The Tigers lead the league in scoring offense (33.5 ppg) and total offense (416.2 ypg), are second in rushing offense (184.5) and sixth in passing offense (231.8). While the transition has been smooth for quarterback Brandon Cox and the running backs led by Kenny Irons, the question of what to do at Ronnie Brown's F-back position has been a tough one to answer.
For a while the Tigers tinkered with Carl Stewart and even Tre Smith in the role, but recently it has been receiver Anthony Mix, tight ends Cooper Wallace and Cole Bennett and even fullback Jake Slaughter in the running back/receiver role. Bennett says the change is a welcome one for the group and he feels like it has made the offense better.
"I think everything is clicking together on all cylinders," Bennett says. "Last year Ronnie and Carnell filled certain roles in the offense and not to say that me, Mix and Cooper have taken their place, but the type of plays that we would have thrown to them are definitely being distributed among us three. Cox is making the reads and we're making the right reads on our routes. Everything is just coming together down the stretch.
"It's real exciting, especially when Jake has already caught two passes this year," Bennett adds. "It's exciting to see him catch the ball and run with it as well as seeing Mix get more touches. He's such an amazing athlete out there. Also me and Cooper getting to display what we can do at tight end and not be so one-dimensional all the time. That gives teams something else to look at knowing that they will throw to us. It's real exciting for me and to watch everyone else progress as well."
Even though Bennett is happy to be coming along as a receiver this season with six catches for 80 yards and a touchdown, he knows his first priority is to block for the running game. Last season the Tigers were averaging just over 200 yards rushing per game at this point in the season. While the overall numbers are down, Auburn is averaging 208 yards per game on the ground since week three. That's a total that makes everyone happy on offense.
"There's a lot of pride involved," Bennett says. "I'm real happy with the progress I have made this season as far as run blocking goes. Especially when they continue to run it behind me, there is a real sense of pride in what I'm doing because what I'm doing directly results in whether it's a three-yard or five-yard gain."
Bennett turns upfield after a catch against Ole Miss.
This week Bennett and the Tigers travel to Kentucky to face the Wildcats in a game that should be an easy win for the Tigers if you look at the numbers, but things don't always turn out that way. Last week South Carolina defeated Tennessee on the road in Knoxville, a game that caught the eye of several Tiger players. This week Auburn must take care of business with rivalry games Georgia and Alabama coming up. It could be the dreaded trap game for the Tigers, but Bennett says there's no chance of that with this team because they know what's at stake.
"The average ‘Johnny Quarterback' that sits in his chair is going to look for a universal excuse for something that goes wrong," Bennett says. "Say we came out and we're a little sluggish they would say ‘well, they're looking forward to Georgia or they're thinking about Alabama'. That's really not the case. You can't just slap a universal truth on something like that and just think that it's the one reason or the only reason. That's really not the case.
"Nobody on the team is thinking about what we have to do against Alabama or Georgia. If we don't win this game those games don't matter. Here in the SEC it doesn't matter what your record is anyone can show up and win a game. If we don't have our heads on right then worrying about all that other stuff is not going to matter."
When a player comes to Auburn the two games people talk about most are Georgia and Alabama. From his time on campus as a freshman until his senior season the talk is ‘beat the Bulldogs and Beat Bama'. Bennett knows that's the overwhelming theme among the fans at the moment, but he says it won't override thoughts of Kentucky this week.
"We know there are games down the road, but those weeks are so encapsulated and there is so much going into those weeks that you can't afford to devote any mental or physical aspects of what you're doing this week toward those other weeks," Bennett says. "Those weeks are so involved and so intense that you pretty much have no choice but to focus on what is right in front of you. People think you look ahead, but you really don't because there is so much going on, both on the field and off the field. We really don't look ahead. We know those games are coming, but we're really focused on what we have to do this week."