Auburn, Ala.--Even though the numbers against Mississippi State were a drastic improvement for Will Muschamp’s Auburn defense, the fiery coordinator is far from happy with the play of his group through four weeks. With concerns at every level of the defense as the Tigers prepare for San Jose State, one of the groups that is getting the most attention is at linebacker.
Coming off perhaps their best performance of the season last week, Muschamp said the linebackers did some things better, but still has a long way to go in order to be as consistent as he wants.
“I thought we were better positioned,” Muschamp said. “I thought we aligned better, the eye control was better. I thought we played blocks in the core better. I think we did some better things, nothing that
was outstanding. There wasn’t much in the run game, but I thought we fit pretty well.”
Never being satisfied is something that Auburn’s linebackers are getting used to with their coach, but that’s just fine with senior Justin Garrett because Muschamp’s way of coaching lets them know exactly where they stand every day in practice. Making them earn their spot with every practice is something that Garrett said keeps them hungry and that hunger drives you to improve as a player and as a defense.
“He’s going to be very critical, but he just told us to keep our heads up and stuff,” Garrett said. “Every day is a battle at the position based off production points and who is producing the most. He really doesn’t have to say anything to us now, we already know what to expect.
We know if we don’t play well, we don’t practice well, we don’t do good in the meetings, we don’t do well in walkthroughs we’ll lose playing time and lose our position. It’s pretty much understood in the linebacker room. We already know what it is so we just try to go out there and work hard every day.”
One of the players who has stepped up his game so far in 2015 is sophomore Tre Williams. Earning the start alongside Garrett last week against Mississippi State, Williams made three tackles and had a tackle for a loss as well as a quarterback hurry before leaving the game with a knee injury, Muschamp said Williams should be ready to go against San Jose State, something Garrett noted is important for the defense.
Tre Williams started at linebacker vs. Mississippi State.
“He kind of struggled at first, but he’s coming along very well," Garrett said. "He is going to be an excellent linebacker for Auburn in the future. I know with me, Cass (McKinzy) and (Kris) Frost leaving, he’s going to step up and be that guy in the future. It’s just nice to see him coming along so well.”
Auburn’s defense will be tested again this weekend with one of college footballs most productive running backs coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium, speedy Tyler Ervin. Rushing for 300 yards last week on 42 carries in a win over Fresno State, Ervin is third in the nation with 641 yards and already has 10 touchdowns on the ground.
The challenge this weekend is an obvious one with Auburn’s defense needing another strong outing to slow Ervin. That could be just the thing to continue to build confidence for the Tigers because Garrett noted there is still plenty to play for this season.
“It’s only two losses,” Garrett said. “We can still accomplish our goals and stuff like that, you never know, it’s the SEC. You never know how things will turn out so we’re just going to keep working every day to get better. It happened in the past; all you can do is move forward now.”