Auburn, Ala.--Michael Jackson had a huge hit in 1988 with the song “Man In the Mirror”, but for the Auburn Tigers it’s more like the man or men in the middle that will tell the tale for Coach Will Muschamp’s defense this season.
While Carl Lawson is a big part of the defense because of what he brings off the edge, getting quality play out of the defensive tackle position is something that can take a defense from average to very good in a hurry.
Last Saturday’s season opener showed a glimpse of what is possible for Auburn’s defense with Montravius Adams and Dontavius Russell both very active from the first snap of the game. The play was a big change from last season for Auburn’s defense overall and particularly for junior Montravius Adams said Coach Gus Malzahn.
“I think Montravius had his best overall game since he has been here,” Malzahn said. “He played quite a few snaps. He played extremely hard. He was very, very disruptive. He was the one who caused the fumble that got picked up for six points.
“He put a lot of pressure in the quarterback space, on the passing downs and of course in the run game he was very good. He took that next step.
“Coach Muschamp was really challenging him and Coach (Rodney) Garner challenged him to just take that next step about being an elite player and playing with unbelievable effort and intensity. He took that to heart.”
That’s the first of what Muschamp hopes is many steps forward for Adams beginning with Saturday against Jacksonville State. Always a player with the talent to make plays, Adams has turned it up a notch said Mushchamp and that’s the difference needed to take your game to another level.
“Again, I think it’s hard to coach the size, the athleticism, the flexibility and the speed that he has,” Muschamp said. “He also has very good instincts in playing blocks, so when you combine all those things that God’s blessed him with, he’s taken advantage of those now as far as playing harder every snap. That was the biggest challenge for him.
“There’s no secret. We’ve told him that. Everyone knows. To this point, again like I said coming out of camp, I’ve been very pleased with his approach to work ethic and embracing what you’ve got to do to be a good football player, and he certainly has done that.
“Again, let’s continue to do the things you—he understands exactly what he needs to do to be a very good football player. As long as he continues to do those things, the sky’s the limit for him.”
Making a move is something the Auburn coaches were hoping for Adams and something they expected from redshirt freshman Dontavius Russell. The most consistent of the tackles in spring practice after showing well last fall while sitting out, Russell has already shown Muschamp plenty in a short time, both on and off the field.
“He played well,” Muschamp said. “He’s a really good football player. Very intelligent young man. A guy that football is very important to him. A guy that goes out and plays football very well but a guy that also represents Auburn University in a first class manner. He’s a fine young man.”