Auburn Panel: Arkansas week

Published 12:30 am Saturday, October 8, 2011

Neither Emory Blake nor Trovon Reed are expected to play Saturday. Can Auburn rely on a platoon of second string WRs or can we expect another ground pounding?

Bill Meador: I think it is safe to say that AU needs to focus on what they have done well to this point and that is to try and be balanced offensively. I look at this as a great opportunity for the non starters at receiver to earn the trust of Trotter and the coaches for more passes to be thrown their way. They need to try to control the clock and keep a very potent Arkansas offense off the field.

Jonathan Jenkins: An NFL coach once said that God must love receivers because he made so many of them. In actuality, there are a number of guys who are anxious for the opportunity to step up and make a name for themselves. With backs like Dyer and McCalebb, there will always be a tendency toward the run. However, sometimes Walter Mitty shows up on Saturdays in the SEC; maybe this Saturday will be the day for a previously unknown Auburn receiver.

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Rick Dunn: I think that we would have tried to run more, anyway. Our second team guys have speed and good hands. The question is how well can they block. These guys are young and not especially big. I hope that they have good technique. We should not ride Dyer too hard. He can take only so much and we have a lot of season left.

After looking pretty crisp most of the year, Barrett Trotter struggled mightily against South Carolina. Is there cause for concern heading into week two of a murderous October stretch?

Bill Meador: Trotter is just experiencing life as a starting SEC quarterback against consistent top level defensive players. I don’t think there is any reason to panic, but things are going to get tougher as they face even tougher competition.

Jonathan Jenkins: Trotter’s willingness to run the ball himself on called runs and forced scrambles was the bright spot of his game on Saturday; one scramble converted a first down. His management of the offense in directing it to a season high third-down conversion rate of 11 for 22 gave him his second plus of the game. True, his passing didn’t measure up to previous weeks, but he greatly improved in areas that he had been woefully criticized.

Rick Dunn: Trotter, in my opinion, has not played well in several games. The primary culprit has been indecisiveness. He will be tested this week. I believe Arkansas will load up on the run. Trotter must be able to find the open receiver and convert on 3rd down. I do not expect him to have a stellar night, but I do feel that he will do well enough to win.

Which was more surprising Saturday: the defense, which played better than “normal” or the offense, which under-performed?

Bill Meador: I’m not sure the defense vastly over played as much as the ‘Garcia factor’ kicked in with another very inconsistent effort. The “D” did play well against the run and shut down a really good rusher in Lattimore for the third straight game.  Although the offense didn’t play up to its potential, they did control the clock for the majority of the game for the first time this year.

Jonathan Jenkins: The defense hasn’t been given credit for their accomplishments in the last two Saturdays since the Clemson debacle. TV commentators never mentioned the improvement in their wait for their “gotcha” on the Auburn defense. Yet, the Tigers held Heisman-hopeful Marcus Lattimore to 66 yards and limited Ashlon Jeffrey to just 5 receptions. On the flip-side, the Auburn offense racked up 358 yards, 22 first downs, and owned the time of possession. The South Carolina game may have been an ugly win on the surface, but deep down Auburn made a statement of becoming a complete team.

Rick Dunn: The defense took a quantum leap forward. They played at a level that I expected at season’s start. USC’s offense played poorly, but we still looked much better. I honestly do not mean to “beat up” on Trotter, but I feel that the offense would have done better had he played just an average game. Bear in mind, our game plan was ball control. We accomplished that goal. That approach inherently takes some of the explosiveness out of the equation.

So far, Kiehl Frazier has only come in to run the wildcat. But, with the offensive line crumbing against SC and a hardly mobile Trotter under center, do you think Frazier’s share of pass plays begins to increase soon?

Bill Meador: Gus Malzahn has a plan for bringing along Frazier this year and I think he will be eased into more playing time. Don’t look for a ton of passes from Frazier this season, but it would really keep the defenses honest to open up the run if threw the ball a little more.

Jonathan Jenkins: Frazier was in for two called passes: one he scrambled for a one-yard gain while being sacked for a two-yard loss on the other. Is he coming along? Yes. Does he still have room to mature? Yes. Does he have a bright future? Absolutely yes. Should his role be expanded? Yes. Is he the starting quarterback? Not yet. No one should be thrown to the SEC wolves before his time. Everyone makes the Cam comparison, but it isn’t true. Cam was a junior who was coming off a juco national championship. Frazier is simply a freshman right now. Granted he is an Auburn quarterback who will definitely enter his name among some exciting ones before him.

Rick Dunn: Yes. If we don’t put something in, defenses will have no reason to respect the pass. The question is; when do we try it?

Who is your pick to win this weekend?

Bill Meador: Last week Auburn had to dedicate itself to stop the run, which is always important, but the Hogs love to pass and that is what the Tiger cubs have to try to slow down. Auburn’s very young DB’s are growing up and Auburn wins another big shootout 49-48.

Jonathan Jenkins: The real suspect in this week’s game isn’t Auburn’s offense or defense. The real suspect will not be wearing pads at all. Bobby Petrino replaced Houston Nutt with some promise of taking the Razorbacks to the next level. In three and a half years, he hasn’t really done that. If Auburn is in this game late, will it be because their offense or defense has worked magic? Or, will it be due to the fact that Petrino hasn’t produced a team that can dominate the SEC West in all phases of the game week in and week out? In what may be called an upset at this point of the season, Auburn 38, Arkansas 34. Then, listen for the murmuring in Fayetteville.

Rick Dunn: I honestly feel that our defense has evolved and transformed into a mid-tier, SEC caliber unit. If we can pass for 150 yards, I think we will run for more than 300. We will commit to defending the pass and will be successful enough to win. Auburn 37, Arkansas 31.