AUBURN - Jay Tate of AuburnSports.com was kind enough to provide this scouting report of the Tigers heading into Saturday night's game.
THREE THINGS THAT ARE GOING WELL FOR AUBURN THIS SEASON:
• QB Jonathan Wallace. The freshman was a forgotten element of the Tigers' attack during the season's first half, but he's given the position a boost lately. He has some escapability and, unlike the Tigers' other quarterbacks, is able to keep his eyes downfield while eluding the rush. It's not an either/or situation. With that said, he hasn't played against a defense like Georgia's.
• Special teams. Kicker Cody Parkey is flawless inside of 46 yards this season. Steven Clark is averaging 41.1 yards per punt, which is only mediocre, but opponents have returned only five of his 53 punts this season. Total return distance? Four yards. Kickoff return defense is almost as good; Auburn allows an average of 17.08 yards. That's sixth among the 120 FBS programs.
• The run game. When you isolate the production of top tailbacks Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb, Auburn's run game averages 5.8 yards per carry. That's pretty strong. There have been times this season, like last week, when the Tigers go into smashmouth mode and power through opponents. Then they get away from the run game. It's like situational schizophrenia.
THREE THINGS THAT ARE NOT GOING WELL FOR AUBURN:
• Defense. Brian VanGorder was supposed to arrive in January and turn a defeated defensive unit into a capable Southeastern Conference defense. He has fallen well short of that expectation. Auburn is among the NCAA's bottom half in rush yards allowed, pass yards allowed, points allowed. The most surprising part of that is the team's lack of toughness along the line of scrimmage. Production at defensive tackle has been almost nil.
• Offense. Simply put, there doesn't seem to be a consistent feel to the Tigers' attack. Sometimes Auburn lines up in a heavy set and grinds through the 'A' and 'B' gaps. Other times, it operates more like a misdirection team with spread elements. Sometimes Tre Mason gets 20 carries. Sometimes he gets six. What you see one weekend - or even during one quarter - differs wildly from the next. This clearly is a team still searching for an identity.
• Turnovers. Auburn has recovered 10 fumbles, which is good, but incredibly has intercepted one pass this season. Opponents have attempted 282 throws. Meanwhile, the Tigers have conceded 20 turnovers. Their -9 turnover margin is messy to say the least. Even good teams would struggle to overcome that obstacle - and this isn't a good team.
PLAYER THAT HAS EXCELLED: LB Daren Bates. The senior linebacker still makes his fair share of mistakes, but he plays with remarkable passion on Saturdays. He currently is the SEC's third-leading tackler with 86. The Tigers don't have a surplus of players capable of a game-defining hit, but Bates can and hit put his body on the line to make something happen. He makes his presence felt.
PLAYER THAT HAS DISAPPOINTED: DE Corey Lemonier. Sure, he has five sacks. That puts him among the SEC's leaders in that category, but Lemonier is supposed to be a dominating element on the outside. Instead, he has made a total of five tackles during the Tigers' past three games. Lemonier runs himself out of far too many plays by trying to gain leverage along the perimeter.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT GEORGIA: • Head coach [db]Gene Chizik: "They've done a great job over the years of really staying very similar to what they do. And they've always been able to have a very good running game to complement whatever quarterback they've had. They've got a great tradition of very good quarterbacks. The running backs are young -- and it's a very complementary duo. They've got one really big guy who's fast as well, and then you have a changeup back that's not quite as big. You've got to pick and choose. If you want to play back and play coverage, you could have some run-fit issues."
• Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder on his first season at Georgia in 2001: "That was a situation where we really had to change the culture of defense there. It was kind of built around an offensive situation under Coach Donnan -- no disrespect meant in regards to that -- but they just hadn't played the same type of defense that maybe the personnel indicated that you could. It was rough. We had a few tough games, some high yardage games, and it seems to me about the seventh game of the year we started to gain the consistency and confidence. And then by the end of the year, we were playing pretty solid ball."
• Quarterback Jonathan Wallace on if Georgia will pressure him as much as possible: "Of course. Why not? From what I think about Georgia they are going to come for me and I'm going to have to make some plays Saturday. That's just what it's going to come down to. Of course we're going to be able to run the ball some, but it's really going to come down to whether or not I can make the plays that need to be made."
THE ONE STAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Opponents' first drives have yielded four touchdowns and two field-goal attempts this season. The average first drive covers 57 yards in 10 plays - with not a single three-and-out.
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