McNeal Hoping Less Means More For Defense

Auburn safety Demetruce McNeal discusses the Tigers' defense and what they need to improve on.

Auburn, Ala.—If you look at his numbers then the 2011 season has been off to a roaring start for Auburn sophomore Demetruce McNeal. In his first season as a starter McNeal is third on the team with 24 tackles, has an interception that he returned for a touchdown, and has also forced a fumble. Stats has be deceiving though as McNeal admits that he hasn't played up to his capability so far this season and that culminated in the loss to Clemson last weekend.

One of several Tigers that missed key tackles in a secondary that had blown assignments, mis-alignments and plain bad play, McNeal said he doesn't expect the same thing in this weekend's game. One of the reasons for that is the mental side of the game. Saying they were playing slow and out of position because of mental mistakes McNeal said the focus heading into the Florida Atlantic game on defense has been simplify and play fast.

"Basically this week is getting back to the fundamentals," McNeal said. "From looking at the tape of the Clemson game there were too many missed tackles, too many blown assignments, and not a lot of guys lined up in the right spot at the snap of the ball. This week we're basically going back to the fundamentals. It's basically like two-a-days. We're making sure everybody knows where they are supposed to be at the snap of the ball.

"After that it's everybody executing the play. From there on it's just run and hit from here on out. Not so many play calls will be called. We won't have 15 or 20 plays on defense and having everybody thinking out there. This week it's cutting down calls and everybody lining up and knowing what to do. We'll just go from here on out playing as a base defense. Just running and hitting."

Hitting hasn't been as much of a problem for the Tigers as tackling has been and that was especially true against Clemson. Time and time again Auburn was in position to make a play on Saturday only to come up empty. McNeal said because of that the secondary spent extra time working on tackling following Tuesday's practice and he believes it will pay off.

"I like to have thrown up on myself when I saw all those missed tackles," McNeal said of watching the Clemson game again. "I know I missed a lot myself. That's why we stayed after practice today to work on tackling drills because it has been so long. Throughout the week we hardly hit. The only time we hit is on game day.

"What you practice like is what you play like. If you don't hit a lot it will show up. That's why we're going back to the basic fundamentals, wrapping up and following on their hips and keeping our feet moving when we make contact with the offensive player. I look for us to perform better the rest of the year because we're going to play faster and everybody is going to know what to do."

McNeal also talked about the alignment on defense causing problems, something that veteran T'Sharvan Bell said as well. With adjustments to make on the fly against an offense designed to put pressure on the defense McNeal said Auburn just made mistake after mistake trying to get lined up right. He noted that because of that the Tigers will have fewer responsibilities this week in the hopes that they can free their minds and just play football.

"Coach Roof and them, with so many young guys playing, they don't want a lot of thinking," McNeal said. "That's what they feel like has been going on. I'm not going to lie at times I'm out there thinking a lot because there are different things on this call and different things on that call. If the back is over here I've got this and if the back is over there I've got that and if there is motion I have this.

"Now it's just everybody has man-to-man and go with their man. Everybody is playing one particular thing so there won't be that much thinking. We can play faster and get to the ball faster and make more plays."

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