Five questions: Auburn

Get to know Auburn just a little bit better with help from Jason Caldwell.

It’s that time once again. Had a couple of weeks to look at what Auburn brings to the table, but let’s get some real insight on the Tigers.

Inside the Auburn Tigers’ Jason Caldwell is here to help. Asked Caldwell five pressing questions about Auburn heading into the showdown with the Sooners in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

How tough was it for this offense to find its groove when the quarterback spot just never seemed 100 percent settled or the rest of the cast 100 percent healthy?

It took a while for this Auburn offense to get anything done, but once the coaches stuck with Sean White the Tigers really started to play well. Against Mississippi State and Arkansas they really put it all together and carried that over to Ole Miss before White injured his shoulder.

After that it was really all downhill for the offense. Even with a healthy Pettway the Tigers struggled against Vanderbilt before White came off the bench to head them in the second half. With White and Pettway both MIA at the end of the season and Kerryon Johnson still less than 100 percent the offense was a shell of itself in losses to Georgia and Alabama.

With Kamryn Pettway returning, how does that change the dynamic of what the Tigers can do offensively?

It definitely has an impact because Pettway went from a glorified fullback in 2015 to perhaps the best running back in the SEC this year before his injury. He played but didn’t even get a carry in the season-opening loss to Clemson, something that seems hard to believe after seeing the way he played during the six-game winning streak.

Pettway brings a relentless, punishing aspect to Auburn’s running game that matches well with White throwing the football. Teams had to commit so many guys to the run that it opened up some lanes in the passing game for the Tigers.

In the end Pettway’s ability to wear down defenses was probably the biggest thing he brought to the table, but his vision and cutting ability was a shock to defenses who thought he was just a battering ram. That’s not the case at all.

Some OU fans feel like this was a ‘wasted opportunity’ this year because of its defense. Do Auburn fans feel the same way because of the offense? OU’s offense vs. Auburn’s defense feels like a match made for the playoff, while the Sooners defense vs. Tigers offense seems to have nobody excited.

This Auburn team wasn’t predicted to challenge for the SEC Championship, but when the defense played like it did in the opener against Clemson and carried that through the rest of the year you can’t help but think about what could have been.

In a season when the defense gave this team a chance to win every game, a lack of consistency on offense was something that really hurt this team.

As for the Sugar Bowl itself, there’s no question that the premier matchup is Oklahoma’s offense vs. Auburn’s defense, but the game may come down to the other side of the ball. When healthy the Tigers have moved the ball well, especially on the ground. That would be really important to Auburn’s chances to win because it would allow the Tigers to keep the football away from Baker Mayfield and company.

Everyone knows Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams, but who is another vital cog to the defense that perhaps goes a little under the radar?

The guys to watch in this game for Auburn are cornerbacks Josh Holsey, Carlton Davis and Javaris Davis. Holsey has been the best player at the position for the Tigers, but he was injured in week 11 and didn’t play in the Iron Bowl against Alabama. He’s a two-time knee surgery recipient, but has responded with a very good year.

Carlton Davis was a freshman All-American a season ago, but hasn’t been as good as a sophomore after dealing with some nagging injuries. He should be healthier and that could make a difference for him and the Auburn defense.

With both of them banged up it has allowed Javaris Davis to get into the mix and the redshirt freshman has played well for the Tigers. He’s the fastest of the group and could see some time on Dede Westbrook.

Bowl practices sometimes give you that glimpse into the future to somebody who could make an impact in the game. Who is that guy for Auburn this time around?

I think for this Auburn team the guys to watch are a trio of freshmen wide receivers. Kyle Davis and Elijah Stove have both made some plays for the Tigers this season while Nate Craig has been used sparingly this year.

All three could be guys to keep an eye on in the Sugar Bowl because they are big-play threats. With size and speed and the ability to get more reps during the bowl practices, they could get some targets on Jan. 2 and that’s something Auburn fans have been waiting for.

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