November 17, 2006

Q&A with Jeffrey Lee

BOL recently sat down with AuburnSports.com's Jeffrey Lee to discuss the state of the Auburn Tigers as they head into the Iron Bowl.

Q: This is the first time since 2003 that Auburn is entering the Iron Bowl coming off a loss. How do you sense the team is handling last weekend's home loss to Georgia and do you believe it will affect what they do on the field Saturday?

The loss to Georgia was obviously difficult for Auburn, any loss is. However, it wasn't just that they lost, but how they lost, practically a meltdown in all three phases of the game. The good thing, if there is such a thing, is that they didn't have any time to dwell on it. The Iron Bowl seems to have a way to divert the attention away from a win or loss quickly. Auburn has already shown it knows how to recover from a loss, an embarrassing one at that. Arkansas marched in Jordan-Hare much like Georgia did and beat down the Tigers. One week later Auburn responded, albeit mostly in the second half, to beat a No. 2-ranked Florida team by 10. Of course doing that at home is one thing. Doing it on the road, in a newly revamped Bryant-Denny Stadium, is another.

Q: Auburn has had one of its more unfortunate years injury wise this season. Briefly break down the major injuries and tell us which injuries have made the biggest impact on the team.

Injuries to four key Auburn players, all on offense, have limited the Tigers in some capacity all season. All of RB Kenny Irons, TE Cole Bennett, C Joe Cope and QB Brandon Cox have been out or severely hampered this year. Bennett broke his ankle against LSU and hasn't returned. As a result, freshmen Tommy Trott and Gabe McKenzie have been thrown into the fire. Although both show promise for the future, neither has been able to match the consistently of Bennett blocking in the run game. Irons has fought through a few different nagging injuries, none more obvious than turf toe he suffered and has never fully recovered from against LSU. Throw in an ankle sprain and a bruised fibula on top of that and Irons hasn't been the same since the season-opener. Cope missed four games with a sprained knee, but returned last week against Georgia, although like Irons, he's not completely recovered. But while these three players being injured has affected the team, none are more critical than Cox and his injured right knee. The junior has been gimpy to say the least in the last two games, more obvious against Georgia when he re-aggravated it on the offense's first play. He went on to throw four interceptions in a 37-15 loss.

Q: There was a lot of back-and-forth talk between Kenny Irons and Ken Darby before the season but both appear to have had disappointing seasons. What have been the biggest issues for Irons this season and how is he looking coming into this game?

The biggest issues for Irons are the injuries. He just hasn't been healthy since the LSU game. Last week against UGA, he looked as though he's returning to early-season form, and from all indications he should be as healthy as he's been since LSU this weekend.

Q: How much confidence do you think the players and coaches at Auburn have in Brandon Cox after his performance against Georgia?

The players' confidence in Cox has never wavered. Neither has the coaches'. From talking to the players this week, they've rallied around the junior and know what he's capable of.

Q: Last year, Al Borges came at the Tide with some offensive schemes it had not previously shown during the season. How much do you believe the Auburn offense has held back up to this point and do you expect them to take a similar approach early in the game again this time around?

I don't think this offense has had the luxury of holding anything back this year. It's been a struggle in nearly every game to score points. I expect Auburn to stick to what it does best which is run the ball, and compliment the run game with play-action, short routes and screens in the passing game.

Q: Defensively, the Tigers had a hard time stopping a Georgia offense that hasn't looked stunning up to this point. What happened during that game on the defensive side of the ball and what are the chances those same problems could happen again against Alabama, in your opinion?

Poor execution, missed assignments and shoddy tackling by Auburn. It's not the first time that's happened this year, so it would be hard to think it couldn't happen again. John Parker Wilson and company didn't have any trouble moving up and down the field against the nation's No. 1 defense last week. Hard for me to believe Bama can't do it against Auburn's.

Q: How will this season as a whole be judged by Auburn fans if the Tigers win? How will it be judged if they lose?

I don't see how any Auburn fan could look at 10-2 with a fifth win over Alabama and not feel great about this season. Sure, expectations for a national championship were there by some, but in reality this team isn't a BCS contender. A 10-win season ... thumbs raised ... fans couldn't ask much more out of this team in my opinion. Now, go into Tuscaloosa, lose, finish 9-3 with losses to both Georgia and Alabama can't and won't be viewed as a successful season by the majority of AU fans, if not all.



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