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Countdown to kickoff: Top quotes from Auburn’s fall camp

Auburn defensive lineman Carl Lawson at the program's annual Fan Day.
Auburn defensive lineman Carl Lawson at the program's annual Fan Day. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Editor’s note: We are counting down the days until Auburn opens the season against Clemson on Sept. 3 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Check back every morning as we break down the roster, profile key players and look at unanswered questions coming out of training camp.

Auburn coaches and players didn’t always stick to cliches discussing the team’s progress throughout preseason prepartions. Here is a look at the most notable quotes from the start of training camp on Aug. 3 to the day before the team’s season-opener against Clemson.

And don’t worry nothing involving Auburn’s team motto “Earn it” made the list.

“I think Sean has a little mean streak to him. He's not going to back down from anybody. He's a spicy player and he loves competition. That's the thing that people get out of playing with him. They really get that attitude that you can really feed off of as a team,” Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson.

Analysis — Sean White is a great teammate, great guy and has the potential to be great quarterback. Much of the reaction to White being named the starter fell along those highly positive lines, but Kerryon Johnson offered a more unique take revealing a side of White fans have yet to see.

“They (Cowart’s teammates) were flat dominating him and I ain’t talking about good players dominating him,” Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Garner said Monday morning. “Anybody that was willing to line up on him beat him down. We had guys when Byron got out there they were jumping up in line. Walk-ons were going he’s a five-star?” Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Garner on Byron Cowart.

Analysis — Few coaches are as open and honest about a player’s struggles as Garner was in early August. Garner vividly described Cowart’s practice struggles against walk-ons to explain how far the defensive line has come this offseason.

“Luckily, I have the privilege of practicing against probably what is the best defensive end in college football every day. I'm not worried. It's definitely not something keeps me up at night because I go against Carl Lawson every single day. I'm ready for it. I'm ready for the challenge,” Auburn tackle Robert Leff.

Analysis — A constant theme of the offseason was Auburn offensive linemen finding new ways to praise Carl Lawson. Leff’s description of how he developed confidence preparing for a talented Clemson defensive line is directly tied to facing off against Lawson in practice. The praise doesn’t come off as hollow — Leff and the other offensive linemen are generally in awe of how talented Lawson is.

"It was a pretty scary deal. I've never been in anything like that. I really thought that I wasn't going to walk away from that. It's just a blessing to be here and playing for Auburn right now… I had my seat belt on luckily and I was headed back to Auburn for workouts and two cars got into an accident on the other side of the road and one van lost control and hit me. I rolled into the ditch about four times,” Auburn tight end Jalen Harris.

Analysis — Harris described the scary accident he somehow managed to walk away from with a lone scratch on his leg. With everyone — coaches, players and reporters – focused on the upcoming season, Harris perspective on the life-threatening wreck put football in its proper perspective.

“Maybe it's because those guys are doing a good job and not making it easy. It doesn't have to be something negative all the time,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee on quarterbacks.

Analysis — Auburn coaches didn’t always love the phrasing of questions about the team’s quarterback competition. Lashlee pushed back early in camp about the timeline in determining a starter. The coaches positive narrative about the quarterback battle being a close three-way battle never faltered.

“I wouldn’t say a nerd. More so well-rounded. Cultured. Let’s use cultured,” Auburn safety Nick Ruffin.

Analysis — A press conference setting leaves little opportunity for players to express much of their personality. Nick Ruffin was an exception. The defensive back talked about playing Pokemon Go and his high level Joleon. The “geek at heart” enjoyed (briefly) discussing his interests off the field.

“That’s a question for the head coach,” Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.

Analysis — Kevin Steele has a much different approach than former Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. There wasn’t a question Muschamp wouldn’t answer during his short stint on the Plains last season.

Steele prefers to stay away from questions about the roster (injuries, suspensions, etc…).

When Steele was asked about Miami (OH) grad transfer Marshall Taylor multiple times in early August, the former LSU defensive coordinator’s answer never waivered.

“That’s not me at all. When I was going in—that was my first game back from popping my shoulder out of place. So I actually didn’t hit that whole week. I ain’t going to lie, that was probably the worst feeling I ever had in my life, popping my shoulder out. So going into that game, I really didn’t know what I was going to do. When I saw him come, it was kind of like a business decision, because I didn’t want to pop my shoulder all the way out of place and have to miss the whole season, so I said, ‘Let me hit him up high and try to grab him and bring him down.’ But I actually jumped too high. My adrenaline was running. But I got healthy shoulders now, so we’ll see what happens this year,” Auburn safety Tray Matthews on his infamous missed tackled against LSU running back Leonard Fournette.

Analysis — Some fans snickered on social media about Matthews using the phrase “business decision” in discussing the incident, but his honesty about the embarrassing moment should be respected.

“He got dismissed today,” Auburn defensive lineman Carl Lawson on Jovon Robinson.

Analysis — Some players addressed the Jovon Robinson — albeit vaguely — while Lawson was happier to ignore it completely giving the same answer five times. Lawson took a similar approach with the media in previewing last year’s season-opener against Lousiville.

If there’s a subject the talented defensive lineman doesn’t want to discuss he simply won’t discuss it.

“Just from a depth situation, we’re having to bring guys along as quickly as we can,” Rhett Lashlee on the offensive line.

Analysis — Lashlee’s response was about Prince Tega Wanogho being listed as the team’s backup right tackle. It’s a revealing response about Auburn’s depth at tackle or lack thereof it.

No knock on Wanogho, but he just moved to the position two months ago. Much of the offense’s depth up front are players better situated at guard.

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