The Dye-Gest: Experimenting On Defense

College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye writes about the Auburn Tigers in this addition of his Dye-Gest column.

Spring practice is a time when college football coaches have plenty of opportunities to experiment with position changes. At Auburn one of the interesting experiments is taking place on the defensive front.

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It's exciting to me the way that Coach Rodney Garner is working with his defensive linemen this spring, especially moving tackles Gabe Wright and Montravius Adams out to end. That gives the Tigers the possibility to line up a particularly large and physical front.

Three of the teams Auburn needs to beat to win the SEC title are LSU, Georgia and Alabama, opponents that like to run the football, so it makes sense for the Tigers to take a look at trying those big guys at the end positions. It is something that might be used immediately this season with the Tigers opening against an Arkansas team that is heavily run-oriented.

The Razorbacks like to play three tight ends so having those 300-pound anchors at end makes sense to me. With five seniors on the front four this year and the three freshmen from last year likely to be better, I believe the Tigers have a chance to be better this season on the defensive line of scrimmage.

If Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost stay healthy I also expect the Tigers to be better at the linebacker positions this fall. Both are downhill, aggressive players, which is what you need at those spots.

I like Robenson Therezie, the returning starter at the "star" position. Having him back is important and it will be a major plus for the team if Justin Garrett, who can play both "star" and linebacker, comes back strong after being injured last season.

Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and his secondary coaches, Melvin Smith and Charlie Harbison, are rotating a lot of different players at the cornerback and safety positions. I don't know if this year's team will have a cornerback as good as Chris Davis was last season, but Jonathon Mincy is close. On the plus side for the Tigers it looks like they will have a chance to play with more depth in the secondary and that is a good thing--a very good thing.

It won't be a surprise if this year's defense is more talented at the safety positions. One of the reasons that could be the case is the experiment of playing Johnathan Ford there this spring. Last season as a true freshman he arrived as a running back and moved to cornerback. Wherever he lines up he should be able to help his team because this kid is a football player.

I think the Tigers added another good football player when they brought Derrick Moncrief in as a junior college transfer. He joined the team this semester and has been impressive since he got to Auburn. Moncrief is one of the newcomers who will give the Tigers a chance to be a more effective group defensively than they were last year.

The sooner the Tigers get their defense improved the better because in addition to an opening game vs. an SEC opponent when Arkansas comes to Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Tigers have what should be a tough September game at Kansas State. I thought Bill Snyder had one of the better coached bowl teams I saw last season. His team has a great quarterback and a great receiver returning. The Wildcats recruit a lot of junior college players so they can be a very different team from one year to the next so this road trip has the potential to be a challenging one for Gus Malzahn's team.

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