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10.31.2008

Looking at AU @ UM


Hey everyone. Thanks for stopping by on a fine Friday; a spooky one. I also want to compliment the HOTTIES for providing so much support, both on the blog and on the Campfire, for our newest Ring of Fire members. Our warm community is what distinguishes us.

SCHEDULE UPDATE: Since Auburn is on the road, that means I'll be holding the traditional "Ask an Auburn Beat Writer" segment tonight. We were doing this before Campfires came along ... but it's basically a Campfire in disguise. Live chat. Questions answered. Etcetera. So come kick it with an Auburn Beat Writer. I'm thinking 10 p.m. CDT.

OK. Here is today's content:

POSITION-BY-POSITION:
QUARTERBACK
Advantage: Ole Miss
Auburn enjoyed more consistent play out of Kodi Burns last week, but UM's Jevan Snead is a much more refined player. He has a great arm, knows how to use it and can run in a pinch.

RUNNING BACKS
Advantage: Ole Miss
It's unclear what Auburn has here. Ben Tate played only sparingly against West Virginia and Brad Lester is struggling with a knee issue. Ole Miss has a decent tailback in Cordera Eason and intriguing elements in Dexter McCluster and Enrique Davis.

RECEIVERS
Advantage: Ole Miss
Auburn has two playmakers in Rod Smith and Tommy Trott. The Rebels have watched McCluster excel in a variety of roles. Shay Hodge and Mike Wallace are legitimate players as well.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Advantage: Auburn
Ole Miss has the best player here in Michael Oher, but Auburn has plenty of talent. Have the Tigers been good? Not really. Still, I believe this group is on the verge of a breakthrough. It could happen tomorrow.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Advantage: Auburn
This could go either way. Peria Jerry is an outstanding tackle and a lot better than most people realize. With that said, Sen'Derrick Marks and Tez Doolittle are excellent players as well. Throw in Zach Clayton and the Tigers have plenty of brawn.

LINEBACKERS
Advantage: Ole Miss
Auburn's linebackers didn't play well at West Virginia last week, missing tackles with surprising frequency. Ole Miss doesn't have the same amount of depth or talent, but their guys are playing more consistently right now.

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Advantage: Auburn
The Tigers suffered some serious busts in the defensive backfield at WVU. Still, this is a talented group. Jerraud Powers says he's better after playing half speed with a hamstring injury last week and Walt McFadden has been a bright spot.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Advantage: Ole Miss
Josh Shene has connected on 12 of his 13 field-goal kicks. Mike Wallace is a great kickoff-return guy. Auburn has the advantage at punter, but the Rebels seem to have a legitimate leg up here.

COACHING
Advantage: Auburn
Tommy Tuberville has his faults and the program doesn't seem all that healthy right now. Still, this coaching staff has made a lot of correct calls through the years. I like Houston Nutt a lot. He's great as the lovable loser, but the Rebels are a favorite today. Nutt is less effective that way.


SCOUTING REPORTS:
Ole Miss
Jevan Snead (No. 4)
6-3, 215, Soph.
Last game: 16-of-31 for 192 yards, 1 TD; 5 rushes for 23 yards (vs. Alabama, 10/18)
Scouting report: Snead, a transfer from Texas, has an outstanding arm. He can throw deep balls with authority. He understands how to alter pace according to situation. The problem is that Snead is highly aware of his raw talent and takes too many risks as a result. He has no problem throwing into double coverage because he considers himself capable of making every throw work. He can be a liability in that sense. Snead isn't a fast runner. He is intuitive in the pocket, though, and can escape pressure. He has some great years ahead of him.

Auburn
QB Kodi Burns (No. 18)
6-2, 205, Soph.
Last week: 13-of-21 for 111 yards, 1 TD; 15 carries for 82 yards (vs. WVU)
Scouting report: Burns was given a chance to play a full game last week and showed signs of progress. He played particularly well during the first half. Burns escaped from pressure at appropriate times. He made several accurate passes on the run. He also showed a refined ability to run effectively in space. Burns looked like a different player in the second half, though, and seemed to lose confidence. That has been an issue for him. Burns has a very strong arm that allows him to throw accurately beyond 30 yards. His mechanics are inconsistent. That's why he struggles to make simple throws at times. Until he learns to repeat his throwing motion, Burns will be limited.

Walter McFadden (No. 6)
6-0, 177, Jr.
Last week: 2 tackles and 1 interception (vs. WVU)
Scouting report: McFadden is a good example of a player who is more valuable than his statistics. The junior has decent speed, decent acceleration and decent size. What makes McFadden so important is his innate understanding of his position. He understands his responsibilities and handles them. He also thinks along with the quarterback, which puts McFadden in good position for interceptions more often than most defensive backs. McFadden takes pride in being available; injuries never have been an issue.


KEYS TO THE GAME:
Auburn offense
Ole Miss is a very powerful team along the line of scrimmage. Auburn ditched its passing schemes last week in favor of a more direct running attack, which yielded significant dividends until West Virginia made adjustments. Are the Tigers trying to re-invent themselves as a power team? If so, they'll have to play with more ferocity along the offensive front today. Kodi Burns is best when given a peripheral role, which is what happened during his first-half renaissance last week. When pressed into a leading role during the second half, Burns was less reliable. Auburn needs to rely on its tailbacks to blaze the trail. If that's going to happen, Brad Lester and Ben Tate need to regain their early-season swagger.

Auburn defense

What in the world has happened here? Auburn now has allowed more than 400 yards in consecutive games, which is a far cry from its early-season pace. The problems seem two fold: Paul Rhoads' one-dimensional approach to fronts and a general discouragement. Unlike Will Muschamp, who spent hours searching for new ways to package the same defensive scheme, Rhoads prefers to perfect a few fronts. The problem is that the Tigers have an established defensive identity now and without much variation to throw off opponents, Auburn is struggling to make it all work. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt is a good strategist, too. As far as discouragement, the Tigers clearly played at a lower level once the Mountaineers pulled ahead by 10 last week. With the team's offense struggling this badly, falling behind seems like a terminal problem.

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

Questions? Comments? Post directly to the blog below or email me at jgtate@gannett.com.

202 Comments:

«Oldest ‹Older 201 – 202 of 202
Anonymous Griff said...

Thanks, Jay. Also, I'm Kevin's official legal analyst for The Morning Vent, although Kev hasn't actually had me on there yet. He'd probably grill me on my "Ole Miss coaches = Ole Miss results" comment I made to him in 2003 at the Ga Tech game. Feel free to give him as much hell as possible though next time you're on.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Jay G. Tate said...

I can do that.

4:30 PM  
«Oldest ‹Older 201 – 202 of 202

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