Kamryn Pettway (above) and the rest of the Auburn running backs will likely be busy in pass protection vs. Clemson's defense.
Auburn, Ala.--Clemson’s defense must replace most of its starters from last year’s Atlantic Coast Conference football championship squad, but Auburn's offensive coordinator, Rhett Lashlee, notes that this week’s visitors will show up with defensive players who have seen a significant amount of game time.
Clemson returns eight offensive starters and only four on defense from last season’s team that finished with a 14-1 record.
“From a personnel standpoint, there are some questions,” Lashlee said about Clemson on Sunday as Auburn moved into game-week preparations for Saturday night’s contest at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“The thing is they beat everybody so bad last year, the guys that are now starting in place, now they lost some good players--the two D-ends, the two safeties, that corner those are really good football players--but the guys that are playing safety, the guys that are playing d-end, the guys that are playing corner for them now in place of those guys played a lot of football last year because they were up so many times in games. They got in and played a lot.
“There is a lot of film on them so wow, maybe they don’t have a lot of experience being the guy, but they have played a lot of football and so you expect them to be much better players, even a year later,” Lashlee said.
“From a schematic standpoint, they just played for the whole thing (national championship) so I don’t think they are going to overhaul a lot,” Auburn’s offensive coordinator said. “They were really a really disruptive defense last year. We expect them to try to be the same this year.”
Part of being disruptive is to use speed and athleticism to blitz opposing offenses. That puts a premium on pass protection from more than just the offensive line. The running backs group, featuring Kerryon Johnson, Kamryn Pettway, Chandler Cox, Kameron Martin and Malik Miller, will be called on to give Sean White more time to pass the football.
Freshman Malik Miller, who arrived at Auburn In January, is shown in action during the A-Day contest.
“It’s big,” Lashlee said of blitz pickup. “You have got three guys playing running back there that haven’t done it a lot, especially on third down in our league.
“They have done really well,” the offensive coordinator added. “I have a lot of faith in those guys in what we have seen in practice.
“Tim (running backs coach Tim Horton) has done a good job prepping them, but, yeah, we are going to see some good looks,” Lashlee said. “I fully expect that. Hopefully, they respond well in game situations.”
The Tigers will be off on?Monday and will practice Tuesday through Thursday before the 8 p.m. CDT opener on Saturday night that will be televised on ESPN. Auburn leads the series vs. Clemson 34-13-2, but Clemson has won the previous two matchups. Auburn leads 20-4 in games played at AU including the last time they met at Jordan-Hare Stadium with the home team holding on for a 27-24 overtime victory on Sept. 18th of the 2010 season.