Oct. 18, 2013
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – When No. 24 Auburn takes the field against No. 7 Texas A&M on Saturday at Kyle Field, the Aggies will see some of the same faces – or numbers – that they saw when romped to a 63-21 victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium last season. But they’ll see a lot of fresh faces, too. And they won’t just belong to first-year head coach Gus Malzahn and his staff.
Auburn’s turnaround from 1-5 in 2012 to 5-1 in 2013 has been fueled, in part, by at least 17 players who played little or no role in last season’s 3-9 collapse.
Here they are:
Jr. QB Nick Marshall: Junior college transfer. Has completed 71-of-120 passes for 902 yards and four touchdowns in five games as the starter. Has rushed 55 times for 288 yards and two touchdowns. Led an 88-yard touchdown drive in the final 1:56 and passed for 339 yards as Auburn beat Mississippi State 24-20.
Jr. RB Cameron Artis-Payne: Junior college transfer. Has rushed 54 times for 389 yards, an average of 7.2 yards per carry, and three touchdowns.
Fr. QB Jeremy Johnson: Got his first start and first game action against Western Carolina when Marshall sat out with a bad knee. Completed 17-of-21 passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns. Malzahn says there is a plan in place to use him going forward.
Jr. RB Corey Grant: Has rushed 33 times for 331 yards, an average of more than 10 yards per carry. Last season, had just nine carries last season, those coming in mopup duty against Alabama A&M and New Mexico State.
RFr. LG Alex Kozan
: Has started all six games after sitting out last season.
Fr. WR Marcus Davis: Has caught 14 passes, second on the team, for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Fr. WR Tony Stevens: Has caught five passes for 68 yards and a touchdown after a slow start because of injury.
Jr. ST Robenson Therezie: Leads the team in tackles with 28 and interceptions with three. Returned an interception 76 yards for a touchdown against Ole Miss. Last season, moved from cornerback to running back and back to cornerback. Rarely played.
Fr. DE Carl Lawson: Has 11 tackles, including four for losses, two sacks and four quarterback hurries.
Fr. DE Elijah Daniel: Leads team with seven quarterback hurries. Has been in on four tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and has one sack.
Sr. DE Craig Sanders: Tied for second on team with six quarterback hurries. Has nine tackles, including 2.5 for losses, and half a sack. Last season, played mostly special teams.
Jr. DE LaDarius Owens: Has 21 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, and a sack. Has five quarterback hurries. Last season, rarely played and moved to linebacker in the spring before moving back to defensive end in preseason camp.
Fr. DT Montravius Adams: Has nine tackles, including 1.5 for losses, and a sack. Tied for second on team with six quarterback hurries.
Sr. CB Ryan White: Fourth on the team with 21 tackles, five pass breakups and a recovered fumble. Last season, held for kicks and rarely played on defense.
So. LB Kris Frost: Has 20 tackles, including two for losses, and a quarterback hurry as the backup middle linebacker. Last season, played only mopup duty on defense late in the season.
So. LB Anthony Swain: Has 13 tackles, including one for loss, and a pass breakup. Made good on first opportunity when, against Ole Miss, he led the team in tackles. Last season, played primarily on special teams.
Jr. DT Ben Bradley: Junior college transfer. Has nine tackles, including two for losses, and a sack. Has four quarterback hurries.
Auburn has a chance to put itself squarely into contention in the SEC West if it can beat Texas A&M on Saturday, but the pressure is greater on the home team.
The Aggies, with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at quarterback for perhaps his last college season, came into this season with soaring expectations. A loss on Saturday would almost certainly mean they won’t meet any of those expectations.
Most preseason projections didn’t even have Auburn making a bowl game. The season is already on track to be far better than expected, win or lose as two-touchdown underdogs. Even if they lose Saturday, they could get to Georgia at 8-2 by beating there unranked teams. …
Every time I read another story about the college football playoff selection committee, my concern grows. I read Thursday that injuries will be among the things considered when selecting the teams.
What exactly does that mean? One can only guess it means that, if they think a team wouldn’t have lost a game or games without injuries, that team could be ahead a team with a better record. Awful, awful idea. Are they going to look that hard at every team?
Get ready for controversy that makes the BCS look tame by comparison.
Until next time …
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: