One of the defenders leading the charge is defensive end Reggie Torbor. An explosive player and one of the senior leaders for Auburn, Torbor says that the Tiger defense has continued improved last Saturday in an easy win over Western Kentucky. However, it is clear that Torbor is far from satisifed.
"I think we have a good defense, but we're not close to being as good as we can be," Torbor says. "If I took you in a room and showed you some plays from last night you would scratch your head and wonder how they didn't score on that play. One play we had two defensive ends lined up on the same side and it went for a loss. It's funny now, but against Tennessee they would have checked to the other side and taken it for 80.
"Some of those guys are one play away from going in the game," he says of the backups. "Right now we're definitely not comfortable or happy even though we're second in the nation. We're not fine. We have a lot of corrections to make. The best thing about us is we realize we're not the best thing since sliced bread. We have a lot of work to do so we're going to try to correct those mistakes this week."
Reggie Torbor (82) is expecting a battle this week vs. the Vols.
Much of Auburn's defensive success has come the last two games against Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky, but the Tigers been solid all season despite losses in the first two games. For the year the Tigers are letting opponents convert just 22.6 percent of third down plays and haven't allowed one conversion in the first half of the last three games.
Still, the Tigers must prepare for a different animal when the powerful Tennessee ground game comes to Jordan-Hare Stadium this Saturday. The second of nine straight games for the Tigers, Saturday's game and future games could be influenced by Auburn's added depth, something both the offense and defense were able to work on in the 48-3 victory over Western Kentucky.
"I think that was real important because you never know when one of our starters is going to go down," Torbor says. "Anyone of us can go down. You never want them with cold feet in a big ball game. You would rather have a night like Saturday night so you can correct mistakes before you get to the big show so to speak. A lot of guys got some valuable experience and I hope they learn from it."
One of the players who has made progress is true freshman defensive end Marquis Gunn from Benjamin Russell High in Alexander City. Thought to be a sure redshirt because of his size (6-4, 225) he has been thrust into the action because of his ability to get to the quarterback. With a sack in each of the last two games his play has caused Torbor to sit back and think about his first year on the Plains.
"Marquis reminds me of myself a lot," Torbor says. "First of all with his weight, he's little as a bean pole. He just wants to do good. I was talking to somebody and I told them ‘there's nothing I can tell you to explain what it feels like to be 215 pounds going against somebody 300 pounds.'
"Mentally you're beat before the ball is snapped because you're thinking ‘there is nothing I can do to stop him.' In reality you can with leverage and things like that. Being so young you don't realize that. I try to get that in his head and I try to stress to him that it's not going to happen overnight."
A natural pass rusher, Gunn was a terror for the Wildcats in high school when he totaled 35 sacks his last two seasons. Using his speed, he's always been able to get past bigger, slower offensive tackles and that has been the case the last two games. However, Torbor says that he's already talked to the freshman about learning the tricks of the trade.
"He doesn't lack athletic ability at all," Torbor notes. "That's not a problem. He really uses his speed a lot and just runs around people. I'm trying to show him some technique, things that people have taught me over the years. I'm just trying to teach him that he's not going to be able to run around everyone, especially a game like Saturday (Tennessee). You won't run around those tackles they'll pick you up and body slam you."
A veteran of Auburn and SEC football, Torbor says he knows the last two wins won't mean a great deal if the Tigers don't follow them up by playing solid football. That means beating a Tennessee team that has won 10-straight road games under the direction of quarterback Casey Clausen. To do that Auburn will have to play a strong game, something Torbor is hoping to see.
"There weren't any close games, we didn't have to fight," Torbor says. "We're expecting this Saturday will probably be the first fight we've had. Right down to the wire, that's how we believe it's going to go, right down to the last second. It will be either team's ball game. We're just trying to learn as much about them as we can throughout the week so we'll have a better opportunity to win.
"This is our goal," Torbor adds. "Our goal is to win the SEC West first of all. They're not in the West, but at the same time this counts in SEC play. Our goal is to win all those games and that's what we're trying to do."