Defense Has Ups And Downs In First Scrimmage

Coach Gene Chizik talks about the positives and negatives from Saturday's first spring scrimamge.

Auburn, Ala.--For much of Saturday's major scrimmage, the defense held the upper hand and Coach Tommy Tuberville said that's the way things better be in the spring if you hope to be a good football team in the fall.

Despite playing well for much of the day, the defense allowed some big plays and Coach Gene Chizik said that this group has a long way to go even though they played solid football at times.

"It seemed like with our first group in there we played well a good amount of the time," Chizik said. "I don't know until I see it, but when we had the continuity of the first group in there I thought they played pretty good most of the time with the exception that we missed a couple of tackles in there a time or two.

"We tried to play a lot of the younger guys," Chizik added. "Carlos Rogers can play, Travis (Williams) can play, Junior (Rosegreen) can play. We tried to play a lot of other guys and we learned a lot of lessons today.

"In the secondary a lot of those young guys got beat deep and it's going to happen. That's just the evolution of the position. Courtney Denson got beat deep, Zac Gilbert got beat and Montae Pitts got beat one time because he blew a coverage and didn't know what it was. There are a lot of lessons that you learn. We're just going to break it down individually and see how, individually, they are hurting the team. That's how you get better."

Jay Ratliff was impressive at defensive tackle during Saturday's scrimmage.

Two of the younger linebackers were near the scrimmage lead in tackles with Karibi Dede and Quentin Groves totaling seven stops each. Also singled out for their play were David Irons Jr. (five tackles), Wayne Dickens (four tackles, two sacks), Josh Thompson (three tackles), Tommy Jackson (seven tackles), Jay Ratliff (two tackles, one sack) and others up front. Chizik said that despite some early blitzing, they played things pretty close to the vest to try to ease the young guys into game-type action.

"We tried to go one period during the practice where we blitzed a little more to get them on film where we could look at them," Chizik said. "We're not trying to invent the wheel in a day with these guys. We're trying to slowly but surely teach them. We played a lot of base defenses today in a lot of situations. We have to continue to do that. We won't change hardly anything this next week. Obviously it's glaring where we have to get better position-wise. Some young guys did some good things that I thought were positive. We just progress, move on and try to get better next week."

One of the most interesting players this spring, Ratliff has been solid at defensive tackle after moving from defensive end. At 6-5 and nearly 290 pounds, the former tight end has the look to get the job done and the strength to move guys in front of him, but he says that he still has a long way to go to be ready to game action at tackle as an every down player.

"I did some pretty positive things out there today, but I see that there is a lot more that I have to learn and I have to learn more weight," Ratliff said. "I found that out during double-teams today. I'm picking up on it pretty good, but there is still a lot that I need to work on. What I'm going off of right now is just raw strength. I really don't have the weight down there right now, but that's just something that I have to work on."

Chizik said the focus will now be on correcting mistakes made by the defense during the scrimmage portion of practice. The most glaring of those were offsides penalties, six of them to be exact. Cutting down the mental mistakes will begin when the Tigers get back to practice on Tuesday afternoon at the football complex.

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