The deadline for underclassmen to declare early for the NFL Draft in 2016 has now passed. Auburn running back Peyton Barber apparently got in just in time, although few expected him to even be thinking about leaving Auburn in 2016.
“I have decided to forego my eligibility at Auburn and enter the 2016 NFL Draft,” Barber said in a released statement, which was shared by Al.com. “This was a very tough decision for many reasons but after my family and I prayed about it, I know I am ready for the next step and that this is the best decision for me.”
Barber rushed for 1,016 yards and 13 touchdowns for Auburn as a redshirt sophomore in 2015. He will be joining a crowded field of pro hopefuls, with 13 other underclassmen running backs already declaring, in addition to the senior class coming out for a position that has seen a diminished importance in the NFL Draft in recent years, at least in the early rounds. Barber did note he expects to be graduating from Auburn and he will continue working toward his degree while pursuing his NFL dream. This would suggest Barber received an encouraging draft analysis from the NFL’s draft advisory committee.
Barber may be selling high on his college body of work as well, because the Auburn backfield could potentially be stacked next season with the returns of Jovon Robinson and Roc Thomas. So Auburn’s running back depth should still be fine in 2016 even without Barber, but it should be interesting to see how this decision pans out in the draft.
Arkansas opened with a touchdown on that drive and added another touchdown to take a 14-0 lead, but Auburn has overcome a flurry of dropped passes to somehow trail 14-7 at the halftime break.
Dominique Reed capped the first Razorback scoring drive with an 11-yard run, but Brandon Allen got in a rhythm on the opening drive by completing three pass attempts and handing off to Alex Collins a couple of times to serve up a balanced attack. It kept Auburn back peddling the entire drive but the Tigers hung around to keep the game within reach before allowing it to get out of hand. Arkansas scored a touchdown a couple of possessions later, this time with Allen completing a touchdown pass to Jeremy Sprinkle from 23 yards out.
Auburn did finally manage to get on the scoreboard late in the first half in unlikely fashion. The Tigers orchestrated a 16-play drive that started on their five-yard line. On third down and goal from the one-yard line, Peyton Barber plowed up the middle for a touchdown to bring Auburn within one score. At the half, Auburn has 112 yards of total offense, and 95 came on that late drive alone.
Could that late touchdown be a turning point in the game?
No. 6 Auburn (1-0) got its season off to a great start in Atlanta. If things go according to plan, these Tigers will be back in the Georgia Dome at the end of the season in the SEC Championship Game. Auburn seemed poised to put the game on cruise control with a 17-0 lead at halftime, but Louisville (0-1) made Auburn keep its foot on the gas pedal in the second half. Auburn held on for a 31-24 victory, with every second counting down the stretch.
Auburn’s defense made some plays, including an 82-yard fumble returned for a touchdown, but Louisville put together over 400 yards of offense, including 240 on the ground. Will Muschamp added some fire to the defense at first but it will have to show more consistency moving forward, especially in SEC play. Auburn’s offense struggled at times as well, showing room for improvement, which may be a little scary.
Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson was intercepted three times by the Louisville defense, which is a strength for the Cardinals even though this result may not show it on the scoreboard. Johnson completed just 11 of his 20 pass attempts for 140 yards. The three interceptions thrown were never anything that hurt Auburn on this day though, as Louisville could only muster three points off of the turnovers, while punting the other two times. The lesson here is Lousiville needs to find a way to cash in on those free opportunities, otherwise they could easily get burned in ACC play later on. The Cardinals also need to find a rhythm in the passing game. Lamar Jackson was just 9-of-20 for 100 yards and an interception. Reggie Bonnafon was 8-of-13 for 67 yards when given a chance to lead the offense.
Auburn got a big day on the ground from Peyton Barber, who rumbled for 109 yards on 25 carries. Ricardo Lewis and Johnson each ran for a touchdown.
Louisville will return home next weekend to host what could be a tricky Houston team. The Cougars have a new head coach in Tom Herman, and could bring some good offense to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium next weekend. Auburn will also be home next week, hosting Jacksonville State.