AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Wide receiver Sammie Coates figures he lost maybe six games in his high school career, one more than Auburn endured the previous two seasons combined before the recent nosedive.
It's not something Coates wants to become accustomed to — if he has a choice.
"We've got to get used to it. If we're going to play like this, we're going to keep losing," the Tigers' redshirt freshman said on Tuesday. "We either have to step up and turn around ... We've got a good team. We've got good athletes. We've got some of the best athletes that you can ask for. It's just, is it in their heart that they want to win or do they just want to keep going down?
"With me, I think some of us just need to see the picture like it is. Some of these older guys, they want it but they don't want it bad enough. We don't have enough leadership on this team."
It was a blunt assessment of Auburn (1-4, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) and why it's mired in a miserable start. The Tigers visit Mississippi (3-3, 0-2) on Saturday.
Despite the problems, coach Gene Chizik and linebacker Jake Holland disputed Coates' take on the lack of senior leadership. Still, the young receiver pulled no punches, even in talking about the veterans.
"The older guys, they put a lot on the older guys but they ain't showing much," Coates said. "The coaches are always talking about leadership but nobody's 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."
Holland, a junior, took issue with that assessment.
"The overall state of this team has never changed," he said. "We have leaders on this team. I have to disagree with Sammie on that. The leadership on this team has been the same since day one, you know, and the seniors are doing a good job of that. It's just about bringing the team together and just continuing to move toward that goal. I think when you don't start out the way you want, you kind of start pointing fingers, but you can't do that."
Chizik said these questions surface at every level of football from high school to the NFL when teams start losing. He said he feels "really, really good about the majority of our team being right on point."