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From the mailbag:
"Hey coach, want you to know I appreciate everything you have done for Auburn. You made my high school days more enjoyable by putting us even or better than Alabama. The thing I would ask you to write about is the defense and the defensive coaches at Auburn. You being a defensive guy, and all of your knowledge of that side of the ball, tell us all you can without giving too many secrets. Thanks Coach Dye for everything and have a great day and a blessed life."
As far as Auburn's defense is concerned, Mickey, I think part of the change for 2012 will be because of the differences in personnel the coaches have to work with this year. I think Dee Ford coming back from his injury is going to help. With his speed on the corner, combined with the speed of Corey Lemonier, the coaches are going to utilize those two at the same time and I am excited to see how that works out.
I think a major difference this season will be apparent up front with Auburn going to a penetrating style of gap control defense as opposed to last year's deal where they would sit on the line of scrimmage for gap control and read the offense. Behind those guys up front I don't know that the style of play will change a great deal for the linebackers and the guys in the secondary.
This defense has played good at times the last couple of years, but the Tigers have not been as opportunistic as they need to be at forcing turnovers and making big plays on defense that turn games around. There has been one here or one there that stand out, but not as many as the coaches would like and that is an area the team is trying to improve this year.
The coaches want the personality of their football team to be one that is consistently making big plays and turning the football over to the offense in good field position.
I think all of the players, as well as the other coaches, are excited about having Coach (Brian) VanGorder in to direct the defense. I don't think you are going to see a defense with great players at every position this year, but if Auburn can get 11 guys and some backups playing the way the coaches want them to play, this group will be fun to watch.
In my opinion the defense will be improved because there will be more experience and maturity on the field. The defense was young at many positions last year and that showed.
It has always been my philosophy that the most important people on the field, other than the quarterback, are the guys who line up with their hands on the ground on the other side of the ball from the quarterback. Defensive lineman can create more problems for an offense with penetration and making plays than anybody else can because they are so close to the action. That is where your pressure comes from in passing situations and where your penetration and big plays come from in defending the running game.
The defensive linemen also can play a major role in freeing up the linebackers to make plays. If you have the kind of defensive front you want as a coach, those guys can force quarterbacks into making mistakes.
"Coach, thanks for that enlightening article on Jay (Prosch). I am his uncle and do have a question for you. Without betraying team strategies, do you think they will ever use him as more than a blocker? My own son was an All-State soccer player and we have played a ton of two on two football with Jay and his Dad. Though my son was faster and had better footwork, Jay has some speed, can juke and cut and has good hands, too. Seems a shame if they don't run him some for short yardage gains and passes out of the backfield. I can imagine keeping that info a surprise for a critical game and time, but what do you think?"
Don, I think they will probably utilize him more in the passing game than the running game. It is tough to cover a fullback coming out of the backfield. You have got to have your defense either set up for it or have great recognition from your players.
It is so difficult for a linebacker, who has to whip the blocking fullback so he can make a tackle on the tailback vs. the run, to be in a position to cover the fullback on either a play-action or mis-direction pass route.
I am sure they will use him to run the ball in some short yardage situations and occasionally as a surprise, change of pace, but it is hard to argue that he should carry the ball a lot over one of those really fast tailbacks. What Jay does best is knock down linebackers and he is good at it.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.