Behind Enemy Lines: Scouting Auburn

Oct 1, 2019 | 0 comments

Now the fun begins. After feasting on less than stellar competition through the first five games, the world is about to find out just how good the 2019 Florida Gators really are. A brutal October stretch that includes three teams currently ranked in the top-7 begins this Saturday when the No. 10 Gators (5-0, 2-0 SEC) tangle with the No. 7 Auburn Tigers (5-0, 2-0).

Here are three positions of strength, three positions of weakness and three players to watch for from the Tigers.

Three Positions of Strength

Defensive Line

This unit is one of the best in the entire country. They are limiting opponents to just 95.2 rushing yards per game, third in the SEC and 20th nationally. They’re fourth in the conference in sacks with 13 and fifth in tackles-for-loss with 34. They’ve played Oregon, Texas A&M and Mississippi State, so their stats aren’t just a product of poor competition. The headliner of the group is tackle Derrick Brown. He’s totaled four tackles-for-loss and a pair of sacks. He got off to a quiet start this season, before exploding at Texas A&M with three tackles-for-loss and both of his sacks. He could’ve been a high draft pick after last season but chose to return to school. The top defensive end is senior Marlon Davidson, who’s recorded 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles-for-loss. This is a potential nightmare matchup for UF’s porous offensive line.

Offensive Line

They say the SEC is a line-of-scrimmage league. If so, few teams can compete with the Tigers in the trenches. Despite running the ball 73 percent of the time this season and pretty much telling defenses what they’re going to do, Auburn’s offensive line has imposed their will in the running game. They’re averaging 251 rushing yards per game, second in the conference, and 5.3 yards-per-carry. Quarterbacks Bo Nix and Joey Gatewood have been sacked just six times, tied for second fewest in the league. This matchup could be the biggest key to the game.

Running Backs

Death, taxes and Auburn churning out 1,000-yard rushers. From 2009-17, the Tigers produced a 1,000-yard rusher every season. That streak was snapped last season, but they appear well on their way to establishing a new streak this season. Redshirt sophomore JaTarvious Whitlow has carried the ball 92 times for 463 yards (5 yards-per-carry) and seven touchdowns. Top reserve Kam Martin has rushed for 151 yards on 29 carries (5.2 yards-per-carry) and a couple of scores. Auburn’s a powerful running team, and the Gators are one of the conference’s top rushing defenses. Something has to give on Saturday.

Three Positions of Weakness

Defensive Back

The Gators probably won’t be able to run the ball much against Auburn’s stout defensive front, but they should be able to have success through the air. Though they start three seniors and a junior, Auburn’s secondary has yet to make a game-changing impact this season. They rank just ninth in the conference at 225 passing yards per game allowed. They’ve forced just five turnovers this season, 12th in the league, including just one interception. Florida’s offense figures to become extremely unbalanced as the game goes on, so finding open receivers and avoiding the turnovers that have plagued them throughout the year will be crucial.

Wide Receiver

The Tigers rank 13th in the conference at 203.4 passing yards per game. Some of it has to do with running the ball three-fourths of the time, some of it has to do with playing a true freshman quarterback and some of it falls on a lack of production at wideout. The Tigers have stacked their receiving corps with a bunch of speedy guys who aren’t the most polished receivers, such as Anthony Schwartz and Seth Williams. The result has been a bunch of explosive plays but not a lot of consistency.

Tight End

The tight ends haven’t been terrible; they just haven’t been involved much in the passing game. Jay Jay Wilson leads the group with six catches for 43 yards. For a comparison, UF tight end Kyle Pitts has caught 17 passes for 189 yards. The reserves have combined for just three receptions. This position is essentially used as a sixth (or seventh) offensive lineman.

Three Players to Watch

Quarterback Bo Nix

Nix was pretty much hailed as the savior of Auburn football – and Gus Malzahn’s job – before he even stepped foot on campus. That’s what happens when you’re the No. 1-ranked dual threat quarterback recruit in the country and the son of Auburn legend Patrick Nix. He’s not polished as a passer yet, as he’s completed just 57.6 percent of his throws for 980 yards and seven touchdowns. But, his supreme athleticism allows him to be a major weapon in the running game, extend plays and avoid sacks. Florida’s defense has struggled to contain these types of quarterbacks in recent years, including against Towson’s Tom Flacco last week. UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will likely blitz him all game long to try to rattle him. UF’s players have also spoken about how the hostile environment in the Swamp could rattle him. We’ll see.

Wide Receiver Seth Williams

Though his team’s passing statistics aren’t great, Williams has been their most explosive playmaker. He’s caught 17 passes for 289 yards (17 yards-per-reception) and four scores. He’ll likely matchup against UF cornerback CJ Henderson in his first game back from a sprained ankle. That should be a great battle to watch.

Safety Jeremiah Dinson

Dinson’s been one of the few bright spots in the Tigers’ secondary. He’s responsible for their only interception, and he leads the team with 34 tackles. He’s tied for third on the team with two sacks and is fifth with three tackles-for-loss.

Suggested Articles

Tags: Generic

Never miss the latest news from Inside the Gators!

Join our free email list