Auburn cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith was a Bulldogs assistant for 14 seasons over three stints in Starkville and he comes to Auburn after the previous seven seasons, four under Mullen, coaching the entire secondary for the Dawgs.
His familiarity with the Bulldogs’ spread-option attack is going play a crucial role in the Tigers’ defensive game plan coming into Saturday night, especially with some of his knowledge of the Bulldogs personnel. It’s still unclear to the extent of how much Smith knows about MSU’s playbook or signals, but there is no doubt that the Tigers defense under Ellis Johnson could have the upper hand coming into the game.
The Tigers defense might need all the help they get in preparation of Saturday.
With the uncertainty of who they will face between Bulldog quarterbacks Tyler Russell or Dak Prescott, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and the Tigers defense has to be prepared for what each one does best.
Russell threw for 2,897 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and went 20-for-29 for 222 yards and three touchdowns in last season’s 28-10 victory over the Tigers in Starkville. The dual-threat Prescott threw 12-for-19 for 174 yards with some scripted scampers called his way as well last week as the starter against Alcorn State.
Mullen’s decision to not announce this week’s starter bodes well for the Bulldogs going into Saturday. Both signal-callers bring in added wrinkles to this quick strike offense under offensive coordinator Vic Koenning, and added pressure to Smith’s cornerbacks.
The Bulldogs will seek to throw the rock downfield to Joe Morrow, Jameon Lewis and Robert Johnson this week against Tigers cornerbacks Jonathon Mincy and Chris Davis. It’s going to be interesting to see how well those two perform when Johnson puts them on an island throughout the game.
Smith is regarded as one of the best tutors at the cornerback position in college football and one of the most relentless recruiters in the SEC. Smith coached premier cornerbacks in Jonathan Banks and Darius Slay last season. However, his cornerbacks face a big test against Mississippi State’s prolific passing attack.