"We want to be great," said sophomore defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker. "We want to start off with three-and-outs and we want to start off with sacks.
"This year, we're not looking to be ‘ah man, second half,'" he added. "We're looking to be the whole game--Auburn comes the whole game."
Although the defense dominated the offense 51-15 on Saturday in the scoring system the coaches use for scrimmages, Whitaker said the defense could have been better. He said he thought the defense was average in the first half, but noted the Tigers "brought it" on defense after that.
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said he saw good things from his defensive group in the second major scrimmage for his Tigers. "At this point in the spring, they're real tired, they're a little beat up, especially the interior guys," he noted. "The interior guys have been taking on a lot of double teams. They've been taking on 600 pounds now for 10 days, so they're a little beat up because of our depth, obviously."
The Tigers must replace three starters along the defensive line, including both starters at defensive tackle. Whitaker, who saw limited action last season and made seven tackles as a backup in 14 games, is expected to be a leader along the defensive line.
Whitaker said he has seen a lot of progress along the defensive line since the first spring practice with their new position coach Mike Pelton taking over for Tracy Rocker, who is now in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. The defensive tackle said there has been an adjustment period learning what Pelton expects from them in practice.
"When we first got with Coach Pelton, we're out here the first day of spring and everybody's false stepping, everybody's stepping on each other's feet, doing this and that," Whitaker said. "If you watch the first tape of the first practice, it was like ‘what is this?' It didn't look very good for the future the first day, but now, it's like ‘Man, we've got some studs."
Whitaker, sophomore defensive tackle Kenneth Carter and sophomore defensive ends Cory Lemonier and Nosa Eguae have been playing with the first team defense. Whitaker said the group recorded around a half dozen sacks in the scrimmage and that is a sign they are improving.
Ted Roof, coordinator of the defense, said the sacks were nice, but the consistency could be better because he saw too many mistakes for his liking. "The good news is that all the mistakes we made are correctable," Roof said. "We will be able to go back and get these things corrected and move forward and finish out spring practice the last week with the right mentality and the right approach and the right level of effort."
Whitaker, Roof and the Tigers will return to the practice field on Monday for the 11th of their 15 spring practice dates.