"Just in practice I see the enthusiasm," Holland said. "Everybody is ready, not only to put that behind us, but get better and move forward for the future. That's going to be a definite thing for us this first game so that we can really prove we're a good team."
Facing an offense that threw the football 71 percent of the time last season in Mike Leach's first season with the Cougars, Auburn is expecting to see the ball in the air early and often Saturday night. While not completely abandoning thoughts of the run, junior cornerback Jonathon Mincy said that when you prepare for a team like Washington State you have to change your mindset somewhat in the secondary.
"Your thought process changes as far as being more aggressive to try to show up for the run rather than sinking back in coverage knowing that the quarterback is going to try to throw at any time so that's something we've worked on and we've gone after these past couple of weeks and tried to make adjustments with."
Another adjustment in the secondary is being more aggressive with the ball in the air. Last season as a group the cornerbacks didn't have a single interception and the secondary totaled just one, that coming from reserve safety Trent Fisher. Mincy said that Coach Melvin Smith has brought a different mindset to the cornerback position and it starts with attacking.
Jonathon Mincy is a returning starter heading into his junior season.
"Just being physical and having that attitude out there," Mincy noted of the difference on defense under the new staff. "I know they said we kind of pulled away from being a tough defense and that is something we pride ourself on this offseason so we're definitely change that around and be one of the top defenses in the country."
Getting that edge back on defense has been a constant point of emphasis for the Tigers since the start of spring practice. Focusing on improving the tackling across the board, Holland said being more physical is a goal coming out of the gate in 2013 even though they're facing an offense designed to spread the field and pile up the yards.
"They throw the ball a lot so they're going to try to get as many yards and points on us as they can, butt coming off last year we want to definitely make a statement and do that in this game," Holland said.
With the game plan in place and only fine tuning to be done between now and the opening kickoff at 6 p.m. CDT Saturday, Auburn's defense has some soul searching to do as the Tigers get ready to cast aside thoughts of last season and put new memories in their place. Holland said the closeness of the group is one of the biggest changes that has already occurred and that should lead to better results this year.
"We're just like one unit," the senior linebacker said. "We're closer and we play that way. I think that's going to be a definite aspect of this team is just how close we are and how hard we fight for the guy next to you."