Giving Ole Miss a perspective
I figured ... maybe the HOTTIES have some interest in what they find notable and how I answered their questions.
Q: Houston Nutt has downplayed his past with Gus Malzahn, but is this one pretty emotional for Gus?
A: I don't think Malzahn gets emotional about that kind of stuff. Is he a fan of Houston Nutt? Absolutely not. Malzahn wasn't running Arkansas offense during the second half of 2006, people know that, and that season was a pretty bitter pill for a college neophyte to swallow. Malzahn will be motivated this weekend, but I don't think it's because of Nutt. It's because Auburn's offense has been decaying of late and his reputation is at stake.
Q: Has the SEC schedule been the primary factor in Auburn's decreased scoring through the last four games, or are there more issues in play?
A: I think schedule is the primary reason. Auburn's schedule is nearly a seamless hierarchy -- with easy games early and the toughest (Alabama) at the end. These SEC teams employ shrewd defensive coordinators and use fast players on defense. That combination is taxing Malzahn from an intellectual standpoint -- and he doesn't have enough talent/speed to simply overpower people. That's why Auburn is struggling. Players and coaches keep talking about "execution." While that's been an issue, I don't think it's the primary issue.
Q: I've heard it speculated that there will be lean times ahead for Auburn, because Nick Saban will get all the recruits he wants in Tuscaloosa. What's your take on that theory?
A: Auburn has competed for decades -- and occasionally dominated -- by signing a relatively small percentage of Alabama-based players. Unlike his predecessor, Gene Chizik has elected to challenge Alabama for several in-state kids this year. Will it work? We'll find out in early February. Still, most of the Tigers' most coveted recruits are from other states. I don't expect Auburn's overall recruiting effort to slide backward under Chizik's watch.
Q: Ole Miss has been pretty good at disrupting passing quarterbacks this season. What's pass protection been like for Auburn?
A: Auburn exhibited excellent pass protection through the first seven games, allowing five sacks during that span. LSU sacked Chris Todd four times last weekend. I tend to think the Tigers will struggle against Ole Miss' front seven, which I judge to be quite good.
Q: Tracy Rocker was highly regarded for his ability as a defensive line coach while with Nutt for six seasons. How has Auburn played defensively this season across the board, but specifically along the defensive line?
A: Auburn is undermanned at tackle. That's just how it is. There isn't much depth and the guys Rocker plays aren't special. Antonio Coleman, the team's franchise defender, hasn't affected games as everyone expected. Is that regression on Coleman's part or is that a result of Ted Roof's remarkably basic system? Auburn has no depth. It generally plays with no reserves at linebacker or safety. One reserve cornerback is available. Roof plays conservatively as a result. It's a pretty lackluster enterprise right now, though I think it will improve quickly once new signees infuse more depth and speed.
Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University
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