Auburn Football: 6 Tigers Who Must Show Growth in Week 2
The Auburn Tigers opened the 2012 season with a loss to No. 12 Clemson with a number of key positions being filled by new players. The Tigers played well overall despite the loss, but there are six Tigers who must show growth in Week 2 if Auburn expects to earn a win in Starkville, Miss.
The coaching line states that the biggest leap in production for a team comes from Week 1 to Week 2. The Tigers are expecting that growth to occur when they take on Mississippi State this Saturday on ESPN.
Auburn heads into the game against the Bulldogs as a three-point underdog. To overcome the Vegas oddsmakers, Auburn must see that Week 2 jump. It starts with these six players.
Jake Holland looked bad in the game against Clemson this past Saturday. He gave up one of the biggest runs of the game with his missed tackle on Clemson running back Andre Ellington and was non-existent on numerous other defensive plays.
To his defense, the Auburn defenders always seemed to have the right call and played the defensive scheme well. The Tigers simply lacked execution when the ball-carrier made it into their line of sight.
Middle linebacker is a key to production and play-calling in defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s scheme. Holland seemed to have the defense lined up correctly consistently.
Despite that, he still lacked execution at the point of attack. Holland has to step up his game this week for Auburn to be successful against Mississippi State. He has to find his keys and make it to his gaps on time—something that didn’t happen often this past Saturday.
Jeffrey Whitaker was expected to be a major impact player for the Tigers along the defensive line this season. There is no confusion that, on Saturday, Whitaker failed to match those expectations.
One positive sign was that the Auburn defensive line did not get destroyed on the interior like a year ago, but there is a long way to go before these Tigers are playing at a level that will win ballgames.
Anytime a team gives up 320 rushing yards, you have to look at the defensive front. Whitaker may not have gotten blown off the ball, but he was unable to play in the backfield, stop the run or close the scramble lanes of Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Whitaker has a bright future at Auburn, but he needs to jumpstart that future to the here and now as the Mississippi State game approaches. Whitaker has to shed blocks and create havoc upfront this Saturday for Auburn to notch a win.
Gabe Wright is just a rising sophomore but is one of the most talented options that the Tigers have along the defensive line. Against Clemson, he played very inconsistent.
There were times that Gabe Wright played lights out. There were others that he looked at to give a half effort. A lot of his lack of effort could have come from fatigue against the fast-paced Clemson offense, but that won’t stand to lead Auburn to wins down the road.
Wright has to get more pressure up the middle and seal off rushing lanes at the point of attack. The linebackers did not play well by any stretch of the imagination, but there were no open gaps for them to fly through on a regular basis.
Look for Wright to increase his level of play this week against the Bulldogs—it has to happen.
Ryan Smith was never supposed to be a strong pass defender with his run-stopping ability being a big reason that he earned the start in Week 1 at safety.
Despite earning 12 total tackles in the game, he was not as effective at stopping the run as the defense needed him to be. Smith also played badly in pass coverage throughout the game.
Smith is a player who has the tools to be effective in this defense, but he must pick up his level of play across the board for the Auburn defense to be as potent as it can be. If he doesn’t, there are options with a lot of talent that will line up in his place.
Kiehl Frazier played as good a game as anyone could have expected in his first official start for Auburn. He managed the game well and had no major miscues in the game.
Despite the good field management, Frazier did have a few errant throws that could have landed big plays for the Tigers. There were two key overthrows to Philip Lutzenkirchen and Emory Blake that could have changed the face of the contest and tipped the win in Auburn’s favor.
Frazier had small mechanical issues that can be fixed by this coming week’s contest against Mississippi State—those issues have to be fixed if Auburn wants to win its SEC opener.
Overall, Frazier did enough to lead Auburn to a win, but he wasn’t able to make the plays to take over the game. Expect his play to rise exponentially in the coming weeks. Auburn needs it to.
The Tigers had a number of opportunities to make plays and take away the ballgame this past Saturday from Clemson. Trovon Reed had one of those opportunities in the end zone but failed to use field awareness and came down with a touchdown throw just outside of the end zone.
The Tigers are looking for secondary options at receiver outside of proven threat Emory Blake. They will need them in the coming weeks—it starts against Mississippi State.
Reed played well as a perimeter blocker but failed to make the key touchdown catch or break loose for more play options.
Reed is a player who has the talent to be very potent in the Scot Loeffler offense and will reach potential—the sooner the better for the Tigers. Small changes in his game will make him an elite pass-catcher in the SEC.
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