The question of "who's the biggest disappointment in the SEC?" was answered with an emphatic "WE ARE" from Auburn Saturday, as the Tigers suffered a brutal 24-7 loss to an Arkansas team already left for dead by, well, everyone but Auburn.
So it's no surprise that the Tigers are dealing with some frustration and anger these days. Even so, it is surprising exactly how much of that frustration spilled out in Tuesday's comments from redshirt freshman receiver Sammie Coates.
"We don't have leadership. The leadership has to come from somebody," said Coates, as quoted in the Birmingham News. "Everybody talks about wanting to win, but nobody is showing how they want to win."
Coates was fairly specific about who he meant by "they."
"[The coaches] put a lot on the older guys, but they're not showing much," Coates said. "Coach is always talking about leadership, but nobody is trying to be a leader. They talk about it all the time, but you don't see it."
What positions might Coates be referring to? The quarterbacks, for one, Coates said.
"They talk. But they don't talk enough," he said. "They have to be leaders."
If you're keeping track at home, that's a player with five career games, three career catches, and one memorable drop vs. LSU saying the team's veterans generally 1. aren't good leaders 2. are all talk 3. aren't following through on their coaches' requests. Oh, and more specifically, the quarterbacks aren't doing their job right, either.
As you might imagine, one of the team's veterans -- two-year middle linebacker starter Jake Holland -- did take exception to Coates' comments, albeit politely.
"We have leaders on this team; I have to disagree with Sammie on that,” Holland said, per the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. "The leadership on this team has been the same since day one, you know, and the seniors are doing a good job of that.”
"I agree with the fact that things have got to change," Holland added. "Things have got to change in the fact that we've got to start winning, but I disagree with the fact of what he says about the leadership."
Holland also said that "if we're going to stay together as a team, the leaders can't allow" anyone "to start pointing fingers." (He did clarify that he doesn't see any finger-pointing now.)
For his part, Gene Chizik sounded unconcerned with Coates' comments, saying he "understands the frustration."
To a certain extent, anyone can -- after all, that's the territory that comes with being the most disappointing team in the SEC. It's only natural for Coates to be emotional, and if the other members of the team aren't expressing that anger, it's only natural that someone does. It's arguable that person should be one of the team's seniors rather than one of its freshmen, but isn't that Coates' point?
However you spin it, though, excusing Coates does nothing to solve Auburn's problem: its players clearly aren't on the same page, and now they have the added burden-slash-distraction of getting onto the same page in the press as well as behind closed doors. For a team that needs every ounce of its focus on winning games at the moment (as the Arkansas debacle proved), it's one more headache the Tigers likely can't afford.