Photo by Jason Caldwell

Jason Caldwell's Monday Morning QB Column: Auburn Football and Baseball

Talking NFL Draft and another big weekend for Auburn baseball.

NFL Draft Thoughts

It’s hard to imagine four more draft-worthy Auburn players in a single year than the group that was taken over the weekend, starting with Montravius Adams to the Green Bay Packers. Always with a smile on his face and a player who really improved over the course of his career coming out of a very small high school in Georgia, Adams’ best football is ahead of him and I think he’ll have a long and very productive career on the next level.

To see Carl Lawson have the chance to live out his dream of playing in the NFL is great after watching him grind for the better part of two years while coming back from knee and hip injuries. Finally full speed last season, Lawson has really only one full season of college experience under his belt after playing sparingly as a true freshman in 2013. Drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that runs a 4-3 defense, Lawson will have the chance to earn playing time as a third down specialist early on which should fit him well.

One of the most athletic players to play for the Tigers in my almost 20 years on the job, Johnathan Ford led Auburn in tackles for two straight seasons as a safety and then played as a nickel defensive back his senior season, but looks to be headed for a life at cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals after the team traded up to get him in the sixth round. There is no doubt that Ford has the speed and athleticism to play the position and with Patrick Peterson to learn from on the roster and former Auburn and NFL defensive back Roderick Hood mentoring him, the high school running back could be on the fast track to playing a key role for the Cardinals.

Much like Lawson, it was great to see Josh Holsey get his name called after dealing with a pair of knee injuries during his career with the Tigers. A fitting winner of the Chilton County Auburn Club “Unsung Hero” Award this year, Holsey has been a leader and a coach on the field since he stepped foot on campus as a freshman and that’s a rare thing to see. Even when he wasn’t playing he was helping the young guys with their football skills or in the case of Jeremiah Dinson it was Holsey that helped him mentally when dealing with his injuries.

A player who could work at cornerback, but may be better suited to play nickel in the slot, Holsey is smart and physical to along with his coverage skills. Those traits should give him a good chance to earn a roster spot.

Among the undrafted guys to get a shot I’m anxious to see Robert Leff’s progression with the Atlanta Falcons. A team that could use some help at offensive tackle, the Falcons wasted little time in signing Leff and with his work ethic and largely inexperienced body of work he could give them a boost.

 

Finding A Way

I have watched a whole lot of Auburn baseball during my time on this job and I don’t remember a more impressive road series win than the one I witnessed over the weekend in Starkville. Playing without starting pitcher Casey Mize and finding out during batting practice before the game on Friday that neither Daniel Robert nor Luke Jarvis would be able to play, the Tigers continued to use the next-man-up mentality and made it pay off with a doubleheader sweep on Saturday.

You have got to give this coaching staff credit for continuing to work with younger players and evaluate them throughout the season because that paid big dividends against Mississippi State with outfielder Jeremy Johnson and pitcher Elliott Anderson both coming up big.

A player who was in line to be the starting center fielder for the Tigers until Jonah Todd showed up on campus and the coaches found a true diamond in the rough, Johnson moved to right field in preseason practices and was again slated for a starting role until a late surge by Bowen McGuffin put him in the lineup.

Since then the redshirt freshman has had very little opportunity to show the coaches what he could do other than in practices, but they paid attention. Swinging the bat well in the pregame on Friday, he put together some good at-bats in a loss to Mississippi State and earned the right to get back on the field on Saturday. All he did was have a three-hit game in the series-clinching victory, showing he deserves more playing time.

As for Anderson, he struggled in his first four appearances with an ERA of 31.50 in his first first four outings after giving up seven earned runs in just two innings. Allowing three hits but no runs in two innings against Jacksonville State on March 15, the freshman had to wait over a month until his next opportunity when he got four outs against Troy on Tuesday night.

The outing showed Butch Thompson something and he called on Anderson in the biggest spot in Saturday’s second game and he came through. Allowing one run on four hits in two and a third innings, the left-hander may be a key for the Tigers by giving them a second lefty to use.


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