Jason Caldwell's Friday Auburn Mailbag: Auburn at Mississippi State Football Game Week

There are plenty of football questions as Auburn travels to Mississippi State this weekend.

Rhett Lashlee (above) handles the play calling for the Tigers.

hindsight: With Gus generally handing over the reins to Rhett do you see Herb Hand becoming more of an influence on strategy before and during the game...or less an influence now that Gus is back to CEO.

I think Rhett Lashlee and Herb Handhave a very good relationship, too, so I don’t think it will lessen his impact. If anything I think it allows them to work a little more together because of their interaction just about every minute on the practice field and in meeting rooms.


m5guy: I know the level of competition last week contributed to red zone success - with that being said do you expect to see a noticeable improvement in that this week vs MSU over what have witnessed so far this season while playing Clemson & SEC opponents?

You would hope that the more they get to work on the red zone the better it will get, but I still think it depends on play calling. When space gets limited it makes it tougher to run the ball and that means a few more first down throws in my mind. I would like to see Chandler Cox get involved some in the passing game down close.


AUPMBA: Do you think we will try to bring in three more running backs in this recruiting cycle given the attrition and injuries?

Auburn already has commitments from Devan Barrett, Alaric Williams and juco Octavius Matthews. That gives them three guys already in this class who have the ability to play running back. With upperclassmen currently on the roster at the position that should be plenty of guys.


AUtigeritaville: If you're Dan Mullen's agent, do you advise him to move on from Miss St and try to win a championship someplace else, or stay and keep building?

At this point I don’t think Dan Mullen can move anywhere he will have a better job than Mississippi State. That may have been possible in 2014 and after that season, but I don’t think he’s one of those guys right now.


AuburnNinja: You mentioned that Darius James is more of a RT instead of a LT.  Prince Tega also seems to be slotted in as a RT.  Given that, do we have a natural LT on the current roster?

I actually think Prince Tega has the skill set to play left tackle down the road and perhaps next season. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start giving him a look at the left side maybe during bowl practices to see how he looks on the other side.


AUTigerBSME90: Any concerns about LT commit Calvin Ashley taking official visits? Are we in on any difference makers at tight end? If you had to guess, which shooting guard do we sign in this year's class?

I don’t think there’s a whole lot to be worried about with Calvin Ashley at this point. If you’re him there’s not anywhere that would be a better opportunity as a true tackle than at Auburn the next few years and perhaps even next year. The tight end position isn’t extremely deep this year, but I think the best opportunity may still be with Oregon commitment Tre McKitty. As for a shooting guard in this year’s class, I’m not sure that’s a priority for them at the moment. I think they are probably looking for another big guy to fill out the group.


AuburnNinja: Coach Lashlee mentioned in his weekly presser that the sack/fumble against ULM was on Sean because he missed the hot read on the blitzing FS.  Do we have hot routes in this offense?  If so, does Sean make that audible (or hand signal to the WR) or does it come from the sideline?

When I talked to Rhett about the play he mentioned it was more about Sean not picking up the hot guy (blitzer) and not necessarily missing a hot route. I think Sean has the ability to do some things to address a free blitzing player off the edge, but it’s something they usually try to deal with pre-snap from the sidelines.


autigerman: Do we start with five WR Saturday morning? Would love to see that because I think we are about to bust this game wide open!I think we pass for 300 yds this week end how bout U?

I think Auburn could easily have a 300-yard passing game if the Tigers let White throw the ball, but I would be beyond shocked to see Auburn with five wide unless it was in a two-minute situation. If they take some shots down the field on early downs in a true drop-back role for White I believe the opportunity is there for some big plays.


grayjaytiger: Jason, is there any question as to whether Pettway plays, or is there a chance he is still dinged up, and that's why Truitt is moved over?

Unless something has really changed this week I expect Pettway to be fine for Saturday. He moved around pretty good in pregame last week, but I don’t think they wanted to push things for him knowing they didn’t need him against ULM.


Saniflush: Do you think LB Threat will get much more playing time at HB?

If you’re referring to #42 that was in on offense last week that was actually walk-on fullback Keenan Sweeney. He’s the number two guy behind Chandler Cox at the H-Back role for the Tigers.


JDZAU: Can you give some insight as to why Gus turned over the playcalling to Rhett when he made his mark as an offensive coordinator? I get that we needed a change, but it's hard to understand what has happened to Gus the last 2 years that him giving up playcalling duties is a good thing. Being a HC didn't affect him in 2013 and 2014, so that theory doesn't make sense. His 2009 offense that had a very immobile QB also looked better than what we've seen the past 2 seasons, and that offense also didn't seem as talented as this year's offense.

In 2009 he didn’t have the added responsibilities of being a head coach with that first offense and there is no question that has been probably the biggest difference to this year. In 2013 and to some extent 2014 that team was riding high so it probably covered up the amount of time and effort it took for him to get the job done. Last season it hit him during the year and Lashlee called plays a portion of the time for him anyway. In the end I think he realized to be a true head coach he couldn’t run the entire offense also.


tigerpi: Was watching our punters and Shannon seemed to kick the ball farther with good hang time. Do you feel that there is a possibility that Shannon might win the job before the season is over.

Ian Shannon has a very big leg, but his consistency is the issue for him right now and we saw that in his two punt attempts this season. I think he could get the job done, but Kevin Phillips has been solid so far and hasn’t allowed a punt return this season. That’s tough to replace.


wtbtiger: Which of the young receivers do you see stepping up against MSU and the Next SEC opponents?  What changes in the passing game do you see with CL calling the plays.

I would keep getting Kyle Davis more involved and also Nate Craig as well. Probably the biggest thing is to get them on the field more in the red zone. Teams would have a tougher time jamming those guys as opposed to Marcus Davis, Ryan Davis, etc. As for the changes in the passing game it’s hard to tell so far, but hopefully it means being a little more aggressive.


coreyc: If someone set the number of passes we throw on Saturday morning at 25, do you take the over or the under? (No fair hedging your bet by saying "it depends on if we're trailing late...we won't be.

I would take the over, but just barely. Last season on the road White threw 27 passes at Kentucky and 27 in regulation at Arkansas. That seems to be around the number, give or take a few. With Mississippi State’s front seven pretty good I’ll take the over. I’ll go with 29.


AUpoker: You think THIS is the Cubs' year?

You never know when it comes to baseball, but it definitely shapes up as their time. They are by far the most complete team in my mind and they have a guy I would want calling the shots for me as a manager. I would love to see David Ross go out on top and give another Auburn connection, shortstop Addison Russell, a title as well.


alcar7: You are a good eye for DL talent. What kind of potential do you see for Marlon Davidson and who would you compare him to? He looks so talented and athletic

I think Marlon Davidson has a whole lot of talent and probably most importantly for him is his maturity level. He understands what it takes to succeed on this level and that has shown up early this season. As for who I would compare him to, that’s a tough task. I would say someone like Mario Edwards out of Florida State now with the Raiders. He is not the most explosive guy, but very physical and athletic.


Gtwstock: 1 (kidding).  Where are all of UGA"s secondary players going to transfer to this time? 2.  Do we need to try to match up Carlton Davis on Ross or just let the chips fall where they may this weekend.  MSU likes to move him around a lot. 3.  Is MSU's front 4 really that good or are their rushing defense stats more a function of who've they played?

I think when you’re facing Fred Ross you just play defense and let both Carlton Davis and Josh Holsey do their thing. The main thing is going to be getting pressure on the quarterback and putting them in obvious passing situations. As for the State's defensive front, I’m not sure how good they are either. I have a feeling their stats are a little better because of who they have played, especially South Carolina.


aunatchamps: What is your best guess as to us seeing Austin Wiley in an Auburn uniform in January?

I would say 50/50 at the moment, but it could happen in December if he gets finished early with his school work. It’s something to watch for later in the year, but not until at least after he signs in November.

auchamps: What's your most memorable call by an Auburn sports announcer?

I’ve got probably three that stand out to me. The first was “Tillman, Tillman, Tillman” vs. Georgia Tech in 1987. The second was the David Ross home run against Florida State in 1997. The third was Rod’s “Go Crazy Cadillac” call on the first play of the 2003 Iron Bowl.


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