Auburn, Ala.--Fourth in the league in scoring defense (16 ppg), fifth in rushing defense (125.9) and fifth in total defense (356.3), the Auburn Tigers face another tough challenge this weekend when Coach Kevin Steele’s group faces off against the Georgia Bulldogs.
Despite having numbers that don’t wow you, eighth in rushing offense (178.3), 11th in total offense (382.7) and 12th in scoring offense (23.7 ppg), the Bulldogs boast some of the top talent in the league led by the running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Throw in five-star freshman quarterback Jacob Eason (194.9 ypg with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions) and you have a trio that can match up with any team in the country.
Although they haven’t put it together yet, Steele said this group of Bulldogs is one that can definitely do some damage.
“First thing is it's the SEC and they're a very good, talented football team,” Steele said of Georgia. “They have a quarterback that can throw it from here to LaGrange and throw it accurately. He's young but he's very talented. Then they have two running backs that are very good at what they do.
“I think I've heard the term thunder and lightning. They're both thunder and they're both lightning when I watch them. They're pretty good football players. They spread the ball around a lot to the receivers. They've got diversity in their receiving corps and they spread it around a lot.”
Auburn will counter with one of the deepest defensive line units in the league, a group that has been one of the keys for success for the Tigers this season. That was evident on Saturday with true freshman Derrick Brown making the move from tackle to end with fellow true freshman Marlon Davidson limited during the week.
Although Davidson was able to play and make some things happen, Brown’s quickness for a 6-5, 325-pounder at defensive end was something that Steele said gives them some things to work with down the road and perhaps this week against Georgia.
“He's big, he's strong, he's fast,” Steele said of Brown. “We had really done that because Marlon was limited in his reps although he did practice last week, but very limited in his reps. We were a little bit concerned with the depth at that position because they (Vanderbilt) had been two tight end, run the power, block the tight end on the six-technique (defensive end).
“Well, that's a spoonful. Now they didn't try to do that and he was out there. But that's a lot to chew on if Derrick Brown is lined up in front of you as a six-technique and you've got to block him with a tight end.”
With Brown moving outside and Andrew Williams limited after getting dinged in the win over Ole Miss, it gave Devaroe Lawrence and Maurice Swain a chance to see more reps and they gave the Tigers some quality work. Finishing with two tackles, combining with Brown on a tackle for a loss, and batting down a pass, Swain was active for the Tigers and Steele said that comes from the competition that Rodney Garner has developed in his group.
“Those guys up front, it’s kind of a fraternity they’ve got,” Steele said. “They got to compete within themselves and I think that’s what makes them who they are. They’re so competitive in that room to get snaps and then when they do get snaps, try to be factors.
“Swain is one of those guys who loves to compete. He loves to compete with his teammates as much as the guys he’s playing against. That makes you a better player.”