Auburn Scrimmage 1: Defense "Whips" Offense

Auburn's head football coach watched the defense control the team's first preseason scrimmage and saw plenty to like from Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp's group.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn paid big bucks to bring Will Muschamp on board to fix a variety of issues with the SEC team’s defense. If Monday’s scrimmage is a good indicator, the Tigers are making progress in that area.

Gus Malzahn, who is heading into his third season as head coach of the Tigers, said Monday’s 90-play scrimmage was the best for the defense since he took over the program.

“Defense completely dominated the scrimmage,” said Malzahn, who put the Tigers through the session at Jordan-Hare Stadium on just the second day of full pads practices this preseason. Asked if he thought that situation was an advantage for the defense, he said he did not believe that was the case.

“It's just the same, especially when you're running the football,” said Malzahn, who pointed out that the first scrimmage was heavily run-oriented. “We have had some inside periods every time we went shells or full pads. The bottom line is the defense whipped the offense today. From a head coach’s standpoint, I kind of like that.”

Commenting on what he saw on Monday, Malzahn said, “There were no touchdowns from the offense,” he noted. “I believe the offense kicked two field goals. The defense had three turnovers (all fumbles by reserves) so they flat got after the offense. It was a little more run-oriented. The first one usually is, run the ball, stop the run. Also wanted some live special teams.

“We had about three or four reps of live punt return, just trying to figure specifically the young guys who can help us on special teams and punters and snappers and everything that goes with that.”

Malzahn said the Tigers will scrimmage again on Saturday and after that the coaches will decide if any more scrimmages are needed before they open the season on Sept. 5th vs. Louisville.

“I would say the positive, without looking at the film and all the details, it really confirmed that we do have a bunch of young guys that are going to have a chance to help us,” the coach said. “There is nobody specific (among the newcomers) that really stands out to me, other than the fact that when you look at it big-picture, we had some young guys that were really flying around and trying to do what they were coached to do. And, they made some plays also.”

The first, second and third teams each participated in approximately 30 plays apiece on a hot Monday in Auburn.

Senior defensive lineman Davonte Lambert said that Muschamp’s addition to the coaching staff is making a difference. “I think we can be real great under Muschamp. He brings a lot of energy.

“Words really can’t explain what he brings to the team, especially with meetings,” Lambert said. “He’s real hard on us and that’s what we needed, that fire to really amp us up and get us ready to play.”

DaVonte Lambert started eight games last season after transferring to Auburn from Georgia Military College.

Lambert, who is making a comeback from knee surgery that forced him to miss the late season games plus spring practice, said the Tigers are still a work on progress on defense after just two days in pads.

“I think we all have to stress ourselves with getting in shape,” he said. “We did fly around today, all 11 did fly around, but all 11 have to get in game shape specifically. We just have to keep working on that.”

Personally, the defensive end/tackle said he is encouraged. “It feels good getting back out there with the guys,” he said. “It has been frustrating rehabbing, but it’s time to get out there and make a bond with the team and not think about it. It feels good.”

Malzahn said it was the best defensive scrimmage he has seen as head coach and Lambert agreed it was good. “Since I’ve been here, flying to the ball with all 11, it’s the best since I’ve been here,” the senior said.

In other news and notes:

*Senior wide receiver Duke Williams missed practice for a third consecutive session. Quarterback Jeremy Johnson said that the Tigers haven’t been bothered by the star player’s absence since he got into the coaching’s doghouse.

“This hasn’t been a distraction at all--not even a little bit. Like I said, we feel really good about the rest of the receivers we’ve got. We’ve got four tremendous guys that are going to help us. This hasn’t been a distraction and we won’t let it be a distraction,” he added.

*Johnson pointed out that he has been impressed with Carl Lawson’s comeback from knee surgery. “He’s been unblockable all fall camp,” the QB said. “He is just a tremendous pass rusher. He’s looking more explosive, faster and is probably one of the best pass rushers in the country.”

*First team center Austin Golson was held out of the scrimmage with a knee problem that Malzahn said is not serious. Xavier Dampeer, a senior, worked with the ones.

*Malzahn made it clear he likes the job Muschamp is doing with the defense. “There is no doubt,” the coach said. “He is the best in the business at what he does. These players are going to be motivated, they are going to be graded, they are going to be evaluated, they are going to be coached honestly to where they are at.”

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