Defensive coordinator Ted Roof said the Tigers got an early start installing the game plan for week two after working on correcting mistakes from game one. Normally the Tigers are off on Mondays during the football season, but with no classes due to the Labor Day holiday the Tigers went to work, something the coach said the team really needed to do.
"There were way too many mistakes on things we can control and things we all have got to get better at," Roof said in assessing the defense's poor performance vs. Utah State. "It wasn't one group or one thing, it was a combination of a bunch of things," he added. "We all have to work to get it fixed."
Roof said other than having Eltoro Freeman back in the mix at linebacker expect to see the same players in action who played vs. the Aggies as Auburn had to rally to win 42-38.
The defensive coordinator said the Tigers had a productive practice on Monday. "Our kids are focused, they understand what happened and at the same time we won the football game, but we have a lot of work to do."
Auburn used 11 different players on the front four vs. Utah State, something that Roof said to expect again in game two. "Some people have earned that right and at the same time it is a way of forcing depth and development," he said. "Coaches sometimes get hesitant about putting this kid or that kid in, but in the end it is beneficial to everyone in the long run to do it."
The Tigers have played well in recent years in SEC openers, winning 17 of their last 18. Overall, Auburn's record is 44-28-5 in their opening SEC games of the season.
One of the team's more experienced defensive players, junior cornerback T'Sharvan Bell, agreed with Roof that the Tigers had a good practice on Monday evening. "We got a lot of things cleaned up and we are going on to Mississippi State now," he said. "I think tonight was very productive."
Bell plays cornerback and nickel back for the Tigers.
Bell said the defense is focused on the details of being a successful team. "There is no panic on the defense or us a team. Little things have got to be fixed. Little things turn into big things."
Bell predicted that the Tigers will reduce some of the things they were trying to do in the secondary in week one so the cornerbacks and safeties can play more aggressively in the SEC opener. The junior is expecting a tough test from the Bulldogs in a battle of Top 25 teams.
"They had a good team last year and they have 10 returning starters on offense so I definitely think they are going to be good," Bell pointed out.
In other news and notes:
*Making his second college start and first one since 2009, linebacker Jonathan Evans won praise from Auburn's defensive coordinator. "He had a productive game," Roof said. "There are some things he has to get cleaned up to be more reliable, more consistent." Roof said the junior had a good practice on Monday and will be ready for action in week two after leaving the game early on Saturday with an injury.
*In the opener Auburn played 13 true freshmen and just five seniors. Seniors who saw action include wide receiver Quindarius Carr, offensive guard Jared Cooper, H-back Chris Humphries, offensive tackle Brandon Mosley and safety Neiko Thorpe. All of those players started except for Humphries, a former walk-on who played on special teams.
*True freshman playing for the Tigers vs. Utah State included Angelo Blackson, Quan Bray, Reese Dismukes, Erique Florence, Kiehl Frazier, Brandon Fulse, Justin Garrett, Tre Mason, Devaunte Sigler, Robensen Therezie, C.J. Uzomah, Gabe Wright and Jermaine Whitehead. Texas is the only Division I team that played more freshmen last week than the Tigers. The Longhorns put 18 of them on the field.
*Mississippi State will be the 10th Top 25 opponent the Tigers have faced with Gene Chizik as head coach. The Tigers are 7-2 in those games with six consecutive victories.
*Junior wide receiver Emory Blake scored the first touchdown of the season for the Tigers on a 56-yard reception. Blake has now caught a touchdown in his last four games.
*Roof said that Jeffrey Whitaker did some good things in his first college start. The sophomore defensive tackle said that he personally was disappointed that he and the entire defensive front didn't perform better. Whitaker noted the Tigers are preparing for an old-fashioned, physical, SEC style game on Saturday because the MSU offensive line likes physical football.
*Roof said he believes that Eltoro Freeman's return at linebacker will bring energy to the defense. He also noted that junior end Dee Ford did some good things late in the game as a pass rusher.
Eltoro Freeman has starting experience for the Tigers.
*Center Reese Dismukes said he was disappointed in how he performed in his first college game. He noted the entire offensive line didn't play as hard as it could have and should have in the opener. The freshman said that the Tigers didn't play as physical as they needed to play on Saturday to move the football consistently and have been challenged by head coach Gene Chizik and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes to improve their execution in game two. Dismukes noted the offensive line is taking it personally that the Tigers failed to rush for 100 yards in a game for the first time since Gus Malzahn took over as offensive coordinator in 2009.
Video comments from Ted Roof: