Auburn, Ala.--Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said after Thursday’s practice he has seen progress on his side of the line of scrimmage, but wants to see more of that as well as more consistency.
However, after the two-hour workout in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts on a warm evening Muschamp made it clear he doesn’t have any problem with the way graduate student defensive back Blake Countess is performing.
A transfer from Michigan where he was an All-Big 10 cornerback, Countess could see action at multiple positions this season.
With the Tigers short on depth in the secondary following spring training, Muschamp notes that getting Countess is a “huge” addition to the roster.
“This is a guy that started 30 games at Michigan and can play corner, can play nickel, can play safety,” the coach said. “We're repping him a lot of different spots, and the big thing is that he is extremely bright. He can really get it in the meeting room and take it on the field.
“That is a huge asset to have, a guy on the back end that can play multiple spots because it's not about if somebody goes down putting your next guy in, it's what's our best combination of four or five or six DBs. And, he's certainly one of those.”
Muschamp said the former high school All-American from Maryland played at a school, Good Counsel High, he had recruited previously. Muschamp got a heads up in May from Michigan coach D.J. Durkin that Countess was going to transfer. Durkin was Muschamp’s defensive coordinator at Florida.
“I called D.J. just to try and find out what kind of young man he was and D.J. had nothing but great things to say and felt like he just wanted a change,” Muschamp said. “He had been through a coaching change and didn't want to go through that situation there. Certainly, D.J. signed off on him as well as you could sign off with anybody, and D.J. I trust--he's like family to me.
“I just reached out to Blake, got the release and did everything the right way as far as exactly what he was looking for and the situation," Muschamp remembered. "He and his mother came down and visited and they had a good time and decided to come.”
Commenting on the defense as a whole, Muschamp said, “We're talking about a whole group that needs to be more consistent. We need to continue to step forward. We have the ability and it's just not happening down after down after down, day after day, week to week, and that's what's frustrating right now.
“We've done some really good things and we've had some really good days,” Muschamp added. “And, we've had some really good improvements from day to day, but then we take a step back. And that's what's frustrating for me.
“It has nothing to do with physical ability,” he said. “It has to do with the mental aptitude of just going out every day and playing well. That's part of being a good player. Really good players, they play well all the time. They play really good all the time and sometimes they play great. That's what we're trying to do right now.”
Muschamp and the Tigers will return to practice on Friday and are expected to do a limited amount of full speed, 11 on 11 work on Saturday.
Dameyune Craig said that redshirt sophomore Jason Smith continues to make progress learning how to play receiver after making the move from quarterback early in spring drills. Auburn’s third-year wide receivers coach said that he is expecting the juco transfer to join senior Ricardo Louis as a deep threat this fall.
“Jason spent the offseason studying the offense,” Craig said. “He is a guy who is hard to cover. We have some guys on the flanks with some speed. Stanton Truitt has shown some flashes, too.”
“Jason has picked the offense up much better this fall and he has made some plays,” said Craig, who added, “He catches the ball well and he will put his nose in there and mix it up. He is a physical player and I am expecting some great things out of him this year.”
Stanton Truitt, who is shown in an Auburn practice, was an outstanding quarterback in high school.
Truitt and Myron Burton redshirted last season as part of the 2014 signee class. “They have different skills sets, but they are very talented,” Craig said of the pair of receivers, who hoping to earn their first collegiate playing time this fall. “We have some experience at that position and hopefully they find a way to contribute because we could lose four receivers this next, upcoming season so we need guys to step up. We want those guys to be in a position to have some kind of role this year going into next.”
Whoever is catching passes will have a talented quarterback throwing the football their way, predicts Craig, who was an oustanding QB for the Tigers in the 1990s.
Commenting on junior starter Jeremy Johnson and redshirt freshman backup Sean White, the coach said, “Jeremy and Sean have done a good job of distributing the football and I think there is more flexibility in the passing game now. The guys have the ability to get open and you never know when you are going to get the ball.”
In other news and notes:
Tray Matthews is known to his teammates as an aggressive player.
*Muschamp said that safety Tray Matthews is nursing a hamstring issue and still isn’t back to full speed, but noted the transfer from Georgia is practicing. He said if this was game week there is a chance that Matthews would be ready to play.
*Muschamp said that freshman end Byron Cowart, a five-star recruit, is having his best week of practice. Cowart is expected to see playing time early this season.
To order the 2015 Inside the Auburn Tigers Football Guide, use the link below or call (334) 887-7100 or 1-800-234-1716.