Auburn, Ala.--Having already faced Clemson and Texas A&M this season, the Auburn Tigers will get another challenge on defense this weekend when ULM (Louisiana-Monroe) comes to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Averaging 25.3 points and 411 yards of total offense per game, the Warhawks are a team that depends on throwing the football and leading the way is athletic quarterback Garrett Smith.
Completing 59-101 passes for 742 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions, the 6-1, 209 sophomore has been steady so far this season but played the best game of his career the last time out in a 23-21 loss at Georgia Southern. Completing 17-33 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns, he was really the only offense for ULM when you throw in his team-leading 39 rushing yards.
In fact, not only is Smith the trigger man for the offense, he’s also the team’s leading rusher this year with 177 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries. Fellow sophomore Ben Luckett (5-11, 214) has 35 carries to lead the team, totaling 157 yards with a touchdown. Smith and Luckett combine for 334 yards rushing in three games, all but 136 yards for the Warhawks so far.
While there aren’t many names to watch running the football, that’s far from the case when Smith puts the ball in the air. In just three games the Warhawks have already had 12 different players catch passes with R.J. Turner leading the way with 12 receptions for 209 yards and one touchdown.
Turner shares a position with Xavier Brown, who has nine grabs for 111 yards and a touchdown himself. Speedy Ajalen Holley is second on the team with 10 catches for 80 yards while 5-8, 190 Marcus Green is the big play threat for the Warhawks with seven catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
Up front on the offensive line Louisiana-Monroe has a pair of redshirt freshmen starting on the right side with Jackson, Ala. native Eastwood Thomas (6-5, 295) getting the start at tackle. In the middle, senior center Jeff Savage (6-2, 297) is one of the leaders for the Warhawks along with left tackle and fellow senior Rey Baltazar (6-5, 300).
The Warhawks have been solid on offense this season, but defensively it has been a struggle to this point. Allowing 34.3 points per game, with 59 coming to Oklahoma, Louisiana-Monroe’s problems start in the running game with the opposition averaging 290.7 yards per game on the ground alone. Struggling to get off the field, they have already had to defend 247 plays in just three games.
When you look at the size of the front four it’s easy to see why the Warhawks have had issues stopping the run. On the interior senior Colton Moorehead (6-3, 257) and redshirt freshman Jaylen Veasley (6-2, 278) anchor the defense with ends Caleb Tucker (6-2, 231) and Shaquille Warren (6-2, 246) providing the push off the edge. Tucker and Warren have combined for three sacks and five tackles for losses this season.
At linebacker David Griffith (6-0, 211) has been the most active player on defense for Louisiana-Monroe, leading the team with 28 tackles while adding a sack and a team-high six tackles for losses. Middle linebacker Chase Day (6-1, 216) is third on the team with 16 ½ tackles.
In the defensive backfield safety Tre Hunter (6-0, 188) has 24 tackles and one sack on the year while cornerback Justin Baccus (6-2, 183) is the top cover man of the group with 11 tackles and four passes broken up this season.