Auburn Football: Grading All 22 Starters from the Mississippi State Game
The Auburn Tigers lost the first SEC game of the season this past Saturday when they traveled to Starkville, Miss., to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Bulldogs outplayed the Tigers in every facet of the game, handing the Tigers a 28-10 loss.
Auburn lacked continuity and leadership on both sides of the ball in the contest. They were outcoached up and down the field for four quarters. There is a lot of growth that must happen before this week’s contest against Louisiana Monroe if Auburn expects to pick up the win.
To close out the most disappointing performance in the Gene Chizik era, here are the grades for the Tigers by position for Week 2.
Before we get to the player grades, I felt best to discuss the abysmal coaching performance by Gene Chizik and Co. to put things into perspective.
The Auburn Tigers entered the game against Mississippi State with a lot to grow from after a moderately acceptable losing performance to the No. 12 Clemson Tigers to start the season.
Auburn took major steps backwards in this Week 2 contest, and coaching is the first place to lay the blame.
The Tigers looked horrible, from start to finish, with a lot of the issues being preparation problems. The Tigers looked lost on offense and defense with a lot of miscommunication mixed in from coaches to players.
There were technique issues that continued along the defensive line, players out of position in the secondary and a number of miscues on offense—all coaching.
This Tigers team looked as bad as the 1998 Terry Bowden-led Tigers. There was a severe lack of preparation and team unity on the field. The coaches are failing this team.
Auburn has a roster full of top-level recruits, yet they fail to achieve top-level output. These players are not being developed—the coaches have to step up their game just as much as the athletes in the coming weeks.
Kiehl Frazier: Quarterback, F
Kiehl Frazier had his worst performance of his young career this past Saturday—hopefully for Auburn, that holds throughout his career.
Frazier was responsible for all five of the Tigers' turnovers in the game against the Bulldogs tossing three interceptions and losing two fumbles on attempted runs.
There were a number of missed opportunities in the passing game. Frazier had receivers that would find their way open; he just didn’t get them the ball. Quan Bray was open in space on a number of occasions, and Frazier overthrew a number of others.
This was a sign of a quarterback who tried too hard to start and finished with no confidence because of his mistakes. This was a tough loss for Frazier, but how he responds is what matters most.
There isn’t a question that the majority of the offensive problems fall to the feet of Frazier, but others had rough days as well.
Key Stats: 13-of-22 for 125 yards, 59.1 CMP%, 0 TD, 3 INT
Onterio McCalebb: Running Back, B
Onterio McCalebb made the most explosive play of the game, returning the opening-half kickoff for a touchdown. That seals his production for the Tigers in the game.
McCalebb finished the game with bad numbers everywhere else, not finding his groove in the game. There were attempts to get him the ball in the passing game, but McCalebb only got one reception.
While he did not have the best day statistically, he did perform well and made a crucial play to gain some momentum for the Tigers. Unfortunately, Auburn was unable to capitalize.
Jay Prosch: Fullback, A
Jay Prosch is one of the highlights for the Tigers Saturday. Prosch brings the most tenacious approach to the game for Auburn.
There were a number of times that Prosch busted holes for the running backs and held protection in the backfield for the quarterback that were impressive.
At times, he was not present on the field because of the formation, but overall, he played a strong game from the fullback position. Without Prosch in the backfield, the Tigers would have had an even worse day on Saturday.
Philip Lutzenkirchen: Tight End, B
Philip Lutzenkirchen played well in the game against Mississippi State. He didn’t miss any major keys in the blocking schemes and was able to make a few plays in the passing game.
There were a number of throws that sailed over Lutzenkirchen in the game. One of the high passes was almost brought down by the talented tight end, but he couldn’t draw in the catch.
There aren’t many good things that came from Auburn’s loss, but Lutzenkirchen was one player who stood out.
Key Stats: two catches for 12 yards.
Emory Blake: Wide Receiver, B
Emory Blake did a solid job for the Tigers on Saturday, but he was unable to break loose for a big play for the second week in a row.
Blake made some plays as a blocker, but Frazier was unable to get the ball in his direction consistently. Blake was the target on at least two of the three interceptions that were tossed.
The Tigers have to develop depth around Blake for him to reach his full potential this season, but so far, he is doing what is asked of him by the Auburn coaching staff.
Key Stats: two receptions for 31 yards.
Quan Bray: Wide Receiver, A
Quan Bray made a lot of plays for Auburn on Saturday. He was constantly open, even though he was not able to get a lot of throws in his direction. There were numerous occasions that Bray was open with a lot of green around him, but he was not noticed by Frazier.
Bray played well in the run game as well, making his blocks and sealing off lanes from the defense consistently. Bray has a lot to build on as the Tigers head into the heart of the schedule.
Bray finished the game as the Tigers' leading receiver.
Key Stats: six receptions for 50 yards.
Greg Robinson: Left Tackle, C
The Auburn offensive line played very spotty in the game against Mississippi State with Greg Robinson having one of the better days. Robinson was able to place some rushing lanes in the Bulldogs line but not many.
Robinson guarded the outside decently well, but there were some plays that were missed, and there was a lack of clear rushing lanes consistently.
John Sullen: Left Guard, D
John Sullen drew the only penalty called on the offensive line and allowed a lot of pressure from the interior of the line throughout the game. Sullen is a senior leader along the line for the Tigers, but his performance was not very good on Saturday.
The Tigers attempted to run the football along the left side of the line consistently, failing to get much push and open space created. Sullen wasn’t getting the job done.
Auburn needs to rely on John Sullen. He needs to bring more value to the field.
Reese Dismukes: Center, B
Reese Dismukes returned to the lineup for Auburn, after being suspended for the season opener, and played a very good game for the Tigers.
Dismukes was consistent with his calls and made adjustments to the blocking assignments as necessary when the Tigers would audible.
One of the better performances for the Tigers came from Dismukes on Saturday.
Chad Slade: Right Guard, F
Chad Slade played OK against Clemson, but his performance took a downward spiral in this game. Slade was not opening rushing lanes or holding blocks well, leaking the defense into the pocket often throughout the game.
The Tigers needed to create a better push, and they didn’t get it from Slade. It may be time for the Tigers to take a look at a different player at the position. Auburn needs to get physical up front. Right now, they're not getting that from Slade.
Avery Young: Right Tackle, B
Avery Young had a great performance for his youth for the second straight week. Young is very aggressive and athletic from the outside, proving why he was selected to start for the Tigers this year.
There is a lot for Young to grow on from this game, but overall, his performance did enough to help the Tigers contend for the win. Young is one of the best performer’s along the line.
Corey Lemonier: Defensive End, C
Corey Lemonier played well in spots, but his overall performance was one that screamed inconsistent. For the second week in a row, missed tackles plagued Lemonier.
The one positive in his game is that Lemonier consistently gains pressure. His rush defense is also getting better.
Overall, Lemonier swung and missed on a few sacks and was out of position to make the pay of others.
Key Stats: three tackles, one sack
Dee Ford: Defensive End, D
There were a number of key plays that Ford missed that the good times were overlooked with the bad. Inconsistency plagued the day for Ford, and he couldn’t seem to get the ball rolling in Starkville.
Ford would gain pressure into the backfield of the Bulldogs, but he would cancel himself out of the pay, or worse, miss the tackle.
Key Stats: two tackles
Jeffrey Whitaker: Defensive Tackle, D
Jeffrey Whitaker is a player who has yet to reach the expectations that are laid before him. The Tigers are expecting Whitaker to be a key leader for this defense on the interior, but inconsistency against the run has hurt Whitaker’s reputation.
Whitaker has the strength to move the pocket and push into the backfield, but he has issues shedding the blocks once he creates space. If Whitaker can get to the point where he can separate with his blocker, he will be dangerous.
Until then, the Tigers' run defense will suffer.
Key Stats: one tackle
Kenneth Carter: Defensive Tackle, B
Kenneth Carter got a lot of playing time on Saturday, and he was able to make plays consistently for the Tigers. Carter made some key tackles in the backfield as well as big stops in the run game.
Carter has been taking a back seat to other options at tackle, but he stood out in an otherwise abysmal defensive performance by Auburn on Saturday.
Key Stats: five tackles
Daren Bates: Linebacker, B
Daren Bates gives maximum effort every single game. Bates sells out his body on a regular basis to make plays and will do anything he can to help the team. It showed this past Saturday.
Bates struggled a bit in pass coverage, but he made up for it with his ability to fly to the football and make plays across the field from his outside position. Bates is one of the best defenders on the Auburn roster.
Key Stats: 10 tackles
Jake Holland: Linebacker, D
Jake Holland had another questionable performance this past Saturday. The middle linebacker position is expected to be the most productive and dangerous player in the Brian VanGorder defense. Holland isn’t cutting it.
Holland missed a number of key plays because he was too slow to the ball-carrier. Holland lacks size and tenacity when he does hit the ball-carrier. Unless something changes quickly, Holland is more of a liability than a solution in the middle.
Key Stats: six tackles
Jonathan Evans: Linebacker, D
For the second week in a row, Auburn hurt for production from the majority of its linebacker corps. Evans did nothing to help the cause.
Evans was in position to make a few plays this Saturday but missed most and was not effective from the outside. There are a number of talented options that are behind Evans, and they may get into the playing cycle soon if Evans doesn’t change his approach to the game.
Key Stats: one tackle
Chris Davis: Cornerback, C
The Mississippi State Bulldogs were not able to produce much through the air in this game with consistency, and Davis was a big part of the Auburn attack that stopped consistency in the Bulldogs' passing game.
Davis was always around the football, but a few key catches to his side led to some big drives for the Bulldogs. Davis improves every week, and this Saturday was no different.
Key Stats: four tackles
T’Sharvan Bell: Cornerback, C
T’Sharvan Bell returned to the lineup as a regular against Mississippi State on Saturday and played pretty well. Bell was involved in two pass breakups and made a handful of tackles.
Bell did have a few missteps in pass defense, but overall, his performance was manageable. Bell is a leader on the defense vocally and will be big for the Tigers as they continue with the season looking for leadership on defense.
Key Stats: seven tackles, two pass breakups
Jermaine Whitehead: Safety, B
Jermaine Whitehead had a much better performance this past Saturday than he did in Week 1. There was one key breakdown for Whitehead that led to a touchdown for the Bulldogs, but his overall performance was good.
Whitehead was only playing his second game at safety for the Tigers. A lot of growth was witnessed in just a week. He will need to continue to grow as the week’s progress. Whitehead can be a very good defender for the Tigers.
Key Stats: 12 tackles, one pass breakup
Demetruce McNeal: Safety, A
Demetruce McNeal returned to the lineup as a starter in Week 2 and had a career day for the Tigers. Auburn struggled to make stops on defense and find consistency in pass coverage, but McNeal looked to be one of the few players who understood his assignment and made plays.
There were no major breakdowns for McNeal in the game. He played very consistently and was flying around the football. McNeal and Whitehead look to form the best safety tandem for the Tigers this season. McNeal was a difference-maker for the Tigers this past Saturday.
Key Stats: 18 tackles, two tackles for loss
Cody Parkey: Kicker, A
Cody Parkey had another good day for the Tigers, dumping kickoffs wherever he was instructed. Parkey was also responsible for two scores in the game. Parkey was perfect on the game for the second week in a row.
Key Stats: one field goal (23), one extra point
Steven Clark: Punter, B
Steven Clark had a decent game against the Bulldogs but had a few punts that fell short, coming off the side of his foot. One battle that Clark will always win is hang-time, but occasionally, he has issues driving the ball down the field.
Clark had a successful day and was utilized often due to the miscues of the Auburn offense.
Key Stats: six punts, 40.8-yard average
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