Auburn, Ala.--With cornerback Jonathan Wilhite not having his best performance against Georgia and Eric Brock questionable for the Alabama game with an ankle injury, coordinator Will Muschamp has had to shake up the lineup in the secondary.
Wilhite got beat several times in man coverage in the first half against the Bulldogs, particularly on third down, so Patrick Lee played most of the second half at cornerback. Lee may get the start this week against Alabama.
"We're going to rep through the week and see who practices the best," Muschamp notes. "Whoever practices the best, that's who we'll play.
"You have to have a lot of confidence back there with the way we play," he adds. "Pat has played well all year and Pat deserves to play, too. I've already talked to John about it at length after the game and then today (Sunday) that there are certain decisions you have to make on what you feel is best for the team. I thought putting Pat in the game would give him some relief and let him get on the sideline and kind of see the game a little bit. Pat played pretty well and we'll go through practice this week and see where we stand."
Muschamp says that it's 50/50 on whether Brock will play this week. In his absence Lorenzo Ferguson started and played the entire game at safety. He was credited with one assisted tackle.
"Lorenzo played okay, but we just need more production," Muschamp notes. "We're going to continue to explore. Tristan (Davis) missed some time because of his hamstring last week. That's the reason why he didn't play any at the safety position. It was all new to Jerraud (Powers). We're certainly going to look for more answers."
Muschamp adds that Powers will continue to play at nickel this week and will likely see time at safety.
Powers may play a larger role this week in the secondary.
Looking ahead to Alabama
When asked what the difference is between the Iron Bowl and the other 11 games on the schedule, Muschamp replied, "Your job is on the line."
Auburn enters the game at 9-2 overall and Alabama at 6-5.
"It's the biggest rivalry in college football," Muschamp notes. "As a player at Georgia you talked about the Iron Bowl. When you're at LSU you knew about the Iron Bowl. It's a special, intense rivalry and being a part of it before you understand what is at stake."
The Crimson Tide fell 28-14 to LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday, but the offense was able to move the ball for 369 yards against the nation's top-ranked defense. Quarterback John Parker Wilson was 22-35 for 291 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
"John Wilson has thrown the ball well and I think he's a guy who progressed as the year has come along," Muschamp notes. "I know D.J. Hall is a guy I recruited out of high school as a talented receiver. Keith Brown might be out, I don't know but I saw him get hurt last night (against LSU). I think they've got some talented wideouts in (Nikita) Stover and some of the guys they've got.
"(Ken) Darby and (Jimmy) Johns are both good running backs and they utilize both of those guys well," he continues. "They went down to Baton Rouge and played good against a good defense."
Lee may get the the start this week at cornerback opposite David Irons.
What went wrong
Muschamp says that the game plan was to put the pressure on true freshman quarterback Matthew Stafford. However, the young QB responded by completing 14-20 for 219 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. He also rushed for 83 yards.
"We obviously didn't prepare very well," Muschamp says. "We felt like we had a good plan going in and we wanted to put the game on the quarterback. He made two outstanding throws down field in the first half, which were big game changers, momentum changers and field position changers. It was over 100 yards on two plays. We were going to make him do that.
"We weren't going to let them run the ball and we played the two-back runs pretty well," he adds. "In the second half they got in the one back and got us spread out a little bit. We missed on the zone read a couple of times with the quarterback when he pulled the ball and obviously on the quarterback draws in the second half."
In Auburn's two losses this season, 27-10 to Arkansas and 37-15 to Georgia, the Tigers have gotten beat badly on third downs. The Razorbacks made good on 7-12 third downs and the Bulldogs were 8-14.
"I really think it's different things in different games," he says about his defense's inability to get off the field. "At times I don't think we've covered as well as we've liked to have covered. We're not getting enough pressure with four guys rushing. We've tried to generate some pressure with five-man and six-man blitzes.
"We're going to continue to look at it and make some decisions on what we feel like we need to do," he adds. "Right now we're just not getting it done. Whatever I'm calling is not working, so we've got to do something different."
The loss to Georgia was certainly one of the uglier losses Auburn has suffered in recent years. However, the Tigers still have nine wins this season and are in position to go to a quality bowl game.
"It's never as good as it is and it's never as bad as it is," Muschamp explains. "I think as long as you keep things in perspective--we lost Georgia, a great rivalry and it hurt a lot of Auburn people. Nobody hurts more than these players or coaches, and I don't think people always understand that. We've just got to be real technical about what we did, what we did wrong and what we feel like we've got to do to improve. We've got a quick turn around against the biggest rivalry in college football and we're looking forward to playing in the Iron Bowl."