Auburn, Ala.--For returning starter at cornerback, Jonathan Jones, the first day of 2015 spring football practice was memorable with new management on his side of the football.
Tuesday was Auburn’s first football session with Will Muschamp as the defensive coordinator. The former University of Florida head coach left an impression on Jones. “He is intense, he expects the best from you every day,” Jones said.
“He wants you to bring your best energy and fly around,” the cornerback added. “That is what you can expect from him every day.”
Muschamp was hired after the regular season when he was fired at Florida and Auburn’s former defensive coordinator, Ellis Johnson, was fired by Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn.
In the bowl practice Muschamp was at many of the practices in an observer role, although he did some hands-on teaching. On Tuesday the coach was fully involved.
“It was different--he was actually in charge today,” Jones pointed out. “He was definitely intense. He knows what he is talking about...We have got to meet his expectations. He is not going to lower them.”
Jonathan Jones is shown in action at Tuesday’s practice.
Jones also has a new position coach with Travaris Robinson in charge of the defensive backs after making the move to Auburn from the Florida coaching staff with Muschamp. “They are the same people, both on the same page,” the cornerback said. “Both are intense and expect a lot from us.”
As a senior with plenty of big-game experience, Jones is being asked to step up as a leader on defense this year. That is a role he said he isn’t going to shy away from, noting “you have got to lead by example.”
Even though Auburn is making changes on how the Tigers play defense, the 5-10, 185-pound cornerback doesn’t seem concerned about making the adjustment to Muschamp’s schemes.
“The thing about football it is different terminology, but basically the same thing,” Jones said. “You learn the different nuances of each defense, but that is mostly off the field. You have to get in your playbook outside the field and then come on to the field and execute.
“It is different from last year, but you have got to get in your playbook and learn it,” he added.
Travaris Robinson is shown at his first day of practice as Auburn’s secondary coach.
Jones said his initial impression of playing for Robinson is that it will be like playing for Melvin Smith, who coached the cornerbacks the previous two seasons. “Honestly, they are really the same. They bring energy and they have high expectations. There is never going to be a dull day. Both are good guys.”
Malzahn is beginning his third season as head coach of the Tigers and he noted the first day of spring practice feels like the start of the new season with the old one ending with a disappointing loss to Wisconsin on New Year’s Day at the Outback Bowl.
“Obviously, you have recruiting in the middle of it and then once the recruiting is over you can truly transition into the spring,” the coach said. “This is really the first true day of the next year. That is the exciting part from a coach’s standpoint.
“Last year is behind us now,” he said. “It’s time to move forward. Our coaches are extremely excited to get out there, and I think our players are excited, too. We have a lot of young guys out there that are ready. They’re hungry and we’re ready to see what they can do.”
Commenting on the offense, Malzahn said, “Last year we had a lot of guys coming back. We had a lot of good information on what we had. There are a lot of areas that are wide open so we are going to be very basic starting out.
“Obviously, we ae installing a new defense, too, so it’s really going to be back to the basics as far as the way we install,” the coach pointed out. “Then we will see the progression by the time we get to the midpoint of spring ball and reevaluate how fast we want to go with the extra things.
“You want to give each one of these guys an equal opportunity to compete for a position,” Malzahn added. “As basic as you can be allows coaches a lot easier opportunity to give a true evaluation of guys.”
In other news and notes:
*The Tigers will practice three times this week. The next session is Thursday and on Saturday the team will practice in the morning at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Tigers will have two more practices next week before taking time off for the university spring break. The final 10 practices include the A-Day game at 1 p.m. CDT on Saturday, April 18th.
*Defensive end Carl Lawson, who missed the entire 2014 season after suffering a major knee injury, showed good agility in the drills at Tuesday’s practice. He will be a redshirt sophomore this season and is being counted on to improve the pass rush, which was anemic last season.
*Another defensive end, senior Keymiya Harrell, was back at practice, too, after missing the 2014 season with a knee injury. Harrell has suffered ACL injuries in spring training the past two seasons.
More on practice one: