Dec. 26, 2013
Auburn's Jonathan Mincy goes high to knock the ball away from Missouri's L'Damian Washington as the SEC Championship Game (AP photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. – Jonathon Mincy says he’s heard about Florida State’s top-flight receivers and, of course, everybody knows about Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston.
Florida State promises to bring a lot of firepower against Auburn when the two play in the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, but Mincy and his fellow defensive backs should be used to it by now.
They’ve already beaten one Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, beaten this year’s Heisman runner-up in Alabama’s AJ McCarron, beaten the SEC’s all-time leading passer in Georgia’s Aaron Murray, and, all told, have faced six of the top seven passing quarterbacks in the SEC.
Auburn has allowed yards, but, at 12-1, probably wouldn’t ask for too many do-overs.
The new challenge is Winston, who has thrown for 3,820 yards and 38 touchdown passes; and his big receivers.
"It’s going to be a big challenge," Mincy said. "That’s all I’ve been hearing about, is their wide receivers. It’s a great opportunity that we can go out there to show that we can be a proven defense."
The challenge is this: Florida State is 14th nationally in passing. Auburn is last in the SEC in passing yards allowed. Opponents have given Auburn’s DBs a workout. They’ve faced the second-most pass attempts in the league.
"We just have to keep priding ourselves on not giving up big explosive plays," Mincy said. "We make a lot of plays when it counts but at the end of the day we want to be a shutout defense."
Mincy believes. So does defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson.
"That’s something Coach Johnson sees in us. We got to go out there and continue to play our game," Mincy said.
Auburn has allowed a lot of yards, but is among the best in red zone defense. It has allowed 17 touchdown passes, only a handful away from being among the stingiest teams in the SEC.
The stat the defensive backs would rather point to is interceptions. Auburn had two last season. It has 13 this year after shifting to more man-to-man coverage after playing more zone last season.
Mincy says the difference is "really just how we’re approaching the ball.
"It comes back to the fundamental ball skills. When you see a ball, go get it at its highest points, and when you’re in position when you’re playing man to turn around, look at a ball. That’s something we feel more comfortable with just how our coaches prep us."
But Mincy says Auburn’s defensive line has helped with interceptions, too, by applying pressure and forcing quarterbacks into mistakes.
"It’s going to be a big factor with the outstanding line we have, with the pressure that they give Winston… he’s going to give his receivers a chance to make plays and it’s going to give us an opportunity to make plays," Mincy said. "We’re just happy that we have a line that the rotation they have, they stay fresh throughout the whole game and it’s just going to make out job a lot easier and give us more opportunity to make plays."
Still, Florida State’s tall wide receivers remain a challenge, just like Missouri in the SEC title game.
"When the ball is thrown, I’ve just got to start playing through the receivers hands because of the height advantage, just making sure I’m locked on with all my keys. I’m excited to go out there and play against them," Mincy said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine