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Freeman still not ready to play defense for Auburn

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn linebacker Eltoro Freeman dressed Saturday against Kentucky, but he didn’t have much of a role.

The sophomore returned after missing the Arkansas game for personal reasons, but he didn’t see any action in the regular defense, only getting on the field in a special teams capacity. For the time being, that might be the norm.

“We’ve got to work toward getting him a better grasp of what’s happening,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said.

“And you’ve got to remember, he missed a lot of football through two-a-days and through the beginning of the season, so he’s just got to get caught up, and really that’s it.”

Freeman, who transferred to Auburn from junior college last winter, missed part of preseason practice with hamstring and wrist injuries. He started against West Virginia, Ball State and Tennessee but has had limited production. He has seven tackles this season.

The Tigers are hurting for linebacker depth. Josh Bynes, Craig Stevens and Adam Herring played the entire game against Kentucky, with Herring coming off the field only in nickel situations. Still, Freeman was never an option.

“If we felt like that was the best thing for our team, we would have done it,” Chizik said.

Nevertheless, Chizik thinks his development is very important for the success of the defense moving forward.

“And he’s willing to do it,” Chizik said.

“He’s just got to stay healthy and out there long enough to really make some strides, and when he does that he’ll help our football team.”

Filling in

Defensive end Antoine Carter got his second career start against Kentucky because Michael Goggans was dealing with a minor, undisclosed injury that limited him during practice.

The junior did well, making five tackles and getting credited for two quarterback hurries.

Carter is still getting back to full strength after having offseason surgery on his right knee.

He could feel it getting fatigued Saturday in what was his most extensive action this season.

“I felt I did good,” he said. “I got a little tired in the fourth quarter — well, not physically just like my knee really got a little tired.

“ I’ll get stronger and stronger every week, so I don’t think it will be a (problem) next week.”

Tackling epidemic

Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof thought his unit played well for three quarters against Kentucky before having “an epidemic of missed tackles” in the fourth.

“I think that we were in position to make some plays and we didn’t,” he said.

Auburn has struggled all season with missed tackles. Kentucky did nothing to make that easier. Randall Cobb, working out the Wildcat formation, was a shifty threat who the Tigers struggled to corral all game. He finished with 109 rushing yards, including a 61-yard run that set up his own game-winning score.

“We’ve got to give them credit too,” Roof said. “(Cobb) does that everybody he plays. But we’ve got to find a way to make those. It’s all of us together and we’re going to keep working to get that done.”

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