AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn’s football team might be taking an off week, but the SEC Country Auburn Mailbag isn’t resting this week. With midseason recaps and preseason basketball sweeping the Plains, the questions aren’t stopping.
This week, the mailbag tackles the topics of Auburn’s starting offensive line, Jason Smith taking reps at quarterback, the best-case scenario for the Tigers in the postseason, Bruce Pearl’s newest basketball players and the blight on American society known as candy corn.
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@VanAllenPlexico: If Auburn’s O-line continues to do well with the current group, will Xavier D’s injury mysteriously never heal?
I don’t know if Auburn will specifically use Dampeer’s injury to keep him out of the starting lineup, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the Tigers stick with this starting five after the off week. Consistency is extremely important on the offensive line, and Auburn has played its best offensive ball of the season in Dampeer’s absence.
That’s not to say Dampeer has played poorly at center. I thought he did a solid job and made few mistakes in his starts there. I believe the biggest benefit of staying with the starting offensive line that played against ULM and Mississippi State is found at left tackle.
To me, Darius James has played the best of any Auburn tackle this season. He’s been a mauler in run-blocking and has been consistent in pass protection. Austin Golson looks like a better player at center. Auburn needs to keep James on the field, and Golson has played well enough back at center to justify keeping him there for the rest of the season.
@CooperShoemaker: Heard Jason Smith practiced some at QB last week. Could we possibly see a 4 QB formation with JF3, SW, JJ, and Jason Smith?
Gus Malzahn addressed Jason Smith’s reps at quarterback during the SEC coaches teleconference this week in an interview with James Crepea of AL.com. Malzahn told Crepea that Smith continues to get practice time there, but a permanent move isn’t in the works at the moment.
Smith has fallen down in the pecking order for Auburn at slot receiver this season, and he only has a single touch — one carry — for zero yards in 2016. So even though the former JUCO quarterback is practicing at his old position again, it’s hard to see him getting any sort of playing time there in the second half of the season.
As for the 4-quarterback formation — it’s a fun thought, but I’d expect Lashlee to keep things simpler than that. Smith’s attempts at trick play passes in 2015 didn’t go well. I think John Franklin III is the best candidate for a double pass or maybe a throw off a speed sweep.
@guitarist1984: Can Auburn win the West, SEC, and be a 2-loss playoff team?
I personally believe Auburn won’t come near this in the second half of the season, but much stranger things have happened on the Plains during football season. But if Auburn hits a stride and wins out, is it possible for the Tigers to make it to the College Football Playoff?
For Auburn to win the West, Texas A&M has to lose twice in the second half of the season to SEC opponents because it has the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Tigers. So a late collapse by the Aggies wouldn’t help Auburn’s case in the playoff chase. If Clemson won out, though, Auburn would have one of the best possible losses — and a close one — on its resume.
Right now, I see an undefeated or 1-loss champion coming out of the ACC and the Big Ten. Washington has all the tools to run the table in the Pac-12, and Baylor still has a shot at winning the Big 12 with one loss or an undefeated record. For Auburn to crash the playoff, it would need some chaos in its own division and in other conferences while winning out. I think the last part of that formula is the hardest one.
@JKoenAU: Which freshman was most impressive and who overall looked the best?
Some context here: Jason sent this question to me Wednesday night after Auburn men’s basketball finished up its second preseason scrimmage. So let’s talk basketball.
Newly eligible redshirt freshman Danjel Purifoy looked like the best player on the floor for Auburn in the scrimmage. He was the leading scorer, and he had great command of the open court when the Tigers were on fast-breaks. Bruce Pearl is going to trust him to handle the ball and shoot from distance this season, which should be a special advantage for the Tigers out of a power forward spot.
As for the true freshmen, the surprise here was 6-foot-7 forward Anfernee McLemore. He doesn’t have the hype of a 5-star player such as Mustapha Heron or a possible starter in point guard Jared Harper, but McLemore played extremely well in the scrimmage. He was the most consistent rebounder and looked smooth running in the open court for a bigger man.
Now, Pearl made it clear that he thought McLemore played so well Wednesday because of Auburn’s clear lack of size. But neither LaRon Smith nor Horace Spencer took advantage in the paint as much as McLemore did. He’s an athletic forward who looks like he could help Auburn this season at a position that needs more depth.
@wartiger88: Who invented Candy Corn and why is it considered a Halloween Candy?
Candy corn slander has been a major theme on Twitter this week with the people I follow, and I’m totally here for it. Since it’s getting closer to Halloween, those tri-colored chunks of poorly flavored candle wax are getting their annual time in the spotlight.
To actually answer this question, I did some research. Apparently a Philadelphia candy-maker in the 1880s invented candy corn by mixing a ton of corn syrup, fondant and marshmallow creme into these tips that are supposed to resemble kernels of corn. However, I couldn’t verify if all the candy corn that’s ever existed was actually made in the 1880s or if it just tasted like that.
Why is it a Halloween candy? My best guess is that the colors are supposed to remind us of fall, and the taste is supposed to remind us that the eternal winter of death will come for us all eventually. Seems like it would be more of a Thanksgiving thing with the whole corn and harvest themes, but Thanksgiving is a great holiday with desserts that are actually edible.