Auburn Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele And His Players Will Take On an Impressive Oklahoma Offense

News, notes and quotes from the Auburn football Tigers and the Oklahoma Sooners are featured as both teams prepare for Monday night's Sugar Bowl.

Coach Kevin Steele (above) has helped the Tigers improve on defense this season.

New Orleans, La.--Not many defensive coordinators on the college football scene have faced a more challenging postseason test than the one awaiting Kevin Steele and the Auburn Tigers.

Going into Monday night’s Sugar Bowl matchup the Tigers are getting ready for a sizzling hot offense that has been the key to Oklahoma entering the contest with a nine-game winning streak in addition to the Big 12 championship.

The Sooners are averaging 583.6 yards per game during their streak are plus 169 points scored in those contests.

Asked if the Tigers plan to focus on trying to concentrate of defending Oklahoma’s deep passing game or its running attack, Steele said, “You can’t approach it like that. When you have got that much talent across the board, you take one out and then... you know, most swords have two sides and they can both cut you so you have to be real careful of saying, ‘well, we just take something out.’

“They have got 11 guys. We have got 11 guys. We have got to get lined up properly, we have got to communicate properly and we have got to have the right matchups on the right guys and be in the right gaps. We have got to set the edges in the run game, tackle well with great pursuit and keep the top on the coverage.

“Now, that was a pretty good dissertation,” Steele added. “If we get all of that done, we will be okay, but they are talented and they are going to work to try to make those things not happen.

“You can’t just say we're going to load up and just say they're not going to run the ball,” said Steele, who is wrapping up his first year as AU’s defensive coordinator. “Well, then, they will throw for 450.

“If you say, ‘well, we are going to take away the throwing game and they are not going to beat us deep, we are going to have so many people deep they can’t be this deep,’ then the running backs will have 250 apiece.”

Photography: Wade Rackley

Junior linebacker Tre Williams is shown at Friday's practice.

In other news and notes:

*The Tigers practiced in shorts on Friday and are scheduled to have one more on the field workout at midday on Saturday. Kickoff for the game is set for 7:30 p.m. on Monday at the Superdome.

*Junior Tre Williams said he is impressed with the Oklahoma defense, noting the running backs are talented as runners and receivers. He said the Sooners' offense will put major pressure on the AU linebackers and said OU has the best offense the Tigers have faced this season.

*Marlon Character, a redshirting freshman cornerback, is a teammate junior linebacker Tre Williams mentioned on Friday as a young player who has performed well in practice. Steele has noticed that, too, mentioning Character and defensive end Nick Coe as young guys who got his attention.

*Steele said with limits on practice time in spring training the bowl practices are more valuable than ever, especially for redshirts and others who don’t get major attention from the coaches during the regular season.

“That is one of the great values of the bowl system,”?he said. “Spring practice is not what it used to be. It seemed like when I was playing it lasted for ever. Now it is very limited in terms of contact and days you have.”

Photography: Wade Rackley

Defensive tackle Montravius Adams prepares for his final college game.

*Senior defensive tackl Montravius Adams said after Friday's practice he is very impressed with Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. He noted that Mayfield is good at avoiding a pass rush to give his receivers more time to get open. "He is scrambling because he will throw instead of scrambling to try and take a couple yards," Adams said. "I just feel like he is a great quarterback. In my opinion, a smart guy. He’s always looking downfield for the extra yards.”

*Senior defensive back Rudy Ford noted that even though the Tigers will lose some key players he has high expectations for the 2017 AU defense. “Coach Steele, they are still going to do great things,” Ford said. “He is going to recruit the best talent to come in and help the defense. With the young guys we have, those guys shouldn’t skip a beat.

“Those guys should be really good, fresh, young and be on a roll to have a Top 10 defense next year, especially the secondary. You have got Javaris Davis, Carlton Davis. You have got Daniel Thomas, Stephen Roberts, all those guys are doing good.

“All across the board, even the linebackers in Tre Williams and DeShaun Davis, then you got Derrick Brown on the line and another guy that hasn't got to play yet, Nick Coe,” Ford added. “He is another guy. A lot of young guys. I don't think the defense is going to have a problem next year.”

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