Auburn, Ala.--One of the positive developments the last two weeks on defense for the Auburn Tigers has been the play of sophomore defensive back Stephen Roberts. Earning a spot in the playing rotation against Texas A&M, Roberts played well enough against the Aggies to earn the start against Georgia and Coach Will Muschamp said he responded well against the Bulldogs.
“He really played well,” Muschamp said. “I’ve been very, very pleased with Stephen’s play. He made a couple critical tackles in the open field, but I was very pleased with his play.”
Finishing second on the team with seven tackles against Georgia, Roberts showed a nose for the football and a willingness to play physical. Those are two traits that Muschamp said will earn the Opelika native more playing time down the road, but one of the most important things that Roberts has done is show an emphasis on spending more time in the film room, something that has really changed in the last few weeks.
“The biggest thing, and I told the defense today, about two and a half or three weeks ago Stephen started coming up during the day on his own to watch film, to sit with Blake Gideon, one of our secondary graduate assistants and go through the film and study the film and talk,” Muschamp said. “Again, it just doesn’t happen overnight.
“You can’t just always get it in the position meetings we require you," Muschamp said. "I always tell the guys that the really good players I’ve been around, what did you do outside the building? Were you in the building when you didn’t have to be? That’s something that Stephen’s made a commitment to, and that certainly has shown in his play.”
That extra work is something that has shown up for Roberts said teammate and veteran Blake Countess. With Tray Matthews out against Texas A&M and needing help in the secondary Muschamp and Travaris Robinson gave several players a look against the pass-happy Aggies and Countess said it was Roberts that took the bull by the horns.
“He answered the call,” Countess said. “He got a shot last week, we had a package where a bunch of DB’s were on the field and he played the best out of the guys that hadn’t been on the field so he got a shot. He stepped up and has done well for us.”
Now the Tigers look to keep the defensive progress going this week as they take on Idaho looking for win number six on the season. With plenty of room to get better at every level the defense has taken strides forward with guys like Roberts coming on strong and Muschamp said it has been more than just a recent trend.
“I think we've come a long way, certainly, from the beginning of the year and I think that we continue to make strides,” Muschamp said. “Still got a ways to go. Still have a ways to travel there. I've been very pleased how we've approached practiced, how we've gone about our business.
“Our preparation has improved tremendously, our practice habits have improved tremendously. We've made improvements before that, they just didn't show statistically. That's the bottom line. We all want results but as a coach and seeing this for a long time, we made improvements before the last two weeks.”
Tiger Ticket Note:
*Defensive back T.J. Davis is still on the comeback trail from his knee surgery that took place in the spring. Even though he has returned to practice and has been working to get back on the field Davis is still a ways away at the moment, but Muschamp said it’s possible they could have him back in time to take part in bowl practices and potentially play in the postseason.
“We've got two more weeks before bowl practice,” Muschamp said. “He's a guy who has to get confidence on cutting off that leg. It's still a very short turnaround to be realistic. He is out moving and doing everything we're asking him to do. He's practicing.
“He's getting reps with our guys getting ready to play each week. We see improvement each week. He's got to continue to get stronger and be more firm coming out of cuts. It's been a very short turnaround from the ACL.”Getting Davis back would be huge for the Tigers with a lack of depth at the cornerback position. That almost came into play in a big way on Saturday when Carlton Davis got banged up against Georgia. With Josh Holsey out for the season that would leave Countess as Auburn’s next cornerback with true freshman Javaris Davis also in the mix. Muschamp said pulling the redshirt off Davis is still an option if needed.