Auburn, Ala.--Gene Chizik is about as subtle as B-52 bomber when giving his opinion on the play of Montae Pitts or any of the Auburn cornerbacks with the exception of senior star Carlos Rogers.
“Right now we are not getting the job done over there at one of those corners,” the Auburn defensive coordinator and secondary coach says. “Other than Carlos Rogers I am not happy with the way any of the corners are playing. I am talking on run or pass.”
Montae Pitts (19) makes a tackle vs. Louisiana Tech along with Karibi Dede (21).
Pitts made major strides earlier this season and won the starting job. However, in recent games the redshirt sophomore has regressed and with record-setting Georgia quarterback David Greene on the horizon, plus talented receivers to throw to, Chizik says the starting job is now up for grabs.
“I am looking hard at Zach Gilbert and Patrick Lee,” he says. “Whatever we have got to do. That cornerback position is letting down the whole football team. That is what I told them today so we will see what happens. I certainly made it clear today that position is wide open.
“Two weeks from now, if somebody has convinced me--which could very easily happen--that they are better than the ones we have had in there they will be in there and the ones we have had will not. It is that simple.”
The Tigers gave up two touchdown passes to Ole Miss. One was on a deep ball when wide receiver Bill Flowers ran past Pitts on a third down and long situation for a 64-yard score. Chizik calls the play of Pitts and backup Kevin Hobbs a “huge concern.” Hobbs gave up a deep ball to Steven Harris of Arkansas, who hooked up with Matt Jones for a 61-yarder.
Hobbs, a part-time starter last year, was moved to free safety in the spring. However, a season-ending injury to cornerback David Irons, Jr. prompted Chizik to move Hobbs back to cornerback. Depth at the position took a hit when Lamel Ages, a reserve fifth-year senior, decided not to return this season and redshirt freshman transferred to South Florida to play cornerback.
“Right now I don’t have any confidence in any corner we have in the house other than one (Rogers),” Chizik says. “We have got to find a way to get it done.”
Gilbert, a 5-10, 189 walk-on redshirt freshman from Florence, played in Auburn’s 35-14 victory at Ole Miss as the Tigers clinched the SEC West title.
Lee, a 6-0, 193 redshirt freshman from Miami, has been playing well on special teams. “Zach Gilbert played well,” Chizik says. “We got Zach in about nine or 10 snaps on defense in nickel situations and he really played well. He is solid, he is a competitor. We are going to find out if he can win a starting job.”
Patrick Lee is shown at an Auburn practice.
Lee has made progress in recent weeks and is second on the team in special teams tackles with seven solos, one behind Rogers. “He has really come on on special teams and has shown that he really wants to play the game,” Chizik says. “I am going to give him a look. I have nowhere else to turn right now except some guys who have been really doing well stepping up their game in the last two or three weeks and those are two guys who have.”
The Tigers took two days off from practice with their first open date this Saturday. They return to action a week later when Georgia comes to Auburn for a big SEC showdown. Gilbert and Lee got work with the first team defense on Tuesday along with Pitts.
“We are just not playing real good in the secondary right now,” Chizik adds. “That is just the bottom line. Slice it anyway you want, but when all the smoke clears right now we are playing below average in the secondary with the exception of one guy.”