The ACC Player of the Year, Bryan Randall threw for 1,965 yards and 19 touchdowns this season with only seven interceptions. He also ran for 466 yards and three touchdowns on 127 carries. A dangerous weapon and as experienced as anyone in the country, Randall’s rise to glory in 2004 has him on top of his game and on the mind of Auburn’s defensive coordinator Gene Chizik.
“A lot of people say we’ll take a guy and use him as a spy guy,” Chizik said. “I’m not so sure you don’t take a spy guy and he outruns your spy guy. He’s just a phenomenal athlete and I think it’s more of a field awareness for everybody. Even when you pass rush you have to go in with a plan to be able to not open vertical lanes and vertical seams in there because when he sees a vertical seam he’s going to pull the ball down and run it.
“As you plan on how to defend on passing situations, not that he won’t run it on some option looks too, but where he’s really dangerous when you drop back everybody into coverage and he sees a lane. He takes that lane and he’s running for the goal posts.”
Senior cornerback Carlos Rogers will be an important player for the Tigers against Virginia Tech.
This season Randall has come up big in the biggest games for the Hokies. Against Virginia he threw for 200 yards and ran for 30 more. Against Georgia Tech it was 300 yards passing and another 64 on the ground. Against top-ranked USC in the season opener he had 235 yards of total offense as the Hokies nearly pulled off the upset. Chizik said that facing another challenge head on is something he expects out of his team despite the tough match-up with Randall.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for us,” Chizik said. “We just feel very fortunate to be able to be here and play in a game like this. Virginia Tech poses so many different problems for you in terms of how they’ve produced and how they’ve evolved as the season has come on. The quarterback is such a great athlete and so many young guys on their offense have come through. It’s just going to be a great challenge for our defense. I think our young men are excited about the challenge. We’ve prepared hard for this game and we’re coming down to the end and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Helping Auburn’s cause on defense is senior Carlos Rogers. Although his numbers probably won’t tell the story, if the Tigers come away with a victory against the Hokies then Rogers will probably be a big reason why. Because of his play this season Auburn has been able to focus much of its defense to one side of the field and become a stronger team, a luxury made possible because of Rogers.
“I think this year, probably moreso than any, we have really felt as a defensive staff that Carlos could basically take one side of the field and control it,” Chizik said. “We talked before the season started about him being able to do that. He’s been a four-year starter for us. He’s always had great talent, but what we talked about before the year is that he needed to make sure his senior year that his talent and his ability is congruent with his production. What that means is that the past three years he’s been out there he’s played well, but we felt like this year he needed to step it up a level and be a dominant player in every phase of the game. He really did that.”