Jason Caldwell's Friday Auburn Mailbag: Answering AU Football Questions During ULM Game Week

Answering your questions as the Auburn Tigers get ready to take on the ULM Warhawks for Homecoming at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Andrew Williams (79 above) got a quarterback sack last week vs. LSU.

gmason73: A year or so ago, Gus says that he needed to get back to coaching football. Fast forward to this past week and he now says he needs to be the Head Coach/CEO again. Which is Gus, a CEO or a football coach? Also, is this an easy way of having Rhett Lashley be the fall guy if the offense doesn't perform for the rest of the year?

I think he is still learning how to be a college head coach. I really believe he thought he was turning things over last season when he gave Rhett more input, but he was still very much involved. He is taking that step back this season because he knows he needs to allow his coaches to do their jobs, although he is still heavily involved in the day-to-day planning and coaching. We’ll see how it works out. As for Rhett, I don’t think this has anything to do with finding a fall guy. I think it’s more about trying to make the whole team better.


Tiger82: Who are the players you feel may be held out or only see limited playing time due to being banged up?

Probably the first one is Kamryn Pettway. He’s battling a bruised quad muscle and I would be surprised if he saw very much work and he could be held out completely. I think the same is true of Xavier Dampeer because of a high ankle sprain. Paul James is out with a knee injury and could miss the rest of the year.


APIEE: Do you have any insight into ways in which Rhett and Gus differ in philosophy on play calls and/or sequencing? Are there any particular aspects of the offense that you think we will see more (or less) of with Rhett calling the plays?

It’s hard to really tell a whole lot about differences because we only have two games to go on at Auburn in which we know he was the primary play caller. In 2011 at Samford his offense ran the ball 436 times and threw it 396 for the year. That’s pretty close to even over the course so I think he’s shown he is not shy about throwing the football.


Longtrainn: What are your thoughts on the effectiveness of the Wildcat package, from both the standpoint of: a) The current personnel we use to run it and b) In general, And would we be better off in goal-line/short-yardage situations just putting JFIII at QB and running the normal offense?

I don’t have a problem with the wildcat in certain situations, but I would like to see John Franklin get more of those touches in the red zone. I think it’s something we could see this weekend as the Tigers look for better ways to finish drives with touchdowns.


1963eagle: Who are the players that are being given practice time at tight-end? Who do you think would help out in the passing game and run blocking?

Right now the second true tight end behind Jalen Harris is junior Caleb King, a transfer from Mercer. He’s 6-3, 221 and is from Huntsville. I would love to see freshman WR Marquis McClain get a look as an Evan Ingram-type of tight end. I think that would be a great fit for what Auburn wants to do on offense. There are not many options to help in the run game other than what the Tigers are doing right now with Darius James.

Au3020: Let's switch things up a minute.  Does Bruce Pearl have anything going with the basketball team prior to the game?  How are off season preparations going with both the men's and women's teams?  Also, softball I think has fall practices coming up.  Does Clint Meyers have anything planned where fans can catch the team before football games?

The Auburn men will have an open scrimmage on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. so that’s a great chance to check out the Tigers. Auburn softball has open practices on Friday from 3-6 p.m., on Saturday from 7:30-11:30 a.m. and on Sunday from 1-3:30 p.m. after the team has its annual Alumni Game that starts at 11 a.m.


eagle70: What one player has surprised you the most with his play so far this season?

No question it has been Andrew Williams for me. I was expecting DeShaun Davis to play well so that one hasn’t been a surprise, but I wasn’t sure we would ever see Williams get significant minutes this year with so much competition for playing time and he is performing really well. I think he’s going to be a really good pass rusher from the interior for the Tigers with his speed.


wareagledoc: What is your W-L prediction for the rest of the AU football season?

I would probably put Auburn at about 8-4 at the end of the year if the Tigers can just improve a little in the red zone. If the red zone struggles continue this team is going to have trouble winning the SEC games remaining on the schedule. Regardless of how well Auburn plays in the red zone it is going to be tough to win at Ole Miss and at Alabama just because of the points those teams can score, but if the offense can continue to improve I wouldn’t count out a win in Oxford.


southgeorgiatiger: Jordan-Hare was loud when they showed the :00 and the ball not snapped versus LSU. As someone who has been on every SEC stadium field during the game, what are your top 3 or top 5 field level, game day environments? Feel free to rank by loudness, intimidation, or general awesomeness.

I would put Auburn up there with anyone in terms of just pure noise. When Jordan-Hare gets cranked up it’s really loud. There is no question to me that Tiger Stadium is tops in terms of intimidation. The LSU student section can take you out of your game in a hurry. Florida is good as is Tennessee and Alabama with Georgia in there as well.


auburnNC89: What are some things you think can be done better whether it be play calling or execution to help us score more touchdowns in the red zone?

I think it’s probably a little bit of both. I would like to see more throws on early downs in the red zone, especially in goal-to-go situations. When that defense gets compressed it’s tough for this offense to get things going on the ground right now. I would like to see John Franklin with a package in the red zone as well.


ware12: I admire Gus for self-reflecting and his willingness to change from CEO, to play caller, back to CEO.   However, most of the articles and talk make it sound like this move to CEO is a new revelation and potential game changer, which seems odd since it was happening just five games ago and the entire 2015 season.   Why do you think Gus didn’t know or anticipate the challenges play calling would present before the season started?   More importantly, why should there be optimism that anything will be different than it was last year?

I just think it’s a coach who is still developing, not unlike most people on their jobs. I think the optimism that it will be different than last season is that you expect to learn from mistakes a move forward. That is what we’ll have to see and gauge as we go through the season.


givhandy: Is there any reason to be disappointed in Chandler Cox' H-back performance so far this year? Seems he would be more accustomed to his assignments this year than last.

I think he’s done some good things at times, but he’s some glaring mistakes as well. Most of his mistakes have been on assignment issues, which could be partly because he practiced a lot of the spring and even some preseason as a running back. It has been one of the issues caused by the lack of experienced depth at running back. That is why I would like to see Keenan Sweeney or even Spencer Nigh get a shot at fullback.


auchamps: Do we practice short yardage situations with our QB under center? Do you think a QB sneak would have been the right play call against LSU on the 3rd and goal?

I don’t like the QB sneak in this offense because they just don’t do it a whole lot. With Xavier Dampeer bothered by a high ankle sprain I definitely didn’t like it against LSU. In the right situation and the right offense it’s really effective, but for this team the other night I didn’t like it.


rileyb: Jason, can you talk about the development of Andrew Williams? This preseason, it seemed as if he wouldn't be getting any playing time, but so far this season he has been in on some plays.

As a mentioned earlier, Williams’ development has been the most surprising thing to me this season. He has played really well so far and has the talent to keep improving.


AUpage: In your opinion why does Gus show absolutely no interest in going with the QB under center in a goal line or short yardage situation? Wouldn't that give him the option of using an actual snap count instead of the hand clap which seems to me that gives the offense no advantage?

I think it’s the same reason it took Steve Spurrier six or seven years to get in the shotgun because it’s all he’s ever known. I believe you’ll see him mix more and more of it in for short yardage purposes as he continues to grow as a coach, but he just hasn’t done much of it because it’s not in his offense. Even with the clap Sean is still barking signals so that’s not much different.

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