Muschamp Factor Shows Up In Scrimmage One

Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp's guys set the tone in Auburn's initial spring football scrimmage.

Auburn, Ala.--Defense held the upper hand in Auburn’s first scrimmage of spring training, which featured big hits by the defense, something that pleased Coach Gus Malzahn.

“Defense, they got the best of the offense today,” Malzahn said. “There were probably more good hits today than in any of the scrimmages we have had since we have been back up to this point. That was definitely a bright spot with a lot of energy.”

Malzahn challenged the Tigers to be more physical this spring. “We're going in the right direction,” the head coach said on that subject. “There were some impact hits, the type of hits that gets everybody exciting. That was real encouraging.”

Commenting on what he saw with the defense, the head coach said, “I was very excited with the defense, with their intensity. They were flying around, they were having fun out there. Like I said, there were some impact hits. I like to say momentum hits that the whole sideline gets excited on.”

Most of the 90-play scrimmage was the offense vs. the defense, but there was some live special teams work that featured a 57-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson and solid punting by walk-on Kevin Phillips.

“Offensively, we rotated a lot of guys,” Malzahn said. “It was about a 50-50 split as far as running and throwing.”

Asked for an overall assessment of spring drills with eight of the 15 sessions completed, the head coach said, “Big picture, I like our kids' attitude overall. I think all of them want to be coached. I think they're all trying to get their teammates to count on them, and the expectations are very high. Overall, I am happy.

“Usually you find out more from one scrimmage going 90 plays than you do two or three practices of thud, tempo and just kind of mixing and matching,” Malzahn added. “I think after the evaluation of this scrimmage, I think offensively and defensive we will have a really good judge of at least where we are at and what we need to focus on the last half of practice.”

Gus Malzahn is beginning his third season as head coach of the Tigers.

Senior cornerback Josh Holsey said Coach Will Muschamp’s defensive group had a good day and No. 1 quarterback Jeremy Johnson agreed. “I am not going to lie,” he said. “The defense played really well. They were very physical.”

Safety Jonathan Ford and backup cornerback Kamryn Melton each had interceptions and safety Tray Matthews came close to getting one on a diving attempt.

Matthews said the defensive players followed Muschamp’s edict to be physical and nobody did a better job of that than sophomore linebacker Tre Williams. “He flat-lined one of the running backs,” the transfer from Georgia said.

“The defense looked really well,” Matthews added. “For the most part the effort was 100 percent. Coach Muschamp said if you don’t run to the ball and he sees you loafing, you are not going to play here.

“I love seeing our defensive linemen run to the ball even though they are so big,” he added. “Everybody runs to the ball now.”

Will Muschamp is going through his first spring as Malzahn's defensive coordinator.

Matthews said the players enjoy playing for a “hype coach” like Muschamp. “His intensity is through the roof and we are crunk out there ready to roll every play.”

Asked if it is different than what he saw at practice last year while redshirting, Matthews said, “I saw what went on last year and it is a big difference, I can tell you that much, and it is getting better and better every day.

“We still have things to work out, but every practice I see the team building and building,” Matthews pointed out.

Jeremy Johnson throws a pass in Saturday's scrimmage.

Johnson described his play as "okay," but noted it wasn't up to his standards. He also said the offense has work to do. "It was kind of up and down and inconsistent," he said. "We are going to come in Monday to look at the film and get the corrections in and come out on Tuesday and Thursday for practice so we can have a better scrimmage on Saturday."

The junior QB said the offense needs to improve throwing the ball, running and becoming more physical, something he said the defense was in scrimmage one.

"They were coming down and hitting hard," Johnson said of the defense. "They were excited, they brought a lot of enthusiasm and it was fun watching them."

In other news and notes:

*Defensive end Raashed Kennion was held out of the scrimmage due to a concussion. The sophomore has earned praise for his work this spring from Muschamp and Malzahn. Another player at that position, Carl Lawson, did not scrimmage. He is coming off of 2014 knee surgery.

*Offensive guard Alex Kozan, who has had some contact work this spring, did not scrimmage. The 2013 Freshman All-SEC pick had back surgery last summer.

“He has gone full speed against defensive guys,” Malzahn said. “He has moved well pulling--so far, so good. He says he feels good. That is definitely a positive.”

Duke Williams is a second-year Tiger, who will be a senior this fall.

*Malzahn had praise for Duke Williams, who caught a touchdown pass from Jeremy Johnson on Saturday. “He is really developing into a leader on the offensive side. He understands our offense. He understands the coaches' expectations. He really brings his A-game and he's a competitor.”

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