AU hoping healthy Blake, Reed to aid passing game
Auburn's passing game should get a sizable boost, even without another quarterback change.
Top receivers Emory Blake and Trovon Reed are healthy after missing a combined seven games with injuries, giving Clint Moseley a couple of much-needed reliable targets going into his third start in Saturday's visit to No. 14 Georgia.
''It just brings two more weapons to our offense and that's something (the Bulldogs) have to game plan for,'' said Moseley, who replaced an ineffective Barrett Trotter. ''They both require attention. You got them both on the field, that's something the defense is going to have to point out. If they don't, we'll surely get them the ball. It really opens our game plan up and lets us do a few more things. I think it's really going to help us.''
The open date gave both receivers some extra time to get healthy.
Blake's absence especially left the Tigers (6-3, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) and the league's 11th-rated pass offense without a go-to receiver. Despite missing three games, he's still easily Auburn's top target with 404 yards and five touchdowns on 24 catches.
He missed the Arkansas, Florida and LSU games with a sprained ankle. In his absence, Trotter and Moseley combined to complete just 30 passes for 388 yards with four interceptions and only one touchdown.
Blake said he was only about 75 percent healthy against Mississippi, but he had five catches for 71 yards and caught one of Moseley's four touchdown passes.
The struggles of Trotter, who was benched in the second half of the win over Florida, were hardly the only problem. Receivers had some costly drops, too.
Blake and Reed could do little but watch.
''When the passing game was struggling and they kept on saying how terrible the receivers are, in my heart I knew our guys,'' Reed said. ''I knew they work hard every day, and me and Emory don't make the team. We're just part of the team. That was eating me and him up at the same time. We just motivated the guys to go out there and play even harder.''
Reed is a redshirt freshman with the quickness to be a threat once he gets the ball, though he's only averaging 7.8 yards on 15 catches. He missed three games with a shoulder injury and returned against LSU but then had to sit out again against Mississippi.
''Whether they're 85 percent or 100 percent, just having them on the field is really big for us in terms of what we call, how we call it,'' Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. ''Having Emory back against Ole Miss, there was obviously some third-down situations and making some big catches that were all at the right time. It makes a difference for your whole football team.''
Without Blake and Reed, the offense's main receiving threats were tailback Onterio McCalebb and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen. McCalebb is the team's No. 2 receiver with 23 catches for 244 yards but he's also run for 448.
Lutzenkirchen and Blake have each caught five of the Tigers' 14 touchdown passes.
Now, the Bulldogs (7-2, 5-1) will presumably have to pay a little more attention to the passing game.
They have the league's No. 3 run defense but are seventh against the pass.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said Blake is a physical receiver who runs good routes. Richt also praised Moseley, who made his starting debut in tough fashion at No. 1 LSU.
''The only whole game I've watched him play was Ole Miss,'' the Georgia coach said. ''He was very impressive. You can see he's a big, tall classic dropback passer. He's very accurate. I think he's a guy who's going to do extremely well in our league.''