• 72°

Auburn Panelists: Clemson week

If you were the decision-maker in setting Auburn’s depth chart, who would be your starting tailback Saturday?

Bill Meador: I think if I were making the call, I would leave things as they are. Mario Fannin really has not had enough touches carrying the ball to drop him on the depth chart, yet. Also, I like having the other two backs rotating into the game.

Jonathan Jenkins: Fannin and McCalebb are still the go-to guys in the Auburn backfield. Fannin is drawing a lot of heat from critics but the first two opponents have keyed on him; hence Newton has been the hero. Dyer is growing up fast. Look for opponents to begin balancing up their defensive strategies which might keep Newton in the pocket more while the running backs return to solid 5-yard per carry performances. Opponents can’t sit around and let Newton do as he pleases, but they have to give up something to take Newton away. When they do, it will be “Katie bar the door” as the rest of the Auburn weapons are unleashed on opponents.

Rick Dunn: It would depend on the situation. Fannin blocks and catches well, but he will not follow his blocks. McCalebb is fast and quick, but is too small to be an effective pass blocker and goes down with a hand tackle, (or sometimes less). Dyer is still learning the playbook and is thus limited in that regard. I would start Fannin and give him an opportunity to redeem himself.

What did you see as Auburn’s biggest improvement from game one to game two?

Bill Meador: To me, the biggest improvement came with the defense but they had the furthest to improve. If AU can continue to get better each week, things will work out fine.

Jonathan Jenkins: The tenacity of the defense really went up a notch. With Miss State coming off a 48-3 win themselves, many had concerns that a Ted Roof defense couldn’t keep pace with SEC talent. However, during the second half, the Auburn defense became increasingly aware that winning the game would be on their shoulders. State’s receivers heard footsteps everytime they went out for a pass, and both of State’s quarterbacks felt the heat of the Tigers’ pressure. Later in the 2010 season when the Tigers defense will be called upon to hold an opponent for just two more minutes, they will be able to look back to the Miss State game when they held for over a quarter.

Rick Dunn: The defense played much better, but I still have concerns. MSU dropped several passes that should have been easy completions. Although I am concerned about where we are at this point, I am confident that we will improve.

How much running/rushing is too much for a quarterback?

Bill Meador: Too much rushing for a quarterback is too much when they take a really hard or really awkward hit and are out for an extended period of time. If Newton is running on designed plays that’s one thing, but if he is running for his life that is another. I believe he runs mostly by design.

Jonathan Jenkins: This discussion came up regarding Tim Tebow when he got injured last year as everyone screamed, “We told you so!” However, Tebow got injured on a pass, not a run. Talent must be utilized to the fullest. Both Chizik and Malzahn have stated that Cam Newton’s abilities have not yet been fully explored. That raises expectations for the Tiger nation.

Rick Dunn: A QB is running too much if he does not give a pass play a chance before he pulls it down to run. Newton appears to be very aware of the game/possession situation and lowers his shoulder or takes a slide when appropriate. I have seen him give up on the pass too early on a couple of plays. But for the most part, I think that he is making good decisions. With regards to the running game, he should always go with the read, regardless.

Assuming Lee Ziemba is unable to play against Clemson, how do you think the loss of the veteran affects the offensive strategy of a team that relies so heavily on the ground game?

Bill Meador: Not having Lee Ziemba will hurt more for his experience than his size. Brandon Moseley played very well once he got a little comfortable. I would like to see a little more play from all the backups when the opportunity presents itself. Strategically, AU continues to do what they do best with whomever is in the game.

Jonathan Jenkins: Ziemba’s experience is what may be missed more than his size. In the SEC, if your O-line can control the line of scrimmage, you stand a great chance of being in both the SEC and BCS championship games. With Ziemba, the Auburn O-Line gets an A- grade; without him, the grade drops to a B at best. Auburn must control the Clemson defensive front. Yes, Clemson hasn’t been tested in its first two games, but that doesn’t mean that they are sub-par.

Rick Dunn: Brandon Moseley did a super job replacing Ziemba. I don’t think that it would change our strategy unless Moseley was hurt as well.

What is your final score prediction?

Bill Meador: This should be a real knuckle buster but I like AU 31- 24.

Jonathan Jenkins: Clemson has yet to play serious competition of any level while AU has taken on a Sun Belt power and a tough SEC West opponent. Auburn offense will get back on track, and 85,000 fans will introduce Clemson to the real Death Valley. Auburn Tigers 31, Substitute Tigers 13.

Rick Dunn: I may regret this later…Auburn 41, Clemson 17.