Auburn football in search of some 'swagger' on the offensive side

AUBURN — Through the first four games of Auburn football's season, junior linebacker Eugene Asante has been the heart and soul of a Tigers defense that's performed above what many expected.

Asante has a team-high 28 total tackles, two sacks, returned a fumble 67 yards for a touchdown against Texas A&M and has been known for his signature saying of "Let's work!" to pump up his teammates before, during and after practices and games.

If possible, coach Hugh Freeze would clone Asante and inject his doppelgänger into the offense if possible. But unfortunately for Freeze, that's not reality.

QUARTERBACK: Is Payton Thorne still Auburn football's starting QB? Hugh Freeze's plans against Georgia

USF TRANSFER: Was Auburn RB Brian Battie's performance against Texas A&M a preview for what's to come?

"We're searching, truthfully," Freeze said Monday when asked who's the offensive version of Asante. "... I think we've got to get more swagger on the offensive side. The most positive guy by far to this point has been Luke Deal. I think he's one that has a good grasp on how this league plays out, how difficult these games are and how challenging they are for 60 minutes and how you can have three bad possessions in a row.

"We're not the only ones that have those, but yet you have to maintain this attitude that the next one can be the one that matters."

Who's eligible to step up and bring that swagger to the Tigers? Sophomore running back Damari Alston was an option — he's one of about 10 players on Auburn's "culture council" — but he went down with a dislocated shoulder against the Aggies and "will be out for a period of time."

Perhaps it could be another running back such as Jarquez Hunter, who turned in his best performance of the season against Texas A&M. Or maybe South Florida transfer Brian Battie, who racked up 82 total yards and averaged 7.4 yards a carry versus the Aggies.

In a perfect world for Auburn, it'd be transfer quarterback Payton Thorne. Thorne flashed some confidence against Samford in Week 3, putting his arm and legs on display, but fell way back down to Earth against the Aggies, as he finished with 44 passing yards and took five sacks.

Thorne downplayed what his performance against Samford meant for his confidence: "It's good to get out there and execute our stuff and feel good about it walking away for all the guys," Thorne said Sept. 16. "It's a good feeling, but we can't get too high or too low.

"We'll go in and watch the film, I'll grade myself and watch it with coach and then we'll throw it in the trash and we'll move forward."

That's the right answer, but Thorne should pick that film out of the trash and watch it, along with some of his highlights from his Michigan State career, which included big wins over Michigan and Penn State.

Thorne has played with swagger and confidence before. What better week to tap back into it than against No. 1 Georgia?

Richard Silva is the Auburn athletics beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. He can be reached via email at or on Twitter @rich_silva18.

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Auburn football: Tigers in search of some 'swagger' on offense