Auburn Notebook: Talking Defense

Looking at possible early NFL defections, Travis Williams coaching LB's and Carl Lawson getting back to work

Taking A Look

As a junior in college football it’s a smart decision to get a feel for what the NFL Draft Board feels like your potential draft status would be if you decided to leave school early. For someone like wide receiver Sammie Coates it doesn’t have a great deal of impact because he’s already graduated and is likely going to be a first or second round selection.

For players such as Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy the process is much different. Auburn’s two starting linebackers, both Frost and McKinzy have the athletic tools to translate to the next level. However a lack of consistency has plagued both this season just like it has the entire Auburn defense. Second on the team with 82 tackles, McKinzy leads the way with 10 tackles for losses in 2014. Just behind him in both categories is Frost with 75 tackles and nine stops behind the line of scrimmage.

It’s more than just numbers when players consider leaving early, it’s also about the competition. Checking out other players at your position in the draft is an important part of the process, something Frost said both are doing as they continue to ponder the decision. After that it just comes down to making the right call and then working hard to make that dream a reality.

“We’ve both been talking to each other through this whole entire process,” Frost said. “It kinda feels like recruiting all over again. We’ve both been weighing out the options of coming out early or staying. It’s all about how we feel, going into this bowl game how we play, what’s right for us, what’s the right business decision for us and our families. I can’t really speak for him, but I know he’s going to make the best decision for him — as I am.”

Let’s Get Physical

Even though he was far from the biggest linebacker, that never stopped Travis Williams from being one of the most physical players on the field during his time with the Auburn Tigers as a middle linebacker. The acting linebacker coach during bowl practices for the Tigers, taking over for Ellis Johnson in that role, Williams is demanding the same of his group already and Frost said it’s definitely a different look for the guys at the position.

“More high-intensity,” Frost said of what Williams brings to the table. “Really, really physical. His style is a lot more physical, just making sure that every single play is a physical play. And really just spending extra time, making sure that we spend extra time on our own, outside of the meeting room (and) off the field.”

Williams should be fired up for this game against Wisconsin. He was on the Auburn team that lost to the Badgers 24-10 on Jan. 2, 2006.

Here Comes The Champ

New defensive coordinator Will Muschamp isn't running the defense just yet for the Tigers, but there is no question he has already made his impact felt. A high energy guy dating back to his time at Auburn in 2006-07, Muschamp has been offering pointers to guys and giving his opinions as guys try to impress him heading into the spring. With a need to show the new coach what they've got, junior cornerback Jonathan Jones said the bowl practices have been picked up several notches.

"It's been intense," Jones said. "The energy's been up. You know he's watching. For a lot of guys coming back next year, it's kind of a different level because he's looking for next year too. We're getting ready for this bowl game and he's been able to give us a little advice of what he sees, but nothing more than that."

Living On The Edge

One of the biggest issues for the Tigers this season has been a lack of consistent pass rush up front. The player many expected to deliver much of that in 2014 is Carl Lawson, but a knee injury kept him off the field for the entire campaign. That lack of a pass rush contributed greatly to Auburn’s problems in the secondary as the Tigers gave up big play after big play down the stretch this year. While it will take more than one guy to change the direction of the defense, safety Johnathan Ford said getting Lawson back on the field this week and working towards getting back to 100 percent is a huge step for 2015.

“Oh it’s going to be great,” Ford said of getting Lawson back. “Carl is going to bring a lot of effort, a lot of pressure from the edge and he creates that pass rush. Having Carl is going to be a big impact too.

“I know he’s going to rehab and work his hardest,” he added. “I know he’s going to be full speed back to ready to go.”

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