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11.14.23 Football Articles


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The Tigers beat the Razorbacks, and the vibes are good

Taylor Jones

~2 minutes

No matter how great of a weekend one had, it was hard to top the one that Auburn football just experienced.

The Tigers won their third consecutive game over an SEC opponent, they earned bowl eligibility and a high-profile recruit flipped their commitment to Freeze and the Tigers.

It would be easy to say that there are positive vibes around the Plains, and The Athletic’s Seth Emerson would agree.

In the latest SEC football vibes rankings, Emerson bumped Auburn up to No. 5, which is a four-spot jump following the Tigers’ win over Vanderbilt on Nov. 5.

In the rankings following the win in Nashville, Emerson felt that Auburn was missing an “exciting factor.” After Auburn’s win over Arkansas, Emerson’s tune has changed.

A road rout, and a high-profile recruiting flip. Not a shabby Saturday. Hugh Freeze will extend the honeymoon into Year 2. A bowl trip is assured, and a win next week against New Mexico State would give the program its most since 2019. The Iron Bowl will be a heavier lift, clearly. Even without that, Freeze and the Tigers look like they’ll have something to take into the offseason, even if the gap between them and their arch-rival across the state is rather steep. This year was about getting back to a competitive level, and they’ve done that.

Georgia and Alabama, who each won their respective divisions last weekend, top the list while Missouri and LSU follow after securing big-time wins. Vanderbilt is at the bottom of the vibes list following a 47-6 blowout loss to South Carolina.

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 Taylor on Twitter @TaylorJones__

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Hugh Freeze Pleased With Progress From Auburn’s Wide Receiver Room

Lance Dawe

2–3 minutes

The Tigers' receiver room is finally starting to round into form.

Auburn's wide receiver room has been underwhelming this season.

The Tigers' passing game as a whole has been difficult to watch, with a lack of cohesion between all components having been the most prevalent topic since the season opener against UMass.

After getting to play some easier opponents over the last month, however, Auburn's passing attack has finally started to round into form.

Ja'Varrius Johnson, Auburn's lead receiver from a season ago, has been a focal point during the winning streak.

Johnson hadn't recorded a stat since a seven-yard reception against California in week two. In these past three weeks, he's caught two passes for 59 yards vs Mississippi State, three for 62 at Vanderbilt, and three for 53 at Arkansas.

Hugh Freeze had praise for Var, who's finally returned to his 2022 form.

"I think Var has constantly improved since he's come back from injury, I've said it since I got here that he and Jay Fair, those are two of the more talented guys that we've had," Freeze said. "we're still inconsistent in that room some, but we've improved, and Var is certainly apart of that."

Freeze also noted that Auburn's perimeter blocking was the best performance of the season thus far. The receivers are figuring it out in multiple ways... but there is still improvement to be had.

"We still have a ways to go, we left some yards out there because of that, but we have improved it, other than the Vandy game," Freeze said. "But the others we've done a decent job, that was probably our best, down the field, people being aggressive and finishing and playing without the ball, I thought that was our best to date, but we've still got to work on it."

Auburn returns home to take on New Mexico State this Saturday, November 18th. Kickoff is at 3:00 pm CT on the SEC Network.

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Hugh Freeze speaks to Auburn’s momentum: ‘The job and the chore is to continue that’

Andrew Peters | 18 hours ago

~3 minutes

Hugh Freeze and Auburn have been hot the past few weeks, winning their last 3 games against Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Arkansas.

Now the Tigers are going bowling, and the recruiting trail is heating up in Freeze’s first season at the helm.

Auburn has a winnable game this week against New Mexico State before taking on Alabama at home to close out the regular season. It’s fair to say Freeze’s first season has been a success, and with momentum the Tigers could end the regular season with 8 wins — something that seemed impossible amidst a 4-game losing skid earlier this year.

But Freeze has been a coach long enough to know that momentum alone doesn’t win you games. His team has to be locked in in its preparation to ensure it gets a win this week.

“The job and the chore is to continue that,” Freeze said in his press conference Monday. “We stub our toe this week, and it would be easy to say the momentum has shifted the other way… Momentum is an every-day thing.”

Freeze also said that when his team isn’t winning, like it was earlier this year, it was learning. Auburn has been able to get a grasp on the season from learning from those early losses.

Hugh Freeze says Auburn has momentum as a program, but momentum is an "every day thing."

"You're either winning or learning, and that's a choice."

Freeze says you can also choose losing, "but you better get to choosing or life will choose for you."

— Justin Hokanson (@_JHokanson) November 13, 2023


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Keionte Scott and Jalen McLeod named SEC players of the week

3–4 minutes

Jack linebacker Jalen McLeod and cornerback Keionte Scott were both honored with SEC player of the week awards Monday afternoon after the Tigers claimed a road victory over Arkansas 48-10.

McLeod was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week due to his performance against the Razorbacks in which he recorded a season-high nine tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks and one forced fumble.

"I think you're just now seeing what Jalen McLeod what we saw at the beginning of fall camp," said head coach Hugh Freeze. "Truthfully, it's taken him this long to get over that high ankle sprain. I think the last few weeks you watch practice you're like 'he's getting close to 100 percent now,' and congratulations to him."

Meanwhile Scott, who Freeze called one of the "most vocal leaders" on the team, was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week after he had a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown that put Auburn up 14-0 early in the first quarter. The junior finished the game with three punt returns for 83 yards and one touchdown.

Scott's punt return for touchdown was the first time a Tiger has returned a punt for a touchdown that wasn't initially blocked since Quan Bray did so in 2014 against Louisiana Tech. 

McLeod now has 36 tackles, 8½ tackles for loss, 5½ sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Scott, who was sidelined for over a month due to injury, has 10 returns for 174 yards and one touchdown.

McLeod, Scott and the Tigers take the field again this Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium as Auburn looks to extend its three-game winning streak. Auburn will face New Mexico State at 3 p.m. CST, and the game will be televised on SEC Network.

Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.

Jacob Waters | Sports Editor

Jacob Waters is a senior majoring in journalism. From Leeds, Alabama, he started with The Plainsman in August, 2021.

Twitter: @JacobWaters_

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How Auburn’s California kid has emerged as the Tigers’ ‘closer’ on the recruiting trail

Published: Nov. 13, 2023, 3:40 p.m.

5–6 minutes

Auburn junior defensive back Keionte Scott took to the social platform X, formerly known as Twitter, on Sunday morning to let everyone know he’s got a role in Auburn’s recruiting efforts.

“The closer has activated,” Scott posted, followed by a sunglasses-wearing emoji.

The guy that emerges from the back office at a car dealership and is tasked with getting those teetering back and forth to sign the dotted line? That’s Scott’s job when it comes to Auburn football’s targets on the recruiting trail.

Except unlike those car salesmen, Scott says he’s not selling anything.

“You know, not necessarily sell anything, because it’s the real deal,” Scott said of his role as one of Auburn’s closers. “But just being able to tell the guys the player aspect of things. I feel like that’s big for them and I take pride in that.”

Considering Scott came to Auburn by way of San Diego, him being a vital piece of Auburn’s recruiting efforts is a bit ironic as he wasn’t raised on or around The Plains.

But talk to the Auburn junior, whose college playing career began at Snow College in Utah – a junior college program – and it starts to make a lot of sense.

With more than 2,000 miles stretching between Auburn and Scott’s hometown of San Diego, when Scott arrived to The Plains last fall, it was a big move. He was away from everything and everyone he knew.

However, what he found in Auburn made up for it.

“Home, literally,” Scott said Monday when asked what he’s found in Auburn. “Just a loving place.”

For high school recruits – and their families, especially – finding that in a college football program is important.

And since Scott found just that when he joined the Tigers, it makes his job as the closer easy.

“That’s just my main goal – to just, you know, just be completely honest on how I was brought in and accepted in and be able to preach that,” Scott said. “And then for them to go out and feel that exact same feeling and get those same type of vibes from the program, it’s just an easy thing to do.”

Surely, Auburn’s current coaching staff makes Scott’s job even easier.

Former Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin and his staff weren’t exactly regarded as the best recruiters. But since arriving to Auburn last November, Hugh Freeze and his staff have worked tirelessly to resurrect Auburn from its recruiting grave.

Over the summer, Freeze and the Tigers went on a tear, first earning the commitment of 5-star linebacker Demarcus Riddick, followed by flipping 5-star wide receiver Perry Thompson away from Alabama.

And in recent days, Freeze and the Tigers have set the trail ablaze again.

On Friday, Laquan Robinson, the top-ranked safety out of the junior college ranks, announced his commitment to the Tigers.

The very next day, 4-star edge rusher Jamonta Waller flipped his commitment from the Florida Gators to Auburn.

Come Sunday, 4-star 2025 tight end Ryan Ghea committed to the Tigers, adding to Auburn’s already-impressive 2025 recruiting class.

And with early national signing day just around the corner as it’s scheduled for Dec. 20, Scott anticipates Auburn’s current tear on the recruiting trail to continue.

“Yeah, I do. I do, I do, I do,” Scott said with a grin as he was asked if he thought signing day would be eventful for Auburn. “I definitely think it’s getting a little close to Flipmas.”

“Flipmas” is a term used to describe the timeframe leading up to signing day in which programs are making their last and strongest pushes to flip recruits away from other programs. Waller’s flip on Saturday might’ve been the first domino to fall in Auburn’s direction.

How many – if any – dominoes are still set to fall in Auburn’s direction? Only time will tell.

But you can bet Scott is doing his part in getting Auburn’s targets to commit to what’s being built on The Plains.

“Everything I was told during recruiting has been lived upon and I’ve been able to experience,” Scott said, recalling his own recruitment. “So being able to pass that knowledge on and then for it to just stay true is something that just goes to show about this program and the history behind it.”

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Jason Caldwells Monday morning quarterback column

Jason Caldwell
6–8 minutes

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Auburn played its best game of the season against Arkansas.

What a 72 hours

What started with Auburn getting a commitment from junior college safety Laquon Robinson on Friday while we were in the air on the way to Tulsa started a chain reaction of major proportions for Hugh Freeze and the Tigers as they look to keep the momentum building in 2023 and beyond.

The second step came on the field Saturday in Fayetteville as Auburn completely dismantled the Razorbacks for one of the most complete wins for the program in years. Facing an Arkansas team that needed to keep winning to become bowl eligible, the Tigers took control in just a few minutes and never looked back on the way to a blowout victory.

Moments after Auburn’s win, the Tigers flipped another huge prospect when 4-star pass rusher Jamonta Waller changed his commitment from Florida to Auburn. He’s an elite pass rusher and continues the strong group that Auburn is bringing in on the defensive side of the ball for coordinator Ron Roberts. 

We woke up Sunday morning to the news that Texas A&M fired Jimbo Fisher, which could be another big deal for the Tigers because of a pair of kids that are currently committed to the Aggies. Auburn has been recruiting 5-star wide receiver Cameron Coleman heavy since Freeze and this staff came onboard. This definitely doesn’t hurt Auburn’s chances of pulling off what would be another monumental flip. Offensive lineman Coen Echols is another player on Auburn’s radar and has been in constant contact with Jake Thornton and the Tigers.

Auburn finished off the run by adding 4-star 2025 tight end Ryan Ghea on Sunday afternoon. With his addition, Auburn's class for 2025 is already ranked fifth nationally as Freeze and company continue rolling.

Building block

You never know what the future holds, but based on what I have seen from true freshman center Connor Lew in his first few games, it sure looks like Auburn has the centerpiece of the offensive line for years to come. He was a player that Thornton and assistant Kendall Simmons went after right away once the new staff got hired and now the reason why is showing. Lew is a future All-SEC/All-American type of player and has a chance to be a three or four-year starter before he’s done. Those guys are invaluable when it comes to developing an offense. If you find a guy that has the experience and is also elite, it’s like hitting the lottery.

Future is bright

In addition to Lew, Auburn has quietly started to build some depth and get experience for players that are going to be counted on to lead the way beginning in 2024. Along with him on the offensive line, guys like Jaden Muskrat and Izavion Miller have gotten some valuable reps in the Southeastern Conference as they prepare for bigger roles next season. There is also confidence that Auburn got a steal in the late offer and commitment from Tyler Johnson. He played on Saturday and is someone the coaches feel like has a very bright future.

With young guys like Jeremiah Cobb, Caleb Burton, Micah Riley-Ducker and now Holden Geriner continuing to show improvement, the offense has the makings of a strong group moving forward as they continue to try to add more key pieces on the offensive line and especially at wide receiver.

There’s not as much youth seeing time on this defense, but Keldric Faulk is going to be a huge part of things up front as he continues to mature physically. Auburn’s secondary is getting some valuable experience with Kayin Lee playing a bunch this season and other guys like Tyler Scott and Colton Hood getting some reps along the way. The good news on defense is that much of this front seven should return next year and be joined by an already talented recruiting class that has a chance to get even better in the next month.

The future is bright for the Auburn Tigers, but for this team the future is now.

IN PHOTOS: Auburn plasters Arkansas for third straight win

Auburn thumped the Razorbacks for its third straight victory

What a difference a year makes.

This time last season, Auburn was manhandled at home by Arkansas, forcing the program's hand to finally part ways with Bryan Harsin. The Tigers returned the favor this time around, going into Fayetteville and plastering the Razorbacks for their third straight win, 48-10. Auburn posted its best offensive numbers in an SEC road game since 2017, and the Tigers' defense was completely suffocating, holding Arkansas to just 1-of-12 third downs and without a touchdown until the fourth quarter. 

Check out a photo gallery from the Tigers' dominant performance from reporter Jason Caldwell and contributor Isaac Shelor.

12102285.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Hugh Freeze and Sam Pittman chat before the game (Isaac Shelor, 247Sports)
12102290.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Auburn defensive line coach Jeremy Garrett during pregame warmups (Isaac Shelor, 247Sports)
12102299.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Tight end Rivaldo Fairweather prays before the game (Isaac Shelor, 247Sports)
12102301.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Quarterback Payton Thorne (1) looks to the sideline in the first half (Isaac Shelor, 247Sports)
12102303.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Quarterback Payton Thorne (1) celebrates his opening-drive touchdown run (Isaac Shelor, 247Sports)
12102307.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Defensive back Keionte Scott (0) returns Arkansas' first punt for a touchdown (Isaac Shelor, 247Sports)
12102315.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Special teams coordinator Tanner Burns celebrates with Keionte Scott after Auburn's first punt-return touchdown since 2014 (Isaac Shelor, 247Sports)
12102318.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Defensive end Keldric Faulk (15) tackles Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson (Isaac Shelor, 247Sports)
12102338.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Linebacker Larry Nixon III (30) prepares to defend a fourth-and-1 in the first half (Isaac Shelor, 247Sports)
12102340.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Auburn prepares for a QB sneak in the first half (Isaac Shelor, 247Sports)
12102346.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Defensive lineman Marcus Harris (50) recovers an Arkansas fumble in the first half (Isaac Shelor, 247Sports)
12102347.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Quarterback Payton Thorne (1) loads up to throw in the third quarter (Isaac Shelor, 247Sports)
12102353.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Defensive back Caleb Wooden (12) returns an Arkansas fumble 74 yards in the third quarter (Isaac Shelor, 247Sports)
12102356.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Quarterback Robby Ashford (1) runs for a first down in the fourth quarter (Isaac Shelor, 247Sports)
12102357.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Pass-rusher Stephen Sings V (18) prepares to defend a play in the fourth quarter (Isaac Shelor, 247Sports)
12102360.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Quarterback Payton Thorne (1) is interviewed by SEC Network after the game (Isaac Shelor, 247Sports)
12099136.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Caleb Burton III (10) catches a 45-yard pass in the first quarter (Jason Caldwell, 247Sports)
12099422.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 Quarterback Payton Thorne (1) runs over Arkansas defensive back Lorando Johnson (1) for a touchdown on the first drive (Jason Caldwell, 247Sports)
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you folks have a good one!

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