Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers' defense has played well the first three weeks of the 2016 season, but now comes a time for remembering the worst of times with LSU coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium this weekend.
Last season LSU running back Leonard Fournette ran over, around and through the Auburn defense for 228 yards and three touchdowns on just 19 carries on the way to 411 yards on the ground. It’s something that has been on the mind of the Auburn defenders since last season, but they know stopping him this season won’t be any easier.
Someone who knows all too well what Fournette is capable of is Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. Holding that same position at LSU last season, Steele got to see Fournette up close and personal every day. He said right now the focus isn’t on Fournette or the LSU offense however, it’s on his own group after giving up 231 yards to Texas A&M on Saturday night.
“As far as run defense, that was not acceptable and not to our standard and it will be corrected and corrected immediately,” the first-year coordinator said. “We obviously were doing something right to create 15 third downs. When you watch the film, there's some really good plays on there, some good run fits, some good tackling.”
For Auburn the bulk of the total came on one play when Trayveon Williams went for an 89-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Without that play the Tigers would have done a solid job overall against the Aggies and Steele said it came because of a mistake.
“The culprit of that particular play was a total misfit, a miscommunication,” Steele said. “That fall on us as coaches to get that corrected, but it also falls on them to make sure they are paying attention to the process and problem solving when something like that happens.
“As far as how we've done for the three games, we have made progress in the run game but when you look at the totality it's not to the standard that we've got to have in the SEC. It's just not.”
Now the focus turns to an LSU offense that features Fournette, but he’s far from the only weapon in the LSU power running game. With Les Miles’ Tigers wanting to get downhill and do it over and over again it’s something you have to get mentally prepared for as a defense, but Steele said for his group it’s all about Auburn.
“We're in a process of creating a mentality and creating an identity,” Steele said. “We can't be focused on who's across the line of scrimmage. You can't get into that. If you do that then this week they decide in their head that this guy is this and that guy is that. You can't do that.
“It's about us. It's about developing a mentality through a process of work in which we do our job each and every snap a certain way, with a certain mentality. If you do that, that's all you can ask of somebody.”
That’s a process that junior linebacker Tre Williams agrees with. After being part of two defenses that struggled to get the job done, the Mobile native said this week is just like any other for Auburn and that means doing what they do and not focusing on LSU.
“We really like when he does that because it takes a lot of pressure off of us,” Williams said of Steele’s mentality. “We don't have to worry about how they're going to play, what they're going to do. We just have to worry about what we're going to do.”