Pump report, 9/26
Speaking of that, yours truly actually became somewhat enraged yesterday at my daughter's soccer game. Her team had a goal taken away because the opposing keeper took a shot off her chest, allowed the ball to bounce away and one of The Good Girls scored on the rebound.
Goal disallowed on the grounds a batted ball constitutes a save. Goal kick.
I'm peeved yet calm until a father from the other team rolls over to our parent area. He proceeds to start lecturing us about our players' dangerous behavior. Look, homes, our team won 10-1, so take your hater show on the road. What a goob.
You came here for Auburn, so it's Auburn that you now receive.
Neither quarterback has lived up to billing so far. Jonathan Crompton gets the nod because he has a stronger arm and gets more time to consider his options. His pocket is a better work environment. That breaks what I consider nearly a tie.
It's a tough call. Both Ben Tate and Arian Foster would produce better numbers in offenses that used them more effectively. Tate gets the nod because he has a broader set of skills. I expected more from Montario Hardesty.
Not close. The Vols have Lucas Taylor and Gerald Jones, who are better than anyone Auburn has. Each guy is a home-run threat. Auburn doesn't have one.
Another tough call. Tennessee's line does a really nice job limiting sacks and handling business on that end. Run-blocking has been more of a challenge. Auburn, in general, is pretty good with both sets of responsibilities.
Fatigue was the Tigers' only problem up front last week. LSU has an outstanding offensive line and was forced to all but abandon the run later in the game. Auburn is loaded here.
Tennessee's Ellix Wilson is having a nice season. Rico McCoy has played well so far. Five Auburn players are piecing together useful sets of numbers. Depth matters.
Safety Eric Berry and cornerback Dennis Rogan are really good players. Auburn's second-best defensive back, safety Zac Etheridge, is struggling with an arm injury that could affect him today. Check to Tennessee.
Auburn has a better punter in Clinton Durst -- UT's top guy has been suspended -- and a better placekicker. Robert Dunn is the better punt-return man. Rogan is the better kickoff guy, but that's still three spots in Auburn's favor.
Tuberville's program seems more healthy overall. These two programs have been on the same tier for several years now, though Tuberville has been better lately. Phillip Fulmer's 1998 championship is fading from memory.
Lucas Taylor (No. 12)
5-11, 185, Sr.
Last week: 2 catches for 24 yards (vs. Florida)
Scouting report: Taylor was an elite high-school prospect who transitioned well into college ball. He's a pretty complete player now. Taylor has 4.5 speed -- enough to pull away from most defenders -- and knows how to maneuver away from coverage. He's smart on the field. Smallish size makes blocking a challenge, but he's willing to hit some opponents. On a team with more efficient play at quarterback, Taylor would have a much higher profile. He simply doesn't get many chances to shine.
WR Tim Hawthorne (No. 13)
6-3, 209, Soph.
Last week: 2 catches for 87 yards (vs. LSU)
Scouting report: He doesn't receive much fanfare, but Hawthorne has made more progress than any receiver during the past year. His speed is only average. He overcomes that by playing intelligently -- thinking along with the quarterback in scrambling situations and running routes correctly. He seemed drop-prone during two-a-days, but he's been reliable so far this season. He's steady.
NG Tez Doolittle (No. 99)
6-3, 280, Sr.
Last week: 4 tackles including one-half sack (vs. LSU)
Scouting report: Doolittle began the season as an enigma after losing the 2007 season due to a torn Achilles tendon. The Opelika native has regained all that strength now and has been promoted into a starting role. He's an outstanding run-stopping element. Doolittle has the build and guile to close his designated running lanes as directed. While teammates try to extend themselves beyond their responsibilities, Doolittle stays true to plan. He doesn't miss tackles. He's generally not a pass-rush threat and durability remains a concern.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Tennessee's defense provides some scouting difficultly because it's balanced. There aren't any true weaknesses. There aren't any major strengths, either. The Vols' defensive front is a step down from what Auburn faced last week, which should help the team re-establish the run game that evaporated against LSU. Still, developing better passing rhythm is Tony Franklin's primary goal right now. The Tigers showed last week that its aerial game can be an asset against top teams. It's unclear if tailback Ben Tate can be the home-run threat the Tigers so badly need. I don't expect many philosophical adjustments this week, though I believe Burns and Fannin will play bigger roles.
This ought to be fun. Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton is supposed to be better than this. He made too many mistakes and misreads in the Vols' first two games. His approach was simplified for the Florida game last week. He wasn't a liability. He has to be a strength if Tennessee wants to win today. Auburn's defensive front will have a stout challenge today because UT's line provides outstanding pass protection. It's hard to hit Crompton. Still, the line is less powerful when it comes to run blocking. Auburn's defensive backs struggled against LSU's wideouts last week. If Crompton gets hot, Jerraud Powers and Walt McFadden will be tested on their ability to learn from last week's mistakes.