Senior Linebacker Working For A Big Finish

Jake Holland talks about preparing for the 2013 football season and his hopes for improved play for the Auburn defense.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's most experienced linebacker, senior Jake Holland is looking to finish his college football playing days on a high note and help the Tigers' defense take strides forward in 2013.

Despite battling through several injuries that hampered him for much of his junior season, Holland finished fourth on the team with 73 tackles.

Playing through pain on a team that saw its season fall to pieces on the way to a 3-9 finish, Holland went back to work immediately to do something about the situation. Taking on the double-duty of learning Coach Ellis Johnson's defense while closing in on finishing his degree in building science, Holland is the epitome of a student-athlete as he has spent long hours on both subjects to get ready for his final year on the Plains.

"It was a lot to handle, but I feel like I handled it well," Holland said of the spring when he had to miss some practice time and finished second string on the depth chart at middle linebacker. "Going into the fall I have some competition," he said. "I'm looking forward to that and getting my job back.

I've been here for 3 1/2 years, going on four," he added. "This is probably the most competition I've had. I'm looking forward to getting better, going out there and learning from Coach Johnson and winning my spot back."

Now locked in a battle with Kris Frost for the starting middle linebacker position while also working on the weak side, Holland noted it is difficult to believe he is heading into his final season at Auburn.

"It has gone by so fast," he said. "It's a bittersweet deal for me. I'm ready to get going, but I realize it's my last year. I have to make it a good one."

Before the team could be ready for preseason camp and the 2013 season, Holland said some of the most important work came during the summer voluntary sessions on the practice field. That bonding time and learning time is huge for the development of a team and the senior pointed out that he believes things are on the right path to success.

"I feel like everybody was dialed in," Holland said of the summer. "The focus was there and that's a good thing. Not a whole lot of managerial things had to go into that because everybody was focused. Everything is looking up and everything is looking good going into fall camp."

Much of the confidence that Holland and the rest of the defense has comes from Johnson and the new coaching staff. An experienced group that has had success coaching in the SEC, Johnson's system is designed to allow the players to take an aggressive approach in dealing with opposing defenses. Holland noted that he can't wait to see what the season is going to hold.

"We're looking for great things," he said. "We really like him as a coach. He's a great teacher. We get along with him well. We're going to mesh well this fall and we're going to learn a lot from him."

Last season the defense managed to intercept just two passes in 12 games. On Wednesday, at the first preseason scrimmage, Holland and cornerback Chris Davis each came up with an interception. Holland made his play on the goal line, returning the ball 70 yards.

Playing faster has been the focus for the defense since getting a feel for Johnson's systems in the spring. Following the first game-type action this August, Holland said he can feel things coming together and it feels good.

"I felt like today was a good day," the senior said. "There were mistakes made, but there were some good plays, too. From what I felt today, I thought it was a progressive day. I thought we got better.

"This is our first scrimmage," he added. "I knew it was going to be a little rusty. We haven't been in those game-like situations. It's a good step forward for us and it's going to prepare us for taking that next step."

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