Changing the style of play on both offense and defense, Collins has directed the Indians to a pair of victories, but they will come to Jordan-Hare Stadium for Auburn's 1 p.m. Homecoming game with seven losses and the probability of No. eight to come this weekend. Collins led them to wins over Idaho and Utah State after dropping his first two games as the head man.
Coach Mike Collins
The Indians are led by the passing of true freshman Steven Jyles. The starter since the third game of the season, the 6-1, 180 Jyles has quickly become one of the most dangerous players the Tigers will face this season. Averaging 198.3 passing yards per game, he has the ability to take over a game by scrambling in the pocket to buy himself time to throw the ball downfield. Two weeks ago he had one of the best performances in school history, a history that features quarterbacks such as Doug Pederson and Stan Humphries. In a 51-48 double overtime win over Utah State he passed for 470 yards and four touchdowns and also ran for 25 yards and a score.
Jyles' top target and one of the best receivers in the country is Mack Vincent (5-11, 202, Jr.). With 58 catches for 953 yards and five touchdowns in nine games, he is the main receiver in Louisiana-Monroe's spread offense attack, but is not the only weapon. Floyd Smith (5-8, 176, So.) provides a solid compliment to Vincent as his 30 catches for 374 yards shows. Ben Wright (6-3, 264, Sr.) isn't much of a receiving threat at tight end with just six catches for 77 yards in 2002 and could be replaced by wide receiver Drouzo Quillen (6-6, 187, Fr.) in the starting lineup. Quillen has 23 catches for 394 yards and two touchdowns.
For the season the Indians have thrown for 2,131 yards (an average of 236 per game) and 12 touchdowns, but as they have become more comfortable in the new offense they have improved. Averaging 292 yards passing in the last four games, expect to see the Indians air it out early and often against the Tigers.
In the backfield elusive Bryant Jacobs (5-8, 186, Sr.) will give Auburn a challenge on draw plays and outside handoffs. Averaging 85.4 yards per game with five touchdowns, he is a very capable back and a good complement to a strong passing game and leads the Sun Belt Conference in all-purpose yards. A problem area has been running the ball into the end zone this season for the Indians. They have rushed for just eight touchdowns as a team despite giving up an ugly total of 29 through nine games.
Up front the group of left tackle Bruce Hampton (6-3, 322, So.), left guard Zack Sims (6-4, 341, Sr.), center Hayden Wadsworth (6-2, 272, So.), right guard Shane Luna (6-2, 304, Jr.) and right tackle Josh Wade (6-4, 283, Jr.) give the Indians a solid starting five. Paving the way for an offense that has topped 600 yards twice in the last four games, they'll make getting pressure on Lyle a tough chore for the Tigers.
While the offense has been the talk of the program, the defense has been something to keep quiet about in 2002. Giving up 38.3 points per game and allowing opponents an average of 215.7 yards per game on the ground, the unit ranks as one of the worst in the country in rushing defense (110th), passing defense (77th), total defense (104th) and scoring defense (109th). That should be just what the doctor ordered for an Auburn offense looking to spice up the passing game this weekend before games against Georgia and Alabama to close the regular season.
Switching to a 3-3-5 defense halfway through the season, the Indians have been better lately against the run, but nowhere near where they need to be when facing the Tigers on Saturday. Giving up 194 yards rushing in the second half against North Texas, they are vulnerable to a power running game, which is right up Auburn's alley.
The front three for the Indians has remained unchanged all season with John Thompson (6-3, 272, Jr.) at left defensive end, Alnecco Shine (6-3, 255, So.) at right defensive end and Corey Conde (6-2, 251, Jr.) at nose tackle. A small but athletic group, they should be overmatched Saturday against a physical Auburn offensive line. Thompson has been the most active Indian up front this season with 20 tackles and three sacks.
At the linebacker position the Indians employ a ‘Chief' linebacker who, in essence, plays the strong side. John Winchester (6-3, 225, So.), who didn't start until the Indians changed defenses after the third game, holds down that spot. In the middle Carlos Hughes (6-1, 239, Sr.) took over for Preseason Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Maurice Sonnier after the junior broke his ankle in the second quarter of the Arkansas State game. Hughes is second on the team with 57 tackles and has eight for losses. The weakside linebacker is senior Darwin Roberts (6-2, 210) who has 24 tackles this season.
In the secondary free safety Chris Harris is the leader for the Indians. Tops on the team in tackles with 78 along with one interception, the 6-1, 192 sophomore makes plays all over the field. Unfortunately, he has to make too many for this defense because of a less-than-stellar front six. At the corners Seneca Lee (5-11, 176, Jr.) and Cash Mouton (6-1, 186, So.) are the strength of the secondary with good coverage skills. In the middle safeties Shaune Maynard (5-11, 203, Jr.) and Travin Moore (5-11, 188, So.) complement Harris well. Moore has 39 tackles in 2002 with five for losses while Maynard has 31 stops.
This game could come down to an Auburn running attack that should control the line of scrimmage against an undersized Indian front. If Auburn can control the ball on offense and mix it up defensively against an inexperienced quarterback expect this one to be in hand early for the Tigers on homecoming.