Auburn, Ala.--Coming off another very up and down performance on defense against Jacksonville State on Saturday, coordinator Will Muschamp is hoping to get some key performers back this week as the Auburn Tigers head to Baton Rouge to face the physical LSU Tigers in the SEC opener.
The most obvious of those are defensive end Carl Lawson and safety Tray Matthews, both of whom sat out Saturday’s game after getting banged up in the opener against Louisville. Still on crutches Saturday while dealing with a hip pointer, Lawson is expected back said Muschamp and the same is true of Matthews following his shoulder injury against Louisville.
The third player expected back by Muschamp is senior linebacker Justin Garrett. Straining his quad muscle during Saturday’s game Garrett sat out much of the contest but could be back in time to face LSU.
“All day to day,” Muschamp said. “Game time decision on all of those guys. All those guys took part in parts of practice last week. We're expecting all of them to be able to go this week.
“Justin Garrett strained a quad in the game, which he had had before. Had a hard time getting it back and getting it loose again after he strained it early in the game. We'll get Justin back. Carl and Tray are both expected back.”
That’s the possible good news for Auburn’s defense as it gets ready for the freight train known as Leonard Fournette this week, but it’s not all positive for the Tigers as senior defensive back Josh Holsey’s status is seriously in question after he went down early against the Gamecocks with another apparent knee injury. Muschamp said he’ll leave the final word to Coach Gus Malzahn, but he’s not very optimistic right now.
“I think they're still going through those results as far as his MRI and those things are concerned,” Muschamp said. “Coach will certainly have more information. It doesn't look good right now but he'll have more information on that tomorrow.”
While it’s a small sample size to this point Auburn’s defense has made some minor improvements in a few areas but still too much inconsistency for Muschamp’s liking. Allowing 22 points and 421.5 yards per game on that side of the ball, the Tigers will have their hands full against an LSU offense that ran for 266 yards in a win over Mississippi State Saturday night.
While Muschamp is hoping to be back closer to full strength by the 2:30 p.m. kickoff on Saturday he said right now the focus is on getting better and that means everyone on the field.
“Anytime you have guys that can make a difference in the game it certainly can help you,” he said. “It’s a long season so we’ve got to get better and improve with the guys we’ve got on the field right now and we’ve got to do a better job of preparing our players and coaching our players and adjusting in the game and doing the things we’ve got to do to be successful in our league.”
One of the keys to that will be to get improved play out of the second team guys up front. With LSU’s pounding offense likely to take its toll sometime on Saturday Muschamp said they’ve got to get more production from the reserves for the defense to function like it’s supposed to.
“Maurice Swain and Devaroe (Lawrence), both of those guys played and we need them to play more snaps. It’s going to be hot in Baton Rouge on Saturday, it hasn’t ever been cold there. Those guys have to give us more snaps.
“We’ve got to get more snaps out of Byron Cowart. We’ve got to get more snaps out of (Gimel) President. We need to get more guys playing up front. It’s going to be really important. It’s going to be a hot day and we’re going to be head butting these guys for 60 minutes. We have to be able to play more guys.”