Drawing his attention before that was the play of two defensive backs, who look like they'll see an increased role in this weekend's game against the Vanderbilt Commodores. Whip linebacker Karlos Dansby and free safety Donnay Young both were impressive in the little time they saw in the Syracuse game, but it was enough to show Lovett that both belong on the field for more action than they've had to this point.
Couple their good play with nagging neck and back injuries to Roshard Gilyard at the whip and some missed tackles and execution by Stanford Simmons at free safety and you get what is possibly two new starters in the secondary this coming weekend. While Simmons may be safe for a while longer, Lovett says there is a good chance Dansby will be the starter when the Tigers travel to Nashville for a 6 p.m. kickoff.
"I remember two weeks ago saying, ‘Hey, these guys need to play' because they were like the other guys,'' Well they went out there the other night and they did just like they should have done. Karlos has definitely made some progress and I think Donnay certainly deserves some time to play just with the way they played."
Other than those two possible moves, things were pretty much a normal Tuesday for the rest of the defense with an added dose of intensity thrown in from both the coaches and players themselves. The defensive line, fresh off perhaps their worst performance in two seasons, worked continuously on the pass rush in preparation for trying to pressure Vandy's Greg Zolman, one of the better quarterbacks in the SEC.
Offensively, the Tigers kept working on getting plays run more quickly and communicating at the line of scrimmage. Quarterback Jason Campbell and center Danny Lindsey got a much needed day of work together and that should continue to form a better relationship on the field between the two. Lindsey could get some relief at center quicker than projected though as starter Ben Nowland says his knee feels pretty good and the swelling is gone, giving him almost full range of motion once again. He should be ready for Saturday's game if needed after being leg-whipped in the second quarter at Syracuse.
With the problems the Tigers had in keeping Campbell protected, it's no wonder that much of the day was spent on blocking schemes and pass blocking assignments. With starting left guard Hart McGarry out for the day with a possible broken little toe, left tackle Kendall Simmons made the move inside to guard and allowed Mark Pera to get some important work in at left tackle. The line as a whole had several sessions of pass blocking drills and appears to have recovered emotionally from its poor performance Saturday night. An added boost was seeing the familiar form of Nate French take part in some blocking drills. He looks to be recovering nicely from an off-season foot and ankle injury.
Coming off a disappointing performance against Syracuse last Saturday night, the Auburn defense faces an entirely new challenge this weekend against Vanderbilt. Instead of a run-oriented offense that tried to outmuscle them at the line of scrimmage, the Tigers will face a wide-open offense from the Commodores. Senior linebacker Tavarreus Pounds has seen just about everything during his career on the Plains and says he believes this defense has what it takes to bounce back.
"It has to be a real quick adjustment," he notes. "I think our defense can do it. Last week we just, I guess you can say we weren't prepared for what they threw at us. This week we've got to concentrate on the field and in the film room to get ready for this wide-open offense that Vanderbilt is coming with."
After playing perfect football on defense for the first six quarters of the season, the last six quarters have been less than expected from the unit that was expected to carry the team early in the season until a young offense has time to grow. Following the first loss of the season, Pounds says this team is ready to move forward, particularly the defensive players.
"I know it hurt everyone," Pounds said of the loss. "We take the loss hard but we've got to come back out and just get it back together like we were against Ball State and keep that mentality throughout the season so we can win ball games. If we don't, that's trouble."
The Tigers will practice Wednesday and Thursday before heading to Nashville Friday to prepare for their 6 p.m. kickoff Saturday night against the Commodores. The game will be shown on pay-per-view only.