The Auburn football team’s 26-19 loss Saturday night marked its first defeat in an opening game since falling to Georgia Tech in 2005. Coach Gene Chizik‘s young team played like the young team it was listed as. Taking a look at and grading the performance of each offensive position against Clemson last night, there is still clearly room for improvement.
Sophomore Kiehl Frazier entered the night with 13 games of experience under his belt and zero starts. He played like a first-time starter, simply put. Completing a beautiful 54-yard touchdown strike to wide-open Emory Blake was the highlight of the night. After the first quarter connection, things went down hill for the youngster.
However, Frazier’s limits and expectations were set entering the game, and some will say he played just as he was expected. There’s a lot of building left to improve across the board, and Frazier is one of the major factors in the process.
Running Back: C
Despite a fumble in the first half that had him sidelined for a portion of the game, Tre Mason finished the night with 106 yards on 14 carries, setting a career high. Onterio McCalebb added 82 yards on 12 attempts. The running game flourished with the assistance of fullback Jay Prosch and should improve throughout the season. The tailbacks earn a B because they provided a constant threat in the game.
Things should improve for the back when Corey Grant returns from an injury and Mike Blakely begins getting adequate playing time.
Wide Receivers: B
One thing that has not changed since 2011 is Blake is still the sole-leading receiver. Recording 109 yards and a touchdown on four catches, Blake showed his talents have returned for his senior year. Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen was utilized in his new role in offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler‘s offense, racking up 71 yards on four receptions.
The problem, and the reason the wideouts did not receive an A, is Quan Bray was the only other receiver to have a reception, one for eight yards. Trovon Reed was thrown one pass, which was caught six inches out of the back of the end zone. If the Tigers are going to improve, specifically with Frazier gaining experience, it is crucial the entire receiver corp is used.
Along with Reed, Sammie Coates, Travante Stallworth and Jaylon Denson all did not record any catches.
Offensive Line: B
The offensive line did not play like All-Americans by any means. However, each position played better than expected. Auburn’s line is young. Center Tunde Fariyike announced as the starter last Sunday. Tackle Avery Young started his first collegiate game … in his first collegiate game. And the list goes on and on.
Fariyike said after the game he thought the line “gelled” well as the Tigers finished the night with 180 rushing yards. Going into next week’s meeting with Mississippi State he said they will work on protecting Frazier better after Clemson recorded six tackles for a loss.
It’s hard to give a losing team such a high grade, but the Tigers played as expected. They played average, if you will. With four seniors starting on the offense, leadership will be a key to helping the team grow. The biggest problem with the offense is in the redzone. In three trips Saturday night, Auburn scored all three times, settling for field goals with each. It’s great to have confidence in kicker Cody Parkey, but when the game is lost by seven, not scoring touchdowns while inside the 20 will drive a coach crazy.