Photo by Jason Caldwell

The Auburn Football Team Focusing On More Than Opening Night Opponent Clemson

Auburn football defensive coordinator Kevin Steele talks about preparing for the season, practice, newcomer Marshall Taylor and more in this football report.

Marshall Taylor (above) is getting a look at cornerback for the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said in addition to preparing for Clemson’s offense the Tigers having been also been spending practice time preparing for other styles of offense they will face during the 2016 season.

“We just came off a week where we had some preparation for our first opponent, but realizing a lot of that preparation is very similar to what our offense does anyway we had a week where we got to focus on teams in the SEC that run different styles of offense.

“We had to generate some ourselves with scout teams, but we went through the schedule and kind of went from back to front and did work on different teams in the league,”?he said. “When we get to the Arkansas, LSU and those type teams that are traditional two-back, pro-style, run teams it is not the first time we have seen it.

“We have been working on that pretty heavily as well as our first opponent,” he added.

Steele said the Tigers have continued to focus on being a physical defense that tackles well and declared the group has improved this preseason. “We are starting to buy into that as a philosophy of who we are,” he said of being physical.

He noted the coaches have been teaching the players the importance of having “11 hats on the ball, but then when we do have one we can get people knocked down and get them on the ground.”

The Tigers worked for more than two hours on Tuesday in full pads with the offense and defense lining up against their scout teams. The team is scheduled to practice three more times this week.

Scott Fountain, who coaches the tight ends, said he has been pleased with the progress that sophomore Jalen Harris has shown this preseason. Combine that with a promising start from January arrival Landon Rice and the coach said to look for the position to have a bigger role in the 2016 offense.

“We are going to be comfortable using more of a tight end plan,” Fountain said. “I think you will see those guys a lot more than you did in the past when we often substituted those guys with an offensive lineman or a split receiver.

“I also think you will see the tight ends line up at H-back more this year,” the coach added.

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Chandler Cox is a true sophomore from Apopka, Fla., High School.

Fountain said that fullback Chandler Cox, in addition to splitting time at tailback, will also line up as an H-back. The same is true of Kamryn Pettway, although Fountain notes that most of the time Pettway will be playing tailback like he did in high school, a position the 240-pound redshirt sophomore enjoys. “Kamryn is in hog heaven,” Fountain said.

Commenting on Rice, Fountain said, “I think his transition to Auburn has been easier because his brother is here (split end Logan Rice) and because of growing up around football with his father being a high school coach.”

In other news and notes:

*Marshall Taylor, a graduate student transfer from Miami of Ohio, practiced with the team after missing the entire preseason due to what Gus Malzahn said were “personal reasons.” Taylor attended summer classes at Auburn and did strength and conditioning workouts with his new teammates as well as informal, voluntary practices.

Asked how long it should take to get him ready to contribute, Steele said, “I don’t know that, I really don’t. It is different for each guy. He is older.

“When I was in the NFL where you would get a free agent in that had to play on Sunday, it looked like they had been with the team through the whole training camp," the coach said. "Then you would get other guys who had played a long time and when you would get them in it didn’t look that way. It is really individual.”

The defensive coordinator said the fact that cornerback Jamel Dean is expected to miss the season with a knee injury makes getting Taylor ready to go a priority. “That changes things. We need numbers back there.” Taylor is originally from Crisp County High in Cordele, Ga.

*Steele said the fact that he coached at Clemson is not a big deal in preparing for opening night because the players have changed since he was at the ACC school. Steele was Clemson’s defensive coordinator when that team lost to Auburn in a close contest in 2010 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. “That is so long ago,” the coach said. “You have got to remember we are dealing with 18 to 22-year old kids or young men. Trust me, they don't remember that game.”

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