What To Watch: Tigers Vs. Trojans

An analysis of Auburn's football opener is featured along with comments from a variety of offensive and defensive Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--Junior Rosegreen says he has done his homework and is ready to take his first exam of the 2003 season when the eighth-ranked Southern California Trojans come to Jordan-Hare Stadium for an intersectional college football showdown.

Rosegreen says he believes his Tigers will be physically and mentally ready to play solid football on opening day. The junior defensive back, who is expected to start at cornerback, says he is sure he will be ready. "I feel like am prepared," he says. "I have been studying film, working hard and have been trying to be a leader for our team," says Rosegreen, who was the starter at strong safety last fall.

It's not normal to open the home season with a Top 10 opponent, but Rosegreen says that he and his teammates are looking forward to the test. "This is a game we want to play," Rosegreen tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "Everybody wants this one because they beat us last year and that game stuck on our minds quite a long time. We are going to be ready for this.

Junior Rosegreen

"When you are playing the game of football, you have got to be excited," Rosegreen adds. "If you don't come into a game like this excited, you don't need to be playing the game. I think both teams will come into it that way. Playing a Top 10 is good because whoever wins is probably going to go up in the polls and whoever loses is probably not going to drop too much as long as it is a good game."

A packed house is expected at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the kickoff that is scheduled for shortly after 5 p.m. CDT. Tickets are tough to find and there has been a big-game atmosphere on campus since early Friday with tickets very tough to find. The game is being televised nationally by CBS. A 60 percent chance of rain is forecast with temperatures expected to reach the high 80s.

Key matchups for the Tigers are containing USC's talented wide receiver corps and matching up with the Trojans' offensive and defensive lines, which are supposed to be among the best in the nation. Rosegreen says he was impressed with the Trojan receivers in last year's game in Los Angeles, a contest won 24-17 by the Trojans with a late TD drive. To help the Tigers match up with 6-5, 230 sophomore Mike Williams, Rosegreen was moved from safety to cornerback for this game.

"Everybody knows Mike Williams is a great receiver, but they have a lot of talented receivers," says Rosegreen. "Our secondary is going to have a lot to say about what happens in this game." The Tigers are replacing two spots. Last year's starter at free safety, Travaris Robinson, is looking to earn a roster spot on the Atlanta Falcons while 2002 cornerback Roderick Hood is trying to make the NFL as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Junior Donnay Young, who has starting experience at free safety, will take Rosegreen's starting role at strong safety. Karibi Dede, a redshirt freshman, won the starting free safety job. Returning starter Carlos Rogers, a junior, is back at the other corner. Redshirt freshman Will Herring could see action at safety along with senior Roshard Gilyard, a former starter at strong safety, and Andrew Letts, a redshirt sophomore. Redshirt freshman Montae Pitts and junior Lamel Ages will likely see playing time as reserve cornerbacks.

Danny Lindsey

Auburn junior center Danny Lindsey says the Tigers need to do a better job with the USC defensive line than they did last season on their trip to the West Coast. "They have got a good defensive front and a good secondary," Lindsey says. "We have got to be alert for the slants by their defensive line. They do that a lot. We have to keep our heads up, be alert and do what Coach Nall (offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Hugh Nall) has taught us to do. We need to stay focused during the game and hopefully we will come out with a victory."

Senior offensive guard Monreko Crittenden agrees with Lindsey and says, "They are a pretty aggressive group on the defensive front. The only thing they do that may cause us a problem is their slants. They slant on almost every play. We have been working on that and it shouldn't be a problem."

Monreko Crittenden

Crittenden says being in the current offensive system for a full year should help his team in the rematch. "Last year we had a lot of busted plays. That is basically what hurt us. This year we should be fine."

The game time temperature could be close to 90 degrees with a lot of humidity. Lindsey says the Tigers should be ready. "We have been practicing at 5 p.m. and I think that has been getting us ready for game time. We need to come out and stay focused and don't let the heat mess with us during the game."

Sophomore tight end Cooper Wallace says he is much less nervous coming into this year's contest vs. Southern Cal than he was a year ago in Los Angeles in his first college game. He says that he missed some assignments in that game and is determined to make sure that doesn't happen in the rematch vs. Southern Cal, which is a game in which he says the tight ends can play a key role.

Cooper Wallace

"The first thing is for us to block," he says. "We have incredible running backs. If the tight ends can control the edge, we can cut off the edge and get it sealed and make big blocks and drive people off the ball to give Carnell (junior Carnell Williams), Ronnie (junior Ronnie Brown), Tre (sophomore Tre Smith) and Brandon (junior Brandon Jacobs) room to run then I think we can control the game that way."

Wallace, a 6-4, 252 pounder with good hands and good speeds, hopes to catch some passes, too. "We can definitely be factors as receiver," Wallace says. "Their linebackers will have to match up on us. That is a challenge for me and Anthony (sophomore Anthony Mix), but we are ready to step up to that. We definitely want to make some big plays as receivers, but for me my main focus is going to be blocking.

Danny Lindsey played guard last season vs. the Trojans, but will open at center this year.

What To Watch For Auburn Vs. USC

*Auburn's pass rush pressure on new USC starting quarterback Matt Leinart should go a long way towards determining a winner and a loser. Last year the Tigers didn't put enough pressure on QB Carson Palmer. This year, with better depth and more athletes to put in the defensive line playing rotation, AU will have a chance to get heat on Leinart.

*The playing rotation at tailback should be fascinating to watch. Who will get the most carries--co-starters Carnell Williams or Ronnie Brown. Also, how will highly regarded backup tailbacks Tre Smith and Brandon Jacobs factor into this game.

*In his second year in Auburn's offensive system and in his first year as the undisputed starter, how Jason Campbell performs will be critical to Auburn's success, especially if the Southern Cal defense dares the junior quarterback to throw the football.

*Another factor to watch is how Auburn's offensive front handles Southern Cal's quickly and highly touted defensive front. Auburn has a size advantage in that matchup and needs to take advantage of that to run the football. The Tiger OL finished the 2002 season well with good performances against three highly regarded defensive lines. Ben Nowland is the only missing player from that group.

*Last, but probably not least, is how will the re-tooled Tiger secondary handle Southern Cal's talented wide receiver corps? That should go a long way in determining the outcome of one of the most highly anticipated openers in Tiger football history.


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