"It still has a ways to go," VanGorder said of the defense. "I mean there's a lot of communication that goes on in our system so players really have to be focused, they have to be dialed in, they have to master their position and understand. That's part of what they do, and it helps players make sense of the situation and what's going on."
Aside from fundamentals, tackling and fitting gaps, VanGorder has stressed the importance of understanding situational football to his players during spring practice.
One situation that haunted the Auburn defense last season was third and long. While VanGorder may not be satisfied with where the defense is at, he is pleased with the progress they've made in understanding certain situations.
"You've got to win a 3rd and 12 on defense," said VanGorder, who has been installing his base 4-3 defense, that offers multiple looks, during spring practice. "Anytime you are taking on an entirely new language and new terms, it's difficult," he said.
"Again, part of good coaching is understanding how players learn and we've got a little bit more systematic in how we've been able to teach just because there's so much install," he added.
VanGorder also wants the Tigers' defense to eliminate explosive plays by the offense. In the A-Day game, the Tigers offense ran eight plays that the coaches viewed as explosive, which earned the offense two points in the A-Day scoring system.
"You can play good defense, but all the sudden four plays in the game are explosive play touchdowns," he said. "The other 64 plays, you could have been real solid; four plays like that destroy your day so we've got to rid ourselves of that."
"I don't know that I could say overall that I'm pleased, but I think there's positives that I'm aware of," added Auburn's first-year defensive coordinator. "But we have a lot of work to do and certainly today some of the things that I saw, from studying the film a year ago, that we've battled here during spring ball showed up."
With 10 defensive players missing some or all of spring practice, the younger players on the team have gotten extra reps, which has given the Tigers the opportunity to build much-needed depth on defense.
"There's a number of guys that have gotten the opportunity, have done a good job, and they've, in coaching, they begin to earn your trust," said VanGorder of players taking advantage of the increased reps. "I think it's a good step forward for them.
"Having said that, we're anxious to get the guys back that have been out because depth in this league is just critical," added VanGorder. "We'll be a little bit behind as we try to establish roles moving towards the first game, be a little bit behind until we get all of those guys back. But that's what we'd like to be doing moving forward is kind of talking about their roles, amount of plays they are going to play in a game and what situations they're going to best work for us, and all those things."
After watching film, VanGorder and the Tigers will take to the practice field Monday for final time this spring.