Expected to be one of the top units in the country this year with a bevy of starters and key players returning, the Tigers have been solid, but not spectacular this season. Ranked 14th in the country in total defense, Auburn hasn't given up a great deal of yardage, but they also haven't forced turnovers and that's something Tuberville said has to change beginning this weekend against Western Kentucky.
"I'm a little bit surprised that we didn't play a little bit better early in the season as a group," Tuberville said of the defense. "We did have some areas where we had guys starting and playing for the first time in a starting role. The offenses on the other side understood that. We'll get better as we go along.
"I thought that was one of the better defensive games that we've had here in five years against Vanderbilt. I think we held them to one or two first downs after they had basically moved up and down the field on some pretty good teams before that. We'll pick up where we left off. We're playing a different team this week. They run a lot of option and power plays. They probably average 15 passes a game. They are a good team and we'll have to hone in on what they are doing."
Entering Saturday's 4 p.m. kickoff with a wining streak of 13 games, the Hilltoppers bring an offense that is capable of putting up big numbers without putting the ball in the air a great deal. Running the option and lead plays time and time again, they try to capitalize on defensive mistakes to put up points. Tuberville said that's something his team has to focus on this week and not so much about what WKU will do.
"We need to worry about us on defense and play a little bit more reckless," Tuberville said. "We haven't caused as many turnovers as we would like. We're an opportunistic team on offense and we live off how our defense plays. That's basically how our season went last year and that's what we're going to look at this season. We've talked about it with our team.
"We have got to play more reckless on defense, cause turnovers and tackle better and not have the mental breakdowns," he added. "Looking back we had 10 mental breakdowns on defense the first three games that shouldn't be there. Hopefully if we can eliminate those we'll be a much better defense and then that will allow us to play a little bit more reckless."
For the offense to take advantage of the opportunities given them by the defense, they need playmakers to step up at the receiver position. Both Jeris McIntyre and Courtney Taylor have done that this season, but two players that haven't lived up to the hype given them are Ben Obomanu and Devin Aromashodu. The duo has combined to catch just seven passes for 65 yards this season with Aromashodu having just one catch for six yards. Tuberville said their development the rest of this season is going to be important for the offense to gain confidence and firepower.
"They are going to be good football players, they just have to get their confidence back," Tuberville said of Obomanu and Aromashodu. "The only way they can do that is get in the game and catch footballs. We're definitely not giving up on them. They've both got great talent. It's just their second year.
"We were hoping they would be farther along, but sometimes that happens when you're playing skill positions. If you lose your confidence you have to know how to refocus and get that confidence back. I don't think there's any doubt they'll make big plays for us this year."