AUBURN — Wide receiver Sammie Coates did not have kind words for his older Auburn teammates, leaders or quarterbacks Tuesday morning.
Coates, the redshirt freshman, said if the Tigers (1-4, 0-3 SEC) continue to play as they are, they’ll continue to lose as the apparent finger-pointing and in-fighting within the Tigers locker room reached a boiling point.
“Some of the older guys, they want it but they don’t want it bad enough,” Coates said. “We ain’t got enough leadership on the team. Everybody wants to talk about how they want to win but nobody is showing how they want to win.
“They put a lot on the older guys but they ain’t showing much. The coaches always talking about leadership but ain’t nobody really trying to be a leader. They talk about it all the time but you don’t see it. We talk about how we want to be a better man, better football players and all that but nobody’s stepping up to the plate to take advantage of that.”
Coates’ comments came in response to remarks made by seniors T’Sharvan Bell and Philip Lutzenkirchen on Sunday. Bell called some younger players “borderline” because their effort indicates they’re not “all-in” and they need to get all-in or “just need to get gone.”
Lutzenkirchen said the message at Sunday’s team meeting was “you’re either with us or you’re not.” It’s unclear which younger players Bell and Lutzenkirchen were referring to.
Coates spoke specifically about Bell, who had a tackle and fumble recovery in limited action Saturday, and Lutzenkirchen, who had a season-low two receiving yards on one reception.
“We’ve got a couple guys, like T-Bell, Lutz, but they’re kind of down themselves,” said Coates, who had one catch for 16 yards against Arkansas. “It’s got to come from one of the young guys or one of the quarterbacks, somebody like that, because it takes one of those guys with a main role in the situation.”
Junior linebacker Jake Holland took exception to Coates’ remarks and backed the Tigers’ seniors and leadership.
“We have leaders on this team, I have to disagree with Sammie on that,” said Holland, who made six tackles against the Razorbacks. “The leadership on this team has been the same since day one, you know, and the seniors are doing a good job of that. Again, I think when you don’t start out the way you want, you kind of start pointing fingers, but you can’t do that.”
Holland tried to back-pedal from his finger-pointing remarks, only to expand on the possibility of younger players doing it.
“I think a lot of the young players, people that haven’t been in the system awhile at this level, I think they, naturally, human nature, you might want to start pointing fingers, but if we’re going to stay together as a team, the leaders can’t allow that.”
Holland’s attempt was similar to Bell on Sunday, first saying there were players whose effort was in question only to say effort wasn’t a problem but then expanded upon “borderline” teammates.
Auburn football coach Gene Chizik said the frustration and varying opinions on his team is due to Auburn’s poor start. Ultimately, he said, the coaches have to help guide the team through its current state.
“Leadership certainly starts at the top with all the coaches, but then it has to permeate through the team,” Chizik said. “The bottom line is we have one direction. We have one goal. We have one focus, and that’s to go out to practice, try to improve and win a football game.
“Let me make this real clear. There is definitely an urgency around here to win and improve, and I like seeing that. But part of our job is to help our guys understand that when you’re in a valley - which is where we are now, because everything isn’t always going to be at the peak - you have to find a way to persevere and work out of it.”
Coates went on to critique the leadership of Auburn’s quarterbacks Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley. Frazier went 9-for-14 for 118 yards and an interception before being pulled at halftime Saturday for Moseley, who went 13-for-21 for 163 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, though both were sacked four times.
Coates said Frazier and Moseley are similar in the huddle and feels both need to do more by way of leading the receivers and the offense.
“They talk, but they don’t talk enough. They explain, but they don’t explain enough. They want us to be good, but they’ve got to show some leadership themselves,” he said. “If they want us to come behind them, they’ve got to show us how it is. We need somebody to tell us what they want us to do.
“The coaches try to motivate us, but it’s got to be a player. Coaches aren’t out there with us. Somebody’s got to step up to the plate and take over.”