Auburn, Ala.--One of the problem areas this season for the Auburn defense has been giving up big chunks of yardage in the passing game, something that is obviously a concern as the Tigers prepare to face Heisman winner Jameis Winston
and high flying Florida State
in the BCC National Championship Game.
Allowing yards in bunches throughout the season, Coach Ellis Johnson's defense will face one of its biggest challenges of the season on Jan. 6 in the Rose Bowl.
Averaging 322 yards passing per game with 40 touchdowns through the air, Florida State's attack is led by the talented and strong-armed Winston. Completing 67.9 percent of his passes for 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions in 349 attempts, he has spread the ball around to a group of receivers that will present Auburn defensive backs Jonathon Mincy, Chris Davis, Jermaine Whitehead, Ryan Smith and Ryan White with perhaps their toughest test of the season.
"They have outstanding athletes," Mincy said. "We're just excited to go out there and play against them. They're one of the best teams, we're one of the best teams. We're on the biggest stage in college football. We're just excited to go out there and play."
A speedster who also had good size, Rashad Greene leads Florida State's receivers with 67 catches and 981 yards while adding nine touchdowns. Just behind him is Kenny Shaw with 52 receptions for 929 yards and six scores. The big threat comes from 6-5 Kelvin Benjamin. Playing more like a tight end, he had 50 catches for 957 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. As a trio they are perhaps the most productive in the country, but it's something Mincy said this Auburn team has been preparing for all year.
"They've got some big receivers," Mincy said. "I will be checking Benjamin, but I guard a big receiver every game. I just have to go out there and just play my game.
"When the ball is thrown I've just got to start playing through the receivers hands because of the height advantage. Just making sure I'm locked on with all my keys. I'm excited to go out there and play against them."
Starting with the first game of the season against Washington State this Auburn team has faced some of the most prolific passing attacks and receivers in the country. Whether it was standouts like Connor Halliday throwing the ball in the opener or wide receiver J.D. McKissic from Arkansas State or LSU's duo of Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Auburn's secondary got plenty of tests early. That got their feet wet for players such as Donte Moncrief from Ole Miss and quarterback Johnny Manziel and wide receiver Mike Evans from Texas A&M.
Finishing off the year against Georgia, Alabama and Missouri with talented quarterbacks and receivers for all three, Whitehead said this is another challenge and one the secondary is looking forward to.
"I think we're the best athletes on the team, regardless of size," MIncy said. "We probably have the biggest heart. Competing is probably one of the best attributes as a corner. We all possess that in the secondary. We all like to compete. We all challenge each other to play big in those situations."
Even though Auburn has given up big numbers through the air this season in many of those games and is allowing an average of 260.2 yards per game, when the game is on the line the secondary has made the plays needed to win games. Part of a defensive group that has allowed just 58 fourth quarter points in 13 games, Mincy said the championships game is going to be all about playing four quarters and remaining physical.
"We've just got to go out there and make plays, playing through those guy's hands and really just making big breaks on the ball," MIncy said. "That is something that we're going to go out there and prepare for. I'm just excited to go out there and play."
Auburn's defensive backs will face a big challenge from Florida State's passing game in the BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena.
AU Secondary Looking To Play Big Vs. Noles
Auburn's defensive backs will face a major challenge vs. FSU.