Last week Auburn struggled to contain an explosive Clemson offense, allowing 528 total yards and 28 first downs in a 26-19 loss. With Mississippi State right tackle Charles Siddoway making his first career start last week in the win over Jackson State while left tackle Blaine Causell and right guard Tobias Smith have just five career starts each, Auburn's more experienced defensive line should have the advantage Saturday morning.
That was the case last week as well, however, and Auburn's group didn't get the job done. While defensive ends Corey Lemonier, Dee Ford and LaDarius Owens all got plenty of pressure on Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, they only got him on the ground four times and allowed key scrambles to keep drives alive.
Facing a Mississippi State offense that is capable of putting up some big numbers with quarterback Tyler Russell more of a pocket passer, it's going to be important to get consistent pressure on the junior and get him on the ground when given the opportunity.
While the entire front four must show improvement for Auburn's defense to take significant steps forward, the defensive tackle position has more to improve on for the Tigers than perhaps any position on the field. In last week's loss Kenneth Carter had three assisted tackles as a reserve while starter Angelo Blackson added one solo tackle and one assist. That was it for the defensive tackle position despite Clemson running 87 offensive plays.
When Auburn defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder took the job, one of the first things he talked about was changing the way the defensive line played to a more aggressive style. That style includes being productive and forcing the action with the front four. Being productive means using hands to get off blocks and get penetration into the backfield.
The Tigers must do a better job of that Saturday morning against the Mississippi State Bulldogs if they hope to even their record and get the SEC season off to a winnning start.