With Coach Gus Malzahn continuing to preach the importance of improving each and every day on the field, senior defensive lineman Nosa Eguae said so far the Tigers have achieved that goal and they need to keep the trend going.
"We're getting better every day," Eguae said. "Coach Malzahn, his mantra is either you're getting better or you're getting worse. A lot of these guys are really buying into the plan. They know Tuesday is a big day. Wednesday is a big day. Thursday is a big day. You've got to get better on those three days to have success on a Saturday."
Eguae is part of a large group of defensive linemen that has improved by leaps and bounds since last season. Finishing the 2012 season with just 22 sacks and 66 tackles for losses, Coach Rodney Garner's group already has produced 19 sacks and 56 tackles for losses just seven games into this season.
There is no question that Garner's influence has made a big difference on the technique and fundamentals for the defensive linemen, but just as important has been the rotation employed up front. Playing as many as a dozen players regularly along the front four, Auburn has been able to stay fresh in games and Eguae said the difference has been dramatic not only during game,s but also during the week leading up to Saturday.
"We feel good," Eguae said. "We have got confidence in going about 12 or 13 guys deep. We know that Coach G (Garner) is going to call a great game as far as rotating us. When our name is called, we've got to to go out there and play hard first and foremost. Then just play the technique and play good ball. We're playing for each other; that's the big thing."
As many things as Auburn has done well in its fast start this season, there are still plenty of mistakes being made in all areas of the game and that is what the Tigers are taking a long look at this week in practice. From the inconsistency in the passing game to allowing big plays on defense, and even mistakes in kick coverage on special teams, Malzahn said his team is far from a finished product.
"As a coach you're always trying to correct mistakes and so we're really focusing on areas in all three phases we need to correct and get better on and we can get better," Malzahn said. "We're still making some silly mistakes so that's really what we've focused on this week."
Frost Beginning To Come Around
Making his first career start against Texas A&M on Saturday with starter Jake Holland missing most of last week's practice time because of a concussion suffered against Western Carolina, sophomore linebacker Kris Frost responded with six tackles in the win. Saying that Holland is still the starter for the Tigers and he's just trying to improve and help the team, Frost said that with every outing he is becoming more comfortable with the defense and being the guy responsible for lining everyone up.
"I definitely think it's an experience thing," Frost said. "Fixing it is basically what's happening now--getting more reps in the games and practicing and the amount of reps the second team gets in practice is great for all of us so I feel like the more in-game experience and more I get out there and take charge of the defense like I did this past weekend, the more experience I'll grab and the better I'll be at it."
Another Secondary Shakeup
With sophomore safety Josh Holsey out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, Auburn has moved a second cornerback to man that spot on the defensive side of the ball. Expected to rotate into the boundary safety spot with either Ryan Smith or Jermaine Whitehead shifting to the nickel and dime roles, Ryan White filled in impressively for the Tigers in the win over Texas A&M and Malzahn said the Tigersl need more out of him in the coming weeks.
"He's a cornerback and didn't get one rep of safety all last week because of when that injury happened," Malzahn said. "He just did an outstanding job in a tough situation against one of the better offenses in college football on Saturday. He'll kind of move into that role moving forward. He's an experienced guy and did a great job."
Because of the move the Tigers are again left thin at cornerback. Starters Chris Davis and Jonathon Mincy have been playing almost every snap at the position. With true freshman Kamryn Melton likely out again this weekend because of a leg injury, the Tigers are hoping to get plenty of work for sophomore Jonathan Jones and freshman Johnthan Ford this weekend against Florida Atlantic because they are going to have to play a role down the stretch on defense.
"Both of those guys are going to have to help us," Malzahn said. "Where we're at depth-wise on defense, in some areas, is pretty scary. We've lost some guys, we're banged up, so we'll need those guys and we'll need the other guys, too. We'll need our other guys who haven't played a lot to be ready."
The good news on the injury front in the secondary is that true freshman Mackenro Alexander appears to be good to go after leaving the field sitting up on a golf cart Saturday while wearing a protective neck brace. Malzahn said they are hoping he'll be back on the field this weekend to face Florida Atlantic.
Auburn will face Florida Atlantic at 6:30 p.m. CDT Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game can be seen on Fox Sports Net South.