Offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey said the focus for this Auburn team is consistency.
Lindsey and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele spoke to the media Tuesday night for the first time in over a month. The pair evaluated the progress of the team up to this week’s bye week and previewed the season’s final four games.
“I think we’ve improved in a lot of areas,” Lindsey said. “I think we’re finally going to get this last stretch with a lot of our guys back, and that’s good. I like where we are.”
Running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson, who both shared the No. 1 spot on the depth chart at the start of the season, scored a touchdown in the same game for the first time since last season. Pettway had three touchdowns and 90 yards in his return from injury.
“We think we’ve got them both back,” Lindsey said. “I was really pleased with him [against Arkansas.]”
Lindsey maintained that Pettway would play a pivotal role down the stretch. Whether other running backs Devan Barrett and Kam Martin play, he said, will be based on whoever has the hot hand.
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham has impressed within the coaching staff while holding onto the SEC lead for completion percentage at 65.8 percent. Lindsey said the transfer quarterback has improved his pocket presence, his ability to throw the ball quicker and has become increasingly more comfortable.
“He’s one of our better leaders,” Lindsey said. “He’s pretty vocal, and he has a great work ethic. I think he’s got a nice touch on the deep ball.
“He’s still got some work to do, but I like the progress he’s made and the direction he’s headed.”
Stidham’s receivers have also impressed, Lindsey said, and there has been an emphasis on better run blocking. Wide receivers Nate Craig-Myers and Darius Slayton will have more targets, as showcased in the win against Arkansas, and will be more involved in the offense moving forward.
“I think the future is really bright for them,” Lindsey said. “I like where we are.”
Defensively, Steele has seen little to no holes in effort or efficiency.
“With the exception of a play or two, the guys that are playing a significant amount of snaps, they have really played with a relentless effort, and we have tackled well for the most part,” he said. “They have shown a resilience to move to the next play.”
Auburn’s defense ranks No. 14 nationally by allowing 302.8 yards per game and was the last team in the FBS to allow more than 14 points in a game. Linebacker Jeff Holland leads the SEC in sacks with eight.
"The biggest thing about Jeff Holland is his heart, his fighting spirit,” Steele said.
Nick Coe has made his presence known on the defensive line, Steele said, and has contributed far more than just his single sack this season.
“[Coe] is one of those guys – he still works on his craft, and he needs to,” Steele said. “[Defensive line coach Rodney Gardner] will be the first to tell you, and [Coe] would be the second.
“He’s not there yet, but he’s well on his way.”
Steele added that Coe’s tenacity and speed has allowed for players like Holland to succeed. His leadership as a redshirt freshman, accompanied with injuries on the defensive side of the ball, has allowed younger players to contribute.
The pair of coordinators agreed that Auburn’s final four games will be its toughest stretch. Auburn’s ability to stay consistent, Lindsey said, will determine its level of success.
“It’s kind of a great time to go back and take a look at yourself throughout the season and say, ‘we’ve been really good at these things and not so good at these other things,’” he said.
During Auburn’s bye week, the Tigers will be able to focus on returning from injury in an attempt to return to a comfortable state of consistency.