GUS MALZAHN (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Jason Caldwell's Friday Auburn Mailbag Column: Sugar Bowl Edition

Talking Auburn football as the Tigers prepare to face the Oklahoma Sooners in the Sugar Bowl and also some Auburn basketball.

m5guy: Jason - have you had a chance to see Stidham throw live? If so are his arm strength & accuracy as good as advertised? How is his speed compared to White? In your opinion what is the one match up we must win or one thing we must control in order to have a chance to beat the Sooners?

We didn’t get a chance to see him throw when he arrived at Auburn, but I have seen enough of him to know that he’s got plenty of arm strength and his accuracy numbers at Baylor were very good. He’s very athletic and I think he’s faster than Sean White and a good bit bigger. As for the matchup to watch, I think Auburn needs to be able to establish the run in this game. While I also believe they need to make some plays in the passing game, Oklahoma has allowed big numbers on the ground this year.

 

settindown: With Alec Jackson committed, do you see us going after anybody else in the interior DL? How do you feel about our chances with Bryant and Johnson on the exterior. Any other DL prospects?

Alec Jackson is a player who could play outside or inside and the Tigers wanted to sign one of those guys in this class. They are looking for a true inside guy as well and five-star Aubrey Solomon is probably the target right now. Getting a visit from him in January is going to be a big key for the Tigers’ chances. As for Markaviest Bryant and Ryan Johnson, I think Auburn has a shot with both, but may be behind for Bryant.

 

wtbtiger: Who do you think will be our defensive back coach and how soon will he be announced?

That’s still anybody’s guess at the moment. I believe Gus Malzahn and Kevin Steele will have somebody in place by the first January recruiting visit weekend on the13th.

 

wtbtiger: Have you seen SW throw and what are you hearing about his arm strength?

I got to see him a good bit on Thursday and he looked to be throwing the ball well. I thought his arm strength looked normal to me and that’s what I had been hearing from people around the program. I don’t know if he’s 100 percent, but I think he is close enough that the Tigers can run their entire offense.

 

AUBnMD: Can you outline any particular individual drills that the basketball staff might be using to bring Austin Wiley up to speed above and beyond team drills?

I got to watch Auburn associate head coach Chuck Person work with Wiley before the Connecticut trip and they focused on basic things like setting screens, rolling to the basket, flashing to the ball, etc. Wiley is already really good at posting up so they are building on that and getting him up to speed on offensive and defensive calls.

 

AuburnCE: Do you think Austin Wiley's addition, as good as he is, has disrupted the offense chemistry? If so, how does Bruce Pearl adjust to account for his skill set?

I don’t think Austin has impacted either offense or defense in a negative way. Auburn’s offensive production is directly related to how well the guys knock down shots from the perimeter. Against Georgia they scored the ball just fine, but the defense was the issue. That is the mark of this team. The Tigers look good on defense at times and struggle on offense and vice versa, which i just what you get from a team that is still finding its identity.

 

AuburnCE: Once Spencer and Brown are back fully from suspension, how do the minutes shack out. Got 11 solid bodies, three who seem to play best at the 5 (Spencer, Wiley, and McElemore) and a bunch of guards for 3 spots assume Pulifoy still will get his 32-36 minutes at the 4?

It’s just tough to play as many guys as Auburn is trying to get into the game right now. I think they need to get Bryce Brown some confidence because his defense is really important for this team right now on the perimeter. That’s a big issue right now. Auburn used 11 players vs. Georgia, including Brown and Spencer,/

 

AUPMBA: Do you see us adding an additional off the filed coach/analyst to the football team after the bowl game?

I don’t think the team will add an extra guy until the NCAA decides on adding another full-time assistant. Now they may replace someone who moves on, but I don’t think the Tigers will put an extra guy in yet until they find out what the verdict is going to be.

 

AUtigeritaville: With no turnover for the SEC east head coaches, will we see an improvement from that division with stability? Which east team(s) should benefit the most next year in relation to wins?

I think Georgia is a team that is going to get better in a hurry and I expect at least one true freshman to jump in immediately on the offensive line and at wide receiver. That’s where they should get better. Florida’s offense should improve, but I think its defense will go down year by year. Tennessee is what they are. I think they’re an 8-4 team at best with Butch Jones in Knoxville.

 

Tiger82: Tell us about the best meal you had in New Orleans (not counting the BBQ place you like in Mississippi). Mark can chime in too if he likes.

I think right now I would go with Mulate’s down near the Convention Center. It’s not fancy, but it’s authentic and just good food. Gus Malzahn and his wife ate there the night after we did and they enjoyed it as well. The blackened catfish was excellent.

 

cycletiger: Do you think we will attack more on offense, or do you think we will see a conservative game plan?

I have to believe that Rhett Lashlee and Gus Malzahn both know they will need to open it up in this game. Now if the defense plays lights out and the running game starts to grind then they could very easily play to those two strengths, but I think Auburn will need to score 25+ to have a shot to win this game.

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