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JMR

Coach's Corner: Auburn vs Texas A&M....

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Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Texas A&M

Auburn hosts Texas A&M this week in the SEC opener for both teams. Auburn (1-1, 0-0) is coming off a one-sided win over an as-yet underachieving Arkansas State, while A&M is off a 67-0 win over Prairie View A&M. PVATM was playing their first-ever game against a team from a Power Five conference.

Coach Kevin Sumlin is in his fifth season as the head man for the Ags, while Gus Malzahn is in his fourth at AU. Both programs were disappointing in 2015, and both are trying to get back on track this season. For whatever it’s worth, the home team has yet to win in the four seasons since A&M joined the SEC.

Auburn is a four-point favorite in Vegas, a very small spread, given that the home team typically gets 3 points for playing at their place.

Texas A&M Offense:

Kevin Sumlin has been known for his wide-open spread formation passing attack since his days as head coach at Houston. That has not changed, but there’s a new offensive coordinator in Aggieland, one that should be familiar to Auburn fans. Noel Mazzone, who served as offensive coordinator for part of Tommy Tuberville’s time at AU, spent the past four years at UCLA, and has joined Sumlin’s staff. For those that followed AU football closely during Mazzone’s years there, he has made some changes in his overall scheme. A&M still throws the ball around, but there are more short throws now, getting the ball to playmakers in space. There is also an improved zone read running game, bigger offensive line splits, and a strong dose of RPO (run-pass option).

Quarterback Trevor Knight (6-3, 215) is a graduate transfer from Oklahoma. The surprise hero of Oklahoma’s defeat of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl a couple of years ago, Knight was beaten out for the starting job at OU, and when he became eligible for transfer as a grad student, he contacted Sumlin and joined the Ags program.

Knight has a big arm, can make all the throws, and has surprisingly quick feet. He is not a blazer in terms of speed, but he can run. He is excellent at changing plays prior to the snap, and is adept at reading the defense prior to the snap. He also has lapses in judgment and makes occasional poor decisions on throwing the ball.

Other than a very experienced QB, A&M’s strength offensively is the wide receiver corps. With the exception of Christian Kirk (5-11, 200), they are big, fast, and skilled. Kirk himself is a pre-season All-SEC player, and is approaching 2000 all-purpose yards gained in his two-year career. Ricky Seals-Jones is 6-5, 240, and Josh Reynolds is 6-3, 210. They can all run, and catch the ball extremely well.

The offensive line is a work in progress. Left tackle Avery Gennesy (6-5, 315) has started 15 games and is the anchor. The right tackle is also 6-5 and 315, with three starts to his credit. Inside, the Ags start a true freshman at left guard, a redshirt freshman at center, and a true sophomore at right guard. All three of those players are first-year starters.

A&M has three quality tailbacks, led by Keith Ford (5-11, 215, Jr) a transfer from Oklahoma. True freshman Trayveon Williams (5-9, 200) has excellent speed, and played well against UCLA in his first college game.

Texas A&M Defense:

The story of the Aggie defense is their two defensive ends. Myles Garrett (6-5, 270, Jr.) was a first-team All-American last year, with 12.5 sacks. He is the best edge rusher in the SEC. His counterpart at the other DE spot is Daeshon Hall (6-6, 270, Sr.). Hall is an outstanding pass rusher as well. There are four solid defensive tackles in the rotation, all with playing experience, and ranging from 290 pounds to 320.

The Ags are big inside at linebacker, with sophomore Otara Alaka (6-3, 240) at Mike and senior Shaan Washington (6-3, 240) at Will. Alana was especially impressive vs the run in the UCLA game, frequently meeting the ball carrier at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Both corners are in their first year as starters. A&M’s corners play left and right, as opposed to the “field and boundary” corners most teams play today. The most veteran player in the secondary is free safety Armani Watts (5-11, 200, Jr.). Watts is a big play guy, and has seemingly been at that position for A&M for years and years. Strong safety Justin Evans (6-1, 200, Sr.) is a returning starter.

Special Teams:

Place kicker Daniel LaCamera, is four-of-five on field goals in his first season as the starter, with a long of 48 yards. Junior Shane Tripucka is averaging 45.1 yards per punt.

Wide receiver Christian Kirk has returned two punts for a total of 20 net yards so far, but he is one of the most dangerous return men in college football. Running backs Keith Ford and Trayveon Williams are the primary kickoff return men.

How Will They Play It?

The Aggie defense has progressed well under Defensive Coordinator John Chavis, who was hired away from LSU prior to the 2015 season. Chavis is very aggressive, using lots of blitzes, including the safeties and corners, and always trying to bring pressure. He will take some chances in the secondary in attempting to create a big defensive play. Chavis has been a 4-3 guy since his days as DC at Tennessee, but against UCLA he often lined up with 5 up front. In that game, he sometimes had 7 in the box, even when UCLA was in 10 personnel.

I expect Chavis to focus on Auburn’s run game, effectively putting the game in Sean White’s hands. If A&M can force Auburn to throw the ball, the potential advantage they have with their two outstanding rush ends can influence the outcome.

How AU attacks the Aggie defense is, of course, anybody’s guess, but I think Auburn will run right at Garrett and Hall, with lots of power plays, and kickouts by either the H-back or pulling guards. Garrett and Hall are extremely talented, but they are not overly physical. If Auburn can put in those players’ heads that they are about to be hit in the earhole, they won’t be as effective rushing the passer.

I think Auburn has to mix in some throwing, attempting to exploit the Aggies’ inexperience at the corners, and run the football to the edge, attacking Garrett and Hall, and wearing down the corners in run support.

When A&M has the ball, they will run enough to keep the AU defense honest, but they are built to throw the ball. They like to get the ball to their wide receivers in space, and they like to use the size advantage they typically enjoy with those big receivers to move downfield in chunks. Knight has the arm, and if A&M can provide him with time, he will absolutely take some shots downfield.
One of the interesting things to see in this game will be how Auburn’s defensive ends react to A&M’s version of the zone read. Will they try to feather the play and make the QB put off his decision, or will they come hard and make him rush his decision? In the past, AU has used the feather technique, but with Kevin Steele calling the shots this time around, who really knows?

Another scenario to watch from a tactical standpoint will be when A&M goes trips to one side, with a single wide receiver on the opposite side. They like to do that and force a one-on-one situation against the 6-5 Seals-Jones or 6-3 Josh Reynolds on the single-receiver side. Who Auburn chooses to match up with that single receiver could be a factor in the game.

Bottom Line:

Auburn and Texas A&M have only played six times, and to this point, this is not a huge rivalry game. But for whatever reason, it seems that since A&M joined the SEC, this game is always vitally important on the schedule. This time around, it’s Malzahn vs Sumlin, both trying to turn their programs around from a disappointing 2015 season. On top of being an SEC game, it’s a game vs an opponent from the SEC West. Someone is about to get a leg up in the race for the division title, and both programs need and want it badly.

If there’s a genuine key point to consider in evaluating the game prior to kickoff, I’d say it’s probably the inexperience of the A&M offensive line. Auburn appears to have a significant advantage there, with a deep and talented defensive front to throw against A&M’s youth and inexperience. Another key factor is the pass rush capability of A&M’s defensive ends vs Auburn’s offensive tackles. This game should be close enough that it could turn on either of those matchups.

Special teams appear relatively even, with LaCamera only slightly behind Auburn’s Daniel Carlson in the field goal department. Christian Kirk could be a factor if Auburn is not sharp in punt coverage. Either coach is a threat to pull out a trick play in this one. Both coaches want and need this win. I think the talent levels are close enough that whichever team is better prepared and wants the win the most can get it.

Should be a GREAT college football game. War Eagle!, and Let’s. Get. PHYSICAL!
Edited by JMR
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Great stuff, thanks! Not to be too specific but IMO Carlton will get picked on a lot when he's out there and therefore he'll be a huge part of this game one way or another.

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Thank you Coach Ray.  AUsome analysis as always!

Games like this are why it's great to be an Auburn Tiger!

War Eagle!

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Pass rushing studs at both ends and first year starters at both corners, you say.

CKB could end up being a bit of a hero in this game. Seems we might attack the perimeter early with screens and sweeps and such. If we do, we're gonna need his guys out there blocking like he did in 2010. 

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2 minutes ago, 80Tiger said:

When I read this, I feel the same about their WR as I did Clemson. A lot of big tall or fast guys. Hard matchups for our guys.

The difference I see with that comparison is Knight is a little antsy. He will force things in there that I don't think Watson ever did. He takes a lot of risks in his throws at times. That'll cost him eventually. I'm hoping its this weekend. WDE 

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6 minutes ago, leglessdan said:

The difference I see with that comparison is Knight is a little antsy. He will force things in there that I don't think Watson ever did. He takes a lot of risks in his throws at times. That'll cost him eventually. I'm hoping its this weekend. WDE 

I also don't think he will have mastered the back shoulder pass like Watson did.

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8 minutes ago, leglessdan said:

The difference I see with that comparison is Knight is a little antsy. He will force things in there that I don't think Watson ever did. He takes a lot of risks in his throws at times. That'll cost him eventually. I'm hoping its this weekend. WDE 

Well said. Been thinking the same thing for a while now.

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4 minutes ago, aujeff11 said:

Well said. Been thinking the same thing for a while now.

I re-watched the A&M vs UCLA game last night. He's a playmaker sure, but gets in very erratic slumps. I think Rudy makes him pay once or twice this weekend. He's due for a breakout play.

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2 hours ago, leglessdan said:

I re-watched the A&M vs UCLA game last night. He's a playmaker sure, but gets in very erratic slumps. I think Rudy makes him pay once or twice this weekend. He's due for a breakout play.

I think he went something like 1-10 passing in the 4th quarter

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Watched Trevor Knight vs UCLA. Several things stood out: He's got a good arm and can make all the throws but doesn't throw a very catchable ball. His receivers have to work harder than they should for routine catches and they definitely bailed him out on bad balls several times. He can run but he doesn't seem to move well within the pocket and bails to the outside or retreats and flings off his back foot when pressured. Additionally, he has TERRIBLE mechanics when throwing on the run (he sidearms half of them). The talent is there but he isn't nearly as scary as Deshaun Watson IMHO. 

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Auburn's Oline will have to run block better than they have the past two weeks.  The only times we got significant running plays against Clemson was when JF3 was in.  Against Arky State there are a lot of stops at the line of scrimmage.  The number of explosive plays helped offset the 1-2 yard run.  Last year Auburn won because TaMu's run D was soo bad.  Gus needs to get Pettway more carries to help wear down the TaMu front for Kerryon.  Kerryon will be elite in the next year but he is not quite there yet. 

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IF their offensive out put is similar to Clemson's then we win this game. We defended Clemson very well, only getting beat on a handful of back shoulder throws. Additionally, Carlton Davis is a great corner, I hope he is the guy in the one on one match-ups.  

 

I think our secondary holds up well in this game, T.Knight is only completing 55% of his passes. 

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34 minutes ago, JwgreDeux said:

IF their offensive out put is similar to Clemson's then we win this game. We defended Clemson very well, only getting beat on a handful of back shoulder throws. Additionally, Carlton Davis is a great corner, I hope he is the guy in the one on one match-ups.  

I think our secondary holds up well in this game, T.Knight is only completing 55% of his passes. 

Honestly, I'm dreading a very frustrating watching experience where we consistently get them in 3rd and long and they consistently convert with their giant WRs snatching jump balls out of the air. 

Really hoping for a healthy and sharp Marshall Taylor to show up...

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3 minutes ago, McLoofus said:

Honestly, I'm dreading a very frustrating watching experience where we consistently get them in 3rd and long and they consistently convert with their giant WRs snatching jump balls out of the air. 

Really hoping for a healthy and sharp Marshall Taylor to show up...

I don't think Knight has been with A&M long enough to be cranking out timing passes like Clemson was. 

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12 minutes ago, lionheartkc said:

I don't think Knight has been with A&M long enough to be cranking out timing passes like Clemson was. 

No, but he's got a bunch of fast trees who don't necessarily require precision or timing in order to catch a ball. 

It was the same way with Manziel. He wasn't a particularly accurate passer, he was just able to give his receivers all the time they needed to get wise arse open. And if they didn't, he just tossed the ball up in the air and Mike Evans would go get it. Seriously... Mike Evans made Manziel rich.

Anyway... I fear a less spectacular but equally frustrating experience with Knight. Less mobility, more options at WR. 

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Just now, McLoofus said:

No, but he's got a bunch of fast trees who don't necessarily require precision or timing in order to catch a ball. 

It was the same way with Manziel. He wasn't a particularly accurate passer, he was just able to give his receivers all the time they needed to get wise arse open. And if they didn't, he just tossed the ball up in the air and Mike Evans would go get it. Seriously... Mike Evans made Manziel rich.

Anyway... I fear a less spectacular but equally frustrating experience with Knight. Less mobility, more options at WR. 

On the upside, I feel like we have a better overall secondary than when we faced Manziel... and a better overall D all together.

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1 minute ago, lionheartkc said:

On the upside, I feel like we have a better overall secondary than when we faced Manziel... and a better overall D all together.

Oh, no doubt. Hence, the frequent 3rd-and-longs :)

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25 minutes ago, McLoofus said:

Mike Evans made Manziel rich.

I always thought Mike Evans should get a time share on that Heisman.

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Great analysis as always Coach!

I do like the way we match up with them.  CD and JH are stud corners.  JD, Rudy, SR, and NR are all pretty good in coverage too.

I am expecting our DL to have a breakout game as far as Pass Rush is concerned.

On the other side of the ball, I think we can be balanced enough to keep the defense honest which will allow us to have success running the ball.  The only way I see them beating us is if they can effectively shut down our run and force us to be one dimensional and put the game in the hands of their DEs vs our OTs. 

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4 hours ago, lionheartkc said:

On the upside, I feel like we have a better overall secondary than when we faced Manziel... and a better overall D all together.

And the current aggie offense is not close to Manziel's. That aggie oline was very very good. The current aggie oline has too much inexperience.

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I'm not happy with our play calling. I'm not happy with anything righr. Now.  SUNSHINE PUMP ALL YOU WANT. Chiz is a 48 trick pony. He can't get a QB to run it. That is on him. Yes I call Mahan  Chiz out of GOD please make it stop.

Edited by norcuron
Chiz and Mahan same trick pony.

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