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11.3.23 Football Articles


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Could Jarquez Hunter still rush for 1,000 yards this season?

Andrew Stefaniak

2–3 minutes

Jarquez Hunter will need a strong end of the season to rush for 1,000 yards.

Heading into the 2023 Auburn football season, many thought Jarquez Hunter would surpass 1,000 yards rushing with ease.

Now that we are eight games into the season, Hunter only has 453 yards on the ground.

This means he would need 547 yards over the next four games to get over a thousand.

Hunter would need to average 136.8 yards per game over the next four games to get to a thousand yards.

Three of the final four opponents are teams that Hunter could early run for 136+ yards against, but Alabama will make that task much more difficult.

What Hunter would need to hit the 1,000-rushing-yard mark would be to have a couple games over the next three where he pops off for 150+ yards on the ground.

This would make it easier for him against Alabama if he only needed 100 yards in this game instead of 136.

Hunter missing the season opener definitely did not help his cause to get to 1,000 yards on the ground.

It won't be an easy ask for the junior running back from Mississippi, but all Auburn fans know how talented he is, and if Hunter finishes the season strong, he can get the job done.

Auburn has a long list of 1,000-yard rushers in the program's history, so Hunter would love to add his name to the list. 

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Tale of the Tape: Auburn vs. Vanderbilt

Brian Hauch

~4 minutes

The 4-4 Auburn Tigers will put on their dancing shoes on Saturday when they travel to Broadway to take on the 2-7 Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville.

Quarterback Payton Thorne and the Auburn offensive line look to keep the good times rolling in Music City after coming off arguably their best game of the season.

Vanderbilt on the other hand could really use somebody to step up, as the Commodores have lost 7 straight games after starting 2-0.

The different directions of these two teams explain why Auburn is favored by a 12.5-points on the road in this one, according to BetMGM.

ESPN FPI also believes in the Tigers’ chances to take a wrecking ball to the Commodores. The Index is giving Auburn an 84.1% chance to win.

That is by far the highest Auburn has been favored in FPI since their game against Samford all the way back in September.

Will the tale of the tape show us Auburn will set the world on fire and take care of business, or does a closer look show us this game might be closer than expected?

As always, we’ll start with the quarterbacks.

Starting quarterback Payton Thorne played his best as an Auburn Tiger last week in the win over Mississippi State.

The transfer has struggled most of the season, but threw for 230 yards and 3 touchdowns in last week’s victory, putting his season totals at 1,075 yards and 8 touchdowns in 8 games.

Auburn’s “QB1” has also been a threat with the legs, rushing for 297 yards and 2 touchdowns this season.

Vanderbilt’s quarterback situation on the other hand has been more disgusting than the floors at Tootsie’s.

The Commodores started the season with sophomore AJ Swann. Swann went on to start Vanderbilt’s first 5 games of the season, throwing for 1,290 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions before going down with a shoulder injury.

Senior Ken Seals took over as the de-facto starter and threw for 740 yards and 5 touchdowns in his first 3 starts before getting benched in favor of redshirt freshman Walter Taylor last week against Ole Miss.

I’m giving the edge to Thorne and Auburn in this category due to the simple fact Vanderbilt’s quarterback situation is a mess.

The skill position battle is a little bit murkier. Vanderbilt has the best receiver in this game, Will Sheppard, but it’s hard to judge how much of his output is attributed to the Commodores always playing from behind.

I will say Auburn running back Jarquez Hunter is the most talented player for either team on the offensive side of the ball. That fact alone gives the Tigers the edge in the skill position battle, although it’s close.

Auburn also gets the edge up front. Gunner Britton is not only the best lineman in this game, but he has also become one of the premier blockers in the SEC.

The Tigers has the edge across the offensive side of the ball.

On the defensive side of things, it’s not even close. Auburn boasts one of the best defenses in the SEC (22.5 opponents PPG), while Vanderbilt has arguably the worst (36 opponents PPG).

The talent gap on the defensive side of the ball is bigger than Dolly Parton’s Brentwood mansion.

After taking a closer look at this game, it’s clear why Auburn is favored by 12.5 points. The Tigers have an incredible chance to come out of Nashville one win away from being bowl-eligible.

Contact/Follow us @TheAuburnWire on  X (Twitter), and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Auburn news, notes, and opinions. You can also follow Brian on Twitter @TheRealBHauch

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The Real Deal Vanderbilt week

Jason Caldwell

~2 minutes

Luke Deal talks about the Tigers as they get ready to face Vanderbilt.

Coming off a win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs, the Auburn Tigers look to make it two in a row when Hugh Freeze's team travels to Nashville on Saturday to face the Vanderbilt Commodores in a 3 p.m. kickoff on the SEC Network. Tight end Luke Deal looks back at the win over the Bulldogs, what he saw from the offense, facing the Commodores and much more in this week's Real Deal.

Keenan Britt returns to watch Auburn win, older brother be honored

Keenan Britt was in attendance for the Mississippi State game as he continues to be a frequent visitor on the Plains.

Keenan Britt didn't get to just watch Auburn win its first SEC game on Saturday against Mississippi State. He also got to come to the game with his family and watch his older brother and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer, K.J. Britt, serve as the honorary mic man.

A 4-star recruit in the Class of 2017, K.J. chose Auburn over a strong collection of other offers and played for the Tigers from 2017-'20 before being selected in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

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Hugh Freeze beams about Eugene Asante’s inspirational journey

Rolando Rosa | 19 hours ago

3–4 minutes

Hugh Freeze showed major love to junior linebacker Eugene Asante during a recent appearance on the SEC Network’s Out of Pocket.

When Asante transferred from North Carolina to Auburn last season, he was a member of the scout team. However when injuries occurred early this season, Asante was pressed into action and hasn’t looked back.

Asante has notched 40 solo tackles and 3.5 sacks this season, including a team-high 10 tackles in Auburn’s 27-13 victory vs. visiting Mississippi State last weekend.

“I wish everyone would really look at his journey. This kid is not a starter for us this year. He didn’t start last year. He was on the scout team. Never lost his engagement. Never lost his desire,” Freeze said.”Truthfully, wouldn’t have started for us this year had we not had injuries. All of a sudden we have injuries and the thing that he did was he prepared himself for his opportunity.”

Freeze says that Asante is a testament to the merits of hard work and honing your craft.

“I think sometimes that’s lost now. People want an opportunity but they want it given to them and they’re not prepared because they didn’t engage themselves, whether it’s on scout team or second-team reps,” Freeze said. “Eugene did that. His opportunity came at the Cal game and he just exploded.”

Asante is now also reaping the benefits in terms of NIL.

“Then the benefits that he gets from that are obviously a lot in this day and age. I think he had a very little collective deal at that point,” Freeze said. “The collective now wants to give Eugene a good deal.”

Next up for Auburn is a road contest at Vanderbilt on Saturday (4 p.m. EST/SEC Network).

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PMARSHONAU Roberts defense a key for Tigers down the stretch

Phillip Marshall

7–9 minutes

Roberts' gameday acumen keeps Auburn's defense going

AUBURN, Alabama – For those into statistics, Auburn’s defense, ranked No. 82 nationally, might not seem impressive. But when you consider Auburn has played the No. 1, No. 4 and No. 12 offenses in the country, you might be a little more impressed.

Despite key injuries at linebacker, on the defensive line and in the secondary and a struggling offense, first-year coordinator Ron Roberts’ defense has played well enough to give the Tigers a chance to win every game but one. They lead the SEC in takeaways. That includes 10 interceptions, the most since 2019.

Saturdays 27-13 win over Mississippi State was typical. Mississippi State had some explosive plays and moved the ball. But two fourth-down stops and an interception kept the Bulldogs from getting any closer than two touchdowns behind in the second half.

Auburn’s defense is healthier now than it’s been since early in the season. And Roberts’ men intend to make a difference down the stretch.

“It’s been amazing to play under his defense,” Elijah McAllister, who plays the Jack position, said. “He’s an old-school football guy. He knows exactly what offenses are doing because he’s seen it. It’s fun playing for him, honestly.”

Roberts feel for calling defenses is the first thing that attracted Freeze when he went in search of a defensive coordinator after arriving at Auburn last December.

“He is one of the best in the nation at calling a game,” Freeze said. “I think we all have strengths, we all have weaknesses, and you want to play to your strengths. And one of his strengths is definitely game day, calling the football game from a defensive perspective and making adjustments within his system. I think he's really gifted at that.”

Roberts is a 34-year coaching veteran. In two stints as a head coach, he was 47-16 in five seasons at Delta State and 42-29 in six season at Southeastern Louisiana. For his entire 27-year college career, he has been a head coach or defensive coordinator. He moved to Auburn in January after three seasons at Baylor.

Roberts has seen the game change in significant ways in those seasons. Offenses have become more sophisticated, faster and more imaginative.

“You have to be multiple these days in college football,” Roberts said. “You can’t just sit in one front. Unless you have better players than everybody, you can’t do that. The offensive coordinators will pick you apart. They will find chinks in your armor.”

Auburn’s armor has some chinks. There is no denying that. With the likes of nickel Keionte Scott and linebacker Austin Keys back from injuries, some of those chinks might not be quite as noticeable.

Roberts and the Tigers face another challenge Saturday when they go on the road to Vanderbilt in search of their fifth victory. The Commodores have lost seven straight games and are 0-5 in the SEC. But Freeze says the they can’t be taken for granted on senior day and homecoming at FirstBank Stadium.

“This is a scary game to me,” Freeze said. “I've always thought playing there is difficult for whatever reason. I know you can look at their record and say whatever, but they've played a tough stretch with Kentucky, Missouri, Florida, Georgia, Ole Miss — that's a tough stretch of games. They've been competitive at times in all of them. It's a difficult place to play, and it has my full attention.”

Vanderbilt plans to play two quarterbacks against Auburn

The Commodores have struggled at the quarterback position this season

Auburn utilization of its two-quarterback system may be dwindling after Payton Thorne’s performance last weekend. But the Tigers’ defense will still have to prepare for two signal-callers this week.

Vanderbilt plans to play both Ken Seals and Walter Taylor against Auburn on Saturday afternoon, head coach Clark Lea said Wednesday on the SEC coaches teleconference. The Commodores did so in a 33-7 loss at Ole Miss over the weekend, as starter A.J. Swann continues to recover from an elbow injury that’s forced him to miss the past four games.

Seals took over as Vanderbilt’s starter in the three games after Swann’s injury. But against Ole Miss, Lea’s plan was to get Taylor — a redshirt freshman from Jackson, Alabama — involved in the offense with some package work, like Auburn has done with backup Robby Ashford.

But midway through the second quarter, Vanderbilt turned to Taylor for more extended work, and he was the primary QB for the rest of the game. Taylor went 4-of-12 for 38 yards, while Seals was 4-of-8 for 22 yards. Both quarterbacks had an interception. Taylor led Vanderbilt with 59 rushing yards.

Lea’s explanation of Vanderbilt’s quarterback rotation against Ole Miss is not dissimilar to how Hugh Freeze has shuffled Thorne and Ashford this season.

“The plan was to have Ken play the game but insert Walt in certain situations,” Lea said Wednesday. “We’re trying to get him some snap experience, and we also feel like he has a skill set that can help us generate offense. It became about interjecting a spark there in the second quarter, and Walt was able to do that. So coming out of halftime, we wanted to continue to pull on that thread.”

Much like Auburn was looking to avoid when it was rotating Thorne and Ashford — a trend that screeched to a halt against Mississippi State, when Ashford took only two snaps — Lea said his biggest concern is getting his quarterbacks out of rhythm when taking them in and out of a game.

“We want to control that (against Auburn) and hope the game play allows us to,” Lea said. “Meaning we want to strategically insert the quarterbacks to fit both situations, but also in ways that keep a flow to our game. That’s the one thing you worry about with playing two guys — getting out of sync or out of rhythm, and it impacting or affecting the chemistry on the field.”

Earlier this week, Lea called Swann questionable for the Auburn game, so it’s technically a possibility that the Commodores could have their starter back. Swann had been completing 53.8 percent of his passes, with 11 touchdowns and seven picks, while Seals has six touchdowns and three interceptions on 60.8 percent passing across four starts.

Auburn’s defense leads the SEC with 14 takeaways this season, including 10 interceptions. The Tigers have picked off the opposing quarterback in all but one game this season (Texas A&M).

As a team, the Commodores are second-to-last in the SEC in combined quarterback rating this season, in front of only Auburn. Their 11 interceptions on the season are tied for No. 120 in college football.

Another injury of note for Vanderbilt is that of leading receiver Will Sheppard, who exited the Ole Miss loss with an apparent upper-body injury and didn’t return. Sheppard is third in the SEC this season with eight receiving touchdowns, plus 591 yards.

Kickoff in Nashville is set for 3 p.m. CDT on SEC Network. Vanderbilt is currently on a seven-game losing streak, as Auburn is favored by 12.5 points in what would be its second straight SEC win after an 0-4 start.

*** Subscribe to Auburn Undercover for the latest news and intel, podcasts, recruiting coverage and more ***

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With Auburn, Vanderbilt transfer Elijah McAllister will finally play a home game in Nashville

Updated: Nov. 02, 2023, 12:09 p.m.|Published: Nov. 02, 2023, 12:09 p.m.

5–6 minutes

For four years, Elijah McAllister ran out of the tunnel at his home stadium in Nashville and never saw a stadium full with the black and gold Vanderbilt colors he wore. He’s human, of course that bothered him.

There’s a different type of exhilarating feeling, he said, when running out of the tunnel to the 88,000-plus fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium — his new home field — all cheering loudly for him. In Auburn, there is a home-field advantage Vanderbilt never had.

“I get that exhilarating feeling when I’m here, and I didn’t get that at my previous school,” McAllister said Monday. “Obviously, it’s a little difficult, every time you go out there and play and there’s not a lot of people rooting you on.”

McAllister played at Vanderbilt for his four years as an undergraduate. He played 36 games and was a two-time team captain. Then, as a graduate, he transferred to Auburn for this season. He quickly became a team captain at Auburn, too, and served an important rotational and leadership role as a pass-rushing jack linebacker on this defense.

This week, he’s going back. Auburn plays Vanderbilt in Nashville on Saturday. The game will kick off at 3 p.m. central time and will be aired on the SEC Network.

“On a personal level, I think it’ll be like playing backyard football with some of your best friends,” McAllister said. “A lot of shared experience with the guys on that roster. I’m just excited to go over there, play against some of my best friends and get a win. So I’m excited.”

McAllister said there isn’t any standoff between himself and his old teammates this week. He’s been in touch with them as he always has been since he left — though of course leaving any game plan conversations kept tight within Auburn’s football building.

However, this game will be the first time McAllister has seen most of his former Vanderbilt teammates since he left. He did get to see former Vanderbilt quarterback Mike Wright last week as he started for Mississippi State in a game Auburn won 27-13. McAllister called that a good “tune-up” for this week.

The stadium he’ll be returning too, though, does not exactly resemble the one he may remember.

Vanderbilt is playing home games despite significant construction in both endzones of its stadium. The seating capacity in Nashville before the project was just over 40,000 people. Now, the number is closer to 28,000.

The project means a scoreboard suspended by cranes behind one endzone. It means a visiting locker room that is quite literally a tent, though it does have showers and air conditioning.

“I’ve heard the stories, I’ve seen the pictures and just hearing from them is unique,” McAllister said. “I think for guys on this roster, I don’t think any of them have played there. It’ll be a different experience for them playing in that stadium just because we’re used to there being all these fans for us here at Jordan-Hare. It’s the best fans in the country. It’ll be a lot different playing there. We just have to have a professional approach to it, honestly. I’ve played many games there, so it’ll be different.”

Yet even in all the weirdness of Vanderbilt football this year, this will essentially be the first time McAllister has played what will feel like a home game in Nashville. The crowd is expected to heavily favor Auburn, and McAllister has already seen how well Auburn fans travel this season — highlighted by the thousands of fans who traveled all the way to Berkeley, California for Auburn’s September game against Cal.

Auburn, despite the home-crowd advantage it often has in Vanderbilt’s small stadium, has a quite trepidatious history in Nashville. Auburn has lost each of its last two trips to Vanderbilt and the all-time series is tied 21-21-1. And that’s considering the fact Auburn closed its series deficit by winning 14 of the last 16 games since 1978. The two schools haven’t played since 2016, a game Auburn won 23-16 in Auburn.

For as much as Vanderbilt has been a bottom-feeder in the SEC, Auburn has struggled with Nasvhille’s SEC school.

“This is a scary game to me, I’ve always thought playing there is difficult for whatever reason,” head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday.

In a weird setup, Auburn will look to McAllister, its team captain. He’s never seen Vanderbilt with a scoreboard swaying in the wind, but he certainly knows how to handle an odd look.

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Auburn Opponent Preview Vanderbilt defense

Jason Caldwell
3–4 minutes

After finding success last weekend against Mississippi State, the Auburn offense will look to keep the momentum this Saturday against a Vanderbilt defense that has struggled to slow down anyone this season. Currently 123rd nationally in scoring defense (34.2 points per game) and 117th in total defense (436.8 yards per game), the Commodores have had some serious issues in 2023.

The flip side to those numbers is the schedule that Vanderbilt has faced. After opening the year with four non-conference games, the Commodores have faced Kentucky, Missouri, Florida, Georgia and Ole Miss the last five games. In that stretch they have given up an average of 475 yards and 38.2 points per contest. They have allowed at least 28 points in every game this year with the exception of Alabama A&M (13).

What Vanderbilt has done a good job of is forcing turnovers. They are currently second in the league with 13 forced turnovers, one behind Auburn. The Commodores are tied with Auburn for the most interceptions in the league with 10. 

The strength of the defense is a group of linebackers and safeties that have been playmakers this season in the 3-3-5 scheme for the Commodores. C.J. Taylor leads the team in tackles with 52 and also has three sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss. Middle linebacker Langston Patterson is second on the team with 47 tackles and also has 5.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He shares the duties of the position with Ethan Barr, who has 44 tackles and three for a loss.

Attalla (Etowah) native De’Rickey Wright has been impressive with 36 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles while fellow safeties Jaylen Mahoney and Savion Riley have combined for 92 tackles.

Up front, the top player for the Vanderbilt defense is pass rusher Nate Clifton. He has 20 tackles, but leads the team with 4.5 sacks and has also added 6.5 tackles for a loss. 


8 Tyson Russell 5-11 185 Jr. 28-11

25 Martel Hight height 6-0 175 Fr. 8-5

36 Alan Wright 6-0 185 Jr. 9-0


30 Trudell Berry 6-1 184 So. 12-5

or 25 Martel Hight height 6-0 175 Fr. 8-5

34 Quantaves Gaskins  6-1 190 So. 2-0


1 CJ Taylor 6-1 201 Jr. 28-16

or 12 Jeffrey Ugochukwu 6-1 205 So. 17-0

22 Bryce Cowan 6-4 225 So. 8-0


23 Jaylen Mahoney 5-11 200 Gr. 51-42

21 Savion Riley  6-2 202 So. 7-2

27 John Howse IV house 6-1 195 Jr. 19-1


2 De’Rickey Wright 6-4 217 Sr. 33-24

7 Marlen Sewell 6-1 193 Jr. 15-1



32 Ethan Barr 6-3 245 Sr. 42-36

10 Langston Patterson 6-1 230 So. 20-0



19 Kane Patterson 6-1 221 Sr. 56-7

54 Bryan Longwell 6-1 227 Fr. 9-2

24 Nicholas Rinaldi 6-3 232 So. 13-0


0 Aeneas DiCosmo 6-3 247 Gr. 37-13

29 Miles Capers 6-4 227 Jr. 13-0

33 BJ Diakite 6-4 222 So. 18-3


99 Devin Lee 6-2 290 Jr. 25-10

5 Yilanan Ouattara  6-7 305 So. 19-6

98 De’Marion Thomas 6-2 321 Fr. 8-0


91 Christian James 6-4 290 Gr. 35-17

94 Bradley Mann 6-6 281 So. 12-0

31 Michael Spencer 6-4 323 Sr. 24-0


15 Nate Clifton 6-5 280 Gr. 40-34

11 Darren Agu AH-goo 6-6 242 So. 18-8

95 Linus Zunk 6-6 263 So. 7-0

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Auburn RB commit J'Marion Burnette is open to other schools

JD McCarthy

~2 minutes

J'Marion Burnette has been committed to Auburn since March 24 and had previously announced his recruitment was shut down but things between him and the Tigers have clearly changed.

He took to social media Wednesday night to announce that his “recruitment is 100% open still committed to auburn just opened to options!”

Burnette, a four-star prospect, is Auburn’s only commit at running back in the 2024 recruiting class but would be joining a crowded running back room on the Plains. The Tigers could have all five scholarship running backs return next season and Jarquez Hunter, Brian Battie, Damari Alston and Jeremiah Cobb have already proven they can be productive players and deserve touches.

Burnette is the No. 255 overall player and No. 18 running back in the 247Sports composite ranking. The Andalusia native is also the No. 14 player from Alabama.

Checking in at 6-foot-1 and 214 pounds, Burnette is a big, physical back who is at his best running between the tackles. He has been limited by an injury in his senior season and has played in just six games.

Auburn has been looking to add a second running back to the class and two of their top targets have been Clemson commit David Eziomume and Miami commit Kevin Riley but with Auburn’s expected depth they could end up without a running back and instead focus on 2025 target Alvin Henderson.

My recruitment is 100% open still committed to auburn just opened to options!

— J'Marion ‘‘Phat’’ Burnette (@JMarionBurnette) November 1, 2023

Contact/Follow us @TheAuburnWire on  X (Twitter), and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Auburn news, notes, and opinions. You can also follow JD on Twitter @jdmccarthy15

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