to go very deep on the defensive line. As for his work ethic I think Cowart is a guy who has done just fine in that department.


gtwstock: Jason, I see that Volleyball is playing in the Arena at 5:30pm before the men's basketball game.   I don't know much about the special floor they have for volleyball.  Can you find out what they have to do to get that floor put away and the basketball floor/goals/seating etc. ready for the men's game.   Any special preparations coming for this unique doubleheader?

I watched the put the floor down for volleyball and it’s a pad that fits on top of the existing hardwood floor so it shouldn’t take too much for them to get things transformed.


tinye: How much of our lack of touchdowns in the Red Zone can be attributed to lack of a Tight End to throw to (e.g. Lutz, CJ Uzomah)?

It could have a little impact, but Uzomah had just six touchdowns in the last two years so it’s not like he was an automatic red zone touchdown for the Tigers. As much as anything not having a running threat at quarterback has allowed defenses to focus in on the running back. That makes it tougher to run the football when you have less room to work with. I think because of that Auburn’s lack of imagination on early downs has put them in too many predictable situations.


aunatchamps: In our punt formation, we have 3 blocking backs that are reserve offensive linemen. Once the first containment is broken, there is very little chance that these 3 OL or the punter is going to make the tackle. Why don't we put 3 swift reserve linebackers in this position, so we might have a chance of making a tackle on a punt return?

With the way the punt team works they have all speed guys up front and funnel any of the rush to the three protectors and that usually works best with bigger guys. I have thought it was a concern at some point if the punting wasn’t up to par and that happened last Saturday. With the punt in the wrong half of the field it made it tough for the big guys to be the last line of defense.


AUFanRick: What's on your Thanksgiving menu? Do you have a specialty you cook each year? Also, how do you like your Turkey: roasted, fried, or smoked?

There is nothing I specifically cook each year but my favorite thing each year is homemade dressing. As for my turkey I like it any way, but a good fried turkey is tough to beat.


greaser417: In your opinion will Purifoy play this year? Has our biggest problem this year been injuries or play of quarterbacks?

I don’t think Purifoy will play this season, personally, but Mark Murphy thinks we might see him on the court this season . As slow as things can be sometimes with guys getting cleared I just don’t like his chances for that this late in the process. As for the biggest problems I really believe a healthy Carl Lawson makes a huge impact on this season, but consistent quarterback play has been the biggest issue.


aliasau: Jason, my brother was in the 1965 Auburn football recruiting class . They are having a 50 year reunion this weekend and have a lot of activities scheduled for them. He was told that this was the beginning of an annual event to recognize those players that have signed with Auburn over the years. Are you aware of this and if so can you give any details that you know.

I haven’t heard any specific details about returning classes, but it’s something they have been doing more of with certain teams. I like the idea of doing it every year. Makes sense to me.


auchamps: How do you see the running back rotation shaking out next season? Do you expect any new guys to enter the mix?

I think the rotation is much like we’re seeing now with Jovon Robinson and Peyton Barber the two main guys between the tackles, but I do think Kerryon Johnson will get more opportunities to touch the football as he continues to mature. The wildcard is Roc Thomas. He’s definitely got the talent, but until he can show the ability to handle more work it’s going to be tough for him to unseat anyone. As for the new guys Malik Miller will have a chance to jump in there, but I think it will be tough for him to break into the rotation next season.


TxTgr: Why did we stop running the ball during the second half vs. Georgia?

Good question and it’s one that I don’t have an answer to give you. I have heard the comments this week from the coaches on that very question and it still doesn’t make sense to me based on how Auburn ran the football so well in the first half, even with Georgia committing eight and sometimes nine guys to stop the run without success.


wcvet: What young players are you looking forward to getting valuable playing time this weekend?

I mentioned several defensive players earlier. On offense I would like to see Ryan Davis get a few touches to see what he can do. Although are not "young players," I am hoping they can get some reserve offensive linemen into the game like Will Adams and Jordan Diamond.

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