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13th of November 2018

Sport



Will Auburn, Jarrett Stidham be willing to test LSU's Greedy Williams?

Jarrett Stidham didn't take aim at Andraez "Greedy" Williams much during last year's meeting in Baton Rouge, which is by far the least accurate performance of his career, but if Auburn is going to beat LSU on Saturday the quarterback may need to test one of the best cornerbacks in college football.

An AP preseason first team All-American, Williams has made it extremely difficult for opposing quarterbacks to throw in his direction.

He tied for the SEC lead with six interceptions had a 22.9 passer rating when targeted last season, by far the best in the SEC, according to Pro Football Focus.

"They've had some excellent corners in the past and I think he just fits in line," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "He's a good cover guy, a good athlete. I think from a DB standpoint, the special ones have that ability to be very confident and take chances (and) they can recover when they do take chances. It looks to me like he's in that same mold. He's an outstanding player."

Malzahn, Stidham and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey all acknowledged No. 7 Auburn will be cognizant of where Williams is on every play, typically on the left side of the defense and right side of the offensive formation, on Saturday (2:30 p.m., CBS) against No. 12 LSU.

Stidham said he enjoys going against the best the opposition has to offer, that it can raise the level of competition and he's looking forward to the "great challenge" Williams poses.

"I would say he's one of the more prominent corners in the country," Stidham said. "He's a really great player."

Looking back at how Auburn attacked Williams last season shows how difficult a matchup he was even just seven games into his college career and indicates the magnitude of the challenge ahead for Auburn's receivers.

Stidham, who was just 9 of 26 for 165 yards with a touchdown against LSU last season, started last year's game with a seven-yard pass to Sal Cannella down the right sideline with Williams in coverage. Then on the first play of the second quarter, Stidham threw a perfectly placed 25-yard pass on third-and-nine to Darius Slayton down the right sideline and Williams did all he could while riding Slayton out of bounds.

After that Williams made it virtually impossible to throw in his direction and essentially took his receiver, which rotated between Slayton and Cannella, neither of whom caught another pass, and Nate Craig-Myers and Eli Stove, neither of whom had any catches, out of the game.

On third-and-goal late in the first half, Williams nearly intercepted a pass in the end zone intended for Slayton in one-on-one coverage. In the third quarter, Williams came up to make a huge stop of Will Hastings after six yards on third-and-seven but a personal foul on Arden Key extended Auburn's drive. On Auburn's next possession, Stidham threw a deep ball from Slayton and safety Grant Delpit broke it up with Williams also in coverage. Then after LSU took the lead, Stidham threw to Slayton on third-and-10 and though the receiver dropped the pass, Williams was right there and would've made a tackle before Slayton could've converted.

While lockdown corners are nothing new in the SEC and Auburn has had success against come great defenses with Stidham leading the offense, the 6-foot-3, 184-pound Williams might be in a class of his own.

"I think we'll just have to make sure when we get opportunities, take advantage of it," Lindsey said. "But at the end of the day, we're going to run our offense, and obviously we got a lot of respect for their players. They've got really good players and they do a great job coaching them. So as we tone down the game plan, we'll just see how that plays out."

James Crepea is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @JamesCrepea.

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