Auburn is not the only one trying to make a statement in Baton Rouge this weekend. For senior linebacker Eltoro Freeman (Sr. LB), it's a chance to get back on track. He hopes to build on last week's performance against Florida where he got his first start of the season.
It's safe to say this year has not gone the way the Alexander City native intended. After starting five games last year, including a nine tackle performance in the Iron Bowl, Freeman lost his starting job this year to.
With Holland banged up last Saturday, Freeman made the most of it, registering three tackles and one sack against the Gators.
"It felt good to start, get back out there and help my team win," Freeman said. "It doesn't matter if I start or not, I'm just very thankful to be on the field and never take it for granted. It felt great to get this win for the Auburn family."
Defensive coordinator Ted Rood was pleased with the performance, but expects even better things this week.
"I think he got better (against Florida)," said Roof. "It's no secret, because he got better during the week. He has to get better this week. I was pleased he attacked the line of scrimmage. He's improving his pass coverage. The goal hasn't changed. The goal is to get better every day. That goal is not changing."
Freeman shouldn't expect Holland to just hand over the starting job. Despite sporting a cast on his wrist and two bad ankles, Holland entered the game last week and immediately made two big plays.
"Jake was beat up," Roof said. "He goes in right off the bat and makes two huge plays. I'm really proud of Jake. Jake is a competitor, and competition is good for our football team."
Until Saturday, Freeman had contributed little to this year's defense, registering only seven tackles going into the game. Roof badly needs Freeman to return to his old form. Clearly, this is a unit that's getting better each week.
Auburn held Florida to only 3-of-13 on 3rd down conversions, a far cry from a month earlier where Clemson at one point reeled off 10 straight against the Tigers.
Saturday presents a unique challenge for Freeman and Holland - how to handle the dual quarterback threat ofand Jordan Jefferson. With Jefferson getting more play each week, the Auburn linebackers will have to be on guard against the run.
"Jordan can get in there and we know he can throw it, but they also have a good run game with him," says Auburn coach Gene Chizik. "It's not just the zone-read stuff, it's quarterback powers and the quarterback sweep run that they spread you out and they basically get you a man down in terms of run fit. He's physical, he's big and runs the ball really well.
"The question is how much do you prepare for him and how much do you not? Obviously we'll have a plan for both, but it becomes challenging."
It's a challenge Eltoro Freeman hopes he'll win on the way back to earning his starting job.
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