Montravius Adams (above) is a senior defensive tackle for the Tigers.
Auburn, Ala.--A 1-2 start to the 2016 college football season was not what the Auburn Tigers were hoping for and although it has been mostly disappointing one silver lining is the consistent energy put forth by the defense. Kevin Steele said that even though he is pleased some of what he has seen in his first three games as AU’s defensive coordinator, the group has room to grow.
“I think there are two (sides) to this,” said Steele about the performance of his defense. “There is the (side) that has some very positive things--very good effort, playing relentless, obviously a very good success rate on third down with 87 percent (vs. Texas A&M. When there is 15 of them is hard to do. That was progress.
“You can take this two-sided,” he said. “Number one is you shouldn’t have let them in the red zone but if they do get in the red zone and take 16 snaps I think it does show that we are starting to develop the fighting spirit that we need to have because they defended the goal line inside the red zone 16 snaps and only gave up one touchdown.
“That’s not acceptable by our standards, but it does indicate that the guys have bought into the process and they are trying to fight,” Steele added.
The struggles of the offense are something that the Tiger defense can’t concern themselves with, according to Steele.
“In the defensive room part of the process that we’ve tried to establish from the very beginning is that our job is if we were firemen we wouldn’t worry about who started the fire or how long it’s been burning, it’s to put the fire out,” he explained. “We really have to focus on that and it has to be that kind of mentality.”
Senior tackle Montravius Adams mentioned that he and the other D-linemen want to work on finishing plays in the backfield and tallying more sacks, but Steele was quick to note that even if the sacks aren’t plentiful the presence of Adams and company in the backfield is still helpful.
“(The Aggies) called 47 (pass plays) and completed 20 of them so obviously we affected the quarterback,” Steele pointed out. “That’s always measured publicly on how many times did you sack him and all of us like to get sacks, but it’s also how many times did you change his launch point, how many times did you make him throw it quicker than he wanted to throw it? The sacks will come if we keep relentlessly rushing the passer.”
No Auburn player has more than a single sack through three games. Senior defensive tackle Montravius Adams said he and fellow captain Carl Lawson, a junior end, “need to pick it up” when it comes to putting opposing quarterbacks on the ground.
“Both of us have already missed some opportunities,” said Adams. “We just talked to Coach Steele and we’ve been missing some big plays. We’ve been leaving production on the field. It does (bother Lawson). It even bothers me. Being a teammate, you know the capabilities of a player and they’ve been doing it in practice and it’s just not happening yet in the game. I’m still positive about it and he’s still positive about it. We know it’s going to come.”
The next chance to get a sack will be Saturday evening at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Adams and the rest of the AU defense will be trying to get after LSU Tigers (2-1, 1-0 SEC) and their new starting quarterback, Danny Etling. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. CDT on Saturday with TV coverage provided by ESPN.
However, the bigger challenge on Saturday for Adams and the Auburn defense will likely be trying to deal with tailback Leonard Fournette and LSU’s power-oriented ground game.
“I think it’s kind of a different mindset,” Adams said of facing a physical offense like LSU’s. “It’s really time to play ball. Everybody has to make those tackles and everybody has to be in their gap in be in their spot. Going against a good back like that, we have to do what the coaches put in the plan.”
After taking Monday off the Tigers will be back on the practice field Tuesday evening working on a game plan they hope will lead to their first SEC victory of the season.