Passing game suspect for Auburn
by Charles Bennett
Oct 12, 2011 | 2409 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
AUBURN — If there was a shadow of a doubt concerning who will start at quarterback for Auburn against Florida on Saturday, Tigers’ coach Gene Chizik erased it.

The Tigers (4-2, 2-2) will stick with Barrett Trotter, and Chizik made it clear that Auburn’s problems in the passing game extend across the board on offense.

“Let’s just make sure we understand,” Chizik said Tuesday. “I fully expect Barrett to play well, but let me be clear on this. The receivers have to catch the ball. The offensive line and running backs have to protect. It’s a team game. That’s what I expect. I expect him to play well, but I expect everybody around him to play well with him. Barrett is our quarterback today, and he is our quarterback on Saturday.”

Trotter, who has started every game since winning the battle for the job over Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier in the summer, said he wasn’t concerned about a change.

“No, not at all,” he said. “Not concerned at all about it.”

After a strong start, Auburn’s passing game has sputtered over the last two games. In a 16-13 victory over South Carolina and a 38-14 loss to Arkansas, the Tigers are a combined 21 of 50 (42 percent) for 193 yards (96.5 per game), one touchdown and seven interceptions.

Through the first four games, Auburn had completed 62 of 101 passes (61.3 percent) for 831 yards (207 per game), eight touchdowns and three interceptions.

Injuries on the offensive line and particularly at wide receiver have played a part in the drop off in the passing game.

Trovon Reed, Auburn’s No. 2 wide receiver, is out for an extended period of time with a shoulder injury, and leading receiver Emory Blake has missed the last two games and remains questionable for Saturday’s game against the Gators.

No one has yet to emerge as a consistent pass catcher for the Tigers.

“You saw Saturday who we played with,” Chizik said. “It’s not going to be much different Saturday. Obviously we’re going to put the best guys out there that we think give us an opportunity to achieve what we need to achieve offensively. Like I’ve said before, the guys that have to go into the game and make plays, they’re going to be pretty much the same guys that were there last week. They have to do that, and I don’t feel like last week as a whole, not all the time, but certainly when things were on the line, I don’t feel like we got that done. Guys at the wide receiver position, Coach (Trooper) Taylor is going to work really hard with them this week and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes that we did last week, because they were glaring.”

Chizik did say the receivers continue to block well.

“Let me say this about the wide receivers because I don’t want to turn this into a wide receiver bashing party,” Chizik said. “They blocked for the most part Saturday, it might have been one of their better games blocking that we’ve seen, so it’s not like our wide receivers are non-existent. Where we were disappointed was that in critical times when we felt like we needed catches, we dropped balls.”

Like Chizik, Trotter sees multiple problems that need to be corrected with the passing game.

“It is a combination of things,” Trotter said. “Sometimes it’s me, without a doubt. Sometimes it’s a receiver shortening the route maybe one or two yards. Sometimes it’s one lineman not being able to hang onto that block quite as long as they might need to. Those are all problems that we’re going to have to deal with. I’ve got to deal with all of them and find a way to make the passing game efficient.”

Whatever the problems, Chizik says the Tigers need to fix them quickly before Florida gets to town.

“For us to be productive offensively, it has to be a complete team effort,” he said. “At times on Saturday, we just weren’t good as a complete offense. Let’s just tell it like it is. We dropped balls, our protection wasn’t great. We have to put it all together to beat this really good Florida team, and it’s going to be a tough task..”

 Charles Bennett covers Auburn University sports for The Star. Follow him on Twitter @AUTigers_Star.

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