Texas A&M's Passing Attack Expected to Test Auburn In SEC Football Opener For Both Teams

Southeastern Conference football play begins for Auburn with a visit from a Texas A&M team that likes to throw the football.

Defensive back Marshall Taylor (above) made his Auburn debut last Saturday night.

Auburn, Ala.--Senior cornerback Josh Holsey has been with the Auburn football program since 2012. He has seen highs such as immediate personal success, the 2013 SEC Championship and national title run as well as a lows with his two ACL tears in back-to-back seasons and a disappointing performance by his team last year.

Through it all he has managed to keep a positive attitude with a focus on having a strong finish to his college football playing days. Because of that the redshirt senior is expected to be a key performer for the Tigers as they open their SEC football schedule on Saturday vs. the visiting Texas A&M? Aggies, an opponent expected to test the fifth-year senior and the rest of the secondary.

“I’ve only played (Texas A&M) one time,” Holsey noted. “(Except for 2014) the last couple of times we’ve played them I’ve been hurt. It’s a good matchup. It’s a good battle between both teams.”

The Tigers won last year’s meeting 26-10 in College Station while Holsey watched the action on TV back in Auburn as he worked on rehabbing from knee surgery. He missed spring practice this year as the rehab continued, but was cleared for action in preseason and has been a major contributor in the first two games.

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Josh Holsey has 21 starts for the Tigers playing both cornerback and safety.

This week the Tigers take on their first SEC opponent, Texas A&M, a team with big, physical receivers who have had success imposing their will on many occasions against opposing secondaries. The Aggies are averaging 317 passing yards per game while completing 53.8 percent of their passes with four touchdowns and two interceptions.

The Aggies feature a new starter at quarterback, Trevor Knight, a transfer from the University of Oklahoma. “I'll go and see what he likes to do and what he likes to throw in certain downs,” said Holsey, who started at cornerback in game two. “He is a really good quarterback based on the first two games. He has that offense rolling."

QB Trevor Knight (USA Today)

Trevor Knight has hit 43-79 passes this season as quarterback for the Aggies. He has passed for four touchdowns and run for three more.

“I think they're the best in the nation right now so he has a really good grasp of their offensive scheme,” Holsey added.

Auburn's defensive coordinator, Kevin Steele, was asked after Wednesday evening's practice if Texas A&M has the best receiver group in the nation. “I don’t know because it’s not like the NFL where you see everybody all the time," he said. "I would be wrong if I ventured out and said that because I don’t see the west coast teams, but I will say this: they’re a very, very impressive group. Just to watch them, I don’t know how you could put together four or five guys that would present any more problems than they do. They’re very, very good. I know this--you could probably make that statement and have a chance to be right.”

Texas A&M sophomore receiver Christian Kirk is considered one of the most dynamic offensive players in the SEC this year. Steele noted that Kirk is impressive, but added, “There’s more than him.

"The analogy is they are kind of built like a basketball team," the coach added. "They have got a point guard, they have got a shooting guard, they have got a three, they have got a post player--they have got it all. They didn’t get them all alike. They’ve got them all and they utilize that.”

In Auburn’s 51-14 victory over Arkansas State last Saturday the backups on defense got substantial playing time. Holsey said that was a positive for his team.

“Just to see those guys running around and keep applying the pressure was good,” he said, noting there are a lot of young players on the roster who can benefit from playing time. “That game experience means something to everybody,”  Holsey pointed out.

A player with plenty of game experience, graduate transfer Marshall Taylor, made his AU debut in the fourth quarter vs. Arkansas State. Steele said the graduate transfer from Miami of Ohio is making progress and Holsey agrees.

“Marshall is going to be really good because if you have ever seen him he is really long,”? Holsey said. “He’s like all legs and arms. We call him ‘six-ten’ because he is really long. It doesn’t make any type of sense to be that long at corner. It really doesn’t. I wish I had his arms just for a drive.

“He is going to be good,” Holsey added. “He’s still learning the scheme, he’s still working hard, he’s still progressing. Once he gets to clicking and rolling and just getting the coaches’ trust to put him on the field in the big time situations, then he will fit right in with us.”

Holsey, Marshall, and the rest of the Tigers will take a 1-1 record into the SEC opener at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CDT with TV coverage on ESPN.

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