Stock tracker: Auburn Tigers
Shouldn't we do something similar for Auburn at the season's middle mark? We'll soon be entering Q3 of the season. It's a parallel. Basically the same. A keen segue.
- OT Andrew McCain: The guy spent four years at Auburn before he sniffed the starting lineup, which made people like me wonder if McCain could play at all. Answer: Yes. He's been flagged for one penalty this season and has been beaten for one sack as well. If you think about how he's played 95% of the Tigers' 446 snaps this season, that's a remarkably stable performance.
- TB/FB Eric Smith: He played last season and some people believed they were looking at Rudi Johnson Jr. I thought he looked more like Cencade Pennington Jr. Regardless, it's obvious that Smith's broad base of skills (he's a good blocker, a good runner and a surprisingly intuitive receiver) makes him an ideal fit in that utility-back role Gus Malzahn often employs. I still don't envision Smith as a featured SEC back, but he clearly will hold down a high-profile role as long as Malzahn is around.
- LB Adam Herring: I didn't think he would play again. He was out for so long and, honestly, I heard almost nothing about Herring prior to his move into the starting lineup. Herring has emerged as a competent and useful guy on the weak side. It's rare that I see him make a great play. It's rare that I see him miss a tackle. Ted Roof is OK with that combination.
- Honorable mention: TE Tommy Trott, S Daren Bates, coach Jeff Grimes, WR Darvin Adams.
NOT BEATING EXPECTATIONS
- WR Tim Hawthorne: I know he was hurt. He was cleared a month ago, though, and actually started against West Virginia. I expected him to become a No. 3 guy and have at least 10 catches by now. He has zero. Malzahn was asked about Hawthorne earlier this week and said Hawthorne was "full throttle" at practice. Weird.
- LB Eltoro Freeman: He was outstanding during his lone junior-college season and throughout high school. It was reasonable to expect Freeman to slide into Auburn's lineup. He hasn't done that. Teammates say Freeman tries to be too perfect on the field, which apparently is a problem. Freeman has returned from a self-imposed week of exile. Perhaps that provided clarity of mind and purpose.
- TE Phillip Lutzenkircken: He was a major recruit known for his receiving acumen. He has caught two balls this season, though one was for a touchdown. Two things are working against him right now: An injured left knee and Tommy Trott's dramatic increase in value. Still, I thought Lutzenkirchen was a made-to-order receiver. It looks like he has plenty of technique work ahead.