Auburn, Ala.--When the Auburn Tigers hired Kevin Steele to run the defense one of the first things the veteran coordinator talked about was keeping the scheme as similar as possible to last year’s system. That may not seem like a big deal, but for a group of players who have been through three different coordinators in four years it was a huge decision.
Saturday night showed the outcome of that decision as the Auburn defense played fast and loose, something that comes with confidence and knowledge of what you’re doing as a group. Limiting one of the best offenses in the country to just 19 points, Auburn’s ability to play fast and loose started with keeping things basic.
“The thing has happened in remaking this package is one of the big intents was to simplify,” Steele said. “To make it so freshman could play, to make it that you could apply it to hurry-up offenses, call it quick, that they could communicate quick, to get young guys on the field.
“Well, in the process of that simplification has been geared to ‘let’s see how many cleats we can get in the ground’ and what they’re doing and win with execution, technique and tackling as opposed to trying to out scheme everybody. I think that is attributed to some of it.
“There’s a lot of moving parts out there. These guys have done a really good job with DeShaun (Davis) and Tre (Williams), Carlton Davis, (Nick) Ruffin, those guys have done a really good job of communicating and that’s not something that’s not always done.”
The communication for this defense started when the staff was put together. Keeping Rodney Garner was the first order of business for Steele and adding energy guys like Travis Williams and Wesley McGriff helped to balance things out. Steele said the group has blended exceptionally well and that’s something that is important when you’re trying to get the job done.
“This has been incredibly a joyful experience and I know that kind of sounds funny,” Steele said. “It doesn’t if you have ever been in a situation that doesn’t gel. When it doesn’t gel it’s tough. Travis, Wesley, Rodney and I spend a lot of time together. We have created a bond. We are on the same page philosophical we fit. We kind of counter balance each other. Everybody has strengths and everybody has weaknesses.
“Game management was very, very easy. It’s not hard. Obviously, I’m in the (press) box that’s by choice. I just think you see it better. I’ve been down before. I like being down seeing in their eyes, but we have capable guys making adjustments. They can make adjustments through the communication, we go over every drive after the drive, exactly what they did, who did what and we correct it. It went very well.”
Now the challenge for Auburn’s defense is to do it again this week against Arkansas State. A team that will look much different on the field in terms of talent than the one they faced last week, the Red Wolves are not the focus. Linebacker Tre Williams said it’s all about the defense and doing what’s required to keep getting the job done.
“We cannot be complacent, we cannot be happy with anything,” Williams said. “Even though we did play pretty well we still have a lot of stuff to build on. Every day at practice we are going to work harder and harder to get to that goal.
“We are really focused on Auburn right now so whatever we do, no matter who we line up against, we are going to play Auburn football,” the junior linebacker added.