AUBURN – Junior Eltoro Freeman will join the rotation at outside linebacker for Saturday’s game at Ole Miss.
Junior linebacker Eltoro Freeman
With sophomore Daren Bates out with a shoulder injury, Auburn coach Gene Chizik said senior Craig Stevens, sophomore Jonathan Evans and Freeman will get the bulk of the work on the outside, with senior Josh Bynes remaining in the middle.
Evans plays on the strong side and Freeman on the weak side. Stevens can play both.
“Really,” Chizik said, “it’s almost a three-way rotation.”
Freeman has played sparingly, partly because of nagging injuries and partly because of being behind Stevens. But defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Ted Roof said he’s ready.
“I’m so proud of that kid,” Roof said. “He’s come a long way since last season in a lot of ways.”
PLEASED WITH PRACTICE: Chizik said the Tigers, working in shorts and shoulder pads, had a good practice Wednesday night.
“They were really focused,” Chizik said. “We have one more day to work. We are going to, obviously, have to play a really good game to beat these guys in Oxford. We’ve got to be focused and we’ve got to bring our A-game.”
PRAISE FOR SECONDARY: Chizik said the secondary took a major step forward in last Saturday’s 24-17 win over Ole Miss, and he dismissed talk that it was more about LSU’s struggles on offense.
“I was really proud of just the way they played,” Chizik said. “LSU is still very talented. They have some very talented receivers. I thought we executed in the secondary better than we have. We challenged them. We had some young guys really step up and help us. I think we made progress. No doubt.”
OLE MISS DEFENDER DOUBTFUL: Junior safety Damien Jackson, Ole Miss’ second-leading tackler, is doubtful for Saturday’s game against Auburn, Rebel coach Houston Nutt said Wednesday.
Jackson, who suffered a knee injury in last Saturday’s 38-24 loss at Arkansas, has not practiced this week.
“That’s a shame,” Nutt said. “It’s been that kind of year. Been that kind of year. Hoping maybe (he can) spot play, but when you miss all week’s work, it’s hard, with all their sets and different things, motion-wise, it’s hard to get him ready.”
Nutt said he hopes Jackson, who has 49 tackles, can at least play on special teams. He said freshman Brishen Matthews will play a larger role at safety.
GRIMES PROUD OF OL: Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes admits he’s never been part of anything quite like this.
Auburn has broken 300 yards rushing in its last four SEC games. Against LSU, the Tigers rushed for 440 yards.
“No question there is some satisfaction in that,” Grimes said. “Anytime you are able to move the ball effectively, I think you feel good about it as an offensive line. There is something different about just lining up and saying ‘Here we come. We’re going to keep on coming until you stop it.’ There is something very, very enjoyable about that to any offensive lineman worth his salt.”
THIGPEN ON MASOLI: Safeties coach Tommy Thigpen says Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli will present a challenge like the Tigers haven’t seen – on the ground and through the air.
“Just watching him against Arkansas, he made a lot of plays with his feet and threw to a lot of receivers who made outstanding catches,” Thigpen said. “He’s the most athletic quarterback we have faced. We thought (Jordan) Jefferson was pretty good last week. He’s the best seen as far as a guy that can avoid sacks, fake like he’s going to throw, tuck it and run it. He’s probably more accurate when he’s on the move.”