BRADEN SMITH (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Jason Caldwell's Friday Auburn Mailbag Column Features Football, Basketball, Baseball & Other Questions

Answering your questions about a variety of Auburn University sports in this week's edition of the Friday Mailbag Column.

aunatchamps: Would you rather have Braden Smith at tackle or guard? Will Calvin Ashley break into the starting lineup by mid or late season this year? Does Darius James stay at tackle and can he hold off Prince Tega to start at tackle?

I’ll start with Braden Smith first. If he is the best right tackle you’ve got then that’s absolutely where I would like to see him if I was Herb Hand. I think having Mike Horton and Marquel Harrell at guard makes you strong in the middle and with Smith outside it only makes the run game stronger IMO. As for Ashley, I don’t know if he’ll break into the starting lineup, but I do think he’s a second-team guy pretty soon after he gets to campus and they work him into the mix. As for Darius James, I think he’s a tackle right now no matter what. I think he will hold off Tega this spring, but I’m not sure he’ll be able to hold him off following a summer and the preseason.

 

Tiger82: Based on what you've seen in spring practice so far, rate the QBs.

I just haven’t seen enough of them to be able to rate them and frankly the coaches haven’t either. That begins on Saturday with the first spring scrimmage. Just from the naked eye I think Jarrett Stidham is going to be tough to beat because of his athleticism and arm, but Sean White isn’t going to lay down. His arm looks good right now. Both Woody Barrett and Malik Willis have done some good things early, but now it ramps up when you start scrimmaging.

 

dewayne: With all this talk about air raid passing game from Lindsey do you still expect us to be a run heavy team like 65-35

I think the offense is going to lean more on the run, but with more throwing mixed in. I’m not expecting an average of 35 pass attempts per game, but I think we will see more throws on early downs and in the tempo portion of the game. Last season Auburn averaged 22 pass attempts per game. I could see that number approaching 28-30 on average. That would mean an extra 75-100 attempts for the year.

 

mattree: Little baseball talk JC. Looking at AU's schedule we have 6 OOC games left. Say we go 5-1 and finish the year 20-6 OOC. The only series I see us possible losing is at USCe, at Texas A&M, and at LSU. That would put AU 18-12 in conference for a total of 38-18. One, what do you think of that record? Two would that record have us hosting a regional?

I have covered enough baseball to know that any series is one you can lose in the SEC and that includes going to Georgia this weekend. Auburn swept Florida, but Saturday’s game was a toss-up and Sunday the Gators dropped a pop-up on the infield or the Tigers would have been in trouble. I’m not downplaying what this team has done so far, but they’re not a team that is going to blow people away. That means the Tigers can’t afford to make very many mistakes and still win. I think the ceiling for this team is probably 17 SEC wins and that’s if everything goes very well. I’ll say this, if the Tigers can avoid getting swept they will have a great chance to get to that number. As for your question, if they get to 18 SEC wins they’ll be a host for an NCAA regional.

 

nhill76: Do you think since there are 3 spots available now that Lang is transferring, that Pearl will add a guy who sits out next year due to transferring from somewhere else?

I think the basketball Tigers will try to add a grad transfer who could play this season, but having the extra spot does give you some room to bring in a guy for the 2018-19 season if you want. That’s what they did with DeSean Murray and it has allowed him to get prepared to hit the ground running.

 

TBETBEZE: What do you feel are the biggest differences in the top 3 QBs (SW, JS, WB) from what you have seen so far? Does anything stand out more for one than the other?

I think you have to put Malik Willis in the group as well, at least right now. All four guys have a good arm and that’s really the first thing you see from them. After that it’s tough to tell on the key things such as decision making, but Stidham has an accurate arm to go along with his good feet. The biggest test so far this spring for all comes Saturday with the exception of White, who won’t go through the scrimmage.

 

Dewsweeper: Have you ever attended an equestrian event?  Will you cover the SEC Championship this weekend?  What would be your best event?

I have been out there but not really for a meet. Mark has seen the team compete over the years and enjoys going out there. I’m not sure if he’ll be out there this weekend or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he made it out. As for my best event, that would be none of the above.

 

au3020: Last week I asked you your prediction for the Auburn baseball team's SEC record. You said between 13-17 and 16-14. With the sweep of Florida will that cause you to increase the number of wins or do you remain with the same thought of 13-16 wins?  You can't really tell a lot from one series even though that one last week was big for Auburn from a wins stand point.

As I mentioned earlier, I still think 16-14 is probably the ceiling for this team. If they just don’t get swept this season then they’ll have a minimum of 12 league wins. That’s a great starting point. If they can avoid a sweep then I think this team wins as many as 17. They still have to work so hard to win games because they’re not going to score a lot of runs with one swing. That puts a lot of pressure on the pitching and the defense.

 

paau98: What's your take on Lang leaving? Do you think a grad transfer comes on to fill that spot?

I think it’s probably the right move for him if he wants to play a bigger role as a senior. Unless there is an injury next season I didn’t see him being a big part of the playing rotation with Danjel Purifoy sliding to the three and DeSean Murray capable of playing there and the four spot as well. With Mustapha Heron at the two and Bryce Brown, that just doesn’t leave much room for him to get on the court.

 

kwm83: Three-a-days in August as a OL/DL or father of newborn - what's tougher?

There’s no question it’s the latter, especially going through it the first time. Three-a-days is taxing physically, but the pressure of taking care of a newborn far exceeds that. It has been an awesome experience though and we’re loving it.

 

AUPD89: I know Lawson, Adams, and Ford will be missed, but what is your take on the potential of the defense this season? I believe if an edge rusher can step up along with a DT to disrupt some in the middle that there is real chance they could be as good as last year.

I like the way the defense shapes up for the upcoming season. Probably the biggest reason why is that they’re all much more comfortable in the system in year two. People can’t imagine how much difference that makes for the guys. I think this defense will be more multiple with the chance to do more 3-4 work with Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson at end and Dontavius Russell in the middle. When you do that you could walk up either outside linebacker to give you a fourth and even fifth rusher.

 

AUTigerBSME90: Which players look like they've accomplished the most in the weight room since the end of the season?

Darrell Williams is gotten much bigger and stronger. He’s always been solidly built, but looked more like a big safety in high school because of his athleticism. Derrick Brown has slimmed down and I think he’s going to take a big step forward. I continue to watch Montavious Atkinson get bigger and bigger. I believe by the time he’s done he may be the best of the bunch at linebacker.

 

TIGER45: How early will we know if our equestrian team advances to the finals on Friday? We want to come if our girls make it.

Auburn rides at 9 a.m. on Friday against Texas A&M so I think they’ll know the results sometime around noon or so. If they win they’ll be in the finals on Saturday at 1:30. Lose and it’s 9 a.m on Saturday so you should have plenty of time to make your decision on a trip down.


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