Lexington, Ky.--Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is due some good news on the injury front and he’s hoping the return of linebacker Tre Williams and defensive back Tim Irvin will help to solidify things for the Tigers as they face Kentucky on Thursday night.
Earning the start against Mississippi State in Auburn’s best defensive performance of the season to date, Williams being back is important with Cassanova McKinzy a player who could continue to see more time at the buck position. Muschamp said the biggest thing about the return of the duo is just giving them more quality depth.
“He practiced during the week and I worked him out in pre-game and did not feel good about where he was health wise,” Muschamp said of Williams missing last week’s win over San Jose State. “I did not feel good about him being able to take on and do what we need him to do, but we get him back this week.
“We get Tim Irving back. He had a bone bruise in his foot. He practiced some last week but Thursday practice He wasn’t moving around well in practice to see if he could go. Getting those guys back certainly helps us.”
The Auburn defense needs all the help it can get as the Tigers go into game six ranked as one of the worst defenses in the Southeastern Conference. Allowing 25.4 points per game and 209.6 yards per game on the ground, Auburn is a long way from where Muschamp wants the group to be and he said this isn’t going to last forever.
“It's not certainly something I'm used to,” Muschamp said. “It's not something we need to become accustomed to, either, but I really thought after the Mississippi State game we had really made some progress and Kirk Sampson (Auburn Director of Communications) told me after the game that's the first time since '08 Auburn has held an SEC opponent to under 60 yards rushing. Since '08. That's a long time. It's shocking, to be honest, but we're not going to be here long (struggling on defense), I can assure you of that.”
Without Williams at linebacker last week Muschamp was fortunate to get Justin Garrett back after he missed the previous week because of a strained quad muscle. With McKinzy starting at Buck it meant moving back inside for Garrett. Muschamp said he made it through, but they’ve got to continue to bring the next guys along and get them ready to play if needed.
“I thought he got a little gassed at the end of the game,” Muschamp said of Garrett. “Thank God it was cool. We need to continue to build our depth with Darrell Williams and DeShaun Davis.”
The more depth the Tigers can build at linebacker the better with McKinzy likely finding a home at buck unless Carl Lawson can get back this season. With the goal of getting his best 11 players on the field, Muschamp said McKinzy showed some good things in his first start at the new position and could see more time there in the future.
“He made some plays,” Muschamp said. “Everything was totally brand new for him. We’re struggling to create some negative plays in 1-on-1s. We felt like we needed to get a guy in there to win some one-on-one matchups. Again, I thought we won some one-on-ones.
“Everything being brand new for him, I thought he did well," Muschamp added. "Playing blocking schemes and not just doing it in 3rd down situations, which is what he’s done for us already, I thought he did okay.”