AUBURN, Ala. Rhett Lashlee didnt offer any false praise Monday night.
Auburns offensive coordinator said his unit has a long way to go. About the only positive he could take from Saturdays season opener was that the Tigers came out on top of a 31-24 decision against Washington State.
Other than that, Lashlee said looking at the film was rough.
I just felt like every time we had a chance to really put some distance between us and them (we didnt do it), whether it be missing a deep ball or having a touchdown called back for a penalty, he said. We could have gone up 11 or 14, but we just sputtered and didnt take advantage of those moments. Thats not good enough. We have to be in those positions in the future where were in a position to kind of separate ourselves. We have to press forward and get some distance between ourselves and the opponent.
Yes, Lashlee conceded the offense made enough plays to seal the victory. Yes, some of the mistakes could be attributed to first-game jitters. That didnt excuse a late turnover by Tre Mason, however, which gave Washington State one last chance to tie the game following Robenson Therezies interception in the end zone on the Cougars previous possession.
Those are the types of miscues, Lashlee said, that must be corrected soon.
We're not where we want to be yet. There's no doubt about that, he said. We're making strides.
To get to where Lashlee and head coach Gus Malzahn want them to be, the Tigers will have to meet the coaching staffs goal of running at least 80 offensive snaps per game. Saturday, Auburn had just 65. Multiple factors played a hand in that, Lashlee said.
Take the Tigers one-play drive in the second quarter, when running back Corey Grant dashed 75 yards for a touchdown. Or take another play earlier in the same period when the offense never had a chance to take a snap, since Mason returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score.
There was another area the Tigers controlled where they simply didnt produce.
We've got to stay on the field and convert third downs more, said Lashlee, alluding to Auburns 4-for-13 showing. If you don't convert third downs, you're not going to stay on the field and get more plays. If you don't get those third downs converted, you're (not) going to get your tempo going.
Johnson talks about Garretts absence
Ellis Johnson was disappointed Star Justin Garrett wasnt able to play Saturday.
But he was far from surprised the junior didnt suit up.
His foot has been just sort of a strange thing, Auburns defensive coordinator said. It'll feel good one day and all of a sudden he'll turn on it the wrong way and the strain on it comes back in.
If it was necessary to play him, Johnson said Garrett would have been on the field. That being said, Johnson acknowledged it meant Garrett likely wouldnt have been full-speed physically or mentally to play at the level expected of him.
Thats why the coaching staff was more than happy to give Garrett more time to heal.
Besides, they had the utmost faith in his backup, Therezie.
We just felt like Robenson was playing really well, Johnson said. The only problem is he probably had to play too many snaps. He was on every coverage team in special teams, and he played every defensive snap almost to about the end of the fourth quarter. We had to try to get him off the field, give him a blow. That was the only thing.
As to when Garrett will return?
Johnson had didnt announce a timetable, deeming the Georgia natives status as day-to-day. Given how well Therezie played Saturday hauling in two interceptions and tying for the second-most tackles (seven) on the team , which earned him the SECs Defensive Player of the Week award on Monday Johnson was asked whether the two Stars could eventually see the field together in the teams base 4-2-5 formation.
We're probably not at a point of figuring something out like that right now, he said. We'd just like to get (Garrett) healthy. It's been frustrating. We talked about the player being one of our most dynamic players in the spring, and there's no production on the game film, and it's been going on for two years now. So we'd like to get him healthy, get him on the field and find out if he can play. We'll have to cross that bridge when we get to it.
Johnson: Frazier has leveled off at safety
Quarterback-turned-safety Kiehl Frazier has earned nothing but high marks since switching to defense during fall camp. Coaches and teammates alike noted how quickly he had picked up the defensives schemes and concepts. He had even progressed to the point he was listed on the Tigers two-deep depth chart entering last Saturdays game, pegged as the backup to Josh Holsey at boundary safety.
His growth has finally hit a wall, though, as Johnson said Frazier has leveled off in the last week.
Right now, he's not comfortable where to line up and what to do, Johnson said. It's not a physical issue. He's shown in drills and a couple of scrimmages he can tackle when he gets in the right place, but right now it's not coming too clearly for him. Hopefully, another week of practice that light will turn on and he'll get better.
Johnson wasnt ready to say whether defensive end Dee Ford could be back for Auburns SEC opener, which will see them host Mississippi State on Sept. 15. That's a medical decision. We're certainly not good enough to hold anybody that can be a great player on a given day, he said. But right now it's all on rehabilitation and when they're ready physically.