- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
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AUBURN, Ala. – Robenson Therezie wasn’t expected to play Saturday. He was “working through some eligibility issues” as Gus Malzahn put it during fall camp, and his name didn’t even show up on the two-deep depth chart released last Tuesday.
This is the same player who was named Auburn’s defensive MVP last year after he led the team in interceptions (four) and finished sixth in tackles (57).
But both Therezie and the Tigers received good news Friday when he was cleared to play, less than 24 hours before the Arkansas game.
The senior didn’t start, giving way to Justin Garrett at the Star position, but he was on special teams early on and played sparingly in the second quarter. After a lackluster performance from the defense in the first half, the coaches turned to him after halftime, and to nobody’s surprise, he made a pair of game-changing plays.
“He’s a playmaker,” Malzhan said after the game. “Last year he was a playmaker, and he made a big play tonight.”
Late in the third quarter with Auburn leading 28-21, Therezie blitzed and hit quarterback Brandon Allen just as he let go of the ball. The errant pass was intercepted by Jermaine Whitehead and returned for a touchdown, but the play started with Therezie wreaking havoc in the backfield.
“I think the big swing was when BA [Allen] got hit as he was throwing the ball there,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema told reporters in his postgame news conference.
On the very next drive, Therezie nearly caused another turnover when he popped running back Jonathan Williams in the flat, jarring the ball loose. Williams would recover, but the Razorbacks lost 3 yards on the play.
“He’s a freak,” Whitehead said. “He does a lot for the team. With all the experience he got last year, he feels a lot more comfortable. He’s got some big football left, and I can’t wait to see him play. With him and Justin together, it’s going to be a lot of trouble for somebody.”
There’s no word yet as to whether Garrett or Therezie will start this coming Saturday against San Jose State, but with the latter now eligible, it’s safe to assume that Therezie’s name will at least be on the two-deep depth chart for this week.
“We found out [Friday] he’s eligible,” Malzahn said. “That’s really all I’m going to say about that out of respect for him, but that’s a good thing moving forward.”