Tuberville Looking For Youth To Step Up

Coach Tommy Tuberville talked about getting some help from the freshman class and the play of quarterback Brandon Cox.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville said that injured linebackers Tray Blackmon and Merrill Johnson are both going to be evaluated this week to see if they'll be ready to go against Mississippi State along with safety Aairon Savage and cornerback Jonathan Wilhite.

With both Blackmon and Johnson out of the lineup Saturday night, Blackmon for the full game and Johnson injured in the first quarter with a shoulder problem, Tuberville said the Tigers got a huge game from junior Chris Evans.

"Chris Evans played a great game," Tuberville said. "He played almost every snap, special teams. That was a big plus for us with Tray being out, him playing as well as he played. If we had a MVP of defense, a guy that did everything the way he should, it would be Chris…he got it done.

"I would like to keep him inside if we could," he added. "But we're getting so beat up. I would love to have Tray be able to get a little rest and be able to play Chris on some special teams because your linebackers have to be good special teams players. If we keep getting injuries, with Merrill being out and Tray being out, we're going to have to do something to help on the outside."

Because of the depth concerns Tuberville said they'll begin to give several young guys a look on both sides of the ball, particularly on defense. That means players such as Brent Slusher, Bo Harris and even Josh Bynes may see more action in the coming weeks.

"Slusher is playing on special teams but he's more of a defensive end," Tuberville said. "We've kind of moved him down to a defensive end because of his hand (injured hand). I would say Josh Bynes would be the next guy. We might bring him up and start looking at him. We might have to. We might have to pull a redshirt off a lot of these guys just to be able to make it through some of these games because of the injuries.

We talked about it today, about bringing some young guys up and letting them play special teams. You hate to do that because it knocks a year out of playing for four years. When you play a tough schedule like this and as physical as these first two games have been, you might have to adjust. We might have to do that. We're going to have to look at that this week.

"I don't want to put a guy out there and play two plays on kickoff coverage and not do anything else. They're going to have to contribute a little bit on offense or defense before I do that. Josh Bynes, we're going to have to look at him because our numbers are so low."


Auburn had its usual Sunday senior meeting and Tuberville said it was nothing out of the usual other than the team knowing they had several chances to win Saturday night's game only to come up short.

"It was typical," Tuberville said. "Seniors are just like the rest of the team, everybody is down. We feel like we had a chance to win it and when you come that close and play so poorly in some areas and still have a chance, it takes that much more out of you. The effort was great, we're not making enough plays on both sides, offense and defense, to win a game like that."

Offensively the first look is obviously at quarterback where senior Brandon Cox again struggled, turning the ball over three times including a crucial fumble to open the third quarter when Auburn was moving the football. Tuberville said he feels like it's just a matter of Cox pressing to try to do too much.

"There's not a tougher guy that I've coached at quarterback than Brandon Cox," Tuberville said. "He's taken some licks and he'll take some more. He's trying to make a play. You're Brandon Cox and a fifth-year senior, you're the guy that's supposed to make big plays. He hasn't been a big play guy since he's been here. He's trying to do more than he probably should. I can understand that…

"We're a running team that is going to throw it off short and make plays when we have to. He had a couple of plays he would love to have back that would probably have been touchdowns but were a little overthrown. That's part of it. You're not going to be perfect. He'll get his confidence back."

Another player that came out smoking but had his own problems was redshirt freshman running back Mario Fannin. Running for 62 yards on 14 carries, Fannin fumbled his last two touches and never got the ball again in the backfield. Tuberville said although he had his problems, Fannin will continue to be a big part of the offense.

"Last night, you get gun shy not of him but of himself," Tuberville said. "After turning it over twice you feel like if you don't get him settled down, if he does it one more time you might not get him back for the rest of the year. Eddie (Gran) was trying to help him. He's going to be a heck of a running back. I hate he got off to a start like that."

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