AUBURN, Ala. — This week’s edition of the Auburn Mailbag is a warmup for both Thanksgiving week and the Iron Bowl. The readers didn’t drop in quality with their questions, though, which is the best kind of practice at this time of year.
You asked about Auburn’s running back situation heading into the final stretch of the regular season, the confidence in John Franklin III, the true freshman wide receivers, the scoring strategy of Bruce Pearl’s basketball team, and the grand debate over dressing vs. dressing. (There’s a clear answer on that last one.)
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@CooperShoemaker: With running backs on injury list last week, does the coaching staff not have full trust in JF3 to run consistently?
Auburn needed something different in the second half against Georgia, when the Tigers couldn’t get a single first down. But the coaching staff said it never thought an injured Sean White was not the best option to get the win in Athens.
Franklin didn’t look like he was capable to run the full offense at the level Auburn expects in the first half of the Vanderbilt game. His speed is great for read options and speed sweeps in package situations. Is Franklin capable of leading an offense down the field consistently? It seems Auburn doesn’t think he can — yet.
Auburn should’ve stuck to the Wildcat more in the second half against Georgia, as that formation gave the Bulldogs quite a lot of trouble. Franklin could have been involved in those sets. However, it doesn’t look like Franklin has the full confidence of the coaching staff at this point in the season.
@simple_T3: What do you think our backfield will look like next week with 3 backs out and JF3 still apparently deemed incompetent?
When this question came into the mailbag, Auburn hadn’t announced Jeremy Johnson as the starting quarterback for the Alabama A&M game. So that mystery is already solved. Auburn won’t chance playing White in the home finale, and it will give Johnson a chance to wrap up his career with a relative high point.
As for the running back situation, Kamryn Pettway, Stanton Truitt and Chandler Cox definitely won’t play. Kerryon Johnson will most likely start, but don’t expect many carries for him. The Tigers need to have his ankle as healthy as possible for the Iron Bowl.
Kam Martin is a candidate for a good portion of the carries, along with Malik Miller, who returned to practice this week. From the way Malzahn has talked this week, I would expect Rudy Ford to get a few Senior Night carries. Also, Malzahn mentioned senior walk-on Damian Lewis on Thursday night during Tiger Talk — he’ll be a candidate for some touches in the second half.
@shakenbakeAnk: Is there a reason why we haven’t involved the Freshmen WRs very much in the offense? All guys seem like studs.
It’s a good question, and there are a couple of answers out there. For one, the freshmen needed time to get acclimated to Auburn’s offense, which relies a lot on perimeter blocking from the wide receivers. Experience plays a big part in that.
Injuries have also played a role. For example, Nate Craig-Myers has been dealing with a quad issue that kept him out of the Georgia game. Kyle Davis was involved — primarily in third-down, four-wide situations — and was targeted twice in the passing game in Athens. Davis didn’t get a catch, but he was involved. Eli Stove is a weapon in the running game and is getting more chances in the short-passing game.
These three true freshmen should get more chances against Alabama A&M, especially with the depth chart receiving a shakeup due to Marcus Davis’ season-ending injury. Auburn will get even more time to develop them in bowl practices, which is important. The Tigers will rely on these playmakers a lot in 2017, along with Darius Slayton and Ryan Davis.
@robbyhale21: Is Auburn basketball going to live and die by the three this year?
According to KenPom, 41.3 percent of Auburn’s field-goal attempts through the first three games of the season has been from beyond the arc. The national average is 36.3 percent, and the Tigers rank inside the top one-third of the country in that area.
Auburn has relied on 3-point shooting and free-throw shooting through the first three games of the season — 28.3 percent of its scoring has come from the charity stripe. Without a go-to interior scoring option, Auburn’s offense is banking on driving to the basket and either getting the foul call or kicking it out for a 3-pointer if the clear chance isn’t there.
The Tigers didn’t get off to a hot start from downtown against Eastern Kentucky on Thursday night, and they adjusted. While this is a small team with a lot of shooters, they won’t just jack it up from deep. Players such as Mustapha Heron, T.J. Dunans and Jared Harper are going to slash toward the bucket.
@AshOrCredit: Do you call it stuffing or dressing?
@wartiger88: Dressing vs Stuffing…..Dressing has to win….right?
This is easy. It’s dressing in my family. If the dish in question goes on top of the turkey or next to it, then it’s dressing. If the dish is stuffed into the turkey, then it’s stuffing. My family gatherings usually include fried strips of turkey breast as the main course, so it’s definitely not stuffing.
Words have to mean things, otherwise we’ll fall into culinary anarchy.