The only thing hotter for the home opener vs. Tulane than the temperature at Jordan-Hare Stadium was the play of Auburn’s defense, particularly an aggressive group in the secondary that is a lot of fun to watch. Going into the season it looked like the defensive backs had a chance to be really good, and with two games in the books those guys are off to an impressive start.
Safety Jeremiah Dinson, the week one SEC Defensive Player of the Week, has taken his game to a higher level. He and fellow senior Daniel Thomas give the Tigers strong, experienced guys on the last line of defense. Sophomore Roger McCreary is stepping up at cornerback and the move of Noah Igbinoghene last year from wide receiver to cornerback continues to be a good thing for the defense.
The secondary still has room to improve as does the entire defensive group, but they are so far ahead of Auburn’s offense after two games. If the 2019 season was a mile run, the defenders would be on pace to lap their offensive teammates before reaching the finish line.
This week’s Homecoming game vs. Kent State shouldn’t be much of a challenge for the Tigers. The important thing for Auburn is to do everything possible to get ready for the SEC schedule, which begins a week from Saturday at Texas A&M. It would be a plus if the front-line players took care of business early and give the backups a chance for extended playing time, but it is vitally important to have the starters tuned up for what should be a challenging conference opener at College Station.
A major goal for week three needs to be developing consistency in the running attack. Something that would help is getting at least two other backs ready for prime-time action to go with Boobee Whitlow, who is more effective when he is not over-used. In a best case scenario it would good to see Whitlow watch the second half from the sidelines after carrying a light load earlier in the contest.
One of the newcomers who showed signs in spring training of being able to contribute right away is D.J. Williams, who has been recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Just when it looked like he was ready to step in he hurt his hip in practice last week. Hopefully, the issue doesn’t linger and he can get his opportunity to show what he can do, something that could happen as early as Saturday night.
It hasn’t taken the Tigers long to vault into the Top 10 after opening the season ranked No. 16 in the AP and the coaches polls. If the Tigers plan to stay there, getting the ground game cranked up is essential in allowing that to happen.
Restocking the talent level is a big deal for college teams. The football Tigers have 18 commitments for the 2020 class, which puts them No. 7 nationally in the 247Sports rankings. The Tigers can add to that if an official visitor to campus this past weekend, four-star safety Ladarius Tennison from Rockledge, Fla., High, chooses the Tigers over Florida, Miami and North Carolina when he announces his pick this weekend. Tennison is an outstanding athlete who looks like he would be a great fit in the Auburn secondary.
Bruce Pearl’s Tigers also were hosts to an official visit from a four-star class of 2020 prospect who looks like he would be an excellent fit in AU’s basketball program. Jaemyn Brakefield, a 6-9 power forward who attends Huntington Prep in West Virginia, says he is seriously considering Auburn after having what he called a great weekend on the Plains checking out the program.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter