Defensive Line Improving In Multiple Phases

Auburn rotated 10 defensive linemen though much of the game against Arkansas State, and that's without its most talented player, Dee Ford, still held out with an injury. Angelo Blackson talks about the improved depth and technique under Rodney Garner this year.

Ala.--Auburn efensive line coach Rodney Garner and defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson had a game plan for keeping Arkansas State from putting points on the board.

The Red Wolves amassed 80 plays, which is substantial, and ran up 422 yards, but failed to score a touchdown and tailed just three field goals.

The game plan defensively was to keep the defensive front fresh through another warm and humid night in Jordan-Hare stadium.

Craig Sanders and Nosa Eguae started at the defensive ends, and Angelo Blackson and Ben Bradley started at the tackles.

"They just wanted to keep us fresh," Blackson said. "If we were out there for more than eight plays we had to go send some other guys in. If we needed to we could tap out if we got tired. They wanted to keep us fresh."

We had a game plan this week--a really good game plan," Blackson explained. "We knew they were going to come in and try to run the ball. Coach emphasized pad level up front and hand placements and steps. I think we really took advantage of it and worked on technique. We were able to get into the backfield."

In addition to the starters, Montravius Adams, Kenneth Carter and Gabe Wright were all a part of the rotation at defensive tackle in the first half. Jabrian Niles also saw the field in the second half.

At end Carl Lawson, Elijah Daniel and LaDarius Owens received plenty of snaps throughout the game while Justin Delaine was inserted into the rotation in the second half.

Adams, Lawson and Daniel, three true freshman, as well as junior college transfer Bradley continued to shine and strengthen a defensive line that had gone sour last season.

"Them guys are all out there making plays," Blackson said of the young guys. "We expect them to. If there are freshmen out on the field then they're out there to contribute. There shouldn't be any drop off from the 1s, the 2s and the 3s.

"We're a lot better," Blackson added. "We're more technique-sound. We come off the ball. We've got great pad level, but we're still improving. We're still not there yet. We're on the ascend."

Auburn didn't show much blitz against the Red Wolves, but got to the quarterback twice and tallied THIRTEEN tackles for loss. That's 16.25 percent of the snaps that went for lost yardage. Eight and a half of the 13 TFLs were by defensive linemen, who used stunts and twists to get into the backfield rather than relying on the blitz from linebackers and the secondary.

"We worked the pass rush-that's something we struggled in the first game," Blackson commented. "We worked on our hands and trying to get pressure on them and make them uncomfortable."

Auburn opens SEC play at 2-0 against a 1-1 Mississippi State team next Saturday at 6 p.m. at Jordan-Hare on ESPN2. The Bulldogs resume consists of a 21-3 loss to Oklahoma State and a 51-7 win over Alcorn State on Saturday.

"It feels good," Blackson said of 2-0. "We've got a lot of momentum going into the game, but we still have work to do. We've got our work cut out for us all week. It's a conference game. They're going to come in and try to run the ball. We've just got to get a game plan and execute."

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