Wallace played perhaps the best overall game of his career Saturday in the Tigers’ 27-3 win over Ole Miss.
“I ended up at 100 percent and I had never done that,” he says of the grade he received from the coaching staff. “I didn’t have any catches or chances, but it was my best blocking game. It was the most consistent game I have played.”
A grade of 100 percent by the Auburn coaches hardly ever happens, says the senior tight end. “Pretty rarely,” Wallace notes. “When we have really good games the offensive line will grade out anywhere from 90 to 95 percent. If you have a pancake or a really good cut block the coaches will give you two points instead of one point. That can get you back up to 100 percent. Coach gave me a couple of extra points this week which allowed me to get 100 percent, but that is the first game I have ever done that.”
Playing against a front seven for the Rebels which includes talented players like linebackers Patrick Willis and Kelvin Robinson plus tackle McKinley Boykin and an Ole Miss game plan which was designed to stop tailback Kenny Irons, the Auburn junior still cracked the 100-yard barrier for the third consecutive game.
Wallace, who didn’t catch a pass in the game, says he doesn’t mind games like Saturday where he doesn’t get to touch the ball as long as other players like Irons get their time in the spotlight.
“I had to get used to that when I first got here because I had come from high school where I was the man,” Wallace says. “As long as the team is winning and Kenny is rushing for 200 yards or 150 yards then I have no complaints. We’ll let him have the glory or C.T. (Courtney Taylor) at receiver or the quarterback. A catch every once in a while or a touchdown is good, too, and I’ll take it.”
Cooper Wallace has 55 career catches for the Tigers, including a dozen this season.
The Auburn rushing attack, which was slow out of the gates to start the season, is now ranked second in the league behind Arkansas with an average of 184.5 yards per game.
“We are getting a lot better,” Wallace says. “I have been playing next Troy (Troy Reddick) and Marcus (Marcus McNeill) now for three straight years. I know when they’re thinking the wrong thing and when they’re thinking the right thing. Everybody is finally gelling--them, Duckworth (Tim Duckworth), Joe Cope. We’re all good friends and it is getting the point where we know each other real well, which helps communication.”
Cope has been a pleasant surprise at center this season and Wallace says it is good to see a close friend of his succeeding against teams like Arkansas, LSU and Ole Miss in recent weeks.
“We first became friends at the Capital One Bowl (at the end of the 2002 season),” Wallace says. “We were in Orlando and he had a car. We were like, ‘What’s up Joe? Let’s hang out man.’ We started hanging out and now we’re real good buds. He’s a good guy.”
Duckworth is another player who has come on strong in recent weeks that Wallace says has just as much potential as anyone on the Auburn offensive line.
“I think his best thing is how hard he plays,” Wallace says of the junior guard. “Technique can take you so far. The will to beat up somebody can take you so far. When he gets those going he is unstoppable. In the Arkansas game he had eight pancakes. I don’t think I have heard of that since I’ve been here.”
While players on the offensive line like Duckworth, Cope and Ben Grubbs are steadily improving week to week, seniors McNeill, Reddick and Wallace will likely have a chance to extend their playing careers at the next level after they finish their senior seasons at Auburn.
“A lot of people put stuff in your head that is not true,” Wallace says of his chances at an NFL career. “You get a grade and it’s a long process. You can watch film and if you’re smart you can tell if you have a shot or not, and I think I have a chance. I’m not saying I’m not going to get drafted or I’m going to make 10 million dollars next year. I think I will have a shot. I think some team will give me a chance to try, and that is all I’m asking for.”
Even though Wallace is one of the better tight ends in the league, he says that his athleticism is the biggest concern.
“Some teams are going to want a tight end that can stretch the field and run a 4.4 forty down the hash,” he says. “That’s not going to be me. If a team comes along that is looking for someone who can catch intermediate balls across the middle and move the chains and block, I could do something like that. It kind of depends on what team comes along at the right time and what they are looking for.”