Justin Garrett (above) has made 46 tackles this season for the Tigers.
Auburn, Ala.--With the Auburn Tigers getting close to wrapping up their pre-Christmas portion of bowl preparations, a pair of staff members have won praise from players in their new roles with the football team.
Travis Williams, who has been working as a defensive analyst, is responsible for coaching the linebackers as the Tigers get ready to play Memphis on Dec. 30th in the Birmingham Bowl. He is taking over that assignment from Will Muschamp, who left Auburn where he was defensive coordinator to take a job as head coach at the University of South Carolina.
Blake Gideon, who Muschamp brought with him to Auburn from the University of Florida to be a defensive graduate assistant coach, assisted Travaris Robinson with coaching the secondary during the season. With Robinson moving to South Carolina to be Muschamp’s defensive coordinator, Gideon is in charge of the cornerbacks and safeties.
Linebacker Justin Garrett said he has been impressed with what he has seen from Williams. “He is a great coach and you know he played here and was a star. He was a two-time All-SEC linebacker and played in the NFL for the Falcons.
“With him he is more hands-on,” said Garrett, a redshirt senior who picked up his masters degree a week ago. “He is out there and he wore that AU helmet. Anytime we mess up he tells us that is not how Auburn linebackers play. He shows us how he played and did stuff.
“He is somebody you can look up to who is still young,” Garrett added. “He played here not too long ago and he is a guy who really believes in Auburn and a guy who really loves Auburn.”
Another senior, cornerback Jonathan Jones, noted the transition from Robinson to Gideon is also going smoothly in practice. “It is really a carryover,” Jones said. “He was with Muschamp and T-Rob for so long he kind of follows their ways. He is a good coach. He knows his stuff.”
Asked if the graduate assistant coach has the respect of the players, Jones said, “Absolutely. He earned that during the season from when he first got here. Like I said, he knows his stuff.
“He is hard-nosed, he gets after it and he has high expectations,” said Jones, who graduated last Saturday. “Even for a GA (graduate assistant), he knows what he expects.”
Rodney Garner continues to coach the defensive front while Lance Thompson has taken Muschamp’s role of directing the defense while continuing to work with the “buck”?position.
All of Auburn’s defensive coaches will be tested in their bowl game at Legion Field. Memphis will show up for the 11 a.m. CST kickoff featuring an offense that averages 510.4 yards per contest, which has led to a scoring average of 42.7 points per game.
Jonathan Jones has been a major contributor for the Tigers going back to his freshman season.
“They are a good team,” Jones declared. “Offensively, they have got weapons at the skill position. Their quarterback (Paxton Lynch) is one of the best quarterbacks we have faced.”
Following a session on Sunday the Tigers will take a break after seven days of practice on campus that followed a 16-day break for fall semester final exams. The Tigers are scheduled to assemble again on Christmas night in Auburn, practice one more time on campus on the 26th and then head to Birmingham where they will continue preparations for a bowl game that will determine whether or not they finish the season with a winning or losing record.
Jones said it is important for him and other seniors to finish their Auburn playing days with a victory and added, "I want to win and leave the program headed in the right direction for next year.”