Now The Real Work Begins
The early part of bowl practices gave Coach Gus Malzahn and his staff a chance to see some of the younger players in action. While that will still happen in the next four days, it’s time for the Auburn Tigers to turn more of their attention to the Oklahoma Sooners.
This season Oklahoma has allowed several offenses to put up big numbers on them and with Auburn back to full strength this is an opportunity for the Tigers to surprise the college football world because very few people are expecting them to challenge the 10-win Sooners.
There is no question Oklahoma’s offense is one of the most dynamic in the country, but having faced Clemson, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Alabama this group has seen some talented guys throughout the year and that will have them prepared for Jan. 2.
Perhaps the most important thing for this team now is to get that confidence back it lost late in the season, but at least the Tigers have some familiarity in handling that situation after doing it a year ago. Auburn played well in an easy win over Memphis last year and while Oklahoma is much, much better than Memphis, this team at its best was miles ahead of the 2015 version.
Getting anything close to what we saw against Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arkansas, etc. on offense from Auburn in the bowl game will give the Tigers a great chance to get a victory and it’s up to them to find that on the practice field starting this week.
Wiley Looks The Part
I have been watching Austin Wiley play for the last three years and I never had any doubts that he would be a really good player for Coach Bruce Pearl's Tigers when he arrived, but to see him play the way he did on Sunday after just two days of practice was impressive.
Considering that Wiley should still be in high school, watching him handle the pressure of a close game in the win over Mercer only backed up the decision for Bruce Pearl, Chuck Person and the Auburn staff to bring the big man early and showed it was the right decision.
Speaking of Person, you've got to hand it to him for not only his work in recruiting Wiley, but for the work he put in getting the newcomer ready to play on Sunday. The minute he was cleared to play on Friday, Wiley was on the court getting one-on-one attention from Person so he would be prepared to hit the court in practice. That showed up in a big way with his ability to play less than 48 hours after first getting word of his eligibility.
Now the decision is how do they divide up the minutes for this roster when Horace Spencer and Bryce Brown return?
Obviously, Wiley is going to get his minutes with LaRon Smith at center and Spencer's return could give you three options at the position. Danjel Purifoy is playing well at the power forward and letting Anfernee McLemore settle in at that spot could bode well for this team moving forward, especially if you can find some minutes for Purifoy at small forward.
Brown’s return shouldn’t impact things quite as much, but now with a true post presence this team is going to have to learn to feed Wiley the ball and let the offense go from inside-out more often. Because of that the Tigers toyed with Jared Harper at the shooting guard some on Sunday and that could continue, but with the slashing ability of both T.J. Dunans and Mustapha Heron things could really take off for this offense.
Wiley and Person talk strategy during Friday's practice
Good Play For A Good Guy
It’s great to see Trovon Reed having success in the NFL at cornerback with the San Diego Chargers. On Sunday he had an interception against the Oakland Raiders after picking off Cam Newton a week ago. That’s two interceptions in the red zone in two games for the former Auburn wide receiver turned defensive back.
Never complaining through injuries and struggles at wide receiver before finally moving to defensive back his final season at Auburn, Reed has fought for his opportunity and is making the most of his chance right now. He’s always had great quickness and with his length and ball skills that makes him a valuable player in today’s NFL.
In just a short time he’s put himself on the map in the league and he could become a hot commodity as he continues to perform at a high level.