When the Auburn defense squares off against the Alabama offense on Saturday, one of the key matchups will be between Auburn’s secondary and the Alabama passing attack.
Auburn’s secondary has forced at least one interception in the last four games but will face a Heisman hopeful in Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, second in the SEC with 2,426 passing yards.
Last year Jones finished his Iron Bowl debut 26-of-39 for 335 passing yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.
Auburn safety Jamien Sherwood is proud Auburn got the win last season against Jones and Alabama but knows Jones will be looking for revenge.
“It definitely gives you some pride,” Sherwood said. “It’s a rivalry, so of course, like, you know, we’re like, ‘Oh, we won last year.’ But he’s also looking for redemption as well. He came in last year, and we got the upper hand on him. He’s looking to get us back. He’s gonna go all out, I feel like. We’re gonna be ready for him. We’re gonna play sound football and just be physical.”
Jones isn’t the only weapon that the secondary will have to worry about as they face off against two of the top 10 receiving leaders in the SEC. DeVonta Smith is second in the SEC with 903 receiving yards, and teammate John Metchie III is ninth with 535 yards.
Sherwood knows it will be a challenge, but Auburn has answered the call against some of the SEC’s best receivers this season.
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Against Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore, the Tigers held him to a season-low in both receptions and yards. Moore finished with five receptions for 16 yards and a touchdown. Moore leads the SEC in receiving yards this season with 1,054 yards.
“We have played some great receivers, and they’ll do great things in the years to come, but we never really looked at who was in front of us,” Sherwood said. “It was about us and working on our technique. This upcoming weekend with the receiving corps they have, we know we have our hands tied. We’re just going to play our brand of ball and do what we’re taught to do and what we’re coached to do. Just play Auburn football.”
For Sherwood, it will be his first Iron Bowl as a starter. Since coming to Auburn as a freshman in 2018, the safety has participated in all 33 career games but has only started in nine of them.
The junior safety has not only stepped up into a larger role this season with seven starts at safety, but his production has grown as well. Sherwood has 51 total tackles on the season and is third on the team in total tackles.
Sherwood and the defense will need to step up against another talented SEC offense this Saturday. Sherwood thinks it will be a physical game on both sides and knows he’ll have to “play big” against Alabama.
“The first thing that comes to mind for me is that I’ve got to play big as a player and as a teammate,” Sherwood said. “Everybody just has to be physical. It’s going to be a physical game from both sides. The only way someone can win is by being physical. That’s the first thing that comes to my mind.”
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