Photo by Jason Caldwell

Jason Caldwell's Friday Auburn Mailbag Column Featuring Auburn Football and Basketball

Jason Caldwell of Inside the Auburn Tigers/AUTigers.com answers questions about Auburn football and basketball in this edition of his mailbag column.

Chandler Cox (above) is a sophomore for the football Tigers.

WarEagle1986: Jason, how significant a role do you see Chandler Cox playing in the offense this season? I think his play in the run and pass blocking game are absolutely essential for Auburn to be dynamic this season on offense.

I believe Chandler will be a very big part of things this year. He will get some carries as a true running back, but most of his action will come as a fullback/H-Back. Something that should increase are his touches in the passing game and with Sean White at quarterback those should happen more often.

 

Tinye: Where you surprised about Raashed Kennion's decision to go into politics? I thought if any Auburn DE would get into politics it would be Gimel President.

I’m surprised at any player going into politics this quickly, but if you told me someone would be doing it I could see Kennion making the move. He’s a bright young man and I think he’ll be successful if he chooses a career in politics.

 

Hoochtiger: Jason in you opinion what is the one team in the SEC that is not a preseason title favorite that could make some noise?  What is the one team in the SEC that is a preseason title favorite that you could see stumbling?

That’s a tough one. I believe Auburn is a team that fits the mold, but only if the Tigers can build some confidence early. If that happens then look out. As for the team that could stumble, I think both LSU and Ole Miss are candidates there. There are questions at QB for LSU and distractions in Oxford could be huge.

 

Au3020: Please give me one key performer for Auburn on both sides of the ball and why you feel that way.  That one player that would change the season if he were injured and out for the year.

Mine are Chandler Cox on offense since his run blocking ability needs to come through like Heath Evans used to do and help move this offense. On defense it is Carl Lawson.  If he stays healthy he will once again have opposing QB's screaming to their mother in the stands for help.

I think the key for Auburn on offense is Kerryon Johnson. There is depth at the running back position, but he’s the most complete of the backs by a long shot. That is something this offense needs to be successful in my opinion because the defense can’t focus strictly on run or pass. Defensively it’s easy. Without Lawson last year the defense wasn’t close to the same. Even without making plays at the end of the year he brought a different feel to the game.

 

Plainsman94: Aside from QB, who is the ONE player from the 2013 or 2010 team that you think would make the greatest impact on this year's squad if he still had eligibility remaining?

I would go with either Tre Mason or Darvin Adams. Both of them were so good and made such a big impact on the offense. In the end scoring points is going to be the difference for this team and both of those guys helped the offense in a big way.

 

AUFanatic: General question: I would be willing to bet most folks on this board are jealous of the job you have covering Auburn University/Sports (and you certainly do it very well!) but I know, like every job, there are dreadful days as well. Over the years, what has been your best and worst day covering Auburn University/Sports?

That’s another tough question because there have been so many great moments over the years. The best day was probably the BCS title game win over Oregon just because it was such a surreal moment and one I’ll never forget. As for the worst days those are easier to pinpoint, the two different shootings that left players dead. Those are always the ones that get to me because these are guys I’ve gotten to know very well through recruiting and then at Auburn. Gone way too soon.

 

Howells: Do we see any more from center and/or sugar huddle? I'm curious for various reasons.

I think you could see Auburn do a lot more of the short huddle with Sean White at the quarterback because of his ability to throw the ball that opens up a lot more play-action passing with him at the helm.

 

Gr82bnautygr: I saw Woody Barrett throw a pass in one of the videos in what I assume, the first scrimmage. He looked like a linebacker but the pass appeared to be in double coverage and was intercepted. How has he looked in practice this fall camp and beyond? Does he appear to be picking up the offense pretty good? He could be a beast of a quarterback.

I think he has picked things up pretty well so far. He got a ton of work in the preseason with the second and third teams to get a feel for the offense. The tough part for him is just going to be getting very little work in the actual offense again until bowl practices. I’ll be anxious to see how he looks then to see how he’s changed and how his body has changed. I agree that physically he has all the tools.

 

M5guy: Jason compare/contrast Pettway & Miller as far as speed, elusiveness, ability to run inside & outside goes. I know Pettway has the advantage of having been in the offense for 2-3 years.

They are both big backs with Kamryn Pettway probably more physical and faster in a straight line. As for Malik Miller,I think he’s probably more of a true runner in terms of vision and ability to cut in the hole and make people miss.

 

Mgmzebra: With all the DL praise being written; Give me some OL positive comments.

Are our guards all world? How goes the C/G and DL GAP BATTLES? Is the C play better than last year? Some on the board are saying we will need all QBs as the tackles are gonna get them "killed". How have they performed against those two "super heroes" at DE?

I think the OL play will be just as good as last season and could be better because of the interior. Austin Golson was just beginning to play at a higher level at the end of the year when he was hurt so I expect Xavier Dampeer to be better overall there. The guards speak for themselves and I think they’re among the best tandems in the country. As for the tackles while Shon Coleman played solidly last season I thought Avery Young had a subpar year. I think Golson and Robert Leff should do just fine.

 

WSlay: Versus Memphis, we went back to an attacking/aggressive approach offensively.  Even with the INTs, we were putting pressure on the Memphis D.  Do you think this trend continues in 2016?  Will we have aggressive play calling on offense?

I think that was the first step in Gus Malzahn’s re-emergence with this offense. No question he was more involved in that game and even though White struggled because of his bum foot/knee they took some shots. I expect what we saw against Memphis, Kentucky, Arkansas and Ole Miss to be more of what the offense looks like this year.

 

Saniflush: Do you think Tyler Queen would have played last year if he had not been injured?

I don’t know if he would have played, but I think once White got hurt he would have had a shot to get in there. He’s physical and pretty athletic for his size and is the son of a coach so he knows how to play the game. That would have at least put him in the running.

 

1963Eagle: What are the men's basketball team of making it to post season? The NIT or NCAA tournament.

This year’s team faces a really tough non-conference schedule so piling up wins before conference play isn’t going to be easy. With that said I think they will be much improved and I could see them making a run at the postseason. Right now I lean more towards NIT just because of that tough stretch in December and January.

 

MSandPHDatAU: Excellent question.  I'm curious about Landon Rice's roll this year. Is he a legit receiving threat?  How does he compare to Harris?  Thanks

I think Rice is definitely a receiving threat for this Auburn offense with White at quarterback, particularly in the red zone. I could see him becoming one of those targets that the offense missed so much last season. Harris is probably a little faster in terms of straight line speed while Rice is probably the more physical of the two in terms of blocking.

 

SAMFORDHALL: How do the coaches feel about the OL depth. It appears somewhat thin from an experience perspective.

You would always like to have experienced depth on the offensive line, but it rarely happens. It’s just one of the things that happens with offensive line play because the only true way to build depth is either by injury or blowouts. Getting guys like Mike Horton, Marquel Harrell and Kaleb Kim some reps this season will be important.

 

Southgeorgiatiger: Do you believe in Kevin Steele? Or maybe put a better way...how confident are you in Kevin Steele to be an excellent DC at Auburn?

I really like the way Steele has come in and handled things to this point. His personality seems like a good fit for this defense and the staff as a whole. That is so important to getting guys to play to and above their levels on a consistent basis. We’ll see how things work out, but I believe this defense is going to be much improved.

 

Tunicatiger: Who is the primary recruiter for MJ Walker and do you have any feel for our shot at signing him?

At the moment there’s no indication he’s seriously considering the Tigers. Auburn would certain take him if he wants to come to the Plains, however. He’s absolutely a good basketball player.


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