0

Bye week gives Auburn time to heal, correct mistakes

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and the Tigers are off this weekend after a tough loss last Saturday to LSU. (Reuters)

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and the Tigers are off this weekend after a tough loss last Saturday to LSU. (Reuters)

AUBURN, Ala. — Jermaine Whitehead hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

When he was coming up, his family and friends were behind him as he developed into a top-ranked football prospect. That’s why the junior free safety is planning to return to Greenwood, Miss., this weekend to watch his younger brother’s own gridiron exploits.

It’s the right thing to do, after all.

“He’s playing some good ball right now,” Whitehead said. “It’s always good to be supportive of the people who supported you.”

The opportunity has presented itself since Auburn has a bye today. And like most of his teammates and coaches, Whitehead believed the open date is coming at the perfect time for the Tigers. In Whitehead’s mind, it took on added importance since this is the first year under a new coaching staff.

Much like the coaches are continuing to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their players, the players are still learning the myriad schemes each coach employs.

“We’re going to be able to simplify our defense,” Whitehead said. “We’ve got four different packages that we’ve threw at people this year, and I think we’re going to be able to get the best one and make the best of that situation.”

Aside from being able to use the week to make needed corrections, head coach Gus Malzahn was relieved to have a bye to give his injury-plagued team a chance to recover.

“That may be the biggest blessing of the off week: that we have a chance to get some of our guys healed up,” Malzahn said. “And when you think about being banged up, we got guys that weren’t 100 percent that played anyway last week, so hopefully last week will help them get back to 100 percent. And the guys that hadn’t played will have a chance to have two weeks before our next game and have a chance to get one of those guys back on the field.”

The Tigers entered the open date on a sour note, however, suffering their first loss of the season last Saturday, as they fell to No. 6 LSU on the road 35-21.

The scene that greeted Malzahn in the postgame locker room pleased him — as much as one can be after a loss. It was somber, and long faces were everywhere he looked.