Written by Cole Locascio
Auburn's first half performance gave fans in Jordan-Hare, myself included, quite a scare for the season to come. But a quick turnaround helped ease those tensions from onlookers, as the defense settled back into a groove and shut-out Bret Bielema's Razorbacks in the second half. On the other side of the ball, the Auburn offense picked up right where they left off from the 2013 season, as both quarterbacks each played one half due to Nick Marshall's preseason suspension.
Let's take a look at each position's grades from last Saturday's game against the Razorbacks...
Quarterback -- A
It's mighty hard to gripe about either quarterback's performance on Saturday. It was a tale of two halves for the duo, as Jeremy Johnson utilized his weapons in Duke Williams, Melvin Ray, and Sammie Coates to deliver some perfectly thrown passes in the first half. The style shifted once Nick Marshall stepped onto the field at the start of the second half, but the offense refused to miss a beat, as Marshall used his legs to return to a "run-first" offensive mentality for the Tigers. I had to dock a few points for an atrocious looking pass from Marshall intended for Coates in the 3rd quarter of the game.
J. Johnson: 12-16/243 yds - 2 TDs N. Marshall: 4-6/50 yds (Rushing: 18 yds)
Running Backs -- A+
It's always a solid day when your unit rushes for over 300 yards, and that's exactly what Tim Horton's coached squad accomplished in the season-opener. While the rest of the country will be talking about UGA's Todd Gurley for the coming weeks, Cameron Artis-Payne (CAP) will be quietly rising on the SEC's stat list. Peyton Barber also managed to get some late-game action, as the redshirt-freshman had an impressive looking 14 yard run in the 4th quarter. The "Hulk" and "Flash" combination of CAP and Corey Grant will turn quite a few heads in the college football world this season.
C. Artis-Payne: 26 att/177 yds - 1 TD C. Grant: 10 att/87yds - 1 TD P. Barber: 3 att/19 yds
Receivers -- A-
Duke Williams. The junior proved why he was the #1 JUCO transfer for the 2014 recruiting class in his debut performance for the Tigers last Saturday. The 6-2, 216 pound receiver made the Razorbacks' secondary's day a living hell, as he was near impossible to cover every single time he lined up wide. However, the Tigers really need to limit the dropped passes from the receiving corps, as Ricardo Louis had yet another, as well as Sammie Coates in the endzone -- yes, it was tipped, but if you have the chance to stick two hands on the ball, you better catch it.
D. Williams: 9 rec/154 yds - 1 TD M. Ray: 2 rec/77 yds - 1 TD
Offensive Line -- B+
It's difficult to argue with a 303 yard rushing performance, but for some reason, this unit didn't look as tight and polished as I had hoped. A foolish facemask penalty from Patrick Miller sticks out in my mind as an unnecessary play that OL coach J.B. Grimes needs to tighten the reins on if he wants his crew to be the SEC's premier line this season. This group is too dang deep to be looking as sloppy as they did on Saturday.
Place Kicking -- A-
A few points taken off for Daniel Carlson's field goal attempt that hit the post to end the half. But other than that, all positives for the redshirt freshman's Auburn debut, as he booted 7 of his 8 kickoffs for touchbacks, nailed all of his PATs, and later hit a 45-yarder for his first field goal of his career as a Tiger. Not too bad for a kicker who was also forced to share punting duties for the day.
Punting -- A+
Carlson's day punting the ball was an impressive one, as he blasted three punts for a 53.3 yard average on Saturday. Did you know that Daniel Carlson is one of only five players in college football to share both the place kicking and punting duties?
Kick/Punt Returning -- A
Two of the four Arkansas kickoffs were returnable, which in today's age of kicking off from the 35 is actually not bad. Ricardo Louis took one of the kickoffs out across the 25, while Corey Grant almost broke the other for a score on a 32-yard return.
Defensive Line -- C-
This unit sure is missing the injured Carl Lawson. The first half was absolutely dreadful, as the line had difficulty putting any kind of pressure on QB Brandon Allen. The Razorbacks' offensive line was able to throw around the Tigers' defensive front, which resulted in some gashing gains for RBs Alex Collins and Korliss Marshall. However, I will give credit to their massive improvement in the second half, as it appeared they finally settled in to clog up Arkansas' running lanes.
153 rushing yards allowed, 1 sack
Linebackers -- C+
The only reason this unit receives a passing grade is because I decided to include the Star position in this category. Similar to the d-line, the linebacker corps was manhandled by pulling Razorback linemen throughout the entire first half. However, one bright spot was the play of Robenson Therezie. The senior got some limited playing time after recently receiving eligibility, but the few snaps he played were golden, as he managed to force a fumble in the third quarter. Another encouraging was the high energy from freshman Tre Williams, who had the opportunity to play a few snaps. Watch out, this kid's gonna be an absolute stud.
Secondary -- B
I won't count off too many points from Coach Melvin Smith's squad, as a lack of pass pressure from the defensive line's struggles certainly doesn't help. But can we go ahead and give the most disappointing player award to Trovon Reed? Four years, and the kid has done nothing of significance with the multitude of opportunities he's been given. The receiver turned corner caught a huge break last Saturday, as he was beat deep on a streak route that the receiver ended up thankfully dropping -- not to mention a badly missed tackle in the third quarter which turned from what should have been a five yard gain into a thirty-five yard one. I guess Auburn is fairly thin at the corner position, as Reed landed the majority of the snaps last Saturday. Bonus points to this unit for the interception taken back for a touchdown by Jermaine Whitehead in the third quarter -- a huge improvement after being beaten horrible for a touchdown in the first half.
168 passing yards allowed, 1 INT