Jason Caldwell's Friday Auburn Mailbag Column--Arkansas Week

Answering your questions on a variety of Auburn sports as the football Tigers prepare to face Arkansas on Saturday.

Austin Golson (above) is a junior offensive lineman for the Tigers.

eagle70: Over/Under on Men's Basketball wins League and overall?

I will go with 17 overall and nine in SEC play. I think four more wins in conference play is a very reachable number for this team. That is going to mean beating everyone in non-conference they’re supposed to beat, however, and that won’t be easy.


alcar7: Do you think Kirby Smart is in over his head trying to cut his teeth at a program like uga?

I think it’s still way too early to tell, but it’s a different world when you’re the man in charge. I do think he’s going to have to make some staff changes if it’s going to work anytime soon.


AUtigeritaville: Last year the SEC had 3 teams make the NCAA tournament. Over or Under 4 SEC Bids for 2017 and why?

I think four is about the right number at the moment. I like Kentucky, Texas A&M and Florida for tournament bids, but after that it’s really up in the air. I believe the next seven or eight teams could all be in the mix, but it’s going to take a few teams getting hot to push the number to five or more.


aunatchamps: A question I posed earlier in the week, but with no answer. With our starting 5 and second team, and adding New Williams, Devin Waddell and DeSean Murray which totals 13 scholarships, how can we give one to Austin Wiley in January?

Much like football, a player who is a walk-on and gets a scholarship is a one-year deal. I would assume that Waddell would be back to being a walk-on this season and if Wiley can’t join the team early then they could give him that scholarship.


TigerTenn: Since Clint has arrived, the AU softball players develop and improve year to year.  Is being in the Myers program for a year or two so significant advantage that it will be difficult for freshmen to catch up with the upper class players and to earn significant playing time?

I think the better a program gets the better your incoming freshmen become if you’re recruiting the right talent. So far that’s what I have seen from this incoming class is that they’re all good enough to compete now.


gtwtstock: I thought that Austin Wiley had stated that he wasn't going to be a mid-year addition at some point, but now that appears to be a possibility. Has something changed and are their specifics that need to happen that you can elaborate about?

Nothing has changed for him, but I think it has just been a matter of downplaying things from all sides because it’s just a possibility right now. He’s working on the academic sides of things at the moment and we’ll have a much better idea in about a month or so on him.


Tiger82: Are softball practices open to the public and, if so, when do they usually practice?

Unless something changes the practices are all open to the public. There is usually a group of fans watching just about every time they’re on the field. Usually they practice around 2:30 or 3 p.m. in the weekdays and in the mornings on the weekend.


aubtime: Ok, another softball question. Who is going to be the lead off batter. Draper could be but she has to do something besides bunt. Go defenses has her number. Would we go with Cooper #2 , Fagan #3 and Wallace #4.

I definitely think Draper is going to be the leadoff hitter for the Tigers. Much like Tiffany Howard, she’s a slap hitter and she’s better than Howard was when she was a sophomore. She’s currently recovering from a knee injury, but I think she’ll continue to expand her hitting with more experience. As for the lineup, I would think Cooper at two, Fagan at three, Wallace at four and probably Tannon Snow at five, at least in some order.


AUpoker: Do you agree w/ the writers' pick of AU basketball finishing 11th?

I don’t agree with the Tigers being 11th. I would have the Tigers somewhere around seventh or eighth if I was predicting the league right now.


tigerpi: It seems that CGM or Lashlee do not have very much confidence in Martin at RB. Up 35-0 against MS we were still running Pettway and had already lost Johnson. This would seem to have been a perfect time to let him have the ball. Do you think that he is going to contribute at AU.

I think the coaches wanted to see the offense come out and play well to start the second half, but when the defense struggled some and they didn’t sustain drives it made them have to keep playing. Auburn only ran 12 plays before it was 35-14 and still over 10 minutes left in the game. I think they’ve got confidence in Martin and Stanton Truitt, but it’s hard to turn the game over the first drive of the second half.


wtbtiger: Do you think we stay with the OL that has started the last 2 games? Which WR do you think will have a better second half of the season than the first half?

I would be surprised if we don’t see the same offensive line we’ve seen the last two games with Austin Golson at center and Darius James at left tackle. Golson’s communication skills have been really good and that’s a big bonus for their play right now. As for the wide receiver who will improve, I think you’ll see Marcus Davis get back into the mix more now that he’s healthy.


auhoppa: Do you think the struggles with the offensive identity early in the season were because Coach Malzahn and crew saw the offense struggling greatly against our defense and didn't realize how good they (the defense) were? I'm still trying to figure out why we did what we did against Clemson and Texas A&M.

That’s a good question. I do believe they took more chances in the opener against Clemson instead of taking field goals because they thought they would need to score 30+ to win. I thought the same as well, but in the end the defense did the job. You could be on to something with that, but I think they were still believing they had to find a running threat at quarterback and that meant using different guys. Settling on Sean White has allowed them to focus on what he does best and build off that.


HoustonTiger: You mentioned in a recent article/post that Woody Barrett has looked good in practice, and will be a good one. Who does he remind you of?

I believe I said he has a chance to be a good one. He has always reminded me physically of Dak Prescott because he can run and is athletic, but isn’t a speedster. His thing will be if he can continue to develop as a passer and show the leadership skills required to play the position.


m5guy: What one thing do you think needs the most improvement for the 2016 Football Tigers - whether it be takeaways, performance improvement by position, 1st down production, passing, stopping the pass etc?

I think Auburn needs to continue to create more turnovers. Every short field makes for easier scores and can really break open games. Obviously, I have been on the first down passing bandwagon for several years, but especially with White at quarterback. That needs to continue.


au3020: How are Antwaun Jackson and Nick Coe coming along in their redshirt year.  Do they look to be progressing and learning as the season goes on?

Both are coming along very well. I think Jackson is going to be a key player for the Tigers next season at defensive tackle. As for Coe, he’s physically got everything you’re looking for on the defensive line. He’s still got a long way to go, but the coaches told us he’s got a big future ahead of him at defensive end.

auburnninja: Stanton Truitt has looked good in his limited time at RB the last couple of games.  What's your estimate on the number of carries he gets against Arky?  If he plays well, do you think he gets more carries in the OMac/Corey Grant role even when Kerryon comes back?

I would guess that Truitt is someone that could get 5-10 carries this weekend depending on how the game goes. The best case scenario would be to get at least 10 because that would mean the Tigers are having success running the football and are probably in control of the game. My guess is that he remains in the true running back role with Ryan Davis continuing to be a guy they use some in the running game if needed.

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