By: Caleb Johnson
Spring football is all about evaluating talent from top to bottom and organizing that talent for the coming fall. The spring game shows off that talent to fans who pack out a stadium to collect opinions that they will use as a reference until another game is played. The rainy, 60-degree weather on Saturday was far from fan friendly, but that didn’t stop 28,033 from filling Jordan-Hare Stadium. Unfortunately for Auburn, fans likely come away from this game with more negative than positive in the opinions department. A-Day 2018 produced an 18-10 defensive contest.
A typical breakdown of talent is who played well and who did not. However, in a game that is early in the offseason and doesn’t count, we’ll take a look at the winners and “non-winners” of A-Day 2018.
- CJ. Tolbert- The senior woke up a stagnant crowd in the second quarter with a 74-yard run, then followed two plays later by finding the end zone. Tolbert scored the only touchdowns (2) of the day and took home offensive player of the game.
- Big Kat Bryant- It is no secret Auburn will bring a dominant D-line into the 2018 season which includes the vicious sophomore. Bryant finished A-Day with 2 tackles and one forced fumble but was constantly near the ball all day. Also, c’mon how great is the name Big Kat for a big defensive lineman?
- Nick Coe- Another big defender on the Tiger’s defense that showed his dominance with a sack (for a safety) and two tackles for loss. Coe was named the A-Day defensive player of the game by media members.
- Anders Carlson- Following in the footsteps of big brother Daniel Carlson, Anders is a consistent assurance for the Tiger’s special teams. Carlson hit from 45, 38, 41, and finished A-Day with a 53-yard boot. Carlson to no surprise was awarded special teams player of the game.
- QB-play: Still recovering from offseason surgery to his non-throwing shoulder, Jarrett Stidham sat out A-Day leaving way for Malik Willis and Joey Gatewood to dual. Willis and Gatewood proceeded to underwhelm from the start. Balls were overthrown, underthrown, thrown over the middle to exposed receivers, and dumped off to running backs that were blown up by awaiting defenders. Neither signal caller seemed to make good reads for open receivers on a consistent basis. Willis the redshirt sophomore finished 8 for 20 which should’ve included two interceptions, but both were dropped. The freshman Gatewood initially looked more comfortable but actually finished the day with zero net yards passing. Coach Malzahn was quick to remind media members that Cam Newton was 3 for 8 in his initial spring game back in 2010.
- Anyone catching a football- The quarterback play was subpar, but Tiger receivers were no help as a highlight reel from A-Day could be assembled of creative ways to drop a pass. Punt returners muffed and Receivers and running backs all struggled whether short dump off passes, screen passes, or balls over the middle. This facet of the game for Auburn can be taken with a grain of salt as both top receivers Will Hastings and Eli Stove were held out due to injuries and Coach Malzahn chose not to play senior Ryan Davis.
- Injuries- Obviously no one wants to see an injury occur ever, but especially not during a meaningless spring game. Auburn sadly saw defensive backs Jordyn Peters and Jeremiah Dinson along with offensive lineman Brodarious Hamm leave the game with various issues. Potential starting running back Kam Martin was held out pregame with a tweaked hamstring.
Tiger fans have high expectations for a team that reached the SEC championship just last year, but the offseason has not been kind. We’ll have to wait and see on September 1st when Auburn faces Washington in the Chick-fil-a kickoff game