Ask anyone who watched Auburn the biggest need of improvement from 214, and the answer might be the defense. Auburn’s defense is on the right track in a hurry with Will Muschamp taking over as defensive coordinator. The spring game was the latest example of that defense turning a corner.
Since Gus Malzahn has been named head coach at Auburn a couple of years ago, this was the lowest scoring spring game for the Tigers. Credit that to Muschamp getting to work early with the Tigers defense and making some changes. He also brings some energy to the defense, something he has been noted for throughout his coaching career.
“They’re flying around,” Malzahn said. “They’re playing hard.”
“Everybody loves Coach Muschamp,” defensive tackle Montravius Adams said after the game, per Al.com. “He’s bringing that energy and changing the question to the whole defense, so we’re going to be a top contender.”
It was just a spring game, but Auburn is feeling more comfortable on defense. They have a defensive coordinator who can cook up some good schemes and have his players buy in. It’s working, and that could be huge if Auburn is going to make some things happen in 2015.
The other side of the Auburn conversation is who replaces Nick Marshall at quarterback? After the spring game it looks as though the answer is more and more likely to be Jeremy Johnson. In fact, let’s put him atop the depth chart for the summer now. Johnson completed 14-of-22 passes for 252 yards with a pair of long touchdowns to Duke Williams and Myron Burton.
“I thought Jeremy did some good things,” Malzahn said. “He has really good command of our offense. He probably held the ball a little too long a couple of throws, but, overall, I thought he did a good job.”
Auburn opens the 2015 season in Atlanta against Louisville in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff on September 5.
If Auburn was hoping to find ways to bring down Alabama quarterback Blake Sims, the Tigers may have to look for someone else on the defensive line to step up. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn announced Tuesday defensive end DaVonte Lambert will miss the Iron Bowl and Auburn’s bowl game after undergoing season-ending surgery on his left knee on Monday.
“That’s a big blow for us,” Malzahn said, per The Montgomery Advertiser. “We’re going to need some guys to step up.”
Lambert led the defense with 3.5 sacks this season. Montravius Adams and Angelo Blackson each have three sacks. Adams is also second on the team in tackles for loss, so he may be the most likely name to watch try and fill the void left by Lambert.
Lambert had been listed as the starting defensive end for Auburn on this week’s depth chart for the Alabama game. Sophomore Elijah Daniel (3.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks) is listed as his back-up.
“He’s a factor,” Malzahn said. “But we need some other guys to step up. Football’s a team game and when you’re playing against your rival, it’s got the ability to have guys step up and play better than they have all year, and that’s what we need.”
Getting sacks against Alabama is tough enough. The Crimson Tide have allowed just 10.0 sacks all season. Auburn has just 19.0 sacks this season as well. Losing one of their better sack specialists could be tough to overcome.
There were all kinds of reasons to criticize officials this weekend around college football, but what else is new really? The SEC has come out offered an apology to South Carolina for officials missing a penalty on the final play of its loss at Auburn Saturday night. South Carolina should have been given a second chance at a last-second Hail Mary play, but SEC officials missed Auburn having two players wearing the same uniform number on the field.
On South Carolina’s final play Saturday night, Auburn had Montravius Adams and D’haquille Williams on the field at the same time to defend a South Carolina deep pass. Both players wore No. 1. The pass was intercepted, and after the game South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier suggested he would have gone for two points and the win had South Carolina scored on the play. The SEC claims the missed call was discovered well after the conclusion of the game.
Having two players on the field wearing the same uniform number should have been penalized five yards. Auburn won 42-35.
While Auburn’s run to the national title game last season was spurred by the team’s innovative offense and overwhelming rushing attack, the Tigers’ defense was led by defensive tackle Gabe Wright. Wright proved to be one of the most disruptive interior defenders in the nation, but his role is expected to expand this fall.
Wright will start the season at defensive tackle, but he’ll also be expected to receive repetitions at defensive end.
Wright was forced to play defensive end during spring practice due to injuries along the defensive line, and the Tigers’ coaching staff came away impressed with his play.
“(Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Gardner) actually wanted to put me in last year, but he just stated I wasn’t mentally ready,” Wright told al.com’s Brandon Marcello. “I respect and I don’t second-guess his decision. If I’m called upon, I will answer the call. There’s no doubt about that. It just shows his confidence in me.”
Wright also wasn’t physically ready to play defensive end last year. He’s down to 290 pounds with enough the athleticism to set the edge and rush the passer.
“I’ve been wanting to drop down body weight since I’ve been here — and body fat — which has been done,” Wright said.
Wright’s versatility will provide insurance along the Tigers’ defensive line after losing Dee Ford to the NFL and Carl Lawson to a potential season-ending ACL injury. Wright’s ability to provide depth at defensive end also allows the ultra-talented Montravius Adams to gain more repetitions at defensive tackle.
While Wright remains one of the best interior defenders in college football, his biggest contribution this season may be his ability to play defensive end until Lawson is fully healthy or one of the Tigers’ young pass rushers are ready to take over the spot.
Five different Auburn defensive players have been hit or limited with injuries this spring for the defending SEC champions.
According to Al.com,senior defensive back Robenson Therezie has a broken left hand,sophomore defensive lineman Elijah Daniel is out with a groin injury,sophomore linebacker JaViere Mitchell is missing the spring while still rehabbing from a broken foot suffered during the SEC Championship Game against Missouri, and junior linebacker Cassanova McKinzy is limited due to a bruised hip bone. Auburn is also playing it safe with junior safety Josh Holsey, who is working his way back from a torn ACL. The report says he could be practicing right now, but there is no need to rush him back at this point.
With the injuries this spring, Auburn has had to move some players around to fill holes. One defensive move made was moving defensive tackle Montravius Adams to the end to fill the hole left by Daniel. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson does not believe this will be a permanent move, which means Adams will go back to the inside once Daniel is back and ready to go. Justin Garrett, who had a foot injury slow him down a year ago, has been moving between linebacker spots, and he has been showing some promise.
“Justin has been very unselfish,” Johnson said, according to Al.com. “I hope he can return to the Justin Garrett we remember from last spring.”