AUBURN – After three weeks to get things going, conference play is set to begin in the SEC.
Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze took a moment during his weekly press conference to reflect on Homecoming week and express gratitude to Auburn fans.
“I’m excited to be 3-0. Another great crowd at Jordan-Hare, and I’m thankful for our great fans, students, band, and cheerleaders," Freeze said. "I just continue to be amazed by the support that you receive here at this place, and I’m excited about any time we get to play at home."
"Obviously, we’ve gotta go on the road this week but thrilled to be 3-0. There were some good things and then some things we’ve got to improve on, for sure. We played a lot of kids, which is good, but a lot of young kids tend to make mistakes, and we had quite a few of those also. We’ve got to continue to work on not turning the ball over, particularly in the red zone," he added.
Auburn has not had good luck with injuries so far this season. The Tigers will be without some key contributors this week.
Cornerback Keionte Scott went down with an injury on Saturday and did not return to the game.
"Unfortunately, Keionte (Scott) did not get a good report, and that hurts us a lot," Freeze said. "He’s our leader back there, and he’s going to have surgery today."
Scott is just one of several Tigers who are either out or questionable on Saturday.
"That is a great challenge," Freeze said. "We have to get some young guys ready. They are going to get baptized into the SEC pretty good in front of A&M’s crowd and the talent on that team. You know Keionte (Scott), he is down, Izavion (Miller) and (Kam) Stutts didn’t finish the game the other night."
"So I don’t really know where they stand right now," he continued. "I think (Donovan Kaufman) will be fine. We need all these guys on Saturday, so hopefully, we will have a good week of rehab and they will be ready to go. It is concerning right now that list that they gave me this morning."
Texas A&M is 2-1. Their loss came in a 48-33 shootout with Miami in week two. Freeze talked about the threat the Aggies pose on defense.
"It is a great concern," Freeze said. "I want to be really clear; we are getting ready to play three teams that have - over the last four to five years - ranked in the top seven to five in recruiting. You are playing the best recruits in the nation. We are going to be there soon. That doesn’t mean you can’t compete. There is a reason they are third in the nation on third-down defense."
"They have a bunch of five-stars in the defensive line, linebacker and that safety, and that corner. They are really talented," he added. "When you put on the film you see that. Their closing speed is incredible. They are physical up front, and it is a tall challenge for us in year one to stand toe to toe with A&M and Georgia next week and LSU the following week. It is our goal to get there. But that is what reality is, we have had about eight months to recruit about half a class and these others have been stacking it, and that is why they are ranked third in the country (on third-down defense)."
Texas A&M has a veteran coach in the offensive coordinator role in Bobby Patrino. Freeze elaborated on the challenges he will bring.
“He’s very good schematically, very good at scheming," Freeze said. "Obviously checks a lot of his runs based on the looks that you have. That makes it difficult and he’s usually right. I think we have to do a great job at disguising things."
"He’s going to make you stop 12 personnel and spread sets and everything that makes it challenging," he continued. "And then you combine the talent level he’s coaching with his balance of offensive play action and passes and runs and a quarterback that can extend his legs when he needs to. It’s a very difficult task.”
Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN. Freeze expressed his preference to have an early kick.
“I love early kicks on the road, and I think our kids will," Freeze said. "Truthfully, I don’t think that’s a huge challenge. It is the same time zone; we will put them to bed a little earlier and eat a little earlier. We did that all fall camp. We started early, so truthfully it will be just like a fall camp day. I don’t think there is a huge adjustment to that at all. I like the early kicks.”
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