Monday Morning QB Column: Getting Defensive

Taking a look at spring football, recapping the weekends for softball and baseball, and a big performance for the AU gymnastics team to advance to the NCAA Championships.

Push Up Front

It was strange to see Gus Malzahn seemingly happy that his offense struggled in a scrimmage situation, but that was the case on Saturday following the first spring scrimmage for the Tigers because it meant Coach Will Muschamp’s defense is already showing signs of being a different group. Taking on the personality of its coaches, the group is more active and that energy translated to some big hits and productive plays at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.

Probably the best sign is up front where freshman Dontavius Russell is drawing rave reviews early in his first spring practice. A young lineman who Rodney Garner could have easily played last season if he had seen what was coming from his senior-laden group, Russell is explosive off the ball and has a chance to be a disruptive force for the Tigers alongside Montravius Adams. No matter what else happens on that side of the ball with the pass rush and in the secondary, nothing has as much impact on the overall play of a defense than getting consistent push from the middle and Auburn has a chance to have that. That is reason enough for optimism early in Muschamp’s return to the Plains.

Still Swinging

The offense continues to roll for Coach Clint Myers as the softball Tigers beat a ranked Tennessee team two out of three games at Jane B. Moore Field over the weekend to continue to lead the Southeastern Conference standings.

Pounding the Vols for 24 runs in three games, Auburn hasn’t shown any signs of slowing offensively as the Tigers head towards postseason play and a possible host site for the NCAA Tournament. The offense should be enough to make that happen, but for Auburn to take the next step the pitching has to improve in a big way after allowing 19 runs to Tennessee in the series.

After giving up just nine runs in the first five SEC games, Auburn has allowed 49 in the last seven conference games. That is a trend that likely has to slow if the Tigers hope to make a run at the SEC title this year.

SEC Standings:

Auburn 10-2 37-5
LSU 9-3 36-3
Alabama 10-5 29-9
Florida 8-4 36-4
Tennessee 7-5 27-9
Texas A&M 7-5 29-10
Georgia 8-7 31-10
Mississippi State 7-7 28-10
Missouri 6-6 24-9
Ole Miss 5-10 22-16
Kentucky 4-8 25-11
South Carolina 2-10 26-15
Arkansas 0-11 14-23

This Week’s Schedule

Auburn at Texas A&M
Arkansas at South Carolina
Mississippi State at Missouri
Kentucky at Florida
Georgia at Ole Miss
LSU at Tennessee

Against The Wall

Dropping two games over the weekend at home against Arkansas, Coach Sunny Golloway and the baseball Tigers find themselves in serious trouble as they head into the final series of the first half of the SEC schedule at LSU coming up beginning Friday in Baton Rouge.

With an overall record of 19-13 and just 4-8 in league play, the Tigers need improvements in all phases of the game, but particularly at the plate. After going 28-100 as a team in three games against the Razorbacks, Auburn actually improved its batting average in SEC games to .244 through 12 games. Scoring just 48 runs in conference play the Tigers will need to pick that up in a big way if they hope to make a serious run at the postseason.

SEC Standings

Western Division:
Texas A&M 9-2 30-2
LSU 8-4 27-5
Arkansas 5-7 16-15
Mississippi State 5-7 21-13
Ole Miss 5-7 16-16
Auburn 4-8 19-13
Alabama 4-8 15-15

Eastern Division:
Vanderbilt 10-2 27-6
Missouri 8-4 22-11
Florida 6-6 24-9
South Carolina 6-6 21-11
Georgia 5-7 18-15
Kentucky 4-7 18-13
Tennessee 4-8 14-14

Next Week’s Series

Auburn at LSU
Georgia at Alabama
Mississippi State at Texas A&M
Kentucky at Arkansas
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
South Carolina at Florida
Missouri at Tennessee

On To Nationals

Four the fourth time in school history Auburn is headed to the NCAA Championships in gymnastics after the Tigers finished second to Alabama at Saturday’s NCAA Regional at Auburn Arena with a score of 196.900. The mark was the best in school history in a regional for the Tigers, something that Coach Jeff Graba’s team can build on. The next stop is in Fort Worth, Tex., on April 17-19 as Auburn joins Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU as part of the 12-team field

Now that the pressure of reaching the nationals is off, the Tigers will have a chance to put up a strong score at the NCAA Championships with a roster than has a lot of talent and depth.

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