KEVIN STEELE (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Jason Caldwell's Monday Morning QB Column: Auburn Spring Football Defensive Thoughts

Thoughts on Auburn's defense in the spring, SEC Men's Basketball tournament draw for the Tigers, and why a 2018 prospect is one I will always root for in high school and beyond.

Kevin Steele (above) is beginning his second season as defensive coordinator for the football team.

Spring Football Thoughts

Continuity is the key for success in just about anything in life. Having a good base knowledge of what you’re doing and being able to add to that is something that helps build growth and even more stability.

That brings us to Auburn’s defense for the 2017 football season.

Since Ted Roof was let go following the 2011 season, Auburn has had four different defensive coordinators with only Ellis Johnson coaching for a second season on the Plains.

That has meant virtually no carryover for the players and in essence starting over on defense every spring.

While Kevin Steele likes to say they’re starting over again this spring, and to some degree he’s right because of his back-to-basics approach, having players at every level of the defense who already understand the system has to be a big plus for the Tigers in the spring and heading into next season.

Even though quarterback Jarrett Stidham and new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey are probably the two most watched guys in the Auburn program at the moment, in the end the defense may again be the star of the show. Finding success last season and playing with more consistency than any defense we’ve seen at Auburn in almost a decade, Steele’s group is primed to do good things again and it starts with knowing the system and being able to move forward instead of just being forced to start from ground zero.

“Kevin is really, like he said the other day, going back to the basics and building it back up,” Coach Gus Malzahn pointed out. “But after you get to that point, then you can look at some things and he has a plan to do that so he’ll leave spring and kind of know what our strengths are and what we need to build for the fall, but the fact that he is back for the second year, he knows his players, they know him. He’s going to have a lot more flexibility than he did last year.”

 

Tournament Time

Auburn goes into the SEC Basketball Tournament with postseason hopes still on the line following a win over Missouri on Senior Day. Now just where the Tigers end up depends on how well they perform in Nashville, starting with a third game against Missouri to open on Wednesday night.

If Auburn doesn’t beat Mizzou then all hope for an NIT berth is almost assuredly gone and likely a CBI future for the Tigers. A win on Wednesday would keep Auburn’s hopes alive for the NIT and beating Ole Miss would probably lock it up considering that would be 20 wins on the year.

The good news for Auburn is that if this team plays well in Nashville it has got a solid chance to make it to the weekend. Getting by Missouri means a date with Ole Miss, a team Auburn owes after giving them two games this season. After that would be Arkansas, a team that is a much better matchup for Auburn than being on the other side of the bracket with Kentucky and South Carolina. Even making it to play Florida is a manageable thing for this team if the Tigers can get it going.

 

A Personal Note

As some of you know this week my wife Neeley and I welcomed our first child into the world when our daughter Hampton Price was born on Monday evening. Once everyone was doing well I decided to put the news on both Facebook and Twitter.

The next day among the many, many responses I got was one from 2018 prospect Richard Jibunor. A player who we met last summer when he camped at Auburn, Jibunor is someone I have been in contact with off and on since that time because he made an impact on us with his athleticism and also his demeanor off the field.

His message Tuesday only backed up my thoughts on the talented prospect because he sent me a congratulations message and asked how everyone was doing. That’s not something a normal high school junior thinks about, especially someone who is just a casual acquaintance.

This weekend he was back on campus for a junior day with the Tigers and when I saw him the first thing he asked was ‘how is everyone doing?’. Again it just blew me away and made me realize this was a special kid.

I don’t know where he will wind up because he’s got some very good options, but Auburn is definitely in the mix. No matter where Jibunor winds up playing his football he’s got a big fan in me and my family and we’ll be rooting for him.

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