Ole Miss Football: A Preview of the Defense Against Auburn

Jan 10, 2011; Glendale, AZ, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Cam Newton (2) throws a pass during the first quarter of the 2011 BCS National Championship game against the Oregon Ducks at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Auburn Tigers won the game 22-19. Mandatory Credit: Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

The Auburn Tigers (1-4) will make the transition from “the plains” to “God’s country” for a meeting with the Ole Miss Rebels (3-3). It is the first time that Auburn has played in Oxford since Cam Newton’s disrobing of the red and blue. It has been a forgettable season so far for the Tigers, as an overtime win against UL-Monroe has kept them a winless record. Auburn runs a spread much like the one at Ole Miss, one whose days of 50 point ballgames under Newton seem like a distant memory. A lot of the blame falls on the offense, who ranks 113 in the country and dead-last in the SEC.

As is the case with many abysmal offenses, it all starts with the quarterback for Auburn. Kiehl Frazier has started all five games and is averaging 132.8 YPG passing and has thrown two touchdowns to go along with eight interceptions. Frazier has struggled so much that he was replaced by Clint Mosley against Arkansas last Saturday. Mosley has not done much better this season with one touchdown and two interceptions on 21 attempts.

Gene Chizik has not announced a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game, but it expects to be an advantage for Ole Miss either way. If CJ Johnson, Uriah Grant, and the rest of the defensive line rotation can continue to open up blitz lanes for Denzel Nkemdiche and Cody Prewitt, the Tigers could be juggling quarterbacks all game.

Rebel fans may remember Tre Mason as the running back who was a heavy-Ole-Miss-lean before ultimately signing with the Tigers. Paired with Onterrio McCalebb, they form a potent duo who each average over five yards per carry. The problem is that the Tigers typically find themselves behind, forcing their hand at passing the ball to catch up. Mike Marry and Nkemdiche will need to clog up the holes in the middle to force the backs outside where a swarm can follow them and force long downs. The Tigers are 115th in third down percentage, a number that reflects the uphill battle they face after failed passing downs.

Receivers Quan Bray and Emory Blake are explosive, when they get the ball. Charles Sawyer and Senquez Golson will need to play the line well against slants and screens, because their chances get better when Auburn needs to force the ball down the field. Neither quarterback has a huge arm, which will allow guys like Trae Elston to have time to close.

Sep 22, 2012; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen (43) runs the ball during the first half against the Louisiana State Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-US PRESSWIRE

If Auburn gets to the red zone, Philip Lutzenkirchen is the go-to target. A mainstay in short-yardage situations, Lutzenkirchen is a big body with great hands. Keying in the husky on him will limit the possibilities for Auburn to punch it in.

The Rebels have made a name for themselves lately as an opportunistic defense. With seven interceptions and seven fumble recoveries (one by Jeff Scott), Ole Miss finds themselves tenth nationally in turnovers forced. Fortunately for Ole Miss, Auburn is tied for 118th in turnovers lost with 17. If the likes of Nkemdiche, Prewitt, Dehendret Collins, and company can get the offense some good field position, this could be the game that the Rebels end the streak.

Topics: Auburn Football, Cam Newton, Charles Sawyer, Cj Johnson, Cody Prewitt, Denzel Nkemdiche, Emory Blake, Gene Chizik, Jeff Scott, Mike Marry, Ole Miss Football, Onterrio Mccalebb, Philip Lutzenkirchen, Quan Bray, Senquez Golson, Trae Elston, Trae Mason, Uriah Grant

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