Simplicity A Key For AU's Defense This Week

Auburn's defense is looking for more consistency beginning this week against the Ole Miss Rebels, who will visit Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday evening.

Auburn, Ala.--Going on the road for the first time in game four to face LSU, Auburn's defense struggled early with new schemes installed by Coach Ellis Johnson and his staff specifically for the contest.

Making mistakes and allowing big plays was again a problem for the defense, something Johnson hopes the Tigers get corrected before facing Ole Miss on Saturday.

With the Rebels running a fast-paced offense that makes it tough to get too complex on defense, that will make getting lined up and communicating on defense even more important for Auburn this week. Johnson said because of that staying simple may be the best bet against the Rebels and that could be good news for the Tigers.

Auburn's best defensive stretches of the season have been when Johnson decided to play more base defense and let his players make plays. Much of that has been in the second half of games this season and it is not surprising that has been Auburn's best half of defense.

In 27 second-half drives this season by the opponents' offense, Auburn has allowed just three touchdowns and three field goals. In the fourth quarter the numbers have been even better, giving up just 311 yards of total offense and seven total points.

That speaks to the adjustments made by Johnson and his staff, but also the comfort level of the players late in games when the Tigers have played more base looks.

That may be the option this week against Hugh Freeze's Rebels because of the pace of the Ole Miss offense.

"You have to be careful about putting in too much against an offense like this," Johnson said. "When you go real fast, there's only so much you can get lined up in. There were a lot of mis-alignments Saturday that cause wide-open receivers. Kids can't handle but so much in a game like this."

Getting a head start on the Rebels last week during the bye week, the defensive coordinator said that in addition to preparing for the Ole Miss offense it was a great opportunity to get the younger players up to speed with more work for them in practice. Counting on several of them to play quality minutes each week such as Montravius Adams, Carl Lawson, Elijah Daniel and Brandon King, the first-year coordinator said having a few days to work on correcting mistakes was huge.

Defensive tackle Montravius Adams makes a stop vs. Washington State in his first college game.

"We needed it physically, too," Johnson said of the off-week. "We needed it really badly physically. We could have used it earlier. You get more repetition on their formations, adjustments, the blocking schemes, routes, recognition. It doesn't necessarily mean that we'll be better prepared, but we'll have some things we've spent more time on."

Johnson said it was nice to also see familiar faces back on the practice field. Senior defensive back Chris Davis, out against both Mississippi State and LSU, returned and Johnson noted he's day-to-day. The same is true of defensive end Craig Sanders and linebacker Justin Garrett. Sanders missed the LSU game with a sprained ankle while Garrett continues to be bothered by a foot injury suffered in the preseason.

Now with the meat of the schedule upon them and starting to get some players back on the field, Johnson said getting a head start for the Tigers' defense was huge and now it's all about narrowing down the plan to get ready for Saturday.

"We tried not to get too much into scheme last week for the next opponent," Johnson said. "Obviously when we separated, we worked on their formations and nothing else. We worked a lot of young players. We got some guys back on the practice field. They got more repetition. It helps us.

"I think we'd already learned a little about some of the young players having to play them in the first three games, four games, because of injuries and other issues," the coach added. "They are certainly going to benefit from that."

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories