5 Questions: Auburn

Two days away from LSU's SEC opener against Auburn, TSD caught up with Mark Murphy from Inside The Auburn Tigers to get the latest on the 2013 War Eagles. Murphy details the transition into the Gus Malzahn Era, provides Auburn players to watch and plenty more inside.

1. LSU fans will probably associate Gus Malzahn and Auburn with that 2010 offense and Cam Newton. How does this year's team compare offensively to what Auburn did in that national championship season, and how different is this program with Malzahn at the helm?

In addition to Newton being a special talent as both a runner and passer, the 2010 team featured an outstanding offensive line with four senior starters and a talented junior who is now in the NFL. This year's offensive line has no seniors and is not performing at the level the championship team did.

Additionally, the 2010 team had multiple "go-to" wide receivers and a very good receiving tight end in Philip Lutzenkirchen. This year's receiver group has talent, but is still a work in progress.

Auburn's new quarterback, Nick Marshall, has a strong arm and quick feet, but is still in a developmental stage. Unlike Newton, who transferred to Auburn from junior college in January and participated in spring practice, Marshall didn't start practice until August and is still getting familiar with his receivers and the offense in general.

2. This will arguably be Nick Marshall's stiffest test as a quarterback. How will he attack the LSU defense, and what has he shown in his three games at Auburn that creates confidence he can handle the challenge?

Auburn has been trying to establish the long pass play with its new quarterback throwing to his speedy receivers like Sammie Coates, Quan Bray and Ricardo Louis. Through three games there have been multiple opportunities to make big plays on the long ball, but so far there have been more misses than hits.

Malzahn is a firm believer in running the football and needs his quarterback to be effective enough with the middle to long-range passes to keep LSU's safeties from becoming too involved in run defense.

3. Auburn has relied heavily on Marshall to be the Tigers' biggest offensive threat. Who else can Malzahn depend on to make plays?

The 2013 team has three junior running backs who have the potential to make big plays if the offensive line gives them room to operate.

Tre Mason rushed for 1,002 yards last year and is effective running both inside and on the corners. Speedy Corey Grant is dangerous on the edge and newcomer Cameron Artis-Payne, the offensive MVP?of the spring game, is a physical back who can be effective running between the tackles.

4. Auburn does seem to have a lot of experience in its secondary, but with Cam Cameron now in charge of the LSU offense, that's something they still haven't seen. How does Auburn go about preparing for that challenge, and how will they contain Zach Mettenberger, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham?

Despite injury issues in the defensive backs group, the secondary has improved its level of play so far compared to last year. The top player in the group, senior cornerback Chris Davis, was injured vs. Arkansas State and did not play vs. Mississippi State. Davis is questionable for the LSU game.

Robenson Therezie, who is playing the hybrid safety/rover position in defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 alignment, is a physical junior who was SEC Defensive Player of the Week vs. Washington State and is performing well as is sophomore safety Josh Holsey, who moved from cornerback in the spring. Another former cornerback, Jermaine Whitehead, has been solid at the other safety spot.

5. In last year's game, Mettenberger was sacked four times and fumbled twice. LSU's offensive line has mostly kept their quarterback upright this season, so how will Auburn attack the trenches, and who will they count on this year to provide that pressure?

Auburn's top pass rusher, senior end Dee Ford, missed the first two games with a knee injury. He returned vs. Mississippi State and was in on six tackles. Auburn needs Ford and several others on the front four to step up as pass rushers with Mettenberger throwing the ball so well as a senior.

This season the Tigers have been frequently rotating freshmen defensive linemen in and out of the lineup. It won't be surprising to see a dozen different players see action on the front four at Tiger Stadium. That group includes a trio of true freshmen – tackle Montravius Adams plus ends Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel.

How do you think Auburn matches up with LSU?


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