AUBURN, Ala. — Defensive coordinator Ted Roof had an emphatic response when asked if he wanted to get Demond Washington more reps at his new safety position in the second half of Auburn’s 63-31 win against Furman on Saturday.
“No. No. No. No. Absolutely not,” Roof said with a laugh, adding one more for good measure. “No.”
Washington, who helped the Tigers’ depleted secondary by moving from cornerback to safety following Zac Etheridge’s season-ending neck injury last week, did well in his only half of action Saturday.
The junior college transfer started and made three unassisted tackles, sniffing out a play-action pass in the flat on one play and flattening Furman’s Adam Mims after a 1-yard gain.
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“It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, but it wasn’t easy,” Washington said. “I made that transition. I’m used to it now.”
Washington’s move left Auburn with only three scholarship cornerbacks left on the roster (Walt McFadden, Neiko Thorpe and D’Antoine Hood), so the Tigers tried wide receivers Anthony Gulley and Philip Pierre-Louis as defensive backs Saturday.
“With where our depth was, you’ve got to try some different things and give some guys some opportunities,” Roof said. “They had an opportunity to get their feet wet a little bit today and see what it feels like to play.”
Roof said Gulley will be an emergency cornerback. Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Pierre-Louis will not continue to play on defense.
The SEC approved Auburn’s request to let players wear white arm bands with a navy number “4” on the side in honor of Etheridge, whose future as a football player is in doubt after last week’s scary neck injury.
Safety Daren Bates took it a step further, writing the “ZAC” on his arm in silver marker to show support for his injured teammate.
“I just wanted to show that I love him and I still want to be out there with him,” Bates said.
Running backs coach Curtis Luper carried an American flag as he led the team onto the field to commemorate Veteran’s Day.
Luper was a running back at Oklahoma State from 1984-87 but left from 1988-92 to be an air traffic controller for the United States Army. He spent eight months at Fort McClellan in Anniston, Ala., and Fort Rucker near Enterprise, Ala. After his stint in the Army, Luper finished his playing career at Stephen F. Austin in 1993.
Approximately 300 military personnel from Fort Benning were in attendance for Saturday’s game.
“We brought the Armed Forces into our practice this week just as a recognition and celebration for what those guys do for our country,” Chizik said.
A never-ending problem
Auburn’s punt return problems appear to have no end in sight. Pierre-Louis had two returns go for negative yardage in the first half before making a regrettable mistake in the third quarter.
A Furman punt sailed over his head toward the sideline near Auburn’s goal line, but Pierre-Louis tried to make an over-the-shoulder catch. He dropped it and the Paladins recovered at the Tigers’ 6. Furman running back Jerry Williams scored on the next play for the Paladins’ first-ever touchdown against Auburn.
Despite the muff, Pierre-Louis stayed in the game as a returner. He had five returns for 24 yards, with a long of 16.
Wide receiver Travante Stallworth injured his right ankle covering a kickoff in the first quarter. The true freshman had to be helped off the field by trainers before being taken to the locker room for further examination. He did not return.
Chizik didn’t have much of an update after the game.
“That’s going to be really up to our medical staff,” he said. “We’ll just kind of take that day-by-day. Obviously he didn’t return to the football game. I’m not really sure of what the details are to his injury, but we’ll know more tomorrow.”
Stallworth had seen an expanded role in the offense the last few weeks. He had one carry prior to the injury Saturday, a sweep that went for 16 yards.
Running back Onterio McCalebb (ankle) did not play. It’s the second straight game he has dressed but not played. … Defensive end Antonio Coleman, on tying defensive line coach Tracy Rocker for third on the school’s all-time sack list with 21. “It’s just stats,” he said. “I don’t care for stats. I care about wins.” … Three reserves led Auburn in tackles. Walk-on safety Ikeem Means made six stops. Freshman linebacker Jonathan Evans and senior walk-on cornerback Woody Parramore both had five. … Walk-on linebacker Ashton Richardson finished with four tackles, 2 1/2 tackles for a loss, one sack and two quarterback hurries. … Backup defensive lineman Dee Ford recorded his first career interception.
, snagging a ball that was tipped at the line by Nick Fairley.