AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s final matchup of a 5-game homestand to start the 2016 season will get underway in less than 40 minutes as the Tigers host Louisiana-Monroe for homecoming.
The weather is cooperating more on the Plains this weekend, and there’s a relaxed sense in the air as Auburn takes on its second Sun Belt opponent of the season.
Here are the main observations from pregame warmups, which are wrapping up right now at Jordan-Hare Stadium:
Changes to first-team offensive line
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said starting center Xavier Dampeer played through a tough injury against LSU last week. He’s dressed for Saturday’s game, but he didn’t work with the first-team offensive line.
Darius James came in at left tackle, as the regular starter at that spot, Austin Golson, moved back to center. Golson was the starting center for the Tigers last season. James, a transfer from Texas, has been used as Auburn’s “sixth man” on the offensive line this season, lining up as an extra blocker in unbalanced formations.
Auburn most likely keep will Dampeer on the sidelines Saturday and not risk further injury ahead of next week’s SEC West road game against Mississippi State.
Kamryn Pettway dresses out
Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway didn’t get any carries in the second half of the LSU game last Saturday due to a bruised quad. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Pettway was “day-to-day” this week with the injury but had been in pads for practices.
Pettway is dressed for Saturday’s game and has gone through warmups without any noticeable hitch. His carries will be a key number to watch against UL-Monroe, as Auburn will want to keep him fresh for next week’s trip to Mississippi State.
Louisiana-Monroe is one of the nation’s worst teams in terms of run defense this season, as the Warhawks have an undersized linebacker corps and a smaller defensive line. Pettway will have a chance to have a big day, but the Tigers might rely more on Kerryon Johnson and the freshman running backs Saturday.
Keep an eye on Kyle Davis’ digits
According to a pregame announcement here in the press box, Auburn true freshman wide receiver Kyle Davis will wear No. 11 and No. 86 today.
Why the addition of No. 86? The best guess is that Davis could get some work at returner if this game gets out of hand. Even though he isn’t listed in the two-deep at the position, he worked there in fall camp before suffering a minor injury.
Auburn’s other No. 11, safety Markell Boston, can’t be on the field at the same time as Davis without a jersey switch. It’s extremely unlikely Auburn will line up its highly touted young reciever on defense, so special teams should be the reasoning here.
The visor stays retired
Malzahn said he was switching from his trademark visors to hats last week after he wore one of the latter in the win over LSU.
This week in practices, Malzahn wore a visor again, but those won’t follow him to Jordan-Hare Stadium today.
Malzahn is wearing a navy hat with a white sweater vest for this game. He’ll look to make it 2-0 with the extra head fabric.
Finally, some cooler weather
One week after an Auburn-LSU game that was swamp-like in its heat and humidity, Jordan-Hare Stadium is remarkably cooler for the first time all season.
Pregame temperatures are in the upper 70s, and there’s a slight breeze in the air for this one. It’s a beautiful day for football — not a single cloud in the sky.
We’ll see if the more tolerable East Alabama weather will help out the attendance for what would normally a lower-populated homecoming contest.